John Hughes

Interview with JOHN HUGHES        

guest speaker at MATEFL in November 2010

Last year  MATEFL, in collaboration with HEINLE CENGAGE LEARNING, brought over John Hughes a well known EFL personality and author. The seminar was held on Saturday 13th November 2010 at the Malta University Residence and was very well attended.

John Hughes is a teacher, teacher trainer and course book author. He has taught in Austria, Poland, Italy, Malta, and the UK and has published a number of course books and resources materials. His books include
Spotlight on FCE (2007) and Practical Grammar both published by Heinle. He is also involved in online teacher training courses. This is how John describes the workshops. Here is what John told us in an interview following his presentation:


When and how did you embark on ELT?

Like many people, my EFL career began through a series of events rather than by a conscious decision. In 1992 I was completing an MA in Arts Criticism. My thesis was on performances of Shakespeare in Central and Eastern Europe (post-cold war) and so I was travelling around various countries, observing performances and spending times with theatre groups in rehearsal. This took me to the south of Poland which has an amazing theatre heritage. I loved the region so much I took a job at a University in the south teaching a course in public speaking which was parts of an arts program. The post was part-time and there was also a large ELT department. Within a couple of weeks I was also teaching a business English course and I loved the job. I spent a lot time helping students to develop their communication skills in areas like Presentations by teaching them the language and drawing on my background in theatre.


Is there anyone who has inspired you?

I’ve worked in various language schools and so I’ve come into contact with some very talented teachers and teacher trainers. But I’d say most inspiration has always come from working with teachers in teacher training contexts. Running workshops and being able to observe other teachers at work is a great for motivation and ideas.


You are a teacher, teacher trainer and a course book writer. Which of the areas do you enjoy working in most?

You can’t separate them as they are so inter-connected in my work. The only real problem is balancing workload. For example, when you are writing a course book to a strict deadline, the reality is that it consumes most of your time so teaching and training often have to wait. Currently I’m involved in a writing project which will continue until next year so everything else is put on hold until then. Afterwards, I’ll take a break from writing and go back into the classroom for a while.


When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing – of any kind. I don’t mind what kind of writing it is. It could be short stories, plays, course books. I enjoy the process.


What advice do you give to people who want to write ELT materials?

When people ask how to get into ELT writing, I always advise them simply to write classroom materials and then try publishing them in journals like English Teaching Professional. From this, you learn how to write for a type of reader and to respond to working with an editor. If you don’t enjoy the process of writing itself, then writing and publishing ELT materials probably isn’t for you.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m lucky enough to travel quite a lot because of my writing and training work, so visiting new cities and new countries is high up on the list. I still enjoy going to the theatre and I’m acting in a play with a group of people in my village in September. It’s a French farce so we’re having lots of fun in rehearsal. The rest of my time is usually spent with my family.



What is something that you couldn’t live without?

A computer with a fast internet connection. (It’s sad, I know!)


What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ‘Malta’?

I’m not saying this because it’s for MATEFLA (!!!) but...I’ve visited Malta many times in connection with my work and my trips have always been so much fun. Work wise, the teachers in Malta really throw themselves into training sessions with gusto. And then every time I visit I make time to see something else new. I have many happy memories there.


What are your ambitions?

I have two:

1) To write a play for BBC Radio four.

2) To visit Malta for the purposes of a holiday instead of for work.



For more information on John’s work, you can visit his blog