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Conference report  

Joo-Kyung Park
Honam University
Conference Executive Director, Asia TEFL
  The 5th Asia TEFL International Conference was held at Putra World Trade Center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 8-10, 2007 under the theme of 'Empowering Asia: New Paradigms in English Language Education' Following Korea, China, and Japan, Malaysia became the host of Asia TEFL conference with its world-renown 'truly Asia' motto and its significance in the southeast Asian region. Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (MELTA) co-hosted this mega conference and the first Malaysian International Language Exhibition (1st Mile) which was the largest ELT-related event in its 25-year history attracting over 1,500 participants from all over the world.

   Started with the keynote address delivered by Dr. Majani Zainal Abidin, who emphasized English as a true lingua franca in Asia, the conference presented a program with full of academic and cultural tastes and flavors, in order to fulfill its mission to find out the new paradigms in English language education for empowering Asia. 7 plenary speakers were invited, including Jun Liu, Univ. of Arizona, U.S.A., Paul Kei Matsuda, Univ. of New Hampshire, U.S.A., David Graddol, The English Company (UK) Ltd. Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia, Ronald Carter, University of Nottingham, U.K., Joseph Lo Bianco, University of Melbourne, Australia, and Gunther Kress, University of London, U.K. They talked about English as a global language and how to empower Asian learners of English. The three Asian plenary speakers, in particular, inspired the Asian-dominant audience by setting an example of successful, empowered language learners.

   9 featured speakers who were invited to represent their regions and countries presented curriculum innovations and implementation strategies developed in their own countries, Malaysia, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, the Philippines, Vietnam and Russia. 9 other invited featured speakers shared their expertise in such fields as teaching English in Asian context, ICT, and professional development. About 500 presentations were made in a diverse format including paper presentations, colloquia, workshops, demonstrations, and poster presentations which kept the participants busy both physically and intellectually. The presentations covered various content areas such as approaches and methodologies, curriculum design, education and language policy, intercultural communication, ICT, teaching young learners, teacher education and more. A lot of Asian-specific ELT issues, concerns, and resolutions were shared and exchanged in a variety of Asian Englishes, which made the conference truly meaningful and significant to those who have sought out a place to celebrate their ownership of English learner and educator in Asian contexts.

   Since its first conference held in Busan, Korea, Asia TEFL conferences has been famed not only for the size and quality of the academic program but also for its rich and unique cultural presentation of each host country. Malaysia was another superb cultural host, providing the participants with its multiethnic foods, dances, music, and most importantly, a showcase of unity within diversity which was shown through an efficient and cooperative conference organization among such a diverse members. New networks and comradeship were formed and built over delicious and table-full teas and lunches throughout the conference. The conference dinner was the highlight of learning and experiencing Malaysian culture. The exquisite, multi-tribal folkdances charmed the audience and the songs sung by some conference organizing committee made people realize that music is a true world language understood and loved by everyone, regardless of the 'nativeness' and that it is high time to stop talking about NES-NNES and to enjoy using English in one's own way for one's own purpose. Asia TEFL conference turned out to serve as the very place where you can do it, discussing your own issues in your own variety of English without feeling 'non-native'.

   The 5th Asia TEFL Conference wrote another chapter of TEFL history with strong support and enthusiasm shared by around 1,500 conference participants and some 7,000 members who could have been there only in spirit. It is now more than convincing that Asia TEFL is the right place for Asian ELT professionals to share their hearts and minds and nurture each other to grow together.

   At the closing ceremony, as a ritual of Asia TEFL conference, a miniature Korean drum was passed as a token of continuity from Malaysian Conference Committee to Indonesian Conference Committee, the host of the 2008 Asia TEFL Conference. It will be held at the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel in Bali, Indonesia, on August 1-3, 2008, based on the theme, “Globalizing Asia: The Role of ELT.' It will be cohosted by TEFLIN and Asia TEFL.

   I hope to see you all in Bali, Indonesia in 2008!