I was walking down the street yesterday in Umeda and I ran into a former co-worker of mine from ten years ago. (This happens a lot and I always say the Osaka is the biggest little town I’ve every lived in, but that’s another story). We were both in a hurry and had places to be, but pledged to get together and ‘catch-up’ sometime. I asked him if he was going to be at the JALT conference next weekend and his response was, “JALT? Why would I go to that?” His reaction got me thinking. I know that JALT has a bit of a PR problem, and I have some ideas about how to fix that, but I’ll leave that for another post. Instead, I want to list some reasons that I think people should go to the JALT National Conference in Hamamatsu this coming weekend.
It’s an international event
Although often referred to as the ‘national conference’ it is in fact an international conference attracting speakers and participants from all over the world. This year all five of the plenary speakers are from abroad and it will be a great opportunity to see how Japan fits in with the rest of the world in the language teaching arena.
There are typically between 1500 – 2000 people at the conference, so whatever your interests in language education are, you will be able to find like-minded people. Are you thinking about doing a research project? You can find people doing similar work. Are you looking for a job? There are people at JALT who are looking to hire someone. I’ve personally gotten a job from someone I met at the conference before, so yes, it does happen.
All of the major ELT publishers in Japan are at the conference. Like it or not, publishers are a major part of our industry and a big part of any teachers job. The conference is a very convenient place to be able to meet with all of them and in my experience, they are more likely to give away samples, teachers guides, and other materials to people at JALT than at smaller events like the ETJ Expos.
You’ll learn something
One of my favorite things to do is to drop in on a presentation on a topic that I’m unfamiliar with. I’d like to think that I’m fairly well read in my areas of expertise, but there are lots of things in language education that I know nothing about. I find it can be quite stimulating to learn about an area of language education that I’ve never thought about.
There are lots of social events and other things besides presentations going on. It’s possible to stay completely busy by only going to parties. Additionally, one of the most interesting things for me is to see part of Japan that I’ve never seen before. Let’s be honest, Hamamatsu is probably not a place that is high on most people’s ‘places to visit’ list. I’ve been there before (in 1998) and I’m curious to see how much things have changed, or not as the case may be.