The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Return to the Land of the Gods

When I started my career in ELT, some 15 years ago, as a teacher in a Greek frontesterio, I could never have imagined that I would one day find myself addressing a roomful of some 250 teachers, trainers and school owners in a smart Athens hotel. Back then, of course, I didn’t realise it was the start of a “career” at all. I’d left university not knowing what I wanted to do and I went to Greece just as an excuse to travel and enjoy a bit of sunshine. I ended up staying for 3 years and have been involved in ELT, first as a teacher then as a lexicographer and writer, ever since.
Cambridge Days, Athens © Barbara Barakou

I hadn’t been back to visit Greece since I left in 1994 - not for any other reason than there always seem to be too many new places to visit. But when Cambridge University Press asked if I’d like to give a presentation at their Cambridge Days events in Thessaloniki and Athens, I jumped at the chance.

It was a visit filled with exclamations of “Oh, I’d completely forgotten about …!” and “Yes, I remember …!” - prompted by everything from street signs to fast food restaurants, from Greek words which I didn’t know I still had lodged in my brain to foods and drinks which brought fond memories flooding back.

As for the actual talks, I always enjoy talking to groups of teachers in different countries and am fascinated by what their comments and questions reveal about their perspective on teaching English. It was especially nice to be talking to teachers who I felt I could really relate to and to imagine that I was passing on some of the thoughts and ideas I’ve picked up over the years through experience and research perhaps to a version of my former self sat somewhere at the back of the room.

With fellower speakers Herbert Puchta & Melanie Williams © Barbara Barakou

As ever with these trips though, the whole experience was far more about learning new things than just passing on some of my own ‘knowledge’. Chatting with the other speakers, with the local CUP staff and with the teachers themselves always leaves my head full of new ideas, new perspectives and new problems to be solved.

All these new ideas had to wait a while though, because first I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to switch off from work for a while and to enjoy Greece as it should be enjoyed … on an island, relaxing in the sunshine with a Cappuccino Fredo!

Ευχαριστώ to everyone who made it such an enjoyable trip, especially Craig, Barbara and Jim. I hope it won’t be another 13 years before my next visit!