ELTABBer of the Month: Andrew Creighton

This month, we interviewed Andrew Creighton, an ELTABBer based in Malmö, Sweden! Read his bio below, followed by our interview:

I was born in Northern Ireland but spent my formative years in Lesotho (southern Africa). I have an honours degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of East Anglia (Norwich). I did a CELTA course in my final year at university. Following graduation in 1997, my first business English job was with Linguarama in Helsinki. At the end of the same year, I was offered and accepted a job offer from Richard Lewis Communications and moved to Sweden. After working for various ELT companies, I set up my own company (Language Server) in 2004. I work with corporate clients (business English) and vocational universities (ESP). In my spare time I am active in Rotary. I have been based in Malmö, Sweden since 2004. I discovered ELTABB by chance a few years ago and am very happy I joined!

Website: www.language-server.se

Contact: andrew@language-server.se

  • Not that many ELTABB members live outside of Germany. So when and how did you hear about ELTABB, and how have you benefitted from being a member?

A couple of years ago, I read that Simon Porter was to hold a talk on Legal English for ELTABB members, so I checked out the ELTABB website. It looked like an active network with lots of interesting online events – so I sent in my membership application! I have benefitted from being a member. Many of the ELTA events are online, so I have been able to participate from Sweden. I re-joined IATEFL and BESIG at a discounted ELTABB member rate – that was a nice benefit too. I even I won a year’s IATEFL membership at an ELTA event!

  • Do you attend many workshops run by ELTABB? Has there been a favourite so far?

I have attended quite a few workshops. I particularly enjoyed the two-day “Intercultural Competence in English (ICE)” workshop.

  • I assume that you are not teaching at A2 level in Sweden (or are you?), so what are the main challenges with regards to teaching business English in Sweden?

English levels are generally good in Sweden but there are needs in companies. Even if most Swedes manage everyday situations very well there can be uncertainty about how to deal with business situations appropriately. Cross-cultural training, coaching and mentoring are often good to weave into the training. A challenge can be trying to convince some companies that needs exist even if they choose not to see or acknowledge them.

  •  (Question from Kit Flemons) I’m going on a trip to Helsinki soon! My impression from the Finns I’ve met is they speak English almost as well as I do. What was it like teaching English there?

I taught in Helsinki in 1997 but I am sure a lot has changed since then. During my time there I found the older generations I taught lacked confidence in the language and were often quiet by nature (even in Finnish). This could make conversational English classes difficult! The younger generations I met were much as you describe them – confident and proficient using English. I enjoyed my time in Finland. I found the Finns to be very kind and considerate hosts so I am sure you will be well taken care of!

  • You spent some years working for ELT companies in the early part of your career. What were the challenges of setting up your own business at the time, and what challenges do you face nowadays?

The main challenge was setting up the business itself, e.g. dealing with the tax authorities and registering the business. I worked for my uncle’s company prior to setting up on my own. He retired and got out of the ELT business so in terms of business I was fortunate in that I was able to continue with many of my “old” clients. I usually work with companies and vocational universities for quite a long time, but a challenge can be getting new business when I am in full production.

  •  I presume you can speak Swedish, as you have a degree in Scandinavian studies and have been living in Sweden for a long time. I am curious as to how important you think it is to know the language of your learners. Do you use L1 in the classroom much?

Yes, I do speak Swedish but I do not have a native-sounding accent. Swedes can hear I am not a Swede! A good knowledge of L1 is very useful. It helps the teacher to understand the origin of particular mistakes, the challenges a particular language group may have using English and how to explain these problem areas in a way they might understand.

  • As a business English trainer, do you think it’s important to incorporate matters of culture into your training?

Most definitely! It helps explain and create an understanding and acceptance of other behaviours and viewpoints.

  • One of the main issues for English teachers working in Germany is that they need to set up as a freelancer, as most language schools employ teachers on a freelance basis. What’s the situation like for English teachers in Sweden?

I haven’t worked for a language school since 2004 and when I did, I was a salaried employee. The situation in Sweden is probably similar to how it is in Germany but there are a few who have set up businesses and work directly with companies.

  • How do your ESP classes differ from your lessons with corporate clients? Which do you prefer and why?

I like both and enjoy the mix. In ESP classes I have between 25 and 35 students with varying degrees of competency in English and experience in their chosen fields. I have a course plan to follow and deliver. I often only have time to touch the surface. With corporate clients I work one-to-one or with small groups and can dig deeper.

  • What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your ELT/BE professional life?

It can be quite a lonely business, so I am happy to have found and joined ELTABB. ELTABB is a great way to meet and share experience and knowledge with ELT colleagues.

Edited by Eleanor Johnston