Reflections on IATEFL Brighton 2024 profile photo

Event review: Reflections on IATEFL Brighton 2024

by Vincent Wongaiham-Petersen (HELTA Co-Chair)

Wow, what a wondrous whirlwind of a week!

I just got back from the IATEFL conference (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) which was held in Brighton, UK from 15 to 19 April 2024. It’s an annual conference where teachers from all over the world congregate to listen to experts postulate, fraternize with like-minded professionals, and mine one another’s deep wells of knowledge and experience.

Every year, IATEFL welcomes a representative from their associate partners to attend Associates’ Day which precedes the conference proper. And this time around, I had the honor of doing so. Although this was not the first time that I have been to the IATEFL conference, this was my very first time as a delegate officially representing our very own HELTA (Hamburg English Language Teaching Association).

As an associate representative, I was able to get an inside look at what is happening in other partner associations, and I was also given a chance to give a talk about the wonderful work that our committee has been doing in Hamburg.

Vincent Wongaiham-Petersen (HELTA) at Associates’ Day
Vincent Wongaiham-Petersen (HELTA) at Associates’ Day


It was also a welcome opportunity to just have a drink with colleagues and get first-hand accounts of what is happening out there in the trenches where the “battles” are being fought.

IATEFL Brighton 2024

There could be up to twenty-five talks being held at any given time, making it difficult to decide where one should best spend their precious limited time. It could definitely be a hit-or-miss, but the four-day conference is indeed a plethora of opportunities. Overall, one tends to leave with more hits than misses.

Just going through the titles of the talks I attended, I must say that they were all quite worth it.


Here are some of the talks I attended and grouped into categories to give you a snapshot of the conference’s rich content:

Teaching Techniques and Practices

  1. A Teacher’s Dream: Adapting Teaching Materials Like Magic! – Alyssa Francis
  2. Designing Listening and Language Practice Materials to Accompany Authentic Recordings – Sheila Thorn
  3. ELT-related Controversies: From Conflict to Complement – Penny Ur
  4. Teaching EFL and teaching modern languages: same or different? – Scott Thornbury
  5. Teaching Mediation: Mediating Concepts and Mediating Communication – Chia Suan Chong


Cultural and Linguistic Challenges

  1. Lost in Translation: Navigating Difficult Conversations Through Cultural Mapping – Alexandra Covell
  2. Representation is Good Representation?! Queer Perspectives in German ELT – Albert Biel
  3. Requeering Discussions (Dos and Don’ts in Queer ELT) – Peter J Fullagar (he/him)
  4. Whose Grammar Is It Anyway? Grammar in a Changing World – Bruno Leys


Educational Development and Assessment

  1. How Can We Really Evaluate Learning and Development Outcomes? – Ben Dobbs
  2. Meaningful Listening: Training Students to Become Effective Listeners and Communicators – Andy Jeffery
  3. The Inseparability of Vocabulary, Grammar and Pronunciation – Eric Nicaise
  4. Using Gamified Learning Environments to Foster Student Engagement – László Hajba


Technology and A.I. in Education

  1. AI ethics in ESL & EFL: Ukraine & US perspectives – Maggie Sokolik and Yaroslava Fedoriv
  2. The AI Factor: Have We Figured It Out Yet? (Plenary) – Vicky Saumell
  3. The Teacher’s Role in Using AI for Autonomous Learning – Mark Smith
  4. Using GenAI in Teacher Education to Benefit Trainers and Trainees – Lindsay Warwick
  5. What’s the Future of English Language Learning in the Age of AI? – British Council (Adam Edmett, Neenaz Ichaporia, Mariano Felice, Helen Crompton, Amy Lightfoot)


But don’t think that these topics were the only ones represented during the conference. They only reflect those that piqued my interest. What’s wonderful about the IATEFL line-up is that there’s something for everyone. Just take a look at their full program here:


Some members of the Germany ELTAs. From left to right: Randy Perry (MELTA), Vincent Wongaiham-Petersen (HELTA), Rosy Bloy (ELTA Rhine), Andy Vogt-Nas (ELTAS), Katrin Behringer (ELTAS), Joan Walsh (MELTA)
Some members of the Germany ELTAs. From left to right: Randy Perry (MELTA), Vincent Wongaiham-Petersen (HELTA), Rosy Bloy (ELTA Rhine), Andy Vogt-Nas (ELTAS), Katrin Behringer (ELTAS), Joan Walsh (MELTA)

Apart from topics that teachers typically look out for such as teaching practices and challenges, as well as educational development and assessment, there were the usual talks on integrating technology. However, reflecting fittingly on the upheaval that A.I. in general and generative A.I., in particular, is causing in our industry, more than 200 of the talks given had something to do with artificial intelligence. And all of the ones I went to were definitely well-attended. Another thing they all had in common was this overwhelming vibe emanating from the attendees and the speakers themselves that we are just at the cusp of something monumental and that there will be industry-wide effects on the make-up of our industry and how we and our students will do our work. In what way these will be positive or negative is the big question everyone’s asking. But the use of A.I. is definitely something that we will have to contend with, much sooner rather than later: It just can’t and won’t be ignored.

During one of the talks, the audience was asked who believed they would be replaced by AI in three years, then again in five years, and ten years. The responses varied but I didn’t even raise my hand at all.

It’s not only because I’ll hopefully be retired in ten years! More importantly, it’s also because I’m quite sure that teachers will always be needed. However, A.I. will fundamentally change how we teach and how students learn. And I can’t wait to go to future IATEFL conferences to hear from and discuss with peers how we are adapting and changing not only with the times but also with the future technologies being imposed onto or being embraced by us. Transformative changes are definitely coming with their immense potential and their formidable challenges, and the big question is going to be how we will evolve with them.

And this is why I am more excited than trepidatious. For these are truly exciting times.

Or as ChatGPT – the generative Large Language Model everyone’s currently talking about – put it, when I asked it to give me another way to express this sentiment: The future beckons, and it is exhilarating!


So if you’re wondering when and where in 2025 the next IATEFL conference will be, then wonder no more. Everyone’s already raring to go and I for one can’t wait to meet up with all of you there. See you next year in Edinburgh!

IATEFL Brighton 2024

You can contact HELTA on the contact page.