F-L-I-P your low-tech classroom (Saima Abedi)

Working as an ESL and EFL teacher for last 15 years, I am determined to contribute to educational reform. To learn more and more, develop ELT material, train teachers, carry out action research and participate in conferences nationally and internationally are some of the goals of life that I am presently immersed in.

A new beginning at IATEFL, Brighton Centre

A new beginning at IATEFL, Brighton Centre

The 52nd International IATEFL Conference was my first IATEFL adventure and it stretched for five fun-filled, fertile days. Being the winner of the Macmillan Education Scholarship and a presenter plus participant, I enthusiastically seized the plethora of opportunities to achieve, excel, get inspired and be acknowledged at the event. Not only that, I revisited my learning; reflected on teaching practices; expanded my network; gained international recognition; went sight-seeing and made some life-long global friends.

2 Enjoying the networking opportunity with ELT from various regions

Enjoying the networking opportunity with ELT from various regions

This journey started when I presented at the NELTA (Nepal English Language Teacher Association) conference back in 2016, where I expanded my network and added a few Nepalese teachers to my contacts, who nursed the idea of applying for IATEFL. The scholarship forms are comprehensive; there is step-by-step guidance to help you fill them in.You may apply for as many scholarships as you want to. All you have to do is to focus on your strengths, and be enthusiastic about mentioning your achievements and count on your luck (Yes, it does work sometimes!). Once you win the scholarship, your job is all done (believe me) because the IATEFL team and your sponsors (like mine when I won the Macmillan Education Scholarship) are right there to constantly assist you. Before even reaching the venue, I was fortunate enough to be prepared for my presentation on ‘Flipped Learning for Low Tech Classes’, as it was reviewed, re-reviewed and even rehearsed. Therefore, I received an amazingly incredible audience response.

With the Macmillan Team

With the Macmillan Team

The flipped classroom model actually revolutionized my teaching-learning process as it inverted my teaching procedures by shifting the instructions from a group to an individual learning space. In other words, I introduce materials and tasks to students outside the classroom and the learning process has become dynamic and interactive, enhancing a wide range of skills. When we think about the flipped classroom, the first idea that enters our mind is the use of technology. The most popular online tools to flip classes are:

  • websites, such as online exercises/quizzes
  • recorded lectures
  • supplementary videos, either instructional or content (TES Teach, TED Talk, You Tube)
  • MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
  • podcasts
  • e-books
  • blogs
  • simulation games
  • teaching channels
  • and the list goes on…

However, from a global perspective, one of the notable hurdles for learners and educators like me is teaching in classes with limited or no access to technology. To be precise, public schools and low-income households in developing countries struggle to bridge the digital divide. So how can you flip low-tech classes?

Firstly, I employed four basic principles for inverting low-tech classes, starting with the four letters of F-L-I-P. Here ‘F’ is for ‘Flexibility’ of the given material, as it should cater for different learning preferences that ensure setting of students’ own learning pace and time. For instance, use of text or reference books, customized hand-outs (like Mind Maps / Story Maps), magazines, newspaper articles or reports, comics, television programmes (drama, cooking shows or documentaries), pictures, charts, maps, posters, interviews, songs and surveys. Students are provided with a couple of options to select the mode of acquisition according to their own preferences, at the most convenient place or time. Equipped with the required information, they apply the concepts in the class and receive teachers’ prompt and constructive feedback.

Presenting at IATEFL Conference

Saima presenting at the IATEFL Conference

The second principle ‘L’ emphasises ‘Learner-Centered’ classes in which the role of students is active and the teachers’ job is as a facilitator. Being inquisitive, students bring along queries or problems to be solved in the class. It is possible that some students might come to the class unprepared (in the beginning it does happen; remember everyone isn’t the same!!!) and they would look for ‘just-in-need teaching’. If the mode of interaction in the class is pair or group work, such issues are automatically resolved. For example, I have so many students who love to teach others. Based on research, the average retention rate of new information is 75% for practice by doing (National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine), and is increased to 90% by teaching others. This means that diligent pupils will get an edge here.

The next principle, starting with ‘I’, focuses on ‘Interactive Content’: incorporate motivation by providing a real purpose, a meaningful task for exploration of the given content. This enables learners to build up curiosity and connections with their prior knowledge.

Lastly, ‘P’ is for ‘Practice by Doing’, as the class time will be utilised in applying and checking the concepts for deeper understanding and greater retention. Some of the engaging activities that I use for my low-tech classes are theme-based board games, debates, puppetry, discussions, field trips, creating PowerPoint presentations, digital storytelling, use of smart phones for making short videos, podcasting using Audacity and rap songs using the Smule AutoRap app. I found these teaching tools great for ensuring active learning in a flipped learning scenario. Trust me: these strategies can be easily adapted and implemented in any EFL and ESL class.

To access or download my full presentation you can click on the following link:

Don’t wait…. Just apply for this enriching and life-changing experience.


Receiving paticipation and presentation certificate

Receiving participation and presentation certificate

Saima Abedi, currently working as an EFL and ESL teacher, is a seasoned educator with 15 years’ teaching experience. She has a professional degree in education, as well as multiple Masters, postgraduate certification in Critical Thinking from Oregon University and the ICELT from Cambridge University (via SPELT). Determined to revolutionise the education system, she has been designing ELT content and conducting workshops nationally and internationally for a few years. She has received numerous awards and scholarships for being an innovative and enthusiastic teacher.

IATEFL 2019 Scholarships

If you’re inspired by Saima’s story, why not apply for a scholarship for IATEFL Liverpool 2019 yourself? Applications for our 2019 scholarships will open on Friday 1st June 2018. The closing date for applications is 16.00 (UK Time) Thursday 12th July 2018. Any applications received after this time will not be accepted.

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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Sirhajwan Idek and the wonder of IATEFL: Celebrities, concerts & comrades (Sirhajwan Idek)

I remember telling someone that I wanted to attend and present at IATEFL two years ago when I first visited the UK. I was attending a two-week summer course in Norwich Institute of Language Education (NILE) as a prize for winning Macmillan’s ‘Teachers at the heart‘ competition with this entry. The United Kingdom has been always a popular dream destination for Malaysians but I never had the chance of studying there during my university years since I was not offered with any scholarship and the UK is such an expensive place to visit. Nevertheless, I didn’t give up pursuing my dream of going to the UK, especially when I eventually became an English language teacher and enjoyed the profession. When I learnt about the IATEFL scholarships, I knew that these scholarships were my opportunity to make it to the IATEFL conference. I applied for the first time in 2016 but I didn’t make the cut. I attempted it for the second time the following year with a clearer and more focused written essay and I won!!! I won the Express Publishing Scholarship and I was so excited to find out that I was the first winner for this scholarship since it was their first time sponsoring a scholarship.

I know it might sound like a cliché for me to say that the IATEFL conference was the best conference I ever attended but it is the truth. I have attended many conferences in Malaysia and in other countries, but I have never been to a conference with such a lot of amazing sessions that it was so hard for me to make up my mind which one I should attend. I was impressed with the number of delegates, exhibitors and speakers who were at this conference and the level of energy and enthusiasm that everyone had was superb. I was so thrilled too as many world-renowned scholars and educators in language education were present at this conference and I was able to meet some of them, like Scott Thornbury, Jeremy Harmer and David Nunan. To me, they are “Celebrities” in the ELT world and I can now brag to others that I have met these celebrities in person. In fact, Scott Thornbury was appointed as my mentor for my presentation. I found it so hard to believe! I studied his work during my bachelor’s degree and master’s study, I cited his papers for my research, I applied his theories in my teaching approach, I always admire his work and I want to be like him! He is incredibly fantastic. So imagine how happy I was when he was assigned to mentor me! It was like triple blessings: winning the Express Publishing IATEFL Scholarship, being able to present my work there and having Scott Thornbury as my mentor. Not to mention the conference, the city and the people were so amazing! I felt like asking myself: what did I do to deserve all of this?

Since I had to present my winning project at the conference, I had all these questions on my mind: Would I have any audience? Would people be interested in listening to my topic? Would they like my talk? Would they give me feedback? And most importantly, how would they react when I told them about what inspired the name of my project, Wonder Zone (Alice in Wonderland and Britney’s In the Zone album). I was so relieved and excited to discover that the audiences were very supportive, positive and enthusiastic. They gave great feedback too! Scott Thornbury, Natassa Manitsa from Express Publishing and Maureen McGarvey, the coordinator for the IATEFL Scholarship Committee attended my slot. They told me I did great and it was such an honor for me to receive such acknowledgment and feedback from them and the audience. It was a humbling experience too.

I presented my winning project known as Wonder Zone. It is an educational outreach programme where we initially select a particular primary school and my students, in pairs, choose a specific issue such as health, hygiene, literacy, sports and environment that they would like to focus on. They develop their projects for the pupils at the selected school according to the chosen theme. They independently design and experiment with their ideas before they carry out these projects when we visit the school and interact directly with the pupils. This approach is consistent with project-based learning as the process of planning and developing the project provides the students opportunities to develop their English language skills, creativity, communication and collaboration skills. I narrowed the language focus into four types of sentences that they can practice through this programme: declarative sentences (statement), imperative sentence (command), interrogative sentences (question) and explanatory sentences that my students can use to interact with the children during the educational outreach. For example, they need to describe the task to the children using declarative sentences (this is a red ball, there are three animals in the farm), they ask the children questions using interrogative sentences (what do we call this? What was the name of the boy in the story?), they give the children instructions using imperative sentences (draw the house, cut the boxes) and they use exclamatory sentences to encourage the children (That is wonderful! Keep up the good work!). The students can practise these simple sentences to improve their fluency and to interact effectively with the children. Since I am teaching in a vocational school, this approach caters to the students’ needs to learn English for Specific Purpose (ESP). It enables them to practice the language in a meaningful and authentic manner that helps them become aware of the significance, relevance and practicality of the language.

I attended many slots during the conference and I became very interested in the concept of gamification since I believe it is an emerging approach in language education. I learnt that gamification is different from game-based learning and I also discovered that gamification was not as hard as I thought it would be to implement in classroom learning. I gained many tips and strategies on how to incorporate gamification into English lessons. Since I love writing stories and poems, I attended some of the talks on using stories in teaching and I am glad that story-based learning continues to be relevant and useful. I definitely need to find ways on how to deliver such approach effectively in my class. To sum it up, my IATEFL Brighton experience further confirmed my opinion that I made the right choice to become an English language educator.


Sirhajwan Idek

Sirhajwan Idek is an English language teacher at Keningau Vocational College, Sabah, Malaysia. He was born and grew up in Sabah, the most isolated state of Malaysia, located on the island of Borneo. He graduated with Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from UiTM [Universiti Teknologi MARA System] in 2011 and 2015 respectively. He loves coaching his students for English competitions like public speaking, debate and poetry. He also helps his students take part in innovation and entrepreneurship competitions. Since he is teaching in a rural area, he finds it important to expose his students to the outside world through these extracurricular activities. As an English language educator, he attempts to integrate English language into these activities and make his students more aware of how important the language is and how easy it is for them to learn and use it fluently.

IATEFL 2019 Scholarships

If you’re inspired by Sirhajwan’s story, why not apply for a scholarship for IATEFL Liverpool 2019 yourself? Applications for our 2019 scholarships will open on Friday 1st June 2018. The closing date for applications is 16.00 (UK Time) Thursday 12th July 2018. Any applications received after this time will not be accepted.

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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Q&A from Elizabeth Bekes and Marcela Carrasco’s webinar on International English and its Implications for Teaching and Learning

On 3rd February 2018 Elizabeth Bekes and Marcela Carrasco presented the following IATEFL webinar:

International English and its Implications for Teaching and Learning

English is the world’s second language: for many teachers it is their native tongue, for a lot more it is an additional language. The global nature of English requires new approaches. Instead of the elusive “native speaker”, the norm is increasingly the “fully proficient speaker” using an intelligible version of English spoken by interlocutors for whom English is the chosen means of communication.

In the webinar, we will look at what the spread of International English implies for teachers in several key areas, e.g. pronunciation, language proficiency and classroom methodology. The challenges may be different for native and non-native English teachers, but there is a paradigm shift that is worth reflecting on in order to align our teaching and learning with the new priorities.

If you would like to watch the recording, you need to be a member of IATEFL (find out how to join), but even if you’re not a member, you can read Elizabeth and Marcela’s answers to some of the questions and comments from those who attended the webinar.

Elizabeth and Marcela: Thank you for coming to our webinar. It was a first for both of us, so our management of the technology involved was wobbly at times (our moderator, Ania, did her best to help us though). Also, the children were playing outside Elizabeth’s house and not in Marcela’s. Thank you for bearing with us – hopefully you were able to listen again (if you wanted to) and had the gaps filled in.

We are sorry if we couldn’t answer all your questions. If you look at the references, you might find some answers there, and our book is also available (see end of post for details).

Questions and comments from the webinar

Q: The fact that the number of non-native speakers outnumbers native speakers of the English Language means that English does not belong to its owners any longer. If this is the case, how is it possible to integrate such an approach into our daily teaching practices without having to deal with political issues?

A (E): We believe that English as an International Language belongs to everybody, a little bit like Latin used to belong to everybody who spoke it in the Middle Ages. “Outnumbered by far” would be the correct expression as the ratio between NS/NNS is 1:4.

Your question is very important, because we need to decide how we treat English: is it a killer of other languages, or is it an enabler that brings people closer together. We think that our task is to teach English in the best manner we can (and, specifically, for international communication) and use this language to break down barriers, sensitising our students to global issues and giving them the tools to share their culture with people who come from other parts of the world.

Q: Can you enlarge on the concept of ‘glocal’?

A (E): In our understanding, it is a combination of ‘global’ and ‘local’. It means that you are rooted in your own, local context and learning English helps you to explain that experience to outsiders. My Achuar students did not need the image of the red phone booths or the black cabs in London. They needed to be able to talk about how they have large families (having 8-10 siblings is not uncommon), how they hunt and fish and what customs and traditions they have. Global means sensitivity that there is a world out there, one that starts with a flight for the Achuar, as you cannot walk out of the jungle or get out by boat. Global also means the tourists who come and visit and talk about other lands where it snows and there are houses with running water and electricity. And the beauty of it is that these two worlds can talk to each other, there is an acceptance and responsiveness on both sides.

Q: What about the textbooks when you consider English as Lingua Franca?

A (E): The fact of the matter is that, as Penny Ur says, you need a “standard” from which you can deviate. English as a Lingua Franca has some specific features, but it is so fluid that any attempt to describe it would inevitably fail. We think that it is probably a good idea to stick with the two major variants (AmE and BrE), especially in the written form, which is more prescriptive, and is required for written communication of any sort and academic writing especially. There are also situations where there can be no margin of error (air traffic control and medicine, just to mention two). English as an International Language does not imply that anything goes, randomly… It is more of an effort to come to an understanding and not insist on just one variant of English. Textbooks should be written following standard American and/or British English, but also presenting non-native speakers as possible models / interlocutors.

A (M): The content has to include other cultures from the expanding circle.

Q: Why is it that people who have completed their education from native English-speaking countries get better jobs and more respect than non-native?

A (E): There can be a number of reasons: people still believe that native speakers or near-native speakers are by definition better teachers than non-native speakers. To be honest, both Marcela and I think that as regards pronunciation (so long as it is intelligible) non-native speakers are the best models. However, we have always maintained that a decent level of proficiency (minimum B1, preferably B2) is required. That level of linguistic proficiency and good methodology can do wonders, especially if the teacher continues to be a lifelong learner. Here are some ideas from Robin Walker:

Q: If you wanted to study Japanese, would you rather study from an educated native-speaking Japanese teacher, or from a Swedish person who learned Japanese after the age of 16?

A (E): This webinar may go some way towards answering that question:

During our webinar, Laura Patsko said this: I think this point about learners wanting to learn Japanese from a native Japanese speaker is an unrealistic/unfair analogy. This presupposes that a native speaker is the best representative of that language’s use. That may be true for Japanese, which isn’t widely spoken outside Japan, so one Japanese speaker might be reasonably claimed to be representative of the language use within that one homogeneous group, but English can’t be described the same way. It’s not spoken by only one relatively homogeneous group in one fairly small geographical location. So the logic being followed by a learner who wants an “educated native-speaking teacher” is faulty if the L2 in question is English.

Q: Do you feel there is any advantage to native-speaking teachers?

A (E): It depends what English is being used for. If your student wants to speak a version of English that is spoken by 2% of native speakers in the British Isles (Queen’s English), that would probably require a native speaker, but that native speaker would also need to be an excellent teacher. Even then your student won’t ever be able to speak like a native speaker, because she/he was not born and educated in that language community. High levels of proficiency are achievable, but that you can learn from a highly proficient and motivated non-native speaker as well. The issue is that for international communication, native speaker skills are not only not achievable, they are redundant and, on occasion, unhelpful. Marcela and I are happy with being proficient and proud of our multilingual backgrounds. Would a Director of Studies rather employ a native speaker with a Delta? Perhaps. But they would be missing out on the first-hand experience of learning English that a non-native speaker can offer…

Q:/Comment: Perhaps I’m biased, growing up and being educated in England, but I think native speakers have the advantage of a lifetime of absorbing and assimilating the subtleties and nuances of the English language in a way that is almost impossible for a non-native speaker to be able to understand and convey to learners.

A (E): Agreed. However, those subtleties and nuances are not only not required for international communication, they often actually get in the way. Since life is short, there is never enough time, especially in an EFL context, to get to those fine points. We must prioritise and teach the basics, strategies to overcome linguistic deficiencies, accommodate, listen out for key information, adjust and use any means possible in order to make yourself understood.

Q: /Comment: I agree also (with the previous comment), though I think it depends why someone is learning English. If it’s to live and work in the UK, the USA or another Anglophone country, an NS teacher is going to be a plus. If they plan to function in an international business environment with other non-native speakers, it may be that it doesn’t matter whether their teachers are NS or NNS.

A (E): We believe that even in the US or Canada, there are so many different kinds of accent that any that satisfies the intelligibility criterion should be perfectly workable.

Q:/Comment: I think it’s much, much easier for children to acquire reliable usage patterns of articles and noun forms than it is for adults because of the years of exposure to thousands of patterns. Many non-native speakers of English acquire these patterns quite readily, but this process usually begins at a very early age. Reliable usage of articles and noun forms in generalizations are notoriously difficult to acquire, so I believe that the age of the learner is very important.

A (E): Agreed. The issue is really that we do not need perfect use of articles and noun forms for English as an International Language. We are comfortable with ‘informations’ and ‘homeworks’. We know exactly where our interlocutor is coming from. She/He comes from a place where these nouns (in their first language) are countable. And nobody dies.

Q/Comments: Some adults do achieve native-like accents in a new language; it is possible.

A (E): Indeed. However, they are, by far, the exception. And, again, which native accent are we talking about? That native accent might be limited to a region or a certain social stratum. If reaching native level is such an impossible and demotivating goal, why don’t we spend our time on expanding vocabulary and giving our students tools to communicate without native-like “perfection”?

Q/ Comment: I think word stress is important, for example present (here) and present (a gift).

A (E): Agreed. Where stress is a marker of two different meanings, it is undoubtedly important. But when the word can be stressed in different ways without the loss of meaning (e. g., “satisfactory”), it is not a mortal sin. We would need to focus on something that is really important.

Q: Surely stress timing is essential for understanding natural spoken English?

A (E): Agreed. Students need to comprehend stress-timed English, but they may not be able to produce it easily. Instead of stress timing, I often teach chunks and insist that my students should hold those multi-word units together.

Q:/Comment : I disagree about word stress; my German-speaking students sometimes are hard to understand because of an incorrect syllable stressed. This is very confusing for listeners.

A (E): The fact of the matter is that the listener needs to be trained as well. It takes two to tango. Your students need to be good speakers AND good listeners.

Q: Phonetics transcriptions are very common in my context in Initial Teacher Education (for future EFL teachers) Do you think transcriptions are still a valuable task?

A (E ): I am absolutely fanatical about phonetic transcription (given the idiosyncratic spelling in English). Students can pronounce words without you! This does not imply that they will pronounce each and every sound correctly, but they will aim at approximation. You can find Adrian Underhill’s introduction to the phonemic chart below if it’s something you have trouble with:

Q/Comment: Chinese pronounce “Thanks” as “Sansique”

A(E): And once you understand that “thanks” is “distorted” in this manner, you have no problem.

Q: Intonation is not important?!

A(E ) : I would refer you back to Robin Walker’s session (see above). As per Jennifer Jenkins, differences like rising / falling and falling / rising are not important when using English as an International Language.

Q: I think perhaps this forum is about the many charlatan unqualified native speakers who masquerade as English teachers, but as the speaker said, today there are very qualified native speaker teachers who are very useful for students who want an authentic learning experience.

A (E ): Agreed. Silvana Richardson has a brilliant webinar on this:

Q: Native English speakers with experience working in other cultural and language situations are just as capable, since they will also have been involved in learning other languages.

A (E): Agreed, but we mustn’t forget that non-native speakers have an unquestionable advantage over native speakers: native speakers have never ever learnt English as a second / foreign language!

Q: What is the difference between cultural awareness and intercultural awareness?

A(E ): I would say that cultural awareness implies that you are aware of the unspoken social and behavioural rules of your own community, while intercultural awareness means being sensitised to cultures other than yours. The problem with cultural awareness is that because it is ingrained, sometimes we are not consciously aware of the “rules”. They are “blind spots”, as it were, and we also believe them to be “universal”. This is where intercultural awareness comes into the picture: learning that there are other ways of showing respect, expressing gratitude or complaining, for example. Body language, physical distance, the concept of time and how time is managed are aspects of such an intercultural approach and understanding.

Q: What is the role of international proficiency tests in the context of English as a global language?

A (E): We think that this aspect is not fully reflected in the international proficiency tests that are being used now. Here’s an article that might give you some more info: Reimagining Language Competence: On professionalism by Ahmar Mahboob, University of Sydney.

Q: I’d like to know what should we focus on when teaching English in a village.

A (E): Well, all we would say is that focus on the local context. What would your students like to share if they ever met a foreigner? Do those village kids watch TV and have access to Internet? The latter could be a game changer.

Q: But I think non-culturally rooted language is almost impossible?

A (E): Agreed. This is why you need to teach students how they can become multicultural: responsive and accepting as well as ready to share their own culture. Kids, under natural circumstances, do this kind of sharing all the time.

Q: Were all students you mentioned adults?

A (E): No, my students’ age ranged from 13 to 18. They were Grade 7, 8, 9 of elementary and Year 1, 2, 3 of Bachillerato (secondary school education is 3 years in Ecuador). But I did teach about 20 adults at the eco-lodge in small groups.

Q: Did these students learn from textbooks?

A (E): In actual fact, I created most of my materials, but at some point I got hold of a book that was commissioned by the Pachamama Alliance. I had some copies made: the book was created based on the Achuar experience, even the names were those of the people around us (this, of course, changed later). The units in the books spoke about the Achuar communities, their lives, the way they received foreigners, etc. Not perfect, but very good material.

Q: Talking about language and communication as its first aim, how did you manage to teach them the very first words and idiomatic sentences so that they could express what they wanted to say?

A (E): If you were asking about the indigenous students, we started with very simple things, like: My name is …. I live in …. community. My father is a …. My mother is a … I have … brothers and sisters. I love my family and my community.

The Achuar students knew a little bit of the above, since I was not the first volunteer teacher there; we used Spanish, realia and images/pictures/drawings for the rest.

Q:/Comment: A very important pre-condition for learning is the student’s literacy in her own first language.

A (E): Indeed. I had further problems with my Achuar students, because their mother tongue was not the language of instruction, which was Spanish.

Q:/Comment: This webinar was usefully thought-provoking and I love the combination of both groups in your school, Marcela – both linguistically and cross-culturally. And Medgyes’ book ‘The Non-Native Teacher’ echoes a lot of what you say (I’m prejudiced as the publisher!)

A (M): First of all, I believe that the idea of proficiency is important. NNESTs have to have continuous professional development, which should include language training and language improvement. Both NESTs and NNESTs must have intercultural training and understand the background that the students have and the difficulties that they might encounter.

Q: What is your view about teaching English from birth and at the latest from preschool so that all children can be bilingual before they reach their teenage years?

A (E): I wish it was possible. However, it would require immense resources, because teaching English to very young learners is not very effective unless it’s full immersion. And if it’s full immersion, you’re probably talking about bilingualism. Even then you usually have one language that is slightly stronger than the other. Learning International English is not rocket science in a world where billions of people are multilingual and are very used to negotiating meaning by hook or by crook.

Q: Intercultural awareness & engagement are essential. What does that mean? How do we extract the components of those definitions that can become part of teacher training, and how do teachers actualize / operationalize them?

A (E): An example can be found in ‘The A-Z of Intercultural Communication’ by Rudi Camerer & Judith Mader, published by Academic Study Kit in 2016, which contains twenty-six photocopiable activities to raise intercultural awareness.

Q: As a teacher for an online school, I was wondering about the role of online learning in Ecuador. Is it growing and do you see this is a solution to some issues?

A(M): Online learning is growing everywhere, and Ecuador is no exception. Nevertheless, language teaching/learning is still difficult through this medium, especially at the beginning. Based on my experience, I still believe that human contact in language acquisition is more effective.

Q/ Comment: Thank you so much, for this inspiring and very relevant webinar. All of us teach not only mixed-ability groups but also groups composed of students coming from different cultures so we need guidance. What’s more, all of the groups which I teach are mixed-ability and 90% of them are composed of students coming from various cultural backgrounds. Thank you, again, and I will be looking forward to some more webinars in this area.

Elizabeth and Marcela: Thank you! What a pleasure and a privilege to have you all in our cyber space classroom! Take the time to research the students’ backgrounds. It will help you adjust to their needs and it will enrich your own knowledge.


Elizabeth Bekes

Elizabeth Bekes is a Hungarian English teacher and teacher trainer currently based in Ecuador. She worked for the BBC’s Hungarian Section, spent three years in Ethiopia setting up English Language Improvement Centres, taught English in the Amazonian jungle and worked with refugee children in Greece. She writes regularly for EFL Magazine.

Marcela Carrasco

Marcela Carrasco is an Ecuadorian English teacher, who grew up in diverse places and cultures like Ecuador, Iran and the United States. She ran a highly successful language school, and is currently setting up a language unit at the Catholic University of Cuenca. Among her professional interests are identity, International English and multiculturalism.

Elizabeth Bekes and Marcela Carrasco’s book Why NNESTs? International English and the implications for teacher development (2017) is available as an e-book: www.intrinsicbooks.co.uk/title_by_title/nnests.html or as a physical book from Cambridge International Book Centre.

Thank you to all who attended the webinar and special thanks to those who provided questions and comments. Thank you to Elizabeth and Marcela for answering these questions for the IATEFL blog.

Contribute to the blog or present a webinar

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We are also looking for people to present webinars. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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Things can always get better – teaching associations change lives (Božica Šarić-Cvjetković)

I live in a small town in Serbia and I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language to young learners for more than ten years. I still teach in the same school where I first got the job, in a village near my hometown. Even though teaching children is full of surprises and no two days are ever the same, after a couple of years I started wondering if there was more to teaching than that. Around that time a colleague asked me if I wanted to go to a conference in Belgrade. I went, and a whole new world of knowledge opened in front of me. Since then, my life as a teacher has never been the same.

That first conference I went to triggered some kind of addiction in me and I soon started to look for more and more events like that. Most of my colleagues at school were not involved in any kind of professional development and that’s why whenever I attended a PD event I had the feeling of being among friends, a feeling of understanding and not standing out. In the meantime, I discovered ELTA (English Language Teachers’ Association of Serbia) and became a member. At the following year’s conference, simply out of curiosity, I decided to attend the ELTA AGM (Annual General Meeting) held by the ELTA Board. I was really wondering who all those important people were. I was wondering who was behind all these conferences and PD seminars I’ve been attending so far. To my surprise, I found out that they all were “just” teachers, teachers like you and me.

My journey through PD continued at the same pace and a couple of years later, during the AGM at the conference, ELTA Board announced that they were looking for Regional coordinator for Srem region (the part of Serbia where I live). There were a lot of people attending the meeting but nobody volunteered. Even though hardly anybody knew me, I slowly started to feel as if all the eyes were looking towards me. My hand went up. That’s how in 2012, six years after entering the classroom for the first time, I became ELTA Regional coordinator, responsible for organising TD events and sharing information about ELTA throughout the region.

From 2006 to 2012 I attended numerous teacher development seminars, webinars, workshops, summer schools and conferences. At that point I mostly saw professional development events as a chance to learn from, listen to and meet native speakers. Even when the topics were not that interesting I would still go and attend a workshop or a talk held by a native speaker. Then, at 2013 ELTA Conference it happened that an afternoon slot was shared mostly by Serbian presenters. Most of them I knew from PD events I had attended throughout the years and many of them were my social media friends. I felt I should go. Attending that workshop made me realise that my very own fellow colleagues had something very important to say. I realised that their perspective was more realistic and closer to my heart as we share the same teaching conditions and similar surroundings. It also made me think about my own teaching experience and ideas from a different perspective.

I soon started working on my first presentation and when I was done, I thought “Now, what?” Not long after that I saw that ELTA was looking for an official representative to give a presentation at 2014 TESOL Macedonia-Thrace Annual Convention. I applied, thinking “No way they will choose me, I’ve never presented before!” but when I received the confirmation email I was overwhelmed with joy, enthusiasm and fear at the same time. The room was full and the audience was supportive. Not knowing that it was just the beginning, I thought it was the best experience I could ever have. I met so many great colleagues with whom I’m still in touch.

After that, my PLN (Professional Learning Network) started to grow, I presented at several conferences both in Serbia and the region, won a scholarship from the American Embassy in Belgrade for a ten-week online PD (professional development) course, completed a Trainer Development Course at British Council Serbia and continued my voluntary work as a regional coordinator. Then in March 2015, when I thought things couldn’t get any better, an email came from ELTA office saying that I was recommended for a position as an ELTA Serbia Board Member. Once I had wondered who they were and I never thought that I could, and would, become one of them. It was an honour and a huge step in my professional life. ELTA officially became my second family.

In 2016 I became an IATEFL member and I was lucky enough to attend the 50th IATEFL Conference in Birmingham as the ELTA Serbia Associates Representative. I had never attended an event of such size and significance before and I didn’t know what to expect. When I got there, I was overwhelmed and I felt like a child in Disneyland. It was the experience of a lifetime. There were a lot of teachers whom I had met at conferences before and it was a great chance to catch up with them. I also had the opportunity to meet in person many colleagues with whom I was in touch through social media. I made new friends and my PLN grew even more. For me, the conference in Birmingham was all about people. It was so welcoming and I had the impression that I became part of a huge ELT family.

At the IATEFL stand in Birmingham

At the IATEFL Associates stand in Birmingham

Later that year I applied for one of the IATEFL scholarships which included a presentation at the IATEFL Conference in Glasgow. I didn’t win the scholarship but my speaker proposal was accepted and in April 2017 I presented at IATEFL Conference for the first time. Another once in a lifetime experience! Once again it crossed my mind that things can’t get any better.

Since 2015 I’ve been spending most of my time trying to do my best as part of the ELTA Serbia Board (organising the annual conferences and other PD events, organising different competitions for teachers and students, writing projects, co-managing our facebook page and responding to hundreds of emails). Even though at some points it seemed that ELTA could become “a full time job”, I tried not to neglect my own professional development. For the second time I won a scholarship from the American Embassy in Belgrade for an eight-week online course. I applied for the IATEFL Conference in Brighton and my speaker proposal was accepted.

2018 got off to a great start. As a follow up to the conference in Glasgow I was invited by IATEFL to contribute to a webinar Tips for First-Time Presenters at International Conferences, which is available for both IATEFL members and non-members to watch. It was a completely new experience and with 381 people attending the webinar I can say it was a success. Not long after that I received a proposal for giving an informal interview at the Brighton IATEFL Conference as well as an offer to volunteer as an interviewer. I accepted both wholeheartedly even though I had never interviewed anybody before. It was an opportunity not only to learn something new but also to grow my PLN and have fun at the same time. My talk also went well and there’s another webinar on the horizon!

Bozica with Shaun Wilden at our “filming studio” at the 52nd IATEFL Conference in Brighton

With Shaun Wilden at our “filming studio” at the 52nd IATEFL Conference in Brighton

I hope that my further journey through ELT will bring me more “Things can’t get better” moments and more proof that they can.

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t even know that the world of teaching associations existed. Now I can say that TAs change lives. They changed mine, and only in positive ways. So, my advice is: get involved, share what you know and learn from others, do your best and you’ll see that things can always get better!


Božica Šarić-Cvjetković

Božica Šarić-Cvjetković has a BA in English language and literature and more than ten years of experience in the classroom. Based in Serbia, she teaches young learners and teenagers in a state primary school and works with students with special learning difficulties. She’s also a teacher trainer and has delivered workshops and talks both locally and internationally.

She currently serves as ELTA Serbia Vice President. In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening and playing with her cats.

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If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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My dream has come true! (Julia Koifman)

My first steps in teaching and immigration

I have been teaching English for 26 years now. I started my career in Simferopol, Ukraine and taught English at the junior-high school. I also worked as a translator and taught Business English at a university. In 1999 I emigrated to Israel and continued teaching at junior-high and high school. Now I am an English Coordinator at Beit Ekshtein high school in the settlement of Rupin. Beit Ekstein is a chain of Special Education Needs (SEN) schools in our country that use Learning Technologies (LT) in teaching.

Like many immigrants, I had ups and downs in my teaching career. Mainly I faced a culture shock at the beginning and sometimes I was at a loss because I did not know what to teach and how. I had worked at quite a lot of schools before I was employed by Beit Ekstein in 2006, where I still work. I realized that I was good at teaching kids with specific educational needs, so I started looking for ways to develop professionally in SEN and started finding contact with other teachers like myself. Step by step I got used to many new things, attended some local conferences and took numerous in-service and online courses. Finally, in 2009 I became the English Coordinator at our school.

The chance of a lifetime

In summer 2014 I found out about IATEFL by chance and decided to participate in its conferences. I applied for the 49th conference in Manchester and forgot about it almost immediately. I lack words to describe how excited I was when in November 2014 I got an email that my proposal had been accepted. I realized that it was the chance of a lifetime and decided to go to Manchester in April 2015 even though I had to pay for the flight and the hotel myself. Presenting at my first international conference was one of the best things that could have happened to me personally as well as professionally.

Me, David Crystal and Marina Kladova

Me, David Crystal and Marina Kladova

The results of the conference exceeded my expectations. I met Marjorie Rosenberg, David Crystal and some other organizers and made friends with colleagues from all over the world. I am still in touch with them and I have realized that IATEFL is a great place to make international friendships. In addition, when the conference was over, I received numerous offers to publish my articles in different magazines, with the result that I have made about ten publications in three years. Moreover, my salary in school has increased due to publications and presentations.

My first IATEFL presentation

My first IATEFL presentation

Recently I joined TESOL. I have not attended any conferences in the USA yet but I hope to do so one day.

My further professional development

After my first IATEFL conference in Manchester I participated in both international conferences and local ones, including SIG [Special Interest Group] events in different parts of Europe. For instance, in November 2015 I attended the Learning Technologies (LT) SIG conference in Dublin. I have benefited not only from meeting great educators from all over the world, but from webinars as well. I have taken some international courses, including CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). My short articles have been published in IATEFL Conference Selections. When I presented on ‘Building fluency and comprehension in dyslexic readers’ in Glasgow in 2017, my session was filmed so you can watch it if you want to.

I have applied for a scholarship three times but I failed. Finally I wоn the LT SIG Diana Eastment scholarship last year and my dream came true. Since I am a member of LTSIG, the main requirement of this scholarship, and participate in the SIGs a lot, I realized that I had a chance to win. In addition, my presentation at Brighton 2018 is going to deal with using LT in teaching SEN students, so I am going to share my experience with colleagues from all over the world.

I was very happy to become a scholarship winner. It is going to be my fourth international conference, so I won a scholarship on the fourth attempt. I know that it is possible to win a scholarship only once, but it helps a lot because flying and staying in the UK is quite expensive. Besides, I am highly motivated to give a brilliant presentation and to mentor those who are going to present for the first time.

What is my advice on how to win a scholarship? First of all, don’t give up. If your speaker proposal or article for publication has been rejected, try again. Ask your colleagues and IATEFL consultants for help, attend webinars, take courses and you will improve your skills. If your proposal has been accepted, but you still have not won a scholarship, try again next year. Practice makes perfect. In my case being a member of some SIGs, such as LTSIG, IP & SEN SIG (Inclusive Practices and Special Needs), YLTSIG (Young Learners and Teenagers) and others, helped me to win the scholarship later. In general, my advice is – get involved, take a chance, never give up in case of failure and never stop in your professional development.

Next year I will not have the right to apply for a scholarship. Nevertheless, I am not going to stop attending IATEFL conferences, even if it is quite expensive. Since I am an English Coordinator, I should train my co-workers and share new materials and ideas with them. Besides, they sometimes refer to my publications while doing research and I am sure that my articles help them to succeed in their careers.  I am sure that we, teachers, learn from each other a lot.


Julia Koifman

Julia Koifman has been teaching for 26 years. She holds an MA degree from Simferopol State University, Ukraine. She started her career in Ukraine, where she taught English in junior-high school and in a university. In 1999 she moved to Israel and completed a TEFL training course for immigrant teachers and CELTA. Now she is an English Coordinator in Beit Ekshtein high school for special education in Rupin, Israel. Professional development is an essential part of her teaching job. She is a member of IATEFL, TESOL and ETAI (English Teachers’ Association in Israel). She has presented at local and international conferences and published some articles in Israeli and international teachers’ magazines. She won the Learning Technologies SIG Diana Eastment scholarship for the 52nd IATEFL Conference in Brighton in 2018.

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. Find out more information and ideas for what you could write about here. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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The IATEFL membership officer (Natalie Chambers)

When I started out, I was immediately thrown in at the deep end as the 2017 Annual Conference in Glasgow was only 4 weeks away! Not only was I getting to grips with a new role but I was then put in front of over 3000 delegates, trustees and volunteers really trying to make a good impression. I was trying to remember who everyone was, how the conference worked and what I was meant to be doing…. it was exhausting!!! Having said that it was great, as I learnt so much and a year on I can safely say I have taken ownership of my role as IATEFL Membership Officer and can’t wait to get stuck in at Brighton (as this time I am definitely more prepared).

So what does the Membership Officer do?

No two days are the same in the life of the Membership Officer. Even though there are specific tasks carried out throughout the month, depending on the time of the year, there is a lot of variety. My general responsibilities include processing memberships, producing monthly reports, sending renewal reminders, submitting periodical reports to publishers and preparing the monthly webinars, to name a few. I am also one of the five members on the Membership and Marketing Committee. As well as all this I like to try and keep you up to date with all things IATEFL via our social media platforms, so don’t forget to look out for our posts on Facebook and Twitter.

As the conference is fast approaching, it is a busy time and it’s all systems go. I have been sending out the invitations for the IATEFL Associates’ Day, which is held on the same day as the PCE’s [Pre-Conference Events]. It gives the nominated representatives the opportunity to network with other IATEFL Associates from all corners of the globe.

One of the final preparations for the conference will be the delegate badges. Once the online registration closes on 22nd March 2018, I will gather all the information and begin producing them ready to take with us in April. Don’t worry if you missed the deadline, you can still book your place onsite in Brighton!

One of the best things about my job is the opportunity to meet and talk to so many different people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Of course it wouldn’t be the same without working with everyone at Head Office on a daily basis. There are only nine of us but I think we make a pretty great team.

If you have any questions about membership feel free to send me an email [email protected] or come and see me in Brighton. Even if you just want to say ‘Hi’, it’s always great to put a face to a name. You will see me behind the registration desk or on the IATEFL Stand in the exhibition. If not, I won’t be far away!


Natalie Chambers

I started my role as IATEFL Membership Officer in March 2017, having had previous experience in administration, database and systems analysis and customer service. I love to travel and one of my biggest passions is dance, having started my working life as a performer, choreographer and dance teacher.

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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Presenting tips (IATEFL members)

The annual IATEFL conference will soon be upon us. Of the 600 or so talks that will be delivered throughout the event, more than a few will be given by first-time presenters. IATEFL readily tries to encourage and provide support for first-time speakers. For example, there is the chance to be mentored by a more experienced presenter. In addition, in January 2018, we held a webinar in which some of the first-time presenters from IATEFL Glasgow 2017 gave their tips and advice. During that webinar, a lot of interesting questions came up, so afterwards we asked the IATEFL Facebook discussion group for their thoughts. Thank you to Shaun Wilden for putting the post together, by collating answers from the discussions in the hope that it provides some useful tips for those of you presenting in Brighton.

In week one of the discussion the questions centred on getting started:

  1. Can I use icebreakers in my presentation?
  2. Could you give some useful tips on a good start to a talk?
  3. Should a presentation be interactive i.e. have polls, use things like padlet etc?

One of the key points that came out was about how long presenters should spend introducing themselves at the start of a talk. The consensus seemed to be that, especially bearing in mind the limited time available, intros shouldn’t be too long. An introduction should briefly say who you are and what you are going to talk about i.e. a little bit of rationale – How/Why/When did you start thinking about this topic?

When it comes to icebreakers there is probably not enough time for this within the 30 minutes of an IATEFL talk. However, asking the audience a question early in the talk is a good way of letting you catch your breath. One way to do this is to ask people to discuss what they know about the topic to get an idea of their level of understanding. This could be, as one of our contributors put it, ‘a beehive moment’ where the room is buzzing with the audience discussion. A second suggestion was to have a ‘pre-presentation slide’ on display before your session begins. This gives the audience something to think about while waiting to start.

While we’re on the topic of slides, one no-no that came out of the discussion was reading your own slides aloud all the time. While it might be pertinent for you to occasionally read something aloud, it is better to paraphrase. Other advice for slides was the rule of 5 x 5. That is to have no more than 5 lines of text with five words in each line. For those of you presenting your research, the hive mind of the Facebook group suggested that you concentrate on the key points. The audience don’t want a blow-by-blow account of your research like your supervisor. They want to know: Why did you choose this topic? What did you learn from it? What questions does it raise? What more is there to learn?

In terms of the third question about how interactive presentations should be, perhaps the best bit of advice was that though interactive might be fun, don’t assume everyone is connected enough for you to use the technology. Something like padlet could end up being divisive rather than inclusive. Depending on the size of the room and whether you need the tech for some kind of output, e.g. a pie chart showing breakdown of answers, then show of hands is really as connected as you need your presentation to be.

In week two, the questions centred on the speaker and their audience.

  1. How does a presenter stop themselves from speaking too fast once they get nervous?
  2. How does a presenter stop themselves from forgetting what they are going to say?
  3. What should a presenter do if an audience asks questions which the presenter does not know the answer to?
  4. What techniques do you use to attract a bored audience?
  5. How would you deal with participants who are very outspoken and possibly negative?

Many contributors to the discussions said they created note cards, index cards or even scripts as a way to help them remember what they are going to say. Others noted that often the act of writing things out was enough to help the details of the talk stick in the memory. A more techie solution is to make sure that ‘presenter view’ is used in PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides as this will allow you to have presenter notes on your computer screen. A final useful piece of advice here was the idea of practising. Not only does this help with nerves but also gives you an idea of how much time things are going to take.

Preparation helps when handling nervousness. However, you’ll always feel some nerves and the group felt that this was a good idea, as your body doesn’t know the difference between nervousness and excitement. Use that energy to your advantage and if the nerves do rise, manage your breathing and deep breathe before your first line.

We will now move on to questions from the audience. As someone noted, even with the best will in the world, we can’t really be expected to know the answer to ALL the questions which might be asked. Acknowledge the question, say you don’t know the answer or “I haven’t thought about that” but give an opinion, and then invite the audience to help. Perhaps, though the hardest questions are not actually questions, but people who try to show off their expertise by making a statement disguised as a question that very often has little to do with the talk presented. The trick is then how to get them to be quiet. You need to do this as quickly as possible, perhaps by saying ‘Thank you. Does anyone else have a question?’

Finally, let’s address boredom. Worrying too much about whether the audience is bored or not seems to be a slippery slope. How can you tell anyway?! Passive audiences don’t necessarily mean bored ones. Many are quite happy just listening. That said, the audience feeds off you and your energy, and then you feed off theirs. If you’re hiding behind a podium, reading your notes, not making eye contact, and speaking in a monotone, you can’t expect the audience to be engaged. It’s a circle that starts with YOU.

Our final week of discussions included slightly more eclectic questions. For example: “Is it a good idea to use quotes from well-known professionals?” The group replied that if they serve a purpose then why not, but do not rely only on other people’s quotes. Participants want to hear something from you, too.

Another was whether humour should be used during a presentation. Answerers felt it can be a bit risky, but it also adds a nice touch. Maybe test it with a few people from different backgrounds if possible to see how it goes over, or at least ask a colleague.

So, there you have it. Well some of it! There were so many tips and pieces of advice given over the three weeks that it is impossible to include them all here. Do have a look at the facebook group if you want to see them all for yourself.

Many thanks to all of you that contributed to the discussions. Good luck to everyone presenting in Brighton, be it your first time or not. Let’s end with one final piece of advice:

Relax and be yourself!

See you in Brighton.

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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Finding out what captioned video can do for students (Elena Deleyto)

Today I’d like to share with the IATEFL blog readers what I have learnt about the use and usefulness of subtitles and captions for the language classroom. I am a scriptwriter and ELT video producer for DLA (Digital Learning Associates), experts in educational video and learning design. I work with authentic materials, carefully selecting and repackaging them for all proficiency levels. Last year, work on a new video series gave me the chance to put my subtitling skills to the test in the area of language learning. Before I started I immediately wondered if standard subtitling rules applied or if there was more I needed to know. There was.

In order to create suitable captions, I needed to find out how they are best used and what they can do for our learners. Not only are captions a key requirement in ELT video for most teachers, they are also an invaluable asset to help students tune in to unfamiliar accents, work out word boundaries and thus link or infer the meaning of spoken words. All of these are especially relevant to our work at DLA, and we have found research into these aspects invaluable. We also believe it is key for anyone using or looking to use video in class.

A still showing captions from a DLA video (A hand holding a mug 'I pretty much always park on the beach front' is the caption)

What are the purposes of captions in the ELT classroom?

The use of English captions can improve both students’ listening comprehension skills and vocabulary acquisition. Over the last decade several studies, such as the meta analysis carried out by Maribel Montero in 2013, have shown that the dual input of written and auditory information in captioned video aids comprehension and leads to a better understanding of the clip itself. Far from interfering with the listening process, the written input helps students develop listening skills more effectively. By introducing captions we are helping students isolate words more easily and match the written terms they know with the spoken word more easily (Vanderplank 2016, 79-80).

When should they be used?

The aforementioned 2013 analysis seems to point to subtitles being most beneficial for intermediate students: they enable them to process all kinds of authentic video materials and make the most of them in terms of new language acquisition. Advanced learners, on the other hand, tend to use them mostly as back up. In the case of beginners viewing authentic materials, subtitles prove useful if said materials are carefully chosen for the purpose. However, they will not be of much help if the video is significantly above level.

Can they be made level appropriate?

Verbatim subtitles (word for word) are a must if used for language learning purposes, as failure to reflect speech will only create confusion. However, low and intermediate learners will benefit from subtitles that remain under 16 characters per second. This is easily achieved if the pacing is right. However, when the speed of the speech proves faster, captions extended into any silences that follow also works wonders by keeping the words on the screen a little longer.

All in all, although the use of captions will not unlock all authentic video to all learners, when combined with the right choice of clips, they can become a key part of the listening experience and prove useful in more ways than one (Vanderplank, 2016, 248-249 and passim). However, research papers on the topic are still few and far between and I am hoping more detailed studies together with peer discussion will shed further light on the matter.


Montero Perez, M., Van Den Noortgate, W., and Desmet, P. (2013) Captioned Video for L2 Listening and vocabulary Learning: A meta-analysis. System 41(3), 720-739

Vanderplank, R. (2016) Captioned Media for Foreign Language Learning and Teaching. London: Palgrave Macmillan


Headshot - Elena Deleyto

Elena Deleyto is an ELT scriptwriter and video producer for DLA. She also runs workshops and talks on the use of video in the language classroom and will be doing so at the IATEFL 2018 conference in Brighton.

Digital Learning Associates has held an institutional IATEFL membership since September 2017. Educational video producers and learning design experts, they have worked on video resources for several global ELT publishers including three Pearson courses launching in spring and summer 2018.

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If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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My path in and with ELT in Brazil (Kyria Finardi)

I’ve always liked languages (I’m trying to learn my 5th now) and I can’t quite remember when I started to learn English as a foreign language (EFL) and when I began to see myself as an EFL teacher. I have taught EFL in Brazil for over 20 years and have been a teacher trainer/educator for almost a decade now.

As a full time professor in a public university in Brazil I am in charge of the English Language Teaching (ELT) Practicum course which is offered in the last semesters (7th and 8th) of the ELT degree course. I have about 25 students per semester and my job is to supervise undergraduate, pre-service English teachers’ practicum, discussing issues related to education in general and to English language teaching in particular.

I wear many hats – language learner, user, instructor, teacher, educator and researcher – the latter being an all-time passion that I started to develop professionally after I earned my Phd in Applied Linguistics… Now I am trying to train other researchers in Brazil on the two graduate courses I work for, the Education Program and the Linguistics Program where I teach and advise graduate students (Masters and Doctorate).

In Brazil all university teachers must teach, do research and offer services for the community and most of my projects in those three areas are related to Education and Languages. One of these projects, called “Building citizenship through language”, ongoing since 2011, offers workshops, courses and activities for the community on different topics of interest such as healthy nutrition, astronomy, and the use of technology and human rights, all of which are carried out through different foreign languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese for foreigners, French and Italian) though most commonly English.

I use the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) Approach for the project and have recently helped my students, both at graduate and undergraduate level, to prepare a teaching project using this approach to teach different content (physics and mathematics, for example), through English. The project was piloted in a public school in my city and results showed that the teaching project was successful not only to teach the content (physics and mathematics) and the language (English) but also to get students and teachers involved in an interdisciplinary/collaborative project which raised everyone’s motivation and interpersonal skills.

One of the problems with the teaching of EFL in Brazil is the small amount of time dedicated to this subject in public schools. Another problem of using the CLIL approach in public schools is to find teachers who are proficient in the content as well as in the vehicular language (in this case, English). These difficulties were circumvented in this project by the involvement of content and language teachers to prepare materials together. I plan to continue sharing positive outcomes of my teaching/research experience both by teaching, presenting papers and publishing. In that sense, the scholarship that has enabled my participation in the 2018 IATEFL in Brighton will be very important to share my experience with other teachers around the world.

I have never been to an IATEFL conference before 2018 so you can imagine how excited I am about Brighton. My talk will be about two language teaching approaches, the CLIL approach and hybrid/blended approaches and the possibilities and limitations of implementing these approaches in Brazil. The underlying assumptions of my presentation are that language teacher education in Brazil faces several challenges, among which are the linguistic policies and investment in initial and continuing foreign language teacher education. In view of these challenges on the one hand, and the need to circumvent them on the other, inclusive teaching approaches represent a possible solution for this problem.

If you want to read more on hybrid approaches or CLIL you can visit my blog where I have some of these publications available for download. Click on Publicações to see the publications organized in a chronological order.

Hope to see you in Brighton. 🙂


Kyria Finardi

Kyria Rebeca Finardi is a Brazilian EFL teacher and teacher educator. She teaches at the Federal University of Espírito Santo both at undergraduate and graduate courses (English, Applied Linguistics and Education).

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My life-changing professional development journey (Elena Matveeva)

I have been teaching English for almost 20 years now. I used to teach Business English at a university, worked as a freelancer for a couple of years and now I am a teacher and academic director in one of the private language schools in Yaroslavl, Russia.

Through these years of my teaching career there were ups and downs, there were days when I absolutely loved and then when I absolutely hated what I was doing. I lacked motivation in my job and at times I felt isolated and lonely. Due to some circumstances I was forced to become a freelancer when I got back to teaching after my second child was born. That only made the feeling of loneliness stronger and I started looking for ways to develop professionally and to find contact with other teachers like myself.

My first step was attending local conferences and training sessions in my native city, which was interesting, refreshing and inspiring. Then I started looking for professional opportunities online and that is how I found Electronic Village Online. In 2014 I took part in the online course “Developing Business English Teachers” and my professional life has never been the same ever since. I was lucky to meet an amazing group of moderators who influenced me in ways I could have never imagined. That was how I got to know the BESIG [Business English Special Interest Group] team and they motivated me to move further in my professional development. The course itself was the most brilliant online course I have ever taken. It was very practical and made me reflect on my practice as well as make plans for the future. It was then that I decided to start moving towards realizing my dream – presenting at the IATEFL conference. At that time I was not a member of IATEFL but I was very interested in watching online webinars. I tried to find time to be online at the time of the webinar as non-members do not get a chance to watch them later. After becoming an IATEFL member that problem was solved and now I have access to all the webinars from previous years whenever I have free time or wish to watch them.

The first conference abroad I attended was the BESIG conference in Bonn in 2014. The results of the conference exceeded my expectations. It was really exciting to meet my EVO course moderators face-to-face and to give my talk on ‘Teaching presentation skills in the digital age’ in front of famous professionals in the world of Business English. I became an IATEFL member during the conference and since then I have been able to enjoy all the benefits it gives. After the conference I was invited to give a webinar on the topic of my conference talk, which you can watch on the BESIG site, and as a result I got a job offer from a well- known publisher Cornelsen to be an advisor/consultant on their short course English for Presentations A2. It was unexpected and really flattering.

Elena holding a copy of the book she advised on

Elena holding a copy of the book she advised on

Eventually, I decided it was time to make my dream come true and applied for the BESIG Facilitator’s Scholarship for the 50th IATEFL conference in Birmingham. It is difficult to find words to describe how happy I was to become one of the scholarship winners. The whole experience of being one of the 52 scholarship winners at the IATEFL Conference in Birmingham in 2016 was like a dream come true. I got to meet the most amazing and professional teachers from all over the world. The time at the conference was unforgettable. Where else can teachers have a chat with gurus of ELT who are taking part in the sessions and workshops side by side with novice teachers? As a speaker I had a chance to share my ideas and experience when giving a talk on the topic of teaching presentation skills in the modern world.

IATEFL has become my professional family. I have received so much support, advice, warmth and friendliness from people at the conference, from the BESIG team, from my PLN [Professional/Personal Learning Network] some of which I met for the first time at the conference. Now I can’t imagine my life without IATEFL. The annual conference is the place to get to know about the new trends that shape ELT. It is the place to exchange ideas and absorb new knowledge, to meet new people and make useful contacts. IATEFL webinars are a valuable resource of precious information which you can go back to again and again in time of need. Once you become a part of this brilliant community of enthusiastic teachers, your life changes forever. What I learned during my professional journey towards realizing my dream is that everything is possible, we should just take the chance. Being an IATEFL member inspires me to never stop. Looking at all the hard work done by other teachers all over the world is truly inspiring.

What is my advice on how to win a scholarship? In my case being active in BESIG helped a lot. I got involved by presenting at a BESIG conference, giving a webinar, and taking part in online activities. I got noticed while being an active member of BESIG and that helped me to win the scholarship later. In November 2017 I attended another BESIG conference in Malta. This time I wasn’t a scholarship winner but attending IATEFL and BESIG conferences has become addictive for me and I couldn’t miss it. It was held in cooperation with ReSIG [Research Special Interest Group] and it was just brilliant. I enjoyed every moment of it.

So my advice is – get involved, take a chance and never stop in your professional development. IATEFL is there to help teachers like us.


Elena Matveeva

Elena Matveeva is an EFL teacher at The Dmitry Nikitin School in Yaroslavl (Russia). She has been teaching for almost 20 years in different contexts from University to being a freelancer to being an Academic Director of the private language school where she is employed now. Her main interest lies in teaching adults both general English and Business English, including in-company training and teaching. Elena is an active participant of different national and international conferences, seminars, webinars and online courses. Professional development is an essential part of her teaching job. Nowadays, one of the spheres she is actively involved in is inviting speakers from overseas and Russia in order to hold training sessions for EFL teachers based in different cities in Russia. Her blog is www.languageflame.com and you can find her on facebook as Elena Matveeva.

Contribute to the blog

If you’re a member of IATEFL and would like to contribute to the blog, we’d love to hear from you at blog (at) iatefl (dot) org. We’re looking for stories from our members, news about projects you’ve been involved in, and anything else you think those connected to English language teaching would be interested in reading. We look forward to hearing from you! If you’re not a member, why not join us?

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