Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Working on Sundays

I have to admit, working on Sundays is not my favourite routine! I guess it goes with the territory - owning your own business & trying hard to stay ahead. The language school business is a very competitive one.

Every year the Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT) have a jamboree (Conference), which is attended by the "Great & the Good" of the industry - leading academics, famous authors, reknowned teacher-trainers, obscure researchers & many, many more. There are three days full of presentations, workshops, discussions etc, and an exhibition room packed with publishers & wholesalers, companies with EFL support materials & software developers.

I try to go every couple of years - it's expensive, and not always in a convenient location. The last two years it has been in Tokyo, so I've been able to attend. Bizarrely this year, I was so busy bumping into people I only got to one keynote speech - interestingly about "How many words you need to be a good (or 'effective') reader". A lot of you know I am a big fan of reading?! This speech made me want to crack the whip even harder - our students really need to get busy!

So who did I meet then? Well, I had a good chat with my friend Koichi, who works for Oxford University Press. He's a Shinshu boy, and we've been friends for over a decade. We usually don't talk about books, but on this occasion we did, as OUP has a really cool range of new reading materials from the UK. I also spied a series of lovely, interesting books I'd love to use at Luna, teaching other subjects in English (Science, History, Geography etc). Maybe a bit hard for most students, but certainly useful for returnees (children who've lived overseas).

I also met up with Tomomi at Cambridge University Press; she came to visit me earlier this month in Matsumoto & we had a good chat about Young Learners exams around the country. She, and quite a few other people I've met recently, are keen to become Oral Examiners for us next year (great news!).

In the coffee shop I caught up with Cambridge ESOL's Senior Team Leader, and a group of past & present Cambridge examiners, including Simon who'll be examining CAE for us in December. There were some familiar faces from the Matsumoto/Nagano/Ueda area, as well as catching a quick word with Taro from Hokkaido (YLE examiner) & Cynthia from Kyushu (she does everything).

I thought a pint with Luke would be relaxing, as we discussed next month's exams at his school: not so! I was introduced to one of his friends who knows one of my friends, and who is doing exactly what Shuji asked me about 2 years ago - putting dictionaries on mobile phones. I nearly spilled my beer, as she also told me about her next project to get reading books available onto mobiles...I can't wait! It also turned out Luke knows a guy from Australia that I used to know from Ueda - small world as usual. All in all, a busy Sunday - and for a working day not a bad one at all, as I managed to get in a couple of pints of Guinness & some fish & chips too!

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