ESL teacher Anne Merritt rounds up 9 TESL professional development conferences for teachers.

KOREAN STUDENTS were clustered in the shady patches of the campus lawn, drinking Pocari Sweat and taking photos of each other, grinning.

The computer lab was thick with the dusty heat that machines give off. The speaker, a British man well into his sixties, was leading us through a KOTESOL workshop for designing web-based ESL materials.

“It’s cool that a man of that generation is schooling us in computers. Usually it’s the other way around, right?”

The woman beside me wasn’t listening. She was writing notes in a thin leather dayplanner, the pen scratching audibly. She looked up and smiled.

“I’m so glad I skipped a barbecue to come here.”

TESL/TEFL conferences are like one-stop shops for professionals in the language teaching racket including workshops, inspiring lectures, demos of new materials and software, and a whole lot of networking.

As the industry becomes more globalized, conferences are popping up on every continent. Below are 10 TESOL conferences taking place over the next 12 months.

1. TESOL Asia Conference

WHEN: August 12th-13th, 2011

WHERE: Cebu, Philippines

TOPICS: This year’s theme, which I love, is “Teaching English to Asians. Teaching the TESOL teacher.” Lectures include establishing voice in students’ writing and teaching to Asian students. Professor Z.N. Patil’s featured session on Accent Neutralization sounds interesting, if not potentially controversial.

BONUS: The speakers at this conference are exceptionally diverse, coming from Australia, the USA, India, the UAE, Japan and the Philippines.

2. English Australia Conference 2011

WHEN: September 22-24th, 2011

WHERE: Adelaide, Australia

TOPICS: The theme, which is a mouthful, is “Engaging with the many dimensions of ELICOS: learning, teaching, supporting, marketing, leading.” (ELICOS is English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students. But you knew that, right?) Topics include working with learner data and leadership/management in difficult times.

BONUS: English Australia’s conferences are unique in that they cater to a broad spectrum of professionals in the ESL/ELICOS field. Events address language teachers and administrators, but also student services staff, promoters, and suppliers.

3. TESL Ontario Annual Conference

WHEN: October 27th-29th, 2011

WHERE: Toronto, Canada

TOPICS: The title of the conference is “Language Learning: A Focus on Success,” and the schedule has yet to be released. Last year, there were 295 sessions. From the plenary speakers, there were talks on identity and digital literacy, and breaking barriers with CALL.

BONUS: On the second night, this conference has a gala dinner with entertainment. Let’s assume they don’t mean jazz chants.

4. International MEXTESOL Convention

WHEN: October 27th-30th, 2011

WHERE: Morelia. Mexico

TOPICS: The conference’s theme is “New Challenges for the New Decade in ELT.” In the scheduled talks, there seems to be a common theme of breathing new approaches into old teaching styles. Keynote talks include “Revolutionizing Teaching: Classrooms that Honor Mistakes” and “Independent Learning through Emergentism.”

BONUS: A book expo runs each evening of the conference.

5. JALT International Conference

WHEN: November 18th-21st, 2011

WHERE: Tokyo, Japan

TOPICS: Some eye-catching talks at this conference are “Education for World Citizenship” and “Motivating the Unmotivated: do teachers have to do all the work?” Also, JALT’s special interest groups arrange forums throughout the conference where attendees can discuss focused issues. Tentative forums include Gender Awareness in Language and Japanese as a Second Language.

BONUS: This conference offers a graduate student showcase where current students can present their dissertations. A satellite program within the conference, JALT Junior, emphasizes teaching young learners.

6. NileTESOL / AUC Conference

WHEN: January 31st – February 2nd, 2012

WHERE: Cairo, Egypt

TOPICS: The theme is “Language Education in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities.” Lectures and workshops are organized by topic so attendees can plan their days based on age group, testing and evalution, technology, and teacher training.

BONUS: This year’s conference is introducing a series of debates, giving attendees the opportunity to engage in discussion. If anyone’s taking bets, I’d wager the most interesting will be, “The House believes that English language teachers have both an ethical and a professional responsibility to be well-informed about assessment”

7. CamTESOL Conference on English Language Teaching

WHEN: February 25th-26th, 2012

WHERE: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

TOPICS: Though the schedule hasn’t been released, this year’s theme is “Language and Development.” Past topics have included drama techniques in the ESL classroom and common mistakes of Cambodian English speakers.

BONUS: At last year’s conference, over 500 teachers from provincial Cambodian schools were sponsored to attend the conference by various donors. To me, this sounds like a fantastic program that broadened the diversity of conference attendees.

8. International TESOL Arabia Conference

WHEN: March 8-10th, 2012

WHERE: Dubai, UAE

TOPICS: The schedule hasn’t yet been released. Past featured talks include the role of computer games in language teaching and developing websites as a classroom activity.

BONUS: Each annual conference runs a series of debates that sound pretty awesome. Last year’s topics included the validity of international exams and English as a medium for instruction in the Arab world.

9. TESOL International Convention and English Language Expo

WHEN: March 28-31st, 2012

WHERE: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

TOPICS: This conference is a biggie, so expect a broad range of topics on the schedule. Past talks have covered advanced pronunciation and family literacy initiatives. There’s a pre-conference workshop for K-12 teachers about ESL for young learners.

BONUS: Looking for a new gig? A job fair from both local and international businesses runs in tandem with the convention.