We are immensely pleased to bring out this NELTA ELT Forum February 2015 issue to the valued ELT community. Continuing the legacy of the preceding issues, this issue also explores into some of the multi- faceted dimensions of the ELT phenomenon.
The ever growing gyre of the ELT profession now is full of innumerable adages in terms of theories and practices. The so far enormous proliferation of this profession across time and space has created a situation similar to the age- old dilemma: which is first, egg or chicken- regarding the role of building up ELT knowledge body. There are varied philosophical deliberations, theories, views and practices regarding the teaching and learning of English both in the global and Nepalese contexts. ELT now has become a truly multi- paradigm phenomenon, with unprecedented multiple conceptions and practices. There are paradigms of ELT with proven and tested promises at one place; however there are also contexts where the ingredients of the ELT recipes have not produced the result as desired. Whatever promising a paradigm be the thrust of the diverse needs of the learners, and the multi-faceted phenomena of ELT have remained growing. Therefore, the chicken- egg dilemma keeps persisting. What should be the focus of exploration and debates in ELT, particularly in the English as Foreign Language (FL) context? What possible themes could be included? What should be the centre and what should be the periphery for a worthy discussion? Is it the context; is it the learner, or the educator, or the material, or the implementation of the program? What should be at the centre of discussion among the ELT educators and professionals? How can we understand ELT and communicate about it in a better way? Is it so as that we need to prioritize the practices; or is it the theory integrating the discrete practices? What can be a better lance to represent the ELT phenomena? It is, indeed, these and many other queries that have led to immensely diverse opinions regarding the tits- bits of ELT in its community, and ELT in Nepal is also not an exception. It is needless to reiterate here, but the complexity becomes apparent only when one is involved in the learning and teaching of English as an FL. Educators simply become an interpreter of the underpinnings; no one can assure ‘this’ and ‘this’ works, and ‘that’ and ‘that’ does not. Our efforts then simply get fruitless. Continue reading →
What it Takes…
My most recent experience teaching in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal for two months, this past summer was compiled of revelations, humility, cultural exposures, and memorable interactions with educational officials and local Nepalese. I’ve met an incredible and hospitable people who have shown me the values of life, one another, and education. I did not meet one student, despite their impoverished conditions, who hasn’t understood the lengths of what an education could do for them, their families and their future. Education isn’t an easy process, especially when students are not reaching their potentials through engagement, discovery, and accommodated learning that must be implemented to meet their needs. Not every student learns the same way, but every student is capable of learning.
Perhaps it was when I worked with a very young, energetic second grader; a recent arrival from the village, whose insatiable eagerness to learn revealed to me a newfound power of education, despite the cultural and language gap that both of us shared. Initially perceived and treated as an immature nuisance to the class by his peers and teachers, this young boy craved attention. When I began to re-direct that attention to utilizing him within the classroom, allowing him to participate in whole group activities, and giving him the equal chance to learn, I witnessed in him a desire to learn, less focused on misbehaving and more focused on pleasing his teacher and meeting the standards of his surrounding peers. It was through these continuous interactions that Joshep and I had established a friendly and appreciative rapport.
Although the Level Two students, well, all level students in government-sponsored school systems contain students of all different ages and learning levels, learning styles and interests, from all different backgrounds, were culminated into overcrowded classrooms with remotely bare minimal resources, the truth of the matter was very obvious: educators have challenging tasks that lie before them. These tasks cannot be tackled with very little to no preparation and lesson planning, constant feedback provided to their young audiences’ work and ideas, and absolutely requires the educator to step out of their comfort zone in a way that serves the furthering education of such young minds. Without these strategies and implementations in American schools, teachers will, undeniably, serve only half a loaf to the innovative, differentiated, and various-skilled students before them. Continue reading →
Vignettes of Language Learners’ Perception of Learning Difficulty:
Mingling the Native and the Target Languages
*Dinesh Kumar Thapa
This paper presents two reflective cases regarding foreign language learners’ perceptions of difficulties in the early stages of learning a foreign language. It is a comparative presentation as to how a Nepali learner of English feels as the difficult areas while learning English, and how an English learner regards while attempting to learn Nepali. In elaborating the phenomena, an equal reference point has been made to the contexts of the Nepali speaker learning English and the English speaker learning Nepali, both as learning a foreign language/ distant language. Deliberation has also been made for the emergence of a unique form of English as an International Language.
Vignette One: Concerns of a Learner of English
I am Dinesh Kumar Thapa. I started learning English when I was about 10 years old. I learnt the alphabets of English from grade four as a compulsory subject in my primary school.
When I recollect my journey of learning English, I can now locate many areas where I had difficulty in mastering. When there came the time to use articles, I had to think twice before I used one. These tiny words were so mind blogging that I, often, missed using them, and even if I did, there was an over- use of a single article (the). I think it happened because in Nepali there are other determiners to express for what articles do in English. Similarly, the use of prepositions was also a hard nut to crash. Typical problem in this area were in the choice of the correct proposition for a verb or an adjective as collocation. Sometimes, confusions were experienced while choosing the correct preposition of location (at, in, on).
I also experienced a lot difficulty in deciphering and using set- phrases, colloquial English expressions. I still vividly reminisce the day when my English teacher asked me to read the print of a visitor’s T- shirt (which contained the phrase ‘See You’) and to translate the meaning in Nepali. I did it at once, and said that it meant ‘I want to look at you’. It was indeed a blunder, but there are many set phrases and colloquial expressions in English which pose an immense challenge for me still to- date. In the absence of my exposure to naturally occurring English then, it was impossible as well to learn what ‘kick the bucket’ or ‘bite your arm off’.
Another problem I had experienced during my initial English language learning was the peculiar sound- spelling system in English. When I needed to write the word, ‘putting’, ‘dropping’, etc. there needed doubling of the letters ‘t’ and ‘p’ respectively, whereas for “Shooting”, there was not. The ‘ck’ spelling- cluster in “pocket/ rocket/ jacket” did not work with “basket’, although the latter also has ‘k’ sound in the middle. Similarly, the spelling- changes made with inflectional suffixes, as in ‘carry= carried’, ‘copy- copied’, etc. did not work for ‘stay’, ‘delay’, etc. There were many other frustrating experiences regarding the spelling system of English, and I believe these are still there with the learners. Continue reading →
Where the Heart is!
As I entered the classroom, my students treated me as a man from a different planet. They couldn’t understand my pronunciation. I thought this was a great disaster and I had never imagined that this would happen to me. Though I was aware that you do as Romans, while you are in Rome, my heart was not ready to follow what others had been doing. I wanted to change the entire scenario of the class.
Teaching English in a government aided school in Nepal is a challenging task! That’s what I was made aware of when I started my teaching career, yet I wanted to be a change agent and did not want to give up but I did not know where I would start.
Though I was a good student in the university, I could hardly apply my learning in my classroom. I started looking for tips, and help here and there like a radar less aircraft. I visited different websites and read several article related to remedial learning.
Next, I considered the age, interest, background of the learners and started teaching in the way that would address their needs. Slowly, my students started accepting me and showed interest in my teaching.
Now all my students can easily tell the basic sentences without any hesitation. Earlier, they didn’t speak any English. When I asked them to speak, they only grinned. Later, I started using tasks, in which they forced to talk to each other to get them done. Reflecting back, I can say that this was because they were and are habituated to prepare only for examination. It took me a while to make them realize the reason for learning English.
Gradually, they started reading newspapers and magazines. Some of my students talked about internet. I informed them about different websites which they could use to learn English. They even started using information on the internet when they were assigned free writing.
Drawing from those experiences, I can now confirm that teaching is facilitating and we need to acknowledge the needs of our students. Now, I suggest my colleagues, who teach English, not to think teaching English is like eating an apple pie. We should spend hundred hours to identify our students’ interest and their back ground information. Gardener calls this multiple intelligence.
People talk about task based approach, critical thinking and inductive learning but do they address the needs of learners in the EFL context of Nepal? Though there are talks about modern approach, method and techniques, I think they all follow what Plato did in his time, grammar translation method, lecture and question answer. Continue reading →