Report from Varna language conference

Fifth International Conference
THE LANGUAGE – A PHENOMENON WITHOUT FRONTIERS
12 – 14 June 2008, Varna Medical University

About the venue
Varna – our third biggest city and busiest Black Sea port is not just a beautiful place, not just a centre of economic, commercial, tourist and cultural activity but also a centre of a busy academic life.

About the conference
It is a well-known fact that all higher education institutions in Varna have very well-developed and active language departments which offer general and specialized courses in modern foreign languages as well as in Bulgarian as a foreign language.
One of the most important professional events in this respect is the International Language Conference organized by the Department of Foreign Languages, Communication and Sports at Varna Medical University. The conference happens every two years and attracts specialists in theoretical and applied linguistics from most Bulgarian universities (both state and private) and from many international ones.
This year’s Conference, entitled The Language – a Phenomenon without Frontiers – was attended by 198 delegates from Bulgaria and abroad (the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Romania, Turkey).

About the programme
The conference programme is usually organized along two main streams – a Bulgarian one (concerned with teaching Bulgarian as a foreign language to international students at Bulgarian universities), and an FLT one (concerned with teaching foreign languages to Bulgarian university students) which is further subdivided according to the language taught.
The presentations (145 altogether) were about professional investigations and research as well as about personal and shared experience in the following main areas:

  • Language communication in the European frameworkSpeech strategies and tactics
  • Communicative behaviour
  • Communicative competence: standardisation and certification
  • Linguistic and cultural aspects of foreign language teaching
  • Modern strategies and approaches in foreign language teaching
  • Language and the Internet
  • Translation as interaction between language and culture
  • Management of language teaching
  • Sports as a means of communication

The working languages were Bulgarian, English, German, French, Russian and Spanish.

BETA members’ participation
Six BETA members gave presentations at the conference. Bellow are their names, as well as the titles and brief resumes of their presentations:

  • Nikolina Tsvetkova (with Bistra Stoimenova from the Department of Information and In-service Training of Teachers at Sofia University) gave a presentation entitled Web 2.0 Games and language education. The audience learnred about the aims and expected outcomes of a project that exploits Web 2.0, computer games as a powerful means of enhancing students’ foreign language skills and developing their initial plurilingual competence.
  • Stefka Kitanova presented BioDiscoFisica which sums up the results of her and her colleague Lillie Samurkova’s work on cross-curricular issues.
  • Svetlana Tashevska spoke about Some Lesson Planning Problems for New English Language Teachers. Her presentation was based on work with Cambridge CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) teachers, some – with relatively long experience, others – new to the profession.
  • Syana Harizanova shared her ideas on how to help students and teachers make the transition From Teacher-dependence to Student Independence.
  • Valentina Angelova-Raynova gave two co-presentations. The first one (with Stefan Raynov) was on Project Work for Developing Productive Skills while Teaching English for Specific Purposes, and demonstrated how some projects done by students of tourism had helped them develop their creative writing and speaking skills and their intercultural competence, and had also improved considerably their presentation skills. The second presentation (with Svetla Trendafilova) was dedicated to The Interdisciplinary Approach of Teaching English to Students of Medicine and Dentistry. It described how this approach had made the process of ESP teaching more meaningful to the students, thus allowing them to acquire skills and learn vocabulary in a natural context that would help them as future doctors and dentists.
  • Zhivka Ilieva gave a presentation on Investigating Oral Communicative Competence in the Primary Classroom. She analysed primary students’ skill to be polite in a conversation in English as well as the various communicative strategies they use to overcome difficulties in receiving or expressing the message.

Each of the above presentations was met with genuine interest and led to lively discussions. It is worth pointing out that three of the above presenters were appointed to chair the work of their section, namely Zhivka Ilieva was the chairperson of the Linguistic Aspects of Language teaching section, Syana Harizanova was the chairperson of the Language and Literature section, and Svetla Tashevska was the chairperson of the Methods and Approaches of Language Teaching section.

To sum up, once again BETA people were in the centre of professional action and won respect and recognition. This can only fill us with pride and satisfaction.

The social aspect
Traditionally, besides working on issues of professional interests, a lot of socializing happens at such events. This year’s International Language Conference in Varna was no exception. The local organisers had managed to provide a full range of entertainment activities (a welcoming reception over a glass of wine, a walk along the coast, a folk dance concert in the open, a cocktail dinner party, a disco night, a trip to Balchik), which kept everybody in a perfect physical and emotional state throughout the whole conference.

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