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. Although we cannot tell with definition how the teaching and learning of the English language becomes possible we can at least assume that these varied paradigms of ELT are something to ‘beat-round – the- bush’; the theories, principles and practices are also a manifestation of the chicken- egg puzzle. The selection of articles in this issue also bears some resemblance to this complex nature of ELT. We are also ‘beating- the- bush’, and adding something to the already complexly made up facets of ELT with our selections. It is now the valued readers themselves who are expected to derive the tastes of the ingredients here.
The articles collected in this issue fall into two themes: stories and theories. Stories included here are the lived experiences of learners and teachers of English, whereas the theories are explanations for the phenomenon of teaching and learning of English. Teaching- learning story represents not only the voices of the concerned agents, but it also helps share about the resources that worked, and the challenges that presented threats to a successful teaching- learning of English. Importantly, through stories, teachers and learners make sense of classroom teaching and learning. Readers, however, are free to interpret these experiences in order to find their lineage to the explanatory frames of the theories. In this connection, sharing her story of teaching English in Nepalese classroom, Ms. Holly Liebl in her article “What it Takes…” opines that the context for English language teaching is surrounded with myriads of challenges baffling the educators. She observes that most ELT classrooms consist of learners from different ages and learning levels, learning styles and interests, and from different backgrounds. These are, however, the realities the educator is supposed to cope with. She further argues that teaching gets even more complicated when there is a cultural gap between the teacher and the students in matters of assumptions and strategies employed. However, a global pedagogical- cultural knowhow on the part of the teacher eases the job, and teaching becomes effective even in adversities. The only remedy, thus, is the passion that the educator exhibits while involving oneself in teaching activities.
Similarly, narrating their stories about their learning experience of a foreign language, Mr. Dinesh Kumar Thapa and Ms. Tarcy Tyson in their write- up, “Vignettes of Language Learners’ Perception of Learning Difficulty: Mingling the Native and the Target Languages” present their own stories of learning a foreign language, and suggest that, whatever language it be, learning a foreign language follows an interestingly identical path involving both occasions of frustrations and successes. Their cross- linguistic experiences suggest that there are, indeed, some areas of language in which the learners feel typically troubled. Although most of the areas of difficulty are uniquely distributed in different languages, there are many which pose a grave challenge for learning in common. Their experiences suggest that it may be possible to master a foreign language, but not on par with the level of its native speakers. And it is neither possible nor desirable as well. The attempt to search for the English International Code, therefore, is well grounded from the perspective of English language learners. Another collection in this issue entitled, “Where the Heart is!” by Mr. Netra Sapkota also presents a story of a teacher’s challenges while attempting to teach English in an under-resourced classroom setting. When there is a mismatch between what is preached during teacher education, and what is experienced in the classroom, the practicing teacher feels disoriented, and the job of teaching becomes unimaginably complex. However, this feeling of “method rejection” by the teacher makes her more reflective, inventive and pragmatically grounded. This reflective story appeals upon the ELT educators to work judiciously harmonizing between the fast changing global ELT practices, and the often stagnated teaching circumstance in the context of Nepal. Similarly, in the article, “Motivation in English Language Learning”, Mr. Aadesh Bhetwal examines the different facets of motivation and its importance in ELT. He posits that an effective ELT is heavily dependent upon the extent to which learners are constantly encouraged by the teachers in achieving the goals and realizing the dreams. This piece centrally suggests that the teacher needs to be well versed with knowledge and strategies to motivate the students in order to realize the results of ELT successfully and at hand.
Dinesh Kumar Thapa