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Marjorie Rosenberg’s Journey in EFL

by Marjorie Rosenberg

When I first came to Graz to take part in a programme for opera singers in summer 1975, little did I imagine that all these years later I would be living here in Austria and looking back on a very different career than the one I had imagined.

Although the adventure first began in 1975, it was 1981 when I gave up a job in an advertising agency in Manhattan to take the plunge and audition for opera houses in Europe. I studied vocal performance in the US, and arrived in Europe with a Master of Fine Arts and a teaching degree in music. While in New York City, a former university colleague and I ran a small opera company and put on performances around the city. I had no idea this would help to prepare me for many of the future jobs I would have as a freelance teacher later on.

Moving to Europe to study voice and audition meant that a ‘day job’ was also necessary. Having spent two years in public schools as a music teacher in the US, I felt comfortable in the classroom and was glad to have the opportunity to teach English to adults at the Chamber of Commerce in Graz. While there, the chance came up to take a course in adult education, a good springboard for what came next.

During the 1980s I was lucky to have the opportunity to take part in a number of training courses for ELT teachers where I experienced new ideas and gained more and more confidence as a teacher.  

In one of the courses offered by the Chamber of Commerce, I found out about NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and started with a Practitioner level course in Austria. After that course I realised I wanted to know more and travelled to Santa Cruz, California to become a Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP as well as taking part in other types of teacher training courses in the US. This knowledge proved to be invaluable as I expanded my teaching to teacher training and began holding workshops for teachers both in Austria and abroad.

Daunting as it was at the time, I decided to give a presentation at an ELT conference,  I sent in a submission for the 1994 TEA (Teachers of English in Austria) Conference cosponsored by NELLE (Networking English Language Learning in Europe), an umbrella organisation for teacher associations around Europe. It was a revelation to see that performing on stage and presenting at a conference were not very different.  The opportunity arose in 1995 to present at the IATEFL BESIG conference which was being held in Graz that year and in many ways that was the true kick-off to what came afterwards.

At the conference I first heard about IATEFL and found out that because BESIG was the Special Interest Group for Business English it was a place I felt very much at home ,so I joined on the spot.

Several other opportunities for conferences arose and I had the chance to travel to Edmonton, Canada for my first truly international conference in 1999. In 2000, the IATEFL BESIG conference was held in Munich and I decided to go. Although I didn’t know anyone there, I was made to feel at home and since then have only missed one because of a prior commitment which couldn’t be changed. As a regular attendee I got to know more and more people and in 2008 ran for a position on the BESIG Committee.  After a year as Events Coordinator, I ran for Coordinator and served in that position till 2015 when I became acting IATEFL Vice President and then President during the IATEFL Conference in Manchester.

I was teaching more and more business English and bringing lots of ideas from general English classes into my Business English lessons, receiving very positive feedback from my learners. At the start of the 2000s I took a chance and compiled a set of business English activities and, after sending them to the major publishers and being rejected, was lucky to get Communicative Business Activities published in Austria by the Austrian National Publisher (Österreichischer Bundesverlag), a book which has now been republished by Express Publishing as it had gone out of print.

Once I became a published author, however, other writing opportunities appeared and it was a thrill to work with the business English team at Cambridge University Press on several projects, the first of which was In Business, a book of photocopiable activities. I was also lucky to have the opportunity to write two workbooks for the Business Advantage series and work on extra lesson plans for the CUP website, Professional English Online. This gave me a foothold in the ELT publishing world and I was asked later to write English for Banking and Finance 2 and am now a core author on the Business Partner Series, both for Pearson.

As someone who struggled with learning a foreign language in high school, I have long been fascinated with how we learn and have had the chance to publish Spotlight on Learning Styles with Delta Publishing and Activities for Different Learner Types with Wayzgoose Press.

As I became more and more established in Graz, a number of teaching opportunities came up over the years leading to jobs at the University of Teacher Education, a University of Applied Sciences and finally at the Language Institute at the University of Graz. I have also run a number of in-company courses for businesses throughout Styria, the province I live in, and worked a fair amount with the Styrian State government. Presenting at conferences has continued to be a major part of my life and I was thrilled to start my plenary speaker career at the ELTAF Conference in 2014 in Frankfurt, Germany and since then have travelled to over 20 countries to hold plenary talks.

Music is still an important part of my life and, because so many ELT people are accomplished musicians, I have had the chance to perform with several of them at IATEFL events.  At the IATEFL Conference in Birmingham we had a ‘Shakespeare and Music’ evening and last year in Brighton an evening of ‘Songs of Love and Protest’. It is truly a privilege to be able to work with the talented people in our field doing what I originally trained to do.

Looking back now at the last 38 years, I can’t begin to predict what will come next. Several projects are in progress and others in the pipeline, but the fascinating thing about the profession is that we never know where we may go next, and that’s the exciting thing about it.


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