Here at emc design, we create textbooks and learning resources for English language students, and to do this we need to have a deep understanding of learners today. Only by understanding how real students behave, think and feel when interacting with learning materials can we find the solutions needed to inspire and teach learners of the future.

By tapping into IATEFL each year we learn alongside other English language teaching professionals globally. For the past 25 years this annual conference has helped us to grow professionally, whilst collaborating and connecting with clients and teachers. This year’s programme was better than ever! If you were unable to attend the 2019 conference in Liverpool, it is available online – you can view the recordings by clicking on this link.

We have recently witnessed how a broader spectrum of voices is now being represented in ELT, so one of the themes we were delighted to hear mentioned at IATEFL 2019 was the topic of inclusivity. According to the British Council, this is now being prioritised in policy, practice and culture at all levels within the education system. Speakers at IATEFL advocated how we should become more conscious of marginalised people so that we can work together to make everyone feel included and supported, whichever environment they are in. The British Council signature event was dedicated to this topic and delivered practical ways to ensure that teachers are supported in their efforts to create more inclusive school environments. Katherine Bilsborough expanded on this theme in her plenary speech and wisely remarked: “Learners … should be able to see themselves in their own materials and in their own realities. Why can’t they? … A lot more needs to be done, and a lot more needs to be done quickly.”

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Another positive theme and outcome covered at this year’s conference was the increasingly important topic of teaching soft skills to adults. Evan Frendo in his closing plenary presented some of the ways he sees workplace English evolving. The team at emc design have always enjoyed working on Adult English and Business courses (including Outcomes, Global, Face2Face, Keynote). However, we are aware that language learning is actually at the risk of becoming handed over to technology, as the routine language that is used in many workplaces can now easily be automated. Evan looked at some of the ways this happens, such as using machines for service encounters or enavigation to manage some of the more routine language used in the maritime industry. Rather than this being a negative theme, throughout the conference we heard about how this actually lends teaching professionals to thinking about the other ways they can help their learners to communicate using non-routine language. By teaching leadership, management, persuasion and teamwork skills, even if automation does exist, language teachers can play an even more pivotal role in learning.

Thank you to everyone involved in IATEFL 2019 for enabling us to benefit from the vast number of talks, workshops and forums on offer. We look forward to seeing you all in 2020!