SKA 2015 Plenary Speakers

The Slovak Chamber of English Teachers is delighted to have three excellent teacher trainers for our inaugural conference. Each one has been specifically asked to share with us as English language teachers because they are experts in their fields of interest – areas that are important to what happens in our English classrooms in Slovakia on a daily basis.

First of all, we asked Péter Medgyes to come because of his research into non-native teachers of English (NNESTs). The vast majority of us are not native speakers of English and we often feel that makes us ‘less’ in the English classroom. At the same time, native speakers of English (NESTs) – often with no qualifications or experience – are elevated to a special status simply based on their place of birth. Peter’s plenary ‘Always look on the bright side – Being a non-native teacher will address the issue.

“The bad news is that we are linguistically handicapped – there is no way we can emulate native speakers in terms of their English-language competence. The good news is that we can (a) provide a better learner model for imitation; (b) teach language learning strategies more effectively; (c) supply learners with more information about the English language; (d) anticipate and prevent language difficulties more successfully; (e) be more empathetic to the needs and problems of learners; (f) make better use of the learners’ mother tongue. The aim of this plenary is to discuss these controversial claims, with the final message that natives and non-natives are potentially equally effective teachers.” (Opening Plenary, 2pm Friday, 25 September 2015, Moyzesova sieň)

We asked Barb Hoskins Sakamoto for three reasons: we’ve seen her commitment to excellence in teaching YLs online (via Oxford University Press), we’ve seen her commitment to teacher training (via iTDi), and we’re coming to believe that the most important English teacher in Slovakia is the one teaching young learners. According to British linguist David Graddol, all the rest of us English teachers will no longer be needed in future years. Why? Because English is being taught to younger and younger children. By the time they’re old enough for our classrooms in secondary school, they will already know what we now teach our teenagers. That’s how it could be…should be. And for that reason, investing into primary English education and our teachers teaching at the primary level is vital to our future as English teachers. And so we asked Barb to come and do some training in teaching YLs. Her plenary ‘Moving beyond 21st century skills‘ will cover what we can do to ready ourselves and our students for the future that awaits us.

“The 20th century idea of education was learning content. The 21st century idea is learning the tools and skills to create content and moving education outside of the classroom to include more informal contexts. What does this mean for language classrooms, where students still do need to learn content in order to become skillful tool users and creators? What are 21st century skills, really? And, do they have any place in a language class where teachers have to prioritize what to teach because they have limited time in which to teach it? Fifteen years into the new century, researchers have had time to look at innovative teaching practices around the globe to identify those approaches make the greatest impact in preparing our students for life in the 21st century, and beyond. Their findings may surprise you.” (Saturday Plenary, 9-10 am Saturday, 26 September 2015, Moyzesova sieň)

Finally, we asked David Fisher to come show us all how to use fun, games and performance to make our classes a bit more enjoyable. We all know how difficult walking into that classroom can be some days. We face issues and situations that were never covered in our training. Using drama isn’t the answer to every problem, but it can surely help our students (and us) relax and make our lessons more fun.  David’s plenary/performance ‘We can all use theatre as a tool for teaching‘ will include us in the fun on Friday evening. And we’ll probably even learn something!

“David Fisher of The Bear Educational Theatre, Prague, combines plenary, workshop and performance. Starting with a gentle introduction on why drama can be an invaluable tool for teaching, he will move on to perform some sections of the company’s repertoire where exciting and interactive games actually feature as part of the shows. The same games can also be easily used in normal classroom situations.”  (Evening Plenary, 7-8 pm Friday, 25 September 2015, Moyzesova sieň)

Find out more about who our plenaries are and where they come from below…

Péter Medgyes, CBE, is Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics and Language Pedagogy at Eötvös Loránd University Budapest. During his career he was a schoolteacher, teacher trainer, vice rector, deputy state secretary and ambassador of Hungary. He has been a plenary speaker in 45 countries and is the author of numerous articles soland books, including The Non-Native Teacher (Macmillan, 1994, winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Book Competition), The Language Teacher (Corvina, 1997), Laughing Matters (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and Golden Age: Twenty Years of Foreign Language Education in Hungary (National Textbook Publishing Company, 2011). His main professional interests lie in language policy and teacher education, with a special emphasis on non-native English speaking teachers. He can be reached at (We’d like to thank Sharing One Language – SOL for sponsoring Peter’s participation in the conference.)

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto earned her secondary English teaching certificate and her us embassy flagMA TESOL degree in the USA, and has taught English and ESL in the US, and EFL in Japan. An EFL teacher and teacher trainer since 1985, she has conducted workshops throughout Asia, the USA and Latin America. She has experience teaching for all ages in many different environments; schools and universities for 30 years. Barbara is co-author of one of the world’s best-selling textbook series for children learning English, Let’s Go.  You can often find Barbara online working with teachers around the world as one of the Directors for International Teacher Development Institute ( on her award-winning blog, Teaching Village, or on her new blog, Teaching Children English. (Barb’s participation in the conference is being covered by a US Small Grant from the US Embassy in Bratislava.)

David Fisher is the founder and director of The Bear Educational Theatre, Prague. He has lived and worked in the Czech Republic since 1990. His theatre specialises in performing educational shows in English, directly in schools. LOGO_OXFORDThe aim is to entertain, but more importantly to motivate students in their English studies. David is also a professional actor and has played in several cinema and TV films, including Dune, Joan of Arc and A Knight’s Tale. (We are grateful to Oxford University Press for sponsoring David this year.)