Twenty-two years and 52 speakers later

Mary L. Burkitt , JALT2010 Balsamo Asian Scholar Liaison and Four Corners Tour Coordinator


As the 36th annual JALT International Conference approaches, we are preparing to host three speakers this year, including the Balsamo Asian Scholar, on the 2010 Four Corners Tour.

After five years of coordinating the tour, my curiosity was provoked about just how long JALT has been inviting and hosting Asian Scholars and Four Corners speakers. Thanks to all the data collecting Director of Records Aleda Krause has been doing, she was able to supply me with speaker names, dates, topics, and hosting chapters going as far back as 1988 for the Asian Scholar and 1995 for the Four Corners Tour.

According to JALT records, the first Asian Scholar came from China 22 years ago in 1988, with the 1990, 1991, and 1993 speakers from Pakistan, India, Vietnam, and Russia funded by the Yoshitsugu Komiya Scholarship Fund from the Catena Corporation. An item in the December 1995 JALT News states that “Since 1992, JALT has offered scholarships for Asian educators to participate in the Annual International Conference and share their experiences of language teaching with those working in Japan.” The 1995 speakers were from China and gave presentations in ten cities throughout Japan. All in all, over the course of 22 years, JALT has hosted 21 speakers from 12 Asian countries. There have been four speakers from China, three from Vietnam, three from the Philippines, two from Cambodia (including this year’s speaker Om Soryong), two from Laos, and one each from Pakistan, India, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, and Bangladesh.

Equally impressive are the numbers for the Four Corners Tour. Since 1995, including the 2010 speakers, 33 speakers have or will have graced our chapters across Japan: speakers of international stature that have included pillars of the language teaching world from Hokkaido to Okinawa and many points in between. Speakers such as Curtis Kelly, Susan Barduhn, Martha Clark Cummings, Dave Willis, Simon Greenall, Mario Rinvolucri, and Anne Burns have brought workshops and lectures to JALT chapters and educational institutions. The 1998 tour saw six speakers exploring our four corners in over twenty locations!

These tours were initially pre-conference, but eventually were extended to post-conference depending on the availability of the speakers. Topics over the years have included “The Psychology of Difficult Students” (Kelly), “The Lexical Approach” (Barduhn), and “Rules, Patterns and Words: A Pedagogic Description of Language” (D. Willis).

But enough of history! Forward to the JALT2010 Four Corners Tour. Asian Scholar, Om Soryong, is currently the deputy head of the English Department of the Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Arriving in Tokyo pre-conference, he will be hosted by Tokyo Chapter on 13 November, Omiya Chapter on the 14th, Niigata Chapter on the 15th and 16th, Iwate Chapter on the 17th, and Akita Chapter on the 18th before boarding the shinkansen for Nagoya and the conference. His tour topic will be “Teaching and Learning English in Cambodian High Schools: Challenges and Prospects.”

JALT Junior Plenary Speaker, Marianne Nikolov, professor of English Applied Linguistics at the University of Pecs, Hungary, and currently a fellow at Stanford University, will do a brief tour post-conference starting with Gifu Chapter on 23 November, Hiroshima Chapter on the 24th and 25th, Nagasaki Chapter on the 26th, and Kobe Chapter in conjunction with Kobe Gaidai on the 27th. Her tour topic will be “Maintaining Young Learners’ Motivation.”

JALT2010 plenary speaker, Alan Maley, is our third speaker. Currently Visiting Professor at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, Alan is also a freelance writer and consultant. His post-conference visits will include East Shikoku Chapter 23-24 November, Okayama Chapter on the 25th, Shizuoka on the 26th, West Tokyo Chapter on the 27th, Sendai Chapter on the 28th, and Aichi University in Nagoya on the 29th. Participating chapters can choose from these topics: “Helping Students to Write Creatively” (workshop), “Global English: Impacts, Illusions and Implications,” “Where Do New Ideas Come From?” and “The Art and Artistry of Language Teaching.”

Finally, I would like to thank Tokyo and West Tokyo Chapters for their largesse in supporting the 2010 Balsamo Asian Scholar’s visit; the Material Writers SIG for contributing to the Four Corners Tour for Alan Maley; and the Teaching Children SIG for their support of Marianne Nikolov. We hope you will join us in Nagoya, but if not, find your way to any of the chapter presentations to be given by our tour speakers. You won’t be disappointed!

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