Thursday, 12 March 2015

E-merging forum 5. Day 1


I am more productive in the mornings that is why the post about Day 1 of E-merging forum is coming up in the morning of Day 2. A long awaited event in the world of ELT has started and I am always amazed at the number of talented, enthusiastic teachers eager to learn something new, who come to Moscow from various cities and towns of our country. The only downside in this case might be the lack of seats due to the interest in sessions. My colleagues and I were lucky enough to be comfortably seated during all sessions, it definitely added positivity.

Day 1 started with two plenary speakers discussing the issues of teaching young learners and very young learners.Some of the ideas highlighted were an eye-opener. I really liked the answer of Herbert Puchta to the questions about the ideal age of starting learning a foreign language. It turns out to be from 2 to 12 years old which creates a quite a long period of time and can be comforting to those who strongly oppose to teaching children a foreign language at a very early age. The idea that learning a foreign language at an early age does not impede but actually “contributes to the young learners attitude and motivation, which later ensure good proficiency” was nice to hear. That can be the argument to give to speech therapist who are strongly against children starting to learn a foreign language at a young age. It is obvious that teaching children is very different from teaching teenagers and adults and according to the second plenary speaker, Malgosia Tetiurka, those who are able to educate young learners will be able to do so in case with teenagers and adults but not the other way around. Teaching children demands patience and creativity. The results are not immediately obvious therefore neither parents nor teachers should be discouraged at the beginning of the process. Children live in the world of imagery and fantasy, they are able to switch back and forth between the real world and the imaginative world with ease. So the best way to teach young learners is through storytelling, embodied interaction, including trial and error methods and lots of repetition.


I have never been interested in teaching very young learners so I decided to let specialists teach my children English. My daughter started the process at the age of 5 and my son has started attending the group “English with Mom” at the age of 3. They both were very excited about going to English language classes and it couldn’t but made me very happy to see their interest and involvement.

It was a tough choice to decide which parallel sessions to attend and even though I was going to join the session of Vera Bobkova “What’s your favourite song to teach English” mainly because I know what a wonderful speaker she is and I enjoy using songs in teaching English, but I ended up going to a different session. This year parallel sessions are shorter than previous years and sometimes it feels like there is the lack of time for the speaker to get the message across and for the attendees to get the full picture of what was to be said. However, Tatyana Skopintseva managed to give lots of useful information about teaching pronunciation to Russian EAP/ESP learners. Her experience sounded very persuasive. Notes and photos were taken and now it will be time to explore the essence of the talk in more detail. Tatyana started by giving a number of typical difficulties Russian learners of English have with pronunciation and highlighted the areas where these can impede communication. At the end of the talk she gave the list of pronunciation features which are vitally important for Russian learners to avoid fatal miscommunication in important work situations.

Evening plenary sessions were dedicated to EAP. A lot was said about academic writing. The differences in structure and register in Academic Writing in different cultures was mentioned by Vera Zabotkina. It is interesting to notice that at E-merging forum 5 a lot of comparisons are given between cultures of different countries thus making the teachers and learners aware of how important these things are. The name of Vygotsky was mentioned several times during the day, which was also quite interesting to notice. Steve Kirk in his session “Teaching ‘EAP’:Enabling Academic Participation” was answering the question which has been puzzling teachers and students for a long time – whether to use “I” or “WE” in academic writing. The answer is as usual “It Depends”, it depends on the purpose, the focus of the writing and the science in which the writing is produced. The highlight of the evening was probably the quote given by Steve Kirk in his talk: “It turns out…that engineers show, philosophers argue, biologists find and linguists suggest”(Hyland,2009) According to this linguists have the most difficult task as they are studying something ethereal and difficult to define, which is almost mystic and magical. I enjoy this thought.

The end of Day 1 was festive. I got a prize for the most interesting tweets about the event. I am very excited about the sweatshirt from Oxford University Press which I was given. It just happened that I use a lot of course books by OUP so it was quite symbolic not to mention that it is just very cool. Welcome reception was great as usual. It is a nice place to network with other teachers, to discuss new ideas and make new friends. The UK Ambassador in Russia Tim Barrow came to welcome the participants of the forum which made the end of Day 1 even more memorable.

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