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
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.

REAL Seminar 17-19 September 2007 in Sèvres, France

On 17th – 19th September CIEP (Centre international d’études pédagogique) in Sèvres, France, hosted an international meeting under the REAL project.
The meeting was attended by representatives of various mono and multi-lingual associations and professional organizations of language teachers across Europe.
The main aim of the gathering was to introduce the participants to the findings of European-wide research into professional organizations of language teachers and networking. Issues related to the possible structure, maintenance cost and future members were discussed.
The majority of the delegates expressed their support for the creation of such a huge European network of associations.
BETA’s representative was Nina Tsvetkova.
BETA wishes the REAL steering committee success with the continuation of the project and we remain waiting for the opportunity to join the future network whose main goals would be to support teachers of all languages throughout Europe as well as to influence European policies in the sphere of modern language education.

Teacher Training Course at SOL in Barnstaple

Written by: Stefka Ileva, stefkaileva@mail.bg
What is SOL (Sharing One Language)
At the BETA Conference in Plovdiv, 2006, I was the lucky winner of the prize to attend for free the Teacher Training Course at SOL in Barnstaple, North Devon, UK.
SOL is a non-profit organization, set up in 1991, by its present Director, Grenville Yeo, (who will attend this year’s BETA Conference and draw another prizewinner). The need to help provide access to English in Eastern Europe is the driving force behind SOL.
My benefit from the course was really great! Mr Yeo met us (the teachers from Hungary, Poland, Croatia, the Czech and Slovak Republics) at Heathrow Airport and took us to Stonehenge. On arriving in Barnstaple we were welcome by the friendly host families who offered warm hospitality and time in the evenings for relaxed conversation. This was really an excellent opportunity to develop confidence in communicating in English naturally. SOL’s families are very much part of the organization, giving a lot to their guests, but also themselves enjoying their company. They provide all meals, including packed lunch on course and departure days, and transport to and from the centre of town each day.
The main emphasis of the fully organized 8 ½ hour Programme of the course was put on language development through cultural experience. North Devon is REAL England, where people have time for guests. Barnstaple and Bideford are close to the Atlantic Ocean with fantastic scenery. The temperature in July was the same as in Bulgaria, so we could swim in the ocean several times.
The first day of the course was a “discovery” of the fascinating history of Barnstaple by following the town’s heritage trail – starting at the Barnstaple Heritage Centre. The Town, said to be one of the oldest Boroughs in England, is the commercial heart of North Devon. The historic Pannier market offers crafts, antiques and fresh local produce. We also followed the town’s floral trail and enjoyed Barnstaples’s wonderful display. The town has won more awards for its floral displays than any other town in the country.
Our amazing tutors were Geoff Hardcastle (teacher of English and Drama, geoffnhardcastle@yahoo.co.uk), Victor Lahai (music teacher) and Simon Parker (simonparker01@yahoo.co.uk) who visited the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in February and had seminars with English language teachers.
They taught us: psychology of learning, marketing strategies, the importance of formative assessment, student self assessment, everyday life and culture in Britain, questioning strategies including direct questioning, thought showers, buzz groups, assertive questioning and pair checking, word games, teaching human rights, teaching British history, teaching social skills, active teaching strategies, lesson planning using the “Present, Apply, Review Model”, teaching colloquial English: modern idioms and slang, use of songs, music and noise in English teaching and improvisation; the use of practical drama conventions in the classroom in order to give students the confidence to use the English language; how Shakespeare can be introduced to students through direct contact with the language, mask work and their own interpretations. The use of a variety of techniques in order to get students to talk and develop their language skills.
The programme included a day trip to Exeter with visits of museums and the famous Exeter Cathedral which is almost 1,000 years old. It is one of the finest examples of decorated Gothic work in England today, including the longest unbroken stretch of Medieval Gothic vaulting in the world. Exeter is on the South Coast of Devon and inspired some of the teachers to use our free Sunday for sunbathing in Torquay and Tor Bay which are part of the so called “English Riviera”.
Great Torrington, known as the Cavalier town, was another part of our cultural experience. It had a significant role in the English Civil War, specifically, the Battle of Great Torrington in 1646 which marked the end of the Royalist resistance in the West Country and led to the eventual defeat and execution of King Charles I. People in the town are proud of their heritage and we could see them dressed in 17th century costume for re-enactments or as volunteers at the popular “Torrington 1646” visitor attraction.
We were inspired by the 2,000 years of history in the glorious setting of one of England’s most stunning coastlines. As we climbed the path to Tintagel Castle, we could see Atlantic breakers crash against the cliffs and into Merlin’s cave. We explored the ruins of the 13th-century fortress of the Earls of Cornwall and experienced the breathtaking views at the place where, the legend says, Arthur was brought up by the beautiful Queen Igraine. An introductory video presentation recreated the story of the castle and its inhabitants over the ages.
One of the most exciting visits was to the time honored fishing village of Clovelly where we could see things as they had been for centuries. There aren’t any cars in the village – transport is by foot or by donkey. The steep cobbled streets and ancient harbor give the village a very special atmosphere. It’s so evocative of times gone by you can almost feel the past – and it’s easy to imagine the daily catch being carried ashore through the steep cobbled streets.
What made me remember Lynton and Lynmouth forever was the spectacular combination of sweeping moorland with high, rugged, tree-clad cliffs and enticing sheltered bays. It was the Victorians who made holiday centres of these twin towns, the quiet charm of which lead them to name it “Little Switzerland of England”. The famous Cliff Railway was officially opened in 1890 and offers an unusual trip with fantastic views. The Railway covers a vertical height of approximately 500 feet and each car has a 700 gallon water tank which is filled at the top and emptied at the bottom, thus causing the lower car to be pulled up to Lynton, while the heavier car from the top descends to Lynmouth.
All the trips were with an experienced guide who provided plenty of information and answered questions. This allowed us to see a lovely part of England that was likely to be new to us and gain an insight into the way of life that is much more typical than the bustle of big cities. This is so important for a teacher!
On one of the evenings there was an unforgettable folk concert where a local band gave a splendid performance and the Hungarian teachers also sang their folk songs.
On the last day the tourist guide of SOL accompanied the group for a walking tour in London including a performance at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre.
I enjoyed my stay there so much that I will be glad to assist teachers who want to bring students to SOL (sol@sol.org.uk) to experience the hospitality of Devon. What is more – they are entitled to discounts (with small groups) and to a free of charge visit (with bigger in number groups).