The HELTA Interview Chain. No. 1  

Helen Waldron interviews:  Andreas Grundtvig.

Describe yourself in three words.
Spontaneous – Trying to plan life carefully is so tedious! 😉 Besides, you never know when the sky is going to fall on your head.
Adventurous – I’m usually up for anything new, especially if it involves a journey!
Silly – It’s so important to have an element of silliness in your life! I often ask myself if the things that I do (travels, adventures etc) are due to an innate Nordic absence of fear or just plain silliness. It’s usually the latter!

What are your HELTA credentials? (length of membership, how active, any position held, any proven skills – best cakes, discerning questions asked in workshops etc.)  Just like many things in my life, getting where I am ‘just happened’! I was first encouraged to join by my former colleague, Andi White, who also happened to be HELTA Chair. Back then the events committee were: Felicitas Van Vloten, Jim Maloney, Kevin Curran and Mike Hogan. When Andi left Hamburg, that team broke up, and Felicitas twisted my arm to become Chair.
I had just started presenting regularly so was busy networking, getting to know not just other associations but also many great speakers and encouraged them to come to Hamburg. For a while it was just Kay Kilshaw and I running HELTA but now we have a solid team that works so well together. Thanks to technology, we are always there for each other, wherever we may be – recently one of us texted from the Australian outback to another who was up a tree with a chainsaw, to deal with a HELTA matter! Oh, and then there’s Alma (in my case my wife is definitely one of my credentials), besides making excellent cakes she regularly puts up with strangers that come to sleep on, what I have come to call, our ‘TEFL couch’!

Can you describe your teaching situation? (who, where and on what basis; freelance, employed, full time, part time?) First and foremost, I’m a full time state employee, working as a teacher at the Berufliche Schule fur Medien & Kommunikation, a vocational college essentially for media studies. As part of that job I’m also responsible for the evening language courses at the school and I run the Cambridge Exams Centre Hamburg. In my freetime, I present teacher training sessions regularly at conferences around the world and as a consequence travel extensively, meeting teachers and learning about the latest developments in ELT. I have also written and published teaching guides but am a bit of a procrastinator there!

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?
Knowing that teachers have helped someone understand and progress, seeing evidence of that and being appreciated for whatever part I may have played in helping that happen. Sometimes I am contacted on social media by former students who write to tell me that they remember my lessons with fondness, and say how they enjoyed being in my classes. When that happens I can’t deny it gives me an incredible buzz. I hate to hear about people who have missed opportunities or suffered because of insufficient support during their education. Occasionally I take it personally. One of the saddest things that I have seen recently, was when I met a teenage girl sat on a dirty street selling fruit in an ordinary African town. To wrap up the fruit that she sold, she tore up her old school books. Even though I had never met her before it was so painful to see that.

And the least rewarding part?
The endless, often unnecessary, admin questions that I have to plough through when organising and promoting exams. It really tries my patience, after I have taken careful measures to make things as clear as can be, and provided as much information as possible to then have to repeat myself. It takes a big chunk out of my day.

What do your learners say about you?
My friend Wilty recently said that when I present he often has no idea what I’m talking until, suddenly, it all becomes so clear and relevant! I really hope that is also true of my learners, that even though the things we do might not be obvious immediately they lead to those ‘aha moments’! But you’d have to ask them!
What’s the best teaching advice you’ve ever received?
Invest in the time to really find out who your learners are, and what it is that they want. It sounds simple but it’s so often forgotten. Be interested in what they’re into and try to connect that to what interests you. Right now I’m delivering a series of workshops about how what we want to believe affects our ability to make sensible decisions and creates ‘cognitive biases’. One of those is the Ikea effect, ‘the tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they partially assembled themselves’. This does not just apply to flat-pack furniture, but to so many things, including how we teach and learn. Our learners need to think that what they do is ‘theirs’ and not just something ‘prescribed’ to the masses.

Do you have any wisdom to share with your fellow HELTA members?
Haven’t I just answered that?

Do you have a guilty ELT secret?
Don’t be absurd, there are no flies on me! 😛

Who are you nominating for the next HELTA interview and why? Kay Kilshaw. She has been there since the beginning: the time that I began as a fledgling HELTA member, and maybe even the beginning of HELTA itself! For many years she was treasurer, but since I’ve known her I’ve thought of her as an absolute HELTA treasure!


Review of HELTA Members’ Day event: “Voices Within,” by ELTA member Dennis Newson

Yesterday, I travelled three hours  by train from Osnabrück to Hamburg to attend a one-day event organised by HELTA, an affiliate of IATEFL, the Hamburg English Language Teachers’ Association, at the Berufliche Schule City Nord, Telemannstrasse 10, Hamburg. The invitation read: “HELTA MEMBERS DAY – VOICES FROM WITHIN (with Catherine Walter). A day of professional development workshops delivered by HELTA Members with the kind support of Oxford University Press.” I found it well worth the long journey and an excellent example of what a small, locally based group of enthusiastic, interested practitioners can achieve. All that is needed is some local talent and a group of people who like their profession enough to, in this case, spend a Saturday enjoyably sharing with  and learning from like-minded people. About 35 people attended. There was no charge for members of HELTA and other German ELTAs i.e. subscribers to the online group Inter-Elta, and a self-prepared  buffet lunch and coffee and cake was provided at no charge  by the members. Non-members were charged the amazingly reasonable price of 10 Euro for the event, food included.

The workshops, presentations with a short time at the end for questions and discussions, varying from 15 minutes to one hour were as follows:

  1. Pronunciation is a two-way street, Catherine Walter (supported by Oxford University Press). 1 hour
  2. The character of the English language, Kimberly Crow.(25) minutes.
  3. BEC? CIOL? PET? CAE? CPE? PCE? EFB? SEFIC? IELTS? TOEFL? TOEIC? GASK? Sandra Stapela (25 minutes)
  4. Bicycles or boiling water – changing how learners see grammar, (Oxford University Press), Catherine Walter. (50 minutes)
  5. Writing for technical purposes, Nick Jones. (25 minutes).
  6. Lessons in Contract English. Coming into Force Clause, Jim Faulkner (25 minutes)
  7. Elf Termination . Wherever next? (Pecha Kucha), Andreas Grundtvig. (15 minutes)
  8. Some Considerations when beginning an EFL career, and a refresher for the “Alte Hasen” (Pecha Cucha) – Lawrence Harris. (15 minutes)
  9. The language of Business – Helen Waldron. (25 minutes)
  10. Staying on Top: How to Keep Track of Lessons, Ideas and Resources, Sarah Ploch (25 minutes)
  11. Bring A game – Bring Your A Game, Vincent Wongaiham. (15 minutes).
  12. An ELT Quiz with Jim Maloney.

You will find the complete invitation with presentation descriptions hereHELTA Event – 2 September 2017 H1[3]  H2[2] H3[3]

There follows just a few sentences about each presentation. They are not full summmaries, simply brief indications of what the talks were about.

Pronunciation is a two-way street, Dr. Catherine Walter

Catherine made the point that  “Pronunciation” i.e. to many teachers “speaking”, involves listening, too. She explored aspects of pronunciation that are worth teaching for listening. She concentrated on segmentation, catenation and phoneme differentiation. The handout for the presentation is available here: CWalter_Pron_Hamburg_2017-08

The character of the English language, Dr. Kimberly Crow

Dr. Crow maintained that beyond vocabulary and grammar a learner has to come to understand the socio-cultural aspects of a language. She suggested that different languages had different characters and read examples from her German book on the subject. Her presentation was followed by a lively discussion about differences in these respects between English and German. (No handout).


Sandra gave a detailed, helpful review of most of the bewilderingly large number of examinations in English available. The handouts for the presentation are available here: H4[2]H5[1]H6[1]H7[1]

Bicycles or boiling water – changing how learners see grammar, Catherine Walter.

Catherine stated that using language communicatively  works best when it is followed up by the explicit learning of grammar  rules. She highly recommended and provided examples of exercises in inductive procedures. [ For more details and an extensive bibliography, see hand-out in Appendix.] I cannot resist commenting that I do not agree with much of what was said and would argue that what was being recommended was studying the language and not practising it for communicative purposes. But I concede that my anarchist views on the role of “grammar” in the learning of a foreign or second language are hardly likely to be in harmony with those expressed in : “How English Works. A Grammar Practice Book”, Michael Swan and Catherine Walter. Oxford (1997). The handout for the presentation is available here: CWalter_Grammar_OUP-Hamburg-2017-08

Writing for Technical Purposes, Nick Jones

Nick referred to and talked about some of the contents of an in-firm book on the writing of technical English that he was just completing. He focussed primarily on the writing of descriptions and instructions. (No handout).

Lessons in Contract English. Coming into Force Clause, Jim Faulkner

Jim worked with a text based on a clause taken from a typical business-to-business agreement. The handouts for the presentation are available here: H18[1]H19[1]H20[1]

Elf Termination . Wherever next? (Pecha Kucha), Andreas Grundtvig

It was typical of Andreas that he chose a form of presentation which only took up 15 minutes. He brilliantly presented 20 slides (20 seconds each) in the allotted time on the history of the English language ending up with Denglish. The slides were visually fascinating. (No handout).

Some Considerations when beginning an EFL career, and a refresher for the “Alte Hasen” (Pecha Cucha) – Lawrence Harris.  Lawrence also did a Pecha Kucha containing some useful advice to new teachers (for example, dress smartly) and, refreshingly, advised new teachers who knew they were good not to hesitate in asking for an increase in salary. (No handout).

The language of Business – Helen Waldron. Helen’s presentation bore witness to the fact that she studied linguistics. Her presentation amounted to a fascinating stylistic analysis of how the language used over the years by various companies has changed and been influenced, for example, amongst others by the language of the military, sport, politics and engineering. (No handout).

Bring A game – Bring Your A Game,    Vincent Wongaiham. In the last presentation of the day, Vincent, in a brisk 15 minutes showed himself to be HELTA’s resident expert on a range of games that can be used in class. The handouts give full details, including prices and are available here: H21[1]H22[1]

Apart from cleaning up, the day ended with participants dividing into groups or four, plus one trio to answer three rounds of eight questions  – 24 questions in all. The quiz master was Jim Maloney. The winning team were each awarded a small bottle of something restorative.

From parting comments from the attendees as they left it seems there was general agreement that the day had been most worthwhile and everyone, along with a small collection of handouts, had something to take home, including , thanks to the correct answer to one of the quiz questions, the knowledge of the year when the ‘F’-word was first published.

There were six publisher and information stands: Hueber, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Exams, Academic Study Kit and Pilgrims, with representatives for five of them present the whole day.

HELTA Members’ Day 2017: Voices from Within

What a fantastic day!

Our Members’ Day 2017 at Berufsschule City Nord was a whopping success. About 40 people showed up to see our keynote speaker Dr. Catherine Walter and nine of our members speak.

Materials from our speakers can be found in this GoogleDrive folder. It’s open access, so anyone can upload documents. Just make sure you upload PDFs and not PowerPoints; this way nobody can nick your intellectual property without some serious tinkerin’.

As the jam-packed programme left only very limited time to discuss some of the hot-button issues that came up during the course of the day, we want to invite everyone to use the comment section to share their thoughts. Here are just a few of the questions that we had:

In teaching phonology, should we focus more on receptive than productive skills?

What is the character of the English language? Do teachers focus too much on hard and fast linguistic definitions and neglect the ‘story’ of English? 

Is explicit grammar teaching (always) better than implicit grammar teaching?

What are the benefits of external assessment? Are tests good for students?

Is writing manuals good practice just for students of technical English, or all of them?

Contract English: an indispensible part of every teacher’s toolkit?

What do we do with notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in the age of World Englishes? 

What are the most important life-lessons of EFL-teachers?

Where does ‘Business English’ come from? We’ve seen it borrow freely from military language, sports jargon, and even humanistic lingo. What’s next?

What are some of the best (and worst!) practices teachers have found to keep track of lessons and resources?

Is there anything you can’t teach in game-form?

and finally

Should the group Golden Girls have been given a full point for writing “Webster’s dictionary” in part three of the quiz?

Discuss! 🙂

Thanks again to everyone involved. Can’t wait for the next one!


Next Event: HELTA MEMBERS DAY – VOICES FROM WITHIN (with Catherine Walter)

02.09.2017 (10:00 – 17:30)


A day of professional development workshops delivered by HELTA Members with the kind support from Oxford University Press
After the success of the recent Business English event, Oxford University Press have kindly shown their support of this event by sponsoring the plenary session ‘Pronunciation is a two way street’ which will be delivered by Catherine Walter.

A full programme will be sent to HELTA Members on 1 August

Berufliche Schule City Nord, Telemannstraße 10, 20255 Hamburg

Due to the popularity of this event it is essential that you register beforehand.
Please write to chair(at) by 25 August.

No charge for members.
10 EUR for non-members (refundable upon joining HELTA)
Catering kindly provided by HELTA Members
(Attendance/Fortbildung certificates provided)

The committee would like to invite HELTA Members to submit a proposal for a workshop/talk. Please send a 50 word outline of your proposal as well as a brief biography to
In order to ensure a good variety of topics and an equal distribution amongst the various subjects, we will be selecting the best mixture.
Your workshop should last about 25 minutes and as a speaker fee, we can offer you €30.
The deadline for your proposal is 24 July.
Notification of acceptance will be communicated by 31 July.
We would very much appreciate your contribution to this event and look forward to receiving your speaker proposal.

If you would like to represent your school with a stand at the event, please contact

Welcome to the HELTA Blog!

The Hamburg English Language Teaching Association (HELTA) brings together teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in North Germany.

This blog will be used to announce events, share news from our members, and to serve as a platform where our members can share ideas.