About ECML and LACS

Written by: Nedezhda Doichinova, BETA member

On December 10-11, 2009 I attended a Workshop in Graz, Austria, organized by the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) within the activities of a four-year Project called “Language Associations and Collaborative Support”.
The ECML was established in 1993 by the Council of Europe and currently runs a four-year programme under the motto “Empowering Language Professionals” including four thematic strands:
A: Linguistic and Social Diversity;
B: Multicultural Society and Intercultural Competence;
C: Professional Development for Language Educators;
D: Innovations and New Technologies.
4500 participants, 22 projects, 190 events – these figures illustrate to some extent the scope of work carried out by the ECML so far. In brief, the ECML programme objectives (2008-2011) focus on:

  • promoting professional competence;
  • professional networking;
  • impact on reform processes;
  • improving the quality of language education in Europe.

These highly ambitious goals are to be achieved through Projects developed in the following thematic areas:

“Language Associations and Collaborative Support” (LACS) is a Project belonging to the fourth thematic area: “Plurilingual Education” and its aims are to add value to the work of the ECML and of the individual language teacher associations through disseminating ECML Projects and publications as well as collaboratively exploring effective dissemination practices.
The purpose is not only to support language professionals across Europe through more effective dissemination of new language pedagogies, but also to influence language policies and curricular models appropriate to 21st century.
In order to do so the Project maps the way in which a wide variety of language associations are organized (nationally, regionally and locally) and how they support their own networks of members.
The Workshop held on December 10-11, 2009 explored all these issues in a practical way by grouping the participants first on geographical, then on language, and lastly on “I haven’t met you yet” basis. After that each group had to do different activities according to the Workshop Programme. Finally we all gathered together in the plenary room and presented the result of our work to all the 30 participants from 28 countries.
It is worth mentioning that it was the first ECML event carried out in three different languages: English, German and French, simultaneous translation provided for the joint activities.
A Bulgarian voice was heard at the event as well as that of BETA – I asked for and was given the chance to present BETA – an additional slot was found for that within the Workshop Programme thanks to Mr Terry Lamb, the Project Coordinator. The BETA Power-Point-based presentation is to be uploaded on the Project’s site and the participants were asked to send similar ones for their associations to the LACS management team for further dissemination. So, on BETA’s behalf I think I can claim we set a good example.
Many were the benefits, both on ECML and personal levels that I can share with you. I hope your professional interest has been aroused so you are welcome to the next BETA annual conference where you can learn much more about the ECML and the LACS Project, and can read hard copy materials brought from the ECML Resource Center in Graz.

The 17th annual convention of TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece – Thessaloniki 2009

Experienced firsthand by Zarina Markova
The ever changing world of schooling … the sky is the limit!!!

I always like to go to conferences. For me they are both useful and enjoyable. Apart from the opportunity to keep up-to-date with the modern ELT world, I love gathering with colleagues, meeting new people, making friends. I find the sense of togetherness created at such events rather inspiring.
I always like going to Greece. It attracts me with its beauty and history but what always makes me return there is the charm of the Greeks, their ability to show how welcome you are and how glad they are to have you as their guest.
What results from the blend of the conference appeal and the fascination with Greece? A memorable experience that is worth sharing.
The 17th annual convention of TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece was held in Thessaloniki on 30th October – 1st November 2009. The event was superbly organized – there were participants from 10 countries, varied and slick presentations and behind it all a highly efficient team, the TESOL Northern Greece board, who made sure that everything ran smoothly.
The theme of the conference ‘The ever changing world of schooling … the sky is the limit!!!’ was chosen so as to focus on the constantly evolving and developing nature of teaching. The event brought together internationally well-known practitioners in ELT: Gary Anderson, Penny Ur, Philip Kerr;  experienced teachers of English as a foreign language: Caterina Skiniotou, David Gibson, Julia Tanner-Bogia, Melania Paduraru, Simona Mazilu and young professionals: Connie Theodoropoulos, Corina Custurea, Milena Tanasijevich. The participants took part in 6 plenary sessions and thirty concurrent talks and workshops on variety of topics:  how to teach grammar without a grammar book; the potential of good stories, films, poems and songs; working towards a critical mind; the 21st-century English Teacher; learner-centredness, etc.
On Sunday afternoon, there was a panel plenary on the SEETA Community. The participants were taken on a tour of the moodle platform. The discussion focused on the value of open forums for teachers to grow and develop, as well as to express their views on their teaching situations. And last but not least – to have a good time!
The social programme included Taverna Evening with plenty of music and dancing (no breaking of plates, though!), a tour of the old part of Thessaloniki and – the most surprising and memorable of all – The Mad Teacher’s Corner! It took place in the book exhibition area during the breaks. Mad teachers revealed their mad talents as follows: they sang songs, danced, mimed, played musical instruments, told jokes and anecdotes, satyrised or simply improvised. All in all, they had fun and helped the rest do so, too.
To sum up, my first time in a TESOL Macedonia – Thrace Convention was an unforgettable experience. The talks I attended were most interesting and gave me food for thought. I had the chance to meet the people I work with on the SEETA platform. I was embraced with warmth, hospitality and professional solidarity. All this will make me return to Thessaloniki again and again. I look forward to the 18th annual conference of TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece.

A joint event of 88 School "D.Popnikolov", HRDC, SLBE and BETA

Dear colleagues,
The board of directors and the foreign language department at the 88 School in Sofia are pleased to welcome you to the seminar: Good teaching practices, which will be held on 17th September 2009 (the place and time will be confirmed at the beginning of September).
The seminar will offer presentations of the eTwinning platform by the National eTwinning coordinator and good teaching practices by different eTwinning and Comenius project coordinators and participants.
The partner institutions are: The Human Resource Development Centre, Sofia Local Board of Education and The Bulgarian English Teachers’ Association.
Looking forward to seeing you,
Tsvetelena Taralova
International Project coordinator
Milena Peneva
Head of 88th school in Sofia

People are strange creatures

Written by: Simona Bali
People are strange creatures. They are more like cats – they get attached to places rather than people. I’m not much different with some places. I just fall head over heels in love the minute I set foot in a new place.
It happened so with Barnstaple, which is absolutely irrational considering that only a couple of days ago I couldn’t even remember its name. And it is surely not because of Butcher’s Row, built in 1855 with its tiny retro butcher, baker and greengrocer shops. Neither is it for the Pannier Market dating back to the same year. Hosting under its vaulted roof a different market each day, trying to seduce you to the paraphernalia of all kinds. And the Clock Tower erected in 1862 in loving memory of Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, can’t possibly be a reason for me to be lured to the charms of that town.
Maybe John Gay who once lived here a long time ago, could be the reason for the sudden spell of affection, him being a man of letters like myself. Perhaps it was Sir Francis Chichester, a sailor and aviator and a worthy man or Phil Vickery – the famous rugby player or even Giles Chichester, the European politician.
Did the inhabitants of Beardestaple, as the town used to be called when the Saxons settled here, know that their town would survive for so many years and become a dear place for locals and foreigners alike? Did the locals working here in the Middle Ages and exporting wool, ever consider what the place would look like centuries later? They would certainly have felt proud to know their town would win the Britain in Bloom flower competition several years in a row and that every autumn in September there would be a remarkable event taking place called the Barnstaple Fair.
I can keep adding to the long list of facts I now know about Barnstaple. Take for example the Tarka Trail, once built as a railway line and now turned into a path for walkers and cyclists, or Barnstaple Railway being built in 1854 or the Millennium Mosaic depicting with its tiles, the history of the town. On the other hand there are the two State Secondary Schools and the Barnstaple Rugby Football Club founded in 1877.
Such facts, no matter how important they may be for historians or quiz makers, can’t make someone fall in love with a town. They may only make them respect it. Falling in love takes a sweet moment to remember, like eating a fairing, that funny ginger-snap biscuit. Something that would tease your senses in a pleasantly intruding manner, yet leaving you totally aghast at the simplicity of the whole experience. But isn’t that what we are all looking for – something plain yet spicy to make us feel the taste of unconditional love? And can this love be a love for a town, or a place, or a rock, or a stone, or a sea shell or a grain of sand?
If you still can’t find the answer then take a ferry, a boat or a helicopter and go to Lundy Island. Stand on top of it, open your arms wide, feel the breeze in your hair, listen to the roar of the breaking waves and just stop thinking … The answer will come, like a soft drizzle, gently but incessantly wetting your brain with the insight of perfection …

My SOL Experience

Written by: Antonia Ivanova
If I have to come up with one word to describe my SOL Teacher Training Course experience, that will be sharing. As the SOL slogan reads, we all shared one language. My hospitable hostess shared her typical English home with me. Then I had to share my lovely pink room with a friendly and charming Belarusian girl. We both shared the same most amusing classes of Simon and Geoff. In the afternoons Tim, our guide, would share with us the most amazing sights and views of the English countryside. Later, after dinner we would all get together and share our experiences and emotions over a pint of beer or cider.
For me it was a highly practical course in language development and methodology, including the use of creative drama in teaching. In the ideas we exchanged and the practices we discussed I definitely found inspiration for my future work with my students.

The Bulgarian Society for British Studies 13th annual Conference

The Bulgarian Society for British Studies (BSBS) http://www.writingacademia.org/bsbs held its 13th annual conference on November 7-9th, 2008 in Sofia.
The aim of the conference was to shed light on the impact of global processes on communication. The topic of the Conference – Discourses Of Globalisation – was approached from different perspectives among which language policies; language manipulation; Global English and foreign language teaching/ learning; ways of identification and conceptualisation of human action; dynamics of globalization discourses in terms of homogenisation/ differentiation, integration/ fragmentation, etc.
Besides the three plenary sessions delivered by prominent scholars in the field, nearly 60 more presentations (one third of them given by international participants) were streamed into two sections working simultaneously.
BETA was represented by 4 of its members. A big clap for our folks who all gave interesting and thought-provoking presentations:

  • Ellie Boyadzhieva (“Ditransitives and their arguments in modern English”)
  • Stefka Kitanova (“Humour in Science books and lessons)
  • Syana HarizanovaNikolina Tsvetkova (“Young learners in the Global Village”)

Two Conferences – One Goal

Written by: Ellie Boyadzhieva
The 6th Annual Conference of the Serbian English Teachers Association (ELTA) was held in the capital city Belgrade on 30th May- 1st June under the title: The Classroom that Beats the Odds. It was organized with the support of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia, the British Council and the American Embassy. The venue chosen by the ELTA Organizing team, Sava Centar, was right in the heart of the city, a wonderful location and excellent facilities. It mirrored a wide range of theoretical and practical issues and developments in the teaching world covering a wide range of topical areas in ELT among which Teacher Training, Teacher Development, Teaching Young Learners, Computer Assisted Language Learning, ESP, Business English, Literature, Media and Cultural Studies, Global Issues, Testing, Evaluation and Assessment. A special focus of the Conference was the Teacher Development SIG Day on Sunday, 1 June. The programme of the conference included also other issues that teachers from all over the region chose to share, among which was the co-presentation of Anna Parisi and E. Boyadzhieva devoted to the idea of creating the SEETA platform. Now we are witnessing the results of the appeal for cooperation in the Net as the project has been ongoing since.
The conference was officially opened by Maja Simrak-Grbic – the current then President of ELTA, who was at that time just three months before becoming a mother for the first time and who with her enthusiasm and efficiency evoke the admirations of all present at the conference.
The participants actively took part in various types of presentations, workshops, talks and discussions which totalled over 45. The plenaries were given by internationally well-known practitioners in ELT: Robert Dean, Hugh Dellar, David Hill, Lisa Harshbarger, Robert Hastings, Philip Kerr, Steve Lever, Anne O’Keeffe. A special guest to the conference was Sarah Hannam, the big IATEFL Associates’ Coordinator.
The Annual conference of the Macedonian TA – ELTAM was also held in the capital of the state – Skopje on 24-26 October 2008.
This was for the first time since the establishment of the organization as the first four conferences used to take place in Ohrid – three times and once in Struga. The 5th International ELTAM conference was innovative not only in terms of the venue but in terms of cooperation with other related organizations as well. It was a joint-project of ELTAM, IATEFL and TESOL and sponsored by the American Embassy in Skopje, The British Council and the University American College. The latter provided the venue for the conference.
The pre-conference event was hosted by the Research SIG of ELTAM who invited Dr. Judy Richardson as a key-note speaker and moderator of the event.
Unfortunately Lisa Harshbarger, the Regional English Language officer at the US Embassy in Budapest, who had to open the conference with her first plenary, had had an accident and could not make it to the conference. This gave the audience the chance to listen to Judy Richardson’s plenary, devoted to reading and writing in ELT, followed by the second plenary on Sunday given by David Hill dealing with the essential need of extensive reading for ELT learners. Both plenaries incited a heated discussion on what is the teachers’ role in making youngsters to read in this readless computerized and globalizing world.
In addition to all other benefits, at both conferences there were several Publishers’ & Sponsors’ events, discounts, prizes and awards. A major ELT Resources Exhibitions were organized displaying and promoting the latest titles for the participants to browse through or purchase at special conference prices.
The Organizing committees both in Serbia and Macedonia were helpful, efficient and smiling in unison with the wonderful weather which, I suspect, they must have eagerly begged for.

2008 BETA Competition results

Member winning entry: Tsvetelena Taralova – Parents-Children Relationships at home and in the film “Cat on a Hot  Tin Roof”
Download: Lesson as a .ZIP archive [8,3 MB]
Non-member winning entry: Iglika Bachvarova – What Do They Eat?
Download: Lesson as a .ZIP archive [0,5 MB]
Second place: Bistra Vasileva – 21st Century Taboos
Download: Lesson as a .ZIP archive [0,1 MB]
There were 5 competition entries sent to BETA Commiitee for evaluation as follows:

Author Lesson Title
Bistra Vasileva 21st Century Taboos
Eleonora Lazarova Cultural Learning Lesson
Iglika Bachvarova What Do They Eat?
Tsvetelena Taralova Parents – Children Relationships at home and in the film “Cat on a Hot  Tin Roof”
Yuliya Parvanova Fresh Waters of Europe

The submitted lesson plans and all the accompanying materials were evaluated by a specially appointed evaluating committee:

  • Nina Tsvetkova (BETA committee member, ISLE SIG)
  • Stefka Kitanova (BETA committee member, EAC SIG)
  • Svetla Tashevska (TED SIG)
  • Syana Harizanova (BETA committee member, YL SIG)
  • Tanya Ivanova (BETA committee member, YL SIG)
  • Villy Karastateva (ISLE SIG)

according to the following criteria:

  1. Benefit for the learner
  2. Clarity and cohesion
  3. Logical sequence of the lesson parts/activity steps and coherence
  4. Applicability in other teaching contexts

The winning entry submitted by a BETA member is Parents – Children Relationships at home and in the film “Cat on a Hot  Tin Roof” by Tsvetelena Taralova. Tsveti will attend next year’s BETA conference for free.
The winning entry submitted by a non-member is What Do They Eat? by Iglika Buchvarova. Iglika will attend next year’s BETA conference at half a fee.
The evaluating committee decided to give a second prize to 21st c. Taboos by Bistra Vasileva.
BETA Committee would like to thank all the teachers who participated in the competition. We hope that next year’s edition will gather even more entries!

Report from Varna language conference

Fifth International Conference
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.