Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stories from IATEFL

Last week I was in Oman presenting in the ELT conference at Sultan Qaboss University where I met a friend whom I met earlier at IATEFL Harrogate. After my presentation, I and my friend started chatting about the teaching of English language in Sudan in the past and how great we were. She went on and told me about a man whom she met by chance at IATEFL. She told me that the man visited ELSU at my university as it was renowned in the Middle East, and perhaps further afield, for the work the unit was doing in English for Specific Purposes (ESP). ELSU was established in the University of Khartoum with the help of the British Council at 1973. The man was called David Blackie. He told her that when he visited ELSU in the 70s he learned a lot about ESP as ELSU was the only centre in Africa and the middle-east specialization in ESP at the time. Due to the experience he learned in ELSU and seeing books produced in the department such "Scientific Writing" and "English for Science", and meeting John Swales who was head of ELSU at that time, he was able to write "English for Math". I was caught by the story as I was the head of the department that was built on the ashes of ELSU.
When I returned to Khartoum I was determined to use the story and memories of David Blackie in my presentation for the higher administration of the university to convince them to establish ELSU again but on a much bigger scale. I asked some of the teachers at the department to go book hunting and try to find all the books that were published by ELSU and especially David Blackie "English for Math". After searching in stores where all the old stuff of ELSU were stored, we succeeded in finding some books among which was "English for Math". I scanned the covers of the books and used these covers in my presentation. Yesterday I gave my presentation to top directors and the policy makers of the university. I used the memories of David Blackie and made them see how great ELSU was and how poor we are now. They were really moved and by the end of my meeting with them the decision was taken changeour department into a huge language centre. This is just the beginning, we have a long journey to go.
So this is why I like conferences.

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