1) Tell us a little bit about yourself (where you come from, etc.)
I’m Nathaniel and come from a very bland little town called Blackwater in Surrey – where the water isn’t actually black. My mother was a hairdresser, and my father was a junior school headmaster. Neither were strict, and between them, they instilled in my brother and me a desire to develop our creativity, an appetite for being active, and to be mindful of others.
2) What was your degree? When did you attend Swansea University? And Why did you choose Swansea?
At Swansea, I studied English Language Studies and I lived and loved Swansea for four glorious years in total, from 2004-2008.
At school, my grades weren’t the best. At 14, I was in a car accident that left me in a coma for two weeks, paralysed on the left side, with brain haemorrhages and broken bones. So after college, I wasn’t sure if University was for me (actually, I was pretty sure it was way out of my league). So, I left to backpack around the world. Two years later, I believed that travelling was the life for me, but along the way, I figured out that I needed a degree to get better jobs and visas for certain countries. After returning to Blackwater, I started an Access course at my local college (a course for ‘mature’ people that don’t have college qualifications to get into University).
I’d grown a real love for languages and cultures during my travels and had taught English in several countries while backpacking to pay for my travels. So I knew something to do with language and teaching was the route I wanted to go. I sought linguistics courses around the UK, figuring that linguistics is broad enough to teach me about the wider fields of interaction and society. Through linguistics, I could learn about broader topics like:
- Culture and society (sociolinguistics)
- Our thinking (psycholinguistics – which later became very helpful when I married a speech therapist.)
- Learning languages (first language acquisition, second/foreign language acquisition, field linguistics)
- Interaction (discourse analysis, pragmatics)
Swansea offered great linguistics courses and had leading world scholars on linguistic matters, like Prof. Paul Meara.
3) What did you enjoy most about your time at Swansea University and the degree?
Places, buildings, and people offer the foundations for potential experiences anywhere you go. But what you do with them makes your experiences and subsequent memories much more. There’s no single experience I enjoyed most at Swansea. I grew so much as a person and in many ways through the opportunities available there.
4) What was positive about the teaching environment at Swansea?
I’m a people person and rate interactions with my lecturers/professors higher than tech and teaching tools (which Swansea University, of course, has). Lecturers, as you’d expect, really know their stuff. They write books, research and publish on emerging fields and contribute to the massive field of linguistics (which I later realised can encompass just about everything). Humans communicate, and things happen; whether that’s some governmental social policy or how a doctor speaks to their patients, it’s all language and communication). They made some of the paths clear to us after graduation by bringing in people ‘doing’ language/linguistic-related work; SEO managers, writers, forensic linguists, etc.
5) Any tips for our students in their final year?
My simple advice for people at any degree stage is to keep thinking about and preparing for their dissertation. Even begin formulating an idea from the first year.
One of the biggest headaches when writing something this long is the references, and everyone has their own system for staying on top of this; some apps and sites can keep references for you these days though. It’s very common to read something perfect for your paper, and after reading what feels like a thousand other books and articles, you have no idea where that `perfect` reference was! A bit old-fashioned, I suppose, but I have a document of references that I copy and paste from whenever I write something.
6) Did you do CELTA/Semester abroad?
I intentionally chose linguistics to give me that broad body of knowledge and inquiry; after I graduated, I enrolled in the CELTA course at Swansea to grow my teaching skills. At the time, I felt it was an incredibly detailed, although intense, course. But it was only years later I realised just how fortunate I was to the CELTA team for such an experience. For eight or so years now, I have been running an online teacher training website for teachers in Japan, and in creating it, I’ve become friends with and evaluated a lot of teacher trainers and courses. I also speak with trainees about their course experiences to improve my project. And on this topic, a friend who recently completed a CELTA course here in Japan explained how envious they were when hearing about my experiences compared to theirs. I often reflect on the CELTA course at Swansea and still aspire to reach the level of professionalism, skill, student support, and depth they delivered.
7) What are you doing now? Where? Explain a little about it.
One weekend after graduating and whilst on the CELTA course, I was casually looking for teaching work, and an ad popped up for teaching positions in Japan with a company called AEON. I filled in an online form, and the interview was the following weekend.
A week or so after the interview, an AEON rep called me during a lunch break on the CELTA course and offered me the job. That evening I called Kevin Child from the CELTA team, who had given us his phone number and told us to call him anytime for support/to talk. He listened and coached me that taking the job was a great opportunity.
I was with AEON for about a year and then freelanced for another two years in Northern Japan. I managed a small English school, had some classes at a university, and had a couple of private lesson students. But getting an 8-4 job with health insurance and pension benefits made more sense with a baby and a mortgage. I started working as a school teacher for the Board of Education in Niigata City. My job title is Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). I also teach in small language schools, And, have a tap dancing course on Udemy! We live in the gig economy era.
Finally, I’ve kept occasional contact with most of my lecturers, who have helped me get jobs by writing recommendation letters and supported my professional growth in other ways. Some years back, Paul Meara and Tess Fitzpatrick were scheduled to come to Japan to present at a conference centered on vocabulary research. Paul couldn’t make it, but I got to meet Tess and catch up with her at a University in Tokyo.
My undergraduate at Swansea more than prepared me for a life of inquiry and future studies. I completed a Masters degree in applied linguistics at Birmingham University (though entirely online). The BA degree filled my head with a solid knowledge base, and the MA used that for research and practical applications. Since then, I’ve published four articles and conducted action research in my classrooms. The teacher training site I found is growing from strength to strength, too, due mainly to the fantastic team here in Japan. There are so many people coming together to build it, like university professors around the world and educational companies. I need to know my stuff when corresponding and talking with them – thanks again undergraduate degree. In recent years I’ve taken to writing books, too, a natural progression. My two children are now 8 and 3, and I hope I can convince them to study at Swansea when they’re older.