All posts by Péter Medgyes

June 2015 calendar update

Péter MedgyesThe past few months have been pretty busy, that’s why I haven’t written for such a long time. By the evening I usually felt so tired that I couldn’t bring myself to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?). However, with the academic year over I feel recharged, so here it comes.

In November I flew to Barcelona at the invitation of Cambridge English Language Assessment. At its Platinum Event I delivered Always look at the bright side, a lecture intended to give an ego-boost for non-native English-speaking teachers – or non-NESTs as I like to call ourselves. If this wasn’t enough, I repeated my Dinosaur talk, but instead of thePéter Medgyes delivering his Dinosaur talk head-gear and the tail I’d worn at the IATEFL-Hungary conference a few weeks before, I just put on a dinosaur mask to symbolise who I was. Why not the entire costume? Because it needs a large suitcase – an additional cost on cheap flights. By the way, the time of the conference coincided with a Barcelona home match. A Barça fan that I am, I’d have loved to go to Camp Nou to see it in the flesh, but I had to make do with watching it on TV in a pub in the company of fellow fans and a gin and tonic.

Dispiriting as it may sound, I spent New Year’s Eve at Doha Airport waiting for my connecting flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh. But it was well worth the wait! The BELTA conference was wonderfully organised and I made friends with hundreds of participants. I’m not much of a photographer but I found it an honour to be taken hundreds of photos in the company of Bangladeshi colleagues. Whenever I go to a place I’ve never been to before, I insist on extending my stay with at least one day to explore the town. This time Shaon, one of the local organisers from the British Council, was kind enough to show me around. It was an eye-opening (and rather sad) experience to see artistically decorated cycle rickshaws drawn by emaciated men called wallahs. Some estimates put the number of rickshaws running the streets of Dhaka city as high as 400,000!

Then in April I was scheduled to attend the big IATEFL conference in Manchester to take over as president of IATEFL. However, a few months earlier I’d had a serious professional disagreement with an IATEFL trustee and as it became rather personal I decided to resign. Although all the other trustees kindly asked me to reconsider my decision I persisted. Even half a year later the mere thought of this devastating experience fills me with so much despair that I’d rather not elaborate on the details.

Nevertheless, I marched on as far as Alcalá. Alcalá? Where is it? Well, I didn’t know either before my trip. Alcalá was the home of Universidad Complutense, one of the oldest Spanish universities before it was transferred to Madrid in the middle of the 19th century. Fortunately, the  ancient university buildings that hosted the Congress of Bilingualism The non-native teacher by Péter Medgyeswere well preserved. Again, my nonnative lecture went down so well that afterwards I was asked by several Spanish colleagues to send them a copy of my book, The Non-native Teacher, which has been out of print for a long time. I was a bit upset to post the only copy I had, but it was returned safely after it had changed several hands. Incidentally, if you should decide to pay a visit to Alcalá, ask the taxi driver to drive you to Alcalá de Henáres, a mere 35 kilometres from Madrid – else you may end up several hundred kilometres from your destination: there’re dozens of Alcalás in Spain! One more thing, Miguel de Cervantes was born in this town and I had the honour to sit on a bench between Don Quijote and his squire, Sancho Panza – a bronze statue in the high street.

The last conference I attended last spring was held in Kosice, a beautiful town in Slovakia. Upon arriving at the city centre by car, I was circling around for an hour in search of the hotel I’d be staying at. In desperation I pulled up to ask someone to show me the way. I chanced to accost two Hungarian-speaking ladies. “But this is it,” they said, pointing to the multi-storied building across the street. Indeed, the sign at the top of the building said Hotel Central. So much for my sense of orientation! I was more lucky with my plenary, Why won’t the little beasts behave?, which is about my harrowing experience as a teacher who had returned to the classroom after a gap of twenty years. I assumed with all the experience I’d accumulated I would be able to maintain discipline. Well, I wasn’t. To cheer up the audience (and myself), in my workshop I presented a number of ideas about how to teach English with fun and laughter.

Mark Andrews, Rakesh Bhanot, Csilla Járay-Benn and Péter Medgyes Although I’m an avid conference goer, I prefer sitting at my desk, writing away. There’re three pieces I’ve been working on recently. First, I finished a bulky volume which contains 25 of my favourite papers and lectures I have produced in the past thirty years. Each of the 12 chapters is introduced by an interview, in which I give details about how those pieces came about (and lots of other things). The interviews are in Hungarian whereas most of the papers are in English – so it’s a mixed-language book. I hope it’ll come out by my 70th birthday this August. Oh, the title is Töprengések a nyelvtanításról (Reflecting on language teaching) published by Eötvös Könyvkiadó.

My menu of lectures needs updating time and time again, so I’ve added a new piece under the title Elfies at large – Beware! The title is telling: I’m not a great fan of the trendy English as a Lingua Franca movement. Anyway, the lecture is due to have its premiere in Vitoria next spring. Ha, ha, another riddle! Where on earth is Vitoria? It’s the capital of Basque country in Spain.

Finally, IATEFL-Hungary is celebrating its 25th birthday this year and for this occasion I volunteered to put together a list of all the presentations given thus far. With the assistance of student helpers the repertory should be ready (and made freely available online) by the time of the conference early October. You’ll be surprised to see how many colleagues from Hungary and abroad have contributed to make this organisation a success!

October 2014 calendar update

Oxford University Press conference in Budapest

ventiloquist-1-400For this conference I decided to give a talk entitled The ventriloquist that I hadn’t delivered for years. Those of you who haven’t had the misfortune to listen to it should know that it is a ventriloquist act. Well, sort of. I hold a dummy in my right hand, with whom I conduct a dialogue. When it’s the dummy’s turn, I change my voice and try not to open my mouth too wide in order to make the impression that it’s not me speaking but the dummy. I must be doing it quite well because there are always a few participants who come up to me after my talk, saying that they didn’t know I’d been trained as a ventriloquist. Of course I hadn’t.

Continue reading October 2014 calendar update

June 2014 calendar update

Just as I’d planned, I attended the second annual TETA conference in June. As Dijana Markovic Hajdarhodzic, acting president of TETA, wrote to me in her invitation letter, this association is the driving force of English teachers in Bosnia-Hercegovina – and indeed it is!

The conference was held in Tuzla, a pretty town in the North-Eastern part of the country. You may have read in the papers that the Tuzla region was very badly damaged by floods in May, and there was a danger that the conference would have to be cancelled. However, the organisers and the participants, mostly primary and secondary school teachers, didn’t budge.

Continue reading June 2014 calendar update

Marek Kiczkowiak interviews Péter Medgyes

1. TEFL Equity Advocates: Thanks a lot for agreeing to be interviewed, Péter. We’d like to start off our discussion by talking about the problem of discriminatory job ads. It seems that the majority of EFL posts advertised are for NESTs (Native English Speaker Teachers) only. Many language schools prefer hiring NESTs (despite the fact that in the EU it is illegal to do so) because of the supposed ‘market demand’, i.e. students want to have classes with native speakers. Do you think this market demand is real? If so, what caused it in the first place? If not, why do so many schools continue to advertise for native speakers only?

Marek, you lead in with „many language schools”. The question is how many – the majority? Anyway, which countries are we talking about? Poland, Brazil, Sri Lanka? Mind you, I’m aware that in a lot of countries posts are advertised for native speakers only. „Non-NESTs need not apply,” they say. Continue reading Marek Kiczkowiak interviews Péter Medgyes

2014 – looking back and looking ahead

The annual IATEFL conference in Harrogate (a town between Leeds and York) was a pleasure to attend. And not only because I was elected Vice President with a show of hands, but also because I had the pleasure to attend several sessions, including four plenaries. My favourite was Sugata Mitra’s plenary, who spoke about his exhilarating experiments about how computers can do the job of the teacher. I think a few participants got his message wrong, complaining that Sugata would wish to get rid of teachers altogether. Not so! What he was suggesting was that children who are deprived of having teachers available in rural India (and in many other remote places in the world) may well learn a lot from the internet and also from one another.

Continue reading 2014 – looking back and looking ahead

Vicky Loras: Interview with Professor Péter Medgyes

img027-400Vicky: Professor Medgyes, first of all I would like to thank you for this interview – I have admired your work since I was in university!

Professor Medgyes: Thank you very much, Vicky. But frankly I’d much prefer if you called me Peter. It’ s far more informal. My students call me Peter too.

Vicky: You started your career as a school teacher. How did you enter the field of education?

Continue reading Vicky Loras: Interview with Professor Péter Medgyes

NNEST blog June 2011

Interviewer: Shu-Chun Tseng

1. Could you tell us why and how you decided to become an educator?

(Ana Wu, ESL instructor at City College of San Francisco)

Dr. Medgyes: When I was a university student the last thing on my mind was to become a teacher. In my youth I didn’t like going to school and my dream was to become a literary critic. However, I was so exhilarated by the practicum experience in the last year of my university studies that I felt I was born to be a teacher. (Youngsters are full of self-confidence, you know.)

2. In your teaching journey, what are your own terms of being “an ideal teacher”? And, how do you achieve your own goals?

(Shu-Chun Tseng, PhD, Indiana State University)

Continue reading NNEST blog June 2011

2014 – looking ahead

My 2014 calendar is pretty full – as you can see below.

The first conference I attended this year was the International House Director of Studies Conference in January. I gave the opening plenary to a well-packed audience. Sadly, I could afford to spend only two days so I had no more than a couple of hours to marvel at the beautiful sights of Greenwich where the conference was held. Chief Operating Officer Lucy Horsefield – thanks a lot for the invitation.

Continue reading 2014 – looking ahead

Family, sports and trips abroad


I have two daughters from my first marriage: Réka (b. 1971) and Kata (b. 1975). Following their father’s footsteps, both of them are English teachers. To make matters worse (oops, better), my wife is an English teacher too. What a family!

balint-peter-valiI also have a son, Bálint (b. 2001). He doesn’t plan to be a teacher – but my daughters didn’t either when they were his age. He is a computer buff. While he is helping me with my IT problems, he mutters under his breath: „Dad, you’re hopeless.” I’m sad to say, he’s right – I’m not even a computer immigrant.

Continue reading Family, sports and trips abroad