Abhi Subedi was born in eastern Nepal and educated in Nepal and Britain. He is a professor of English at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, and an established writer who has published works in both Nepali and English, including plays, essays, poems and literary criticism and history. He has also translated works from English into Nepali, and from Nepali into English. He writes regular columns in Nepal’s Nepali and English-language media and is very closely associated with language pedagogy, especially the teaching and syllabus writing of English in Nepal. Besides English, Subedi has taught Nepali to expatriates in Nepal at different times: these have included tourists, ambassadors, and priests. Abhi Subedi’s many published works include Bruised Evenings (play, 2009), Nibandha ra Tundikhel (essays, 2008), Nepali Theatre as I See It (2007), Panch Natak (five plays, 2004), Dreams of Peach Blossoms (play, 2001),Poems of the Century (edited, 2000), Ekai Kawaguchi: The Trespassing Insider (1999), Shabda ra Chot (poems, 1997), Chasing Dreams: Kathmandu Odyssey, (poetic play, 1996), Sirjana ra Mulyankan (literary criticism, 1982), and Nepali Literature: Background and History (1978). The Team of NELTA ELT Forum had approached to Abhi Subedi to collect insights on different ELT issues for the first blog publication which is presented here.
1. How have you found the ELT situation in Nepal and NELTA’s presence to enhance it?
The NELTA situation that I was exposed to a few decades ago has changed now. I see the change mainly moving each day towards maturity, and perhaps, pragmatism. For us in earlier times, at least for the second generation of the ELT to which I belong, ELT had little exotic air about it—something manufactured in the English speaking world and brought in package here. That was the reason why we had to introduce it not so much as a methodology but as knowledge, for which reason ELT became a cult, and something that people trained in this did use this knowledge to enhance the prestige of English teacher’s persona. But after NELTA came, the developments that I have been watching since its very inception, the situation has changed in one important way. All English teachers use the methodology as a skill with human face. For the last several years the activities of NELTA has given confidence to that and worked to institutionalise it.
2. How do you connect literature in language teaching?
That also reminds me of the early days of ELT when there was almost what is called in Nepali ‘panibarabar’or not drinking water from each other’s cups. We had partly inherited that from the English speaking countries like Britain where exponents of methodologies were divided among themselves whether to use literature to teach language or not. A lot of debates were made about, for example, the American poet e.e. cumming’s poems that were written by breaking rules. But when Irene R. Fairley wrote a whole book in the seventies about the ‘Syntactic deviation and cohesion’ in this poet’s poetry and said, look all his so called deviations are based on the non-deviant use of English, attentions shifted to how language works the same way everywhere. Literature was used productively, especially under ‘stylistics’. In our country and South Asia literature was the only source of learning English for a long time. People could be heard using Shakespearean English in conversations. But after ELT used literature into the classroom, it did show its useful side for teaching English. Now, I guess, we have moved quite far. Your generation knows this better.
3. What is your opinion regarding global ELT community through virtual means to create platform for the ELT practitioners?
Using virtual means is the most desired and the most effective way of establishing bonds across the ELT terrains in the world today. It becomes especially meaningful also because, English is the most widely used language in websites and cybernetics. For ELT that is a productive situation the fruits of which could be directly taken into the classroom.
4. It is seen that reading culture in Nepal is still low which has the direct impact in ELT too. How can we cope with this problem?
That is where a little self-realisation should work on our part also. You should not repeat our mistake, the mistake of not drinking out of each other’s cups. A methodology has a danger being a meta-perspective, a mere system if the results of that are not used in practice. There are many reasons why the reading culture is low in Nepal, but speaking as NELTA person with you, I would say our role should be to teach methods and give the learners interesting texts to read and circulate among each other.
5. Could you please provide some suggestions for making this newly started virtual voyage of NELTA better?
I like your expression ‘virtual voyage’. It should be treated as such. Voyage has a ring of globalisation about it, a sense of boundary and territorialities is understood here. ELT is indeed the territorial phenomenon. As ELT people voyaging through cybernetics we are searching for more meaningful interactions. Keep that up, and keep up the spirit of voyage, which is a greater participation. Best of luck!