How did you get started and how long have you been involved in ELT
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English
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How did you get started and how long have you been involved in ELT

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3 pages
English

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How did you get started and how long have you been involved in ELT

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Nombre de lectures 58
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Spotlight on the Trainer:
James Thomas talks about ELT and Desert Island Discs
How did you get started and how long have you been involved in ELT?
I thought I might learn foreign languages more efficiently if I knew a bit more about how
they were taught. So I did the CELTA course in 1989 in Sydney and was so fascinated
by the methodology espoused, that I never really went back to the career I’d taken a
supposedly short break from. So pretty much non-stop since then. My first ELT job
included teaching a lot of young adult Chinese students at the time of Tiananmen
Square – that was memorable.
Was there anyone in particular who inspired you in your early days in ELT?
The following year I ended up in Brno in the then Czechoslovakia where I’ve been
almost uninterruptedly ever since. This was less than a year after the Fall of the Wall.
Trying to learn Czech in those days was a nightmare – there were no English-Czech
dictionaries available, so my first dictionary was Italian-Czech. And no-one knew how
to teach Czech as a foreign language. I decided to learn as much vocab as possible
and see where it went from there. These were the heady days of the
Lexical Approach
so Michael Lewis was certainly an inspiration. The corpus-based
Cobuild Dictionary
was a current and significant development in lexicography for learners, so John
Sinclair was an early hero. I had no idea at that time how many linguistic pies he had
his fingers in. He remains much revered despite his death in 2007. And I met, Karel
Pala, a Czech lecturer who was heavily involved in lexical statistics and corpora. We
worked on things together and many years later he employed me in his Department of
Information Technology at Masaryk University where I still work though in a different
department.
We all need a change from time to time.
Can you suggest a life-changing
experience?
I would say working at NILE has been a life-changing experience. Wouldn’t you? I
think my first NILE summer was 2003 and as a result I've met so many brilliant people
from all over the world. And a few wonderful people in Norwich itself. And it was
through NILE that I first worked for the BC in China and that was life changing.
Working with teachers is always a delight and Norwich is so lovely in the summer with
its Sunday roasts, unpredictable sun-drenched showers and bunny-infested greens.
And NILE itself is so green.
Have you worked in any other areas?
Sure have. I once worked in a mountain village above Positano helping a Canadian
actor renovate his house. Manual labour turned out not to be my cup of tea, to the
great surprise of absolutely no-one. The previous decade had been all about music:
accompanying, chamber music, composing, conducting and teaching. My close
encounter with manual labour marks the end of music and the start of ELT.