In May 1994 the first RSA/CTEFLA (now known as CELTA) to be held in Malta took place at NSTS - ELI. There were twelve trainees and three trainers on that first course: two well known local EFL personalities, Louis Grech and Alan Marsh and, equally well known, Jim Scrivener. When the course was over we all decided to meet up six-months’ later to catch up. Unlike many such appointments made during the euphoria of the end of a training course, this one was kept. We all met up at Gillian Camilleri’s house (Gillian was one of the CELTA trainees) and over a good meal and facilitated by several bottles of fine wine we reminisced about the course and (more relevant to this story) posed the question ‘where do we go from here?’ We all felt that EFL teachers in Malta were isolated from one another and, apart from their immediately colleagues, rarely had the chance to meet up with other EFL teachers to share ideas about lessons and TEFL in general. In short, there was a need for some kind of association which could organise seminars and workshops to exchange and share ideas and inform teachers of new developments in the EFL sector similar to IATEFL (the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language). The seed was sown and a few weeks later, in December 1994, a meeting was organised to set up an association for Maltese EFL teachers. MATEFL was born!
The Early Days
There were 19 people at that initial meeting: the first MATEFL members. Six of these are members to this day and were made honorary members to commemorate the tenth anniversary. On 25th March 1995 the first seminar/workshop was held at the University of Malta, which was well attended and reaped another 32 members. On 21st June 1995 MATEFL held its first AGM at which time the first committee was elected, the statute was approved and 5 new members joined bringing the total membership to 56. On 18th November 1995 another seminar/workshops was held and by the end of 1995 membership had grown to 79. In March 1996 Margaret Naudi gave a talk on graded readers, a seminar/workshop was held in June and a barbeque was held at the Malta Yacht Club in August. The first newsletter was also sent out in the summer of 1996 which has been followed by two a year since then.
Annual Spring Seminar
In early 1997 the committee decided to invite a speaker from abroad to lead a seminar for MATEFL. It was particularly fitting that this first “foreign” speaker should be Jim Scrivener, as he had been a course tutor on the first RSA/CTEFLA course, which had initiated the formation of MATEFL. Consequently, on 15th February 1997 Jim Scrivener led a seminar entitled ‘Learning Teaching’ which was opened by the Hon. Evarist Bartolo, Minister of Education and National Culture. This was to be the start of the annual Spring Seminar, which has since welcomed other internationally-renowned EFL names such as Tim Bowen (1998, 1999, 2000, 2003 & 2005), Eleanor Spicer Lundholm (2002) ; Jim Scrivener again in 2001 and 2004, Hugh Dellar (2006), Lindsay Clandfield (2006 & 2007), Paul Seligson (2007) and Tim Herdon, Jon Hird (2008) and Finn Kirlkland in 2009.
Pre- and post-season seminar/workshops
Every year in June and November/December MATEFL holds a seminar/workshop. The workshops are led by MATEFL member teachers who share tried and tested or new ideas with their peers. These workshops always attract a large number of members indicating the desire of our members to further develop as EFL teachers, thus meeting one of the main aims of MATEFL.
Our Chairperson, Alan Marsh, is a valued and prolific contributor to these seminars/workshops: leading two workshops at every seminar/workshop since the first one in 1995 and at every AGM since 1996. Other regular contributors to the local seminars are Louis Grech, Jean Sciberras, Bev Harrison, Sandra Attard Montalto, Julia Pearson and numerous others who have shared their ideas with the rest of us over the years.
In addition to the annual Spring Seminars and local seminar/workshops MATEFL also organized a forum on ‘The contribution that the EFL sector can make to communicative language teaching in mainstream education’ in April 1997. In 2001 British Council, Malta and MATEFL held a seminar in which EFL personality Alan Pulverness discussed the relevance of knowing the cultural background of ones’ students. In March 2003 a seminar was organised between Macmillan Publishers and MATEFL in which EFL author Vaughan Williams looked at ways of personalising coursebook material and, during the run-up to the EU referendum, a question and answer session with the Malta Information Centre on the effect that joining the EU would have on the EFL industry in Malta.
Over the years MATEFL seminars have been held in such diverse venues as The University of Malta, The University Residence in Lija, The Insitute of Water Technology, Water Services Corporation in Luqa, St. Martin’s College in Swatar, St. Catherine’s School in St. Andrews and various EFL schools: NSTS – ELI, the Bell Language Centre, IELS Malta, am Language Studio and EC, thereby validating MATEFL’s claim not to be too closely associated with any one school. British Council, Malta have sponsored several of our Spring Seminars. Audio Visual together with publishers Cambridge University Press and Macmillan have also sponsored several seminars bringing over EFL authors such as Steve Flinders, Lindsay Clandfield, Paul Seligson and Tim Herdon.
First for MATEFL in 2006
In April 2006 MATEFL sent a delegate to the IATEFL Conference in Harrogate. Alan Marsh, our chairperson and IATEFL contact person, took full advantage of the occasion, establishing contact with many other Associate members from other countries and sharing information, experiences and future hopes and plans. He also picked up a lot of very useful information regarding new tendencies, developments and ideas all of which have been shared with our members. In April 2008 MATEFL sent a second delegate, Sandra Attard Montalto, to the IATEFL Conference in Exeter. We are partially sponsoring 2 members to attend the Conference in Harrogate in 2010, Richard Twigg and Angie Conti.
So, from humble beginnings MATEFL has grown into a formidable association. Membership has increased from 79 in 1995 to 206 in 2005 and the last membership number issued - 990(December 2009) - indicates the number of EFL teachers who have passed through the association over the past 14 years. The original objective of facilitating the sharing and exchanging of ideas and keeping abreast of new developments in the EFL world is still our main objective and we hope that this will continue for many years to come.