ETAG – English Teachers Association of Georgia
28 November, 2011

The disgruntled feisty old man I have lately been growing into, would every now and again embark on digging up certain funny things and occurrences that come my way, especially in my leisure time. The other day, I straggled into Building Two of Tbilisi State University, and guess what! I accidentally stumbled over a sizable handwritten sign on the glass wall of one of the ground-floor premises there, which read ENGLISH TEACHERS ASSOCIATION OF GEORGIA. I perked my ears and goggled

my eyes at the casually hanging but clearly deliberate indication, inviting me right inside the pretty spacious office on the other side of the transparent partition. I was received with a moderate welcome which made me feel like ‘another client asking for favor’. The discovery was a clear serendipity for me – I did not know the teachers of my beloved tongue were officially associated in Georgia, and they had done it without me – I didn’t have the faintest clew about its existence. I was so thrilled and surprised that I almost jumped out of my senescent wrinkled skin. Thrilled I was because my still-agile brain had registered my potential kinship with this lovely nongovernmental and non-for-profit organization, and surprised because I was not the member of it. Look, I have fifty-five (and this is not at all a ballpark figure) years of an English teacher’s experience under my belt: I have taught English in Nepal, in the United Nations in England, in Egypt, in America, in Russia, and certainly in Georgia. I was just fifteen when I taught English in the neighborhood and I was 23 when I trained young men and women in the English verbal communication at the Tbilisi Foreign language Teachers Training College. Frankly, I don’t even remember the number of students of English I have had throughout of my   academic career. And finally, I have taught English over Georgian Public Radio, having tens of thousands of eager learners as the audience. And I am not the member of the ETAG . . . Shame on you, Nug! On the other hand, why have I not heard of ETAG up until now? It has after all been around since 1994. Is it that I am simply deaf and dumb, and blind into the bargain? I can’t be! I’ve been a functioning journalist all this time, and there is almost no topic which has not come from under my pen in the last ten years in Georgia. Then what is it? What’s the reason of such a grave omission? Would it be fair enough to say that there is a lack of promotional activity on part of ETAG? Could be! ETAG, as I understand its function, is a very specific tool for promoting the English language in this country, which has rushed into the indigenous culture like tsunami after the fall of the Russian language, sweeping away all of us away momentarily. English is everywhere – on our minds and in our hearts, in schools and colleges, in streets and homes, in government documents and in private letters. English has taken over. Period! And there goes ETAG as a consequence with its elevated mission to teach us more and better English, and specific deeds to materialize its lofty goals like improving the standard of teaching English in Georgia through providing professional consultancy and training, as well as through supporting the introduction of more effective teaching methods and materials. ETAG’s e-newsletter will tell us all about its goings-on. The Association is widely represented all over Georgia, trying to enhance the level of qualification of English teachers here. ETAG welcomes as it members anybody who is associating himself or herself with professional teaching of the English language, including the willing foreign citizens living and working in Georgia.  
To be more specific about ETAG’s work, we might need to look deeper into its activities. ETAG runs In-service Teacher Training Courses, developed in cooperation with the British Council and USA Embassy, including teaching knowledge test essentials, language development for teachers, Developing writing skills, more learning-less teaching, modern English language teaching, business English, academic writing, newly qualified teachers, classroom language, various exam format trainings. All these programs are oriented on raising the level of English teaching through providing opportunities for effective teacher development and helping members to network and share experience with colleagues both within Georgia and outside it, establishing and maintaining close contacts with all secondary and tertiary level institutions where English is taught and supports all kinds of activities aiming to facilitate and foster ELT.
Thinking about the ETAG doings, I started believing that Georgia has truly taken the bull by its horns – unbendingly teaching the entire nation how to speak, read and write English so that nobody in this country ever feels any inconvenience in terms of receiving necessary information via the English language. But w all need more, don’t we? We are not going to stop. It used to be Russian, it is English now, and it has taken just a couple of decades to make a substitution, not more! I wanted to pursue the goal of this article even further and I asked one of the founders of ETAG and its honorary president Rusudan Tkemaladze to briefly answer several question for the Georgian Journal. R. Tkemaladze, Ph.D. currently teaches at Tbilisi State University. Also, she is one among the five people in the world who in 2005 were given British Council Cultural Relations Award for contributing to the development of English Language teaching and learning in Georgia.
GJ – How many English teachers are there in Georgia all in all today?
R.T. – There are about 4,500 school English teachers. There must be more than 2000 teachers who work at the higher educational institutions.
GJ – How many members are there currently in ETAG who faithfully pay annual fees and cooperate actively?
R.T. – About 600! It’s a rolling membership which means that you can become a member any day and time, which makes it difficult to tell the very exact number. More than 2500 school and
university teachers have been ETAG members at one time of another. I mean since ETAG’s
foundation in 1994. Quite surprisingly, today the majority of members are University teachers.
GJ – Is there any criterion, based on which the ETAG board members are selected and elected?
R.T. –  ETAG Board members are actually its founders. Occasionally a native speaker is invited. So, it’s more nomination than election. On the other side, ETAG President is an election based
temporary position.
GJ – Could you please give us three examples of ETAG’s biggest achievement since 1994?
R.T. – I consider it the biggest achievement that ETAG is a kind of bridge between Georgian teachers and English teachers worldwide. ETAG members are well aware of what’s happening in their profession in other countries and this makes them more confident and better teachers; Another achievement is building up professional and dedicated team of trainers countrywide; One more achievement is development of very practical and useful training courses which ETAG offers its members. I can name tens of more achievements if time and space.
GJ – Could we say confidently that the ETAG of today is a leader in this country in carrying
out of what is officially declared in its Mission Statement?
R.T. – Well, well… I would not feel very comfortable to say this, you understand. Let others say. ETAG’s reputation as of an open, modern, highly professional, sharing and caring organization
which gives equal opportunities to all its members speaks of itself. If we speak about its mission
statement stated in ETAG charter some 15 years ago, ETAG has done much more than we
anticipated then.
GJ – Who are ETAG’s strongest competitors within this country, if any?
R.T. – I’m sorry to say but I don’t know of any other professional organization, I mean non-
governmental, which would be focused on the development of English language teachers only.
GJ – Do you have a clear vision of what could be the best thing in the nearest possible future
that ETAG could give to Motherland?
R.T. –  ETAG can give to motherland more professional and knowledgeable teachers ready to
face today’s challenges in English language teaching and learning. So, professionalism,
professionalism and professionalism! This should be the priority.
The only question that I still have unanswered up my shabby sleeve is directed straight onto Dr. Otar Mateshvili, my friend and colleague and the editor of this Newspaper who, as he said, stood firm and vigil at the dawn of the English Teacher Association of Georgia – why  on earth have you never mentioned to me anything about the existence of ETAG? Didn’t you know that I also was a teacher of English? Is there any difference between our college diplomas? OK, jokes apart, I am glad I am finally into business. Please wish me good luck!

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