More to ELT: Two Books on Language Education and Communication

Balkrishna Sharma*

In our last conversation, Praveen asked me to offer some recommendations for some recent “good” books on ELT for our English teachers in Nepal. I, promptly, but hesitatingly said ‘yes’. I was hesitant mainly for two reasons: reflecting on what I read last year, it was hard for me to remember the names of the books I read; I found that my teaching and research is largely shaped by journals articles in applied linguistics these days. Second, on topics of ELT- and this was mainly due to the reason that English education has been historically equated with ELT, which again is largely confined to teaching methodologies, four-skills, and evaluation.

However, my interest in recent years again has to do with larger social and political forces that shape language education and language teaching, e.g. politics, culture, society, policy and so on. Developing knowledge and awareness on these broader issues is as important as, and sometimes, more important than, the practical skills that teachers need in teaching English. Language teaching is more than ‘language’ teaching; it encompasses larger socio-political-cultural issues that impact teachers’ and students’ lives.

From my hard-to-remember book list, here are two texts that are tremendously useful for our English teachers in Nepal. If you tell the whole narrative of what you think is a good movie to your friend, chances are that your friend may not want to watch the movie anymore because s/he knows the plot and the characters already. Applying the same logic, if I give you a run-down of everything in the books, I may kill your interest to read the books. Therefore, I am giving only a few words on what aspects of the texts have impressed me.

1. Engaged Language Policy and Practice

Year of publication: 2017

Authors: Kathryn Davis and Prem Phyak

Year of publication: 2017

This book situates language policy and practice as a form of social activism and transformation. Rather than conceptualizing language policy as a form of government document or a constitutional manifesto, the authors conceptualize it as enacted by various social members in different levels. English language teachers and learners, for examples, are agentive individuals who have the power and awareness to resist dominant ideologies and practices, and bring about social changes through multilingual practices. The authors argue that an engaged approach to policy and practice pays attention to raising individuals’ “awareness of the conditions of their own oppression” (p. 30). By reading the books, language teachers have a chance to learn and critically think about some broader issues of multilingualism, language ideology, neoliberalism/capitalism, critical language awareness, and critical pedagogy. And these are the issues that impact language teachers’ lives, directly or indirectly.

2. Exploring Intercultural Communication: Language in Action

Author: Zhu Hua

Year of Publication: 2014

This book addresses concerns of contemporary globalization, diversity, and the intercultural nature of communication today. With the rapid flows of peoples, cultures and media across national borders, many social settings have become linguistically and culturally diverse. As people from such diverse backgrounds meet face-to-face or in online contexts, their meeting becomes a site for an intercultural encounter where they negotiate meanings, social identities, and power relations. The field of language education in particular is impacted by this diversity in a number of ways. For example, second language teacher education courses inevitably must deal with new notions of culture as well as which cultures to teach and how to teach them. Language professionals in particular should seriously reconsider how the issues of culture are represented in teaching materials and addressed in classroom practices. Keeping this in mind, the book approaches the notion of intercultural communication primarily as a communicative practice. The chapters present theoretical concepts and empirical cases of intercultural communication from a wide range of social contexts such as family, workplace, business, and education. This then naturally leads English teachers to ask questions about the role of culture in language teaching. Questions such as these are of paramount importance: how to teach culture in second language classrooms, how cultures of the self and others are represented in teaching materials such as textbooks, and how they are addressed in classroom practices, and how intercultural learning is assessed by second language teachers.

Why English-only ideology and practice

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Bal Krishna Sharma

It is often assumed that a target language can be best taught in the target language. This assumption basically developed from the Direct Method, which emphasized that translation and use of the learners’ language is detrimental to the learning of the target language. This ideology influenced the succeeding methodologies in the field of English language teaching and teaching of other second languages. In the audio-lingual method also, teaching and use of the learners’ first language was considered a detrimental factor in the success of language learning. This ideology and practice is best suited in contexts where learners are almost fully competent in the target language. However, this case is very rare because if the learners are already competent in the target language, why should they bother to sit in the second language classroom? Learning in the second language, for example in English, may provide more exposure to the learners since they may be able to receive more hours of English. However, lack of adequate proficiency in that language is likely to severely affect their general learning as well as their learning of content subjects such as mathematics and social studies. When the learners do not grasp what the teacher is teaching in the classroom, she does not only abstain from important information being taught, she also feels left out, excluded and discriminated. Research literature from around the world shows evidence for that.

The concern regarding the use of English as a medium of instruction has drawn a considerable attention from both teachers and policy makers in the context of Nepal. While the “English-medium” private schools have long been bragging the English-only policy and practice in their schools, teachers have always been agentive in resisting this ideology, making varied use of learner’s language. I was an English teacher in a private school in Chitwan for about five years from 1996-2001, and while teaching English, I consciously made use of Nepali in various degrees. Teaching English, only in English benefitted only those who had developed a considerable degree of proficiency in English; those with little knowledge of English suffered a lot.

Translingual pedagogy: some cases

The concern regarding the benefits and drawbacks of English-only policy is not a Nepal-specific issue. In order to address the complexities of bilingual and multilingual schools and societies, researchers and teachers have recently shown an increased interest in using a translingual pedagogy. Translingual pedagogy or translingualism largely refers to a conscious and dynamic use of two or more languages in a language classroom. In such contexts, the teacher is competent in using both languages. Professor Ofelia Garcia is well known for elaborating this concept in bilingual classrooms in the US. In a thought-provoking post that she wrote a while ago for Choutari, she mentions:

Translanguaging in education can be defined as a process by which students and teachers engage in complex discursive practices that include ALL the language practices of students in order to develop new language practices and sustain old ones, communicate and appropriate knowledge, and give voice to new sociopolitical realities by interrogating linguistic inequality (Garcia, 2013, https://neltachoutari.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/translanguaging-to-teach-english-in-nepal/).

Two other researchers, Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese, from the UK have also shown compelling evidence of using two languages concurrently in a second language classroom. They write:

We also find examples of the need for both languages, for the drawing across languages, for the additional value and resource that bilingualism brings to identity performance, lesson accomplishment, and participant confidence (Creese and Blackledge, 2010: 112).

Such evidences suggest that learners benefit largely by being taught in two languages.

Translingual practices in an ESP classroom

I have long been interested in the use of English in non-formal and informal educational contexts in Nepal. One of my previous studies investigated how learners of English in Nepal navigate information technologies such as Facebook in order to enact and practice their bilingual identities. Recently, I have been researching on the teaching, learning and use of English and other foreign languages in Nepal’s tourism industry. As a case in point, Travellers’ World (pseudonym) in Thamel, Kathmandu, offers English courses for porters and trekking guides two times a year – in monsoon and in winter- each lasting for about a month. I was in the monsoon class for a month in 2013, observing the class, taking notes, recording classroom interactions and interviewing the teachers and the students. As a noticeable finding relevant to the present essay, I here provide two examples which at times show contradictory practices.

Point 1: Travellers’ World has a policy to hire “native” English speaking volunteer tourists who tend to be from English speaking countries such as Australia, the UK and the US. I was in a class taught by a volunteer teacher from the UK. She hardly spoke any Nepali. The students, as you might guess, had only basic language and literacy schools, and their English competence was notably poor. Here, I reproduce my observation notes and a piece of classroom dialogue below.

The teacher was teaching how to write a CV. She first briefly explained what CV is and what it is used for. She wrote Curriculum Vitae on the board and asked the students if they knew it before. A few nodded. One student mentioned that CV means bio-data. The teacher acknowledged the student’s response and distributed a one-page handout that contained a template for writing a CV. She then divided the class into three groups. The students seemed confused, looking at each other and at the teacher, speaking unclearly in Nepali. The following interaction occurred meantime:

T: What are you writing in your CV? (addressing to one a student)

S: (pause) I am writing…

T: Okay. You need to write your education background.

S: (pause)

T: You can write about a famous person. Write about a famous person’s CV.

S: Okay.

T: Oh yeah. Write Barack Obama’s CV for the presidential post? For example you are Barack Obama and you want to apply for the post of President. How do you like the idea?

S: Good good. (laughs)

(pause for a while)

T: What about you (to another student). (pause) Do you like sports?

S: Oh, I write David Beckham. I like football.

Most of the students did not have their education beyond the School Leaving Certificate (SLC, equivalent to Grade 10). Some of them were school dropouts, who did not continue their formal education after grade 5. At first, writing a CV that asked for their university education obviously created a problem for them. Rather than helping students to prepare a CV that included their own information, the teacher assigned a more daunting task of writing the American President’s CV. Another student perhaps thought only the famous people in the world have their CVs and he proposed writing a famous British soccer player’s CV. CV for them meant biography. The students encountered more problems later when they had to write their previous work experience for the posts they were supposed to be applying for. Second, because the students could not grasp the teacher’s English, they could hardly make sense of what she was saying. Since the teacher did not speak any Nepali, there was no way that the students ask her to translate words or explain the meaning of the English words in the language they could understand. Even if she explained them the meaning, it was in English, which often lead the students to more challenging cognitive tasks. Often, students would look at each other talking with their eyes or gestures. Their silent talks were in Nepali, and they apparently were looking for meanings and definitions in Nepali. Those who were sitting by me would ask me ‘Nepalima ke bhnacha, sir?’ (What do you say in Nepali, sir?). I would happily volunteer to help them out by telling them in their language. At the same time, however, I feared that teacher would not like my intervention since I was permitted only to “observe” her class, not to make any interventions. Had the teacher known some level of Nepali, the students would have benefitted significantly. My point of giving the example above is that both the students and the teacher should be able to understand each other and the task being implemented in the classroom. There were problems with English-only instruction: students were lost and often solicited my responses.

Point 2: Students’ practices were reasonably translingual. Their conversations among themselves were in Nepali. They tried to speak to the teacher in English, but at times would insert Nepali words (which, as you know, did not make sense to the teacher). Their class notes reflected their translingual competence. Given below is an example of class notes by one of the students named Chhatra.

Image text

Chhatra’s note was produced during a group work. The students were asked to report their activities in the past simple tense. Chhatra took notes using the past tense before he reported his activities to his group members and to the teacher. His notes show the characteristics of what they recognize as broken English. Chhatra told me that his writing represents English words as he hears them. First few lines are in Nepali with occasional translation into English and vice versa. His literacy skill in Nepali also shows characteristics that do not conform to the standard Nepali writing. For example, the word उभएचा (ubhaecha) in the second line should be उभएचर (ubhaechar) in standard Nepali, and the word डेफे (defe) in the third line should be डाँफे (danphe) if we follow the standard writing system in Nepali. Similarly, Chattra’s English writing shows orthographic peculiarities in its use: he uses ‘treek’ for ‘trek’, ‘languse’ for ‘language’, ‘contuse’ for ‘continuous’, ‘averyd’ for ‘everyday’, ‘staday’ for ‘Saturday’ and ‘vigited’ for ‘visited’.

To take the point further, Chhatra shows his complex translingual skills. Although the language of instruction of his class is English-only, he appropriates that with his “non-standard” English skills, combined with various degrees of proficiency in Nepali. This shows that students look for and benefit from combining varied linguistic and literacy resources at their disposal.

Final words

Societies are being more multilingual today. Students come from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. If teachers can wisely use bilingual resources, students will benefit more. Teachers in Nepal have been doing this although schools may have various policies regarding the use of English in classrooms. To conclude, while it at first seems that students get more exposure of learning if they get more hours of English talk in their class (in ideal cases where all students equally understand English and the concepts being taught in that language), systematic and dynamic use of English and Nepali (or another local language) will have more positive learning experiences and outcomes.

Works Cited

Creese, A. and Blackledge, A. 2010. Translanguaging in the Bilingual Classroom: A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching? The Modern Language Journal, 94, 102-115.

Garcia, O. 2013. Translanguaging to teach English in Nepal. Retrieved on July 23, 2015 from https://neltachoutari.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/translanguaging-to-teach-english-in-nepal/

The author, a founder of ELT Choutari, is a Ph. D. scholar at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA.

This is how mentoring worked for me

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Bal Krishna Sharma,   PhD Scholar   University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

I went to pursue my graduate studies at the University of Hawaii in 2008. Since I was in a new academic environment, any academic help extended to me would be tremendously helpful. I first had little idea on how the US academic system would work, for example, choosing academic advisers, completing assignments, presenting at conferences, finding and using scholarly resources and connecting to the local ELT professional venues. Thanks to the East-West Center, my scholarship sponsor organization, that connected me to an experienced and very helpful mentor, Elaina. Also thanks to the Second Language Studies Students’ Association that provided me an opportunity to work as a mentor for a BA student. In the following sections, I will briefly describe my experience and learning opportunities from these mentoring programs.

Being a Mentee

The East-West Center Alumni Association asked me to fill out a mentoring form providing details of my academic and professional background, academic interest and my expectations from my mentor. However, I had little idea regarding how this would work and help with my graduate studies at the university. I thought at least I would have an opportunity to connect to an ‘American’ professor. The alumni association also asked the potential mentors to fill out similar forms. By matching common interests between the two parties, I was assigned to a mentor at a local community college. I was excited. I wrote my mentor an introductory email and told her that I was her mentee and wanted to know who she was. Elaina took me to an Indian restaurant for dinner for our first meeting. We chatted about our personal and academic interests, family background and future goals. Continue reading »

Shifting Focus: Building ELT Practices and Scholarship from the Ground Up

Prem Phyak, Bal Krishna Sharma and Shyam Sharma

The subject of this post is our shared recognition that there is a tremendous need for Nepalese ELT practitioners to build on what we already have and what we already do, rather than focusing on what we lack and what we don’t do well. We highlight the importance for teachers to understand/appreciate their great potentials to do things innovatively, creatively, and transformatively. We organize this post in three interconnected discussions about the need for shifting the focus of our local ELT conversations and scholarship.

From Focusing on Problem to Focusing on Practice

Academic and professional discourses on ELT in our context tend to be too focused on  problems and failures. At workshops and conferences, as well in theses produced by our university students, a lot of attention is paid to a more or less fixed set of problems such as large classes, lack of resources, lack of teacher training and proficiency, and so on and on. These discourses often end with a set of recommendations, which again are quite predictable, such as: “teachers should be trained,” “the government should provide more resources,” “classes should be smaller,” and so on.

What is left out from such discourses is how English teachers in Nepal work under constraints and are still able to teach very effectively. Seemingly small examples sometimes do a great job. We remember our secondary school days when our English class consisted of more than 50 students—which is too large by most ELT standards. Our English teachers used to move around the class, make frequent eye contact with us, call names and ask simple questions such as “what did we study yesterday?” “can you see my writing from the back?” etc. We felt great when the teacher called us by name, cared whether we heard her from the back, and valued our contribution; we did our best even while sitting at the back end of a large classroom. We know that even such simple classroom management and motivation strategies can help us overcome many of the seemingly insurmountable challenges of teaching our large-class contexts.

However, in our ELT conversations/scholarship, we seem to regard even the highly effective strategies used in our classrooms too trivial to discuss, too inauthentic to theorize. We lack the confidence to talk about our own and our fellow teachers’ successful teaching practices as the basis of our professional conversations. We rather seek answers to our challenges in the big books, fancy theories, and the occasional trainers who might show us how to fix our problems.

In some ways, our ELT conversations are already rich and substantive, so it is a matter of valuing better our everyday practices. We need to start and promote much more practice-based conversations where we can share how to tackle our challenges and teach effectively in ways that fit our needs. Doing this will help us overcome the particularly crippling hesitation that we have toward developing new knowledge out of our own experiences [See, for example, Jeevan Karki’s post on developing students’ creativity].

Of course, there is no need to try to replace conventional methods/practices with whole new sets. But it is necessary to prevent the limited number of “god words” of mainstream ELT discourse from making us believe that what they tell us is incomparably superior and more authentic than anything we know and do in our particular contexts, anything that comes out of our own daily practices and ground realities.

When we think about scholarship/theory about ELT methods, strategies, and practices (including specific classroom activities), we should go beyond thinking in terminologies that we read in textbooks during our college and university days. Communicative or content-based approach should enter our conversations, but they shouldn’t become the only frame of reference in all our conversations. We should not hesitate to go beyond the big words and into our practices, with whatever words fit our needs, inventing our own terminology where fit.

From Reading Theory to Telling Stories and Sharing Our Experiences

Another major way in which we could shift our focus from what we don’t do into what we could and should do–and what we already do–is to recognize the significance of our ELT conversations based on our ground realities as *material for genuine “scholarship.” That is, our hesitation to produce ELT scholarship/knowledge–which seems even more debilitating than that of sharing and valuing our teaching practices–needs to be overcome as well.

We have an abundance of knowledge that are embedded in our everyday life and socio-cultural practices; we also have creative language teaching and learning practices shaped by our multilingual, multicultural, and multiethnic realities which can motivate students to speak, read and write English. If we think about it, the kinds of stories of hardships that English teachers are facing in rural villages of Nepal can be a foundation of powerful ELT discourse for us and even for fellow teachers around the world. [For example, see Ahok Khati’s discussion on how English teachers in Nepal construct their identities drawing on local values and knowledge].

Our teachers do not just know how to deal with textbooks and teach English grammar; they are usually larger-than-life figures who have tremendous impact on social issues, great respect from the community for their ability to resolve conflicts in society, and an understanding of social values and ethics. Their success as teachers comes much less from ELT theories and methods they have learned from textbooks than it does from their immersion in society; it comes from their knowledge/understanding of the community and students, their status and role in society, and their prestige and identity.

The same is true about their students: many of them may not even have a single pen and notebook, enough food to eat and clothes to wear, and parental guidance/understanding of their education. But the students complete the other half of our success stories through the sheer power of their sincerity, motivation, and hard work. This makes us ask: how can we capture such larger, deeper issues in ELT pedagogical theories and conversations of our own?

This means that we must situate our ELT discourses in our local contexts, our understanding of the environment, occupations, cultural practices, social harmony and cooperation, and so on. Only when we develop practices/methods that recognize the realities of our and our students’ lives can we truly encourage them to read, write, speak, listen, and learn meaningfully. It is important to focus on helping them develop their ability to talk about their own culture, community and knowledge first. For example, if our students can read, write, and discuss local society and culture, politics and policies, family life and community issues, environment and occupations–at the level that they are interested and able to engage–then they will learn language quite effectively. More importantly, they can also use these phenomena as a source of ideas, metaphors, perspectives, and professional conversations in the future [Also see Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Phyak’s entry on critical literacy in the local context].

Very often, we focus on how much our students lack “English language proficiency.” But if we look closer, we can easily realize that whenever they communicate about issues of their own lives and societies, their competency instantly shoots up–even as their accent lingers, their syntax remains shaky as they grow up. Indeed, this is true of our teachers’ own language proficiency and scholarly conversation as well. When the contents of our teaching/learning are our own life-stories and social realities, we automatically sound much more competent and capable–for if we do not know what we want to read/write and speak about, our proficiency in language itself will remain to be of little significance [You can refer to Shyam Sharma’s blog post on local linguistic practices as a further reference].

From What We Don’t Have to What We Do (Well)

One question that we often hear from teachers in various workshops and conferences in Nepal is what method they should use for solving this or that problem of teaching English. Too often, we seem to assume that there must be a recognized method for fixing every problem, a method that is more advanced and powerful than anything that we can develop/improvise ourselves. For example, when students do not speak up in class, we reach for “communicative techniques” like group work and pair work, but we are far less likely to recognize that we’ve already been using other strategies that would work as well.

Suppose that a teacher has developed the following strategy to promote speaking: she walks into her class with fifty pieces of paper (one each for all students) with five pieces containing the word “lucky.” Then she lets her students find out who is lucky, asking them to either prepare and speak during the same class or come prepared for the next class. Also suppose that this speaking activity involves simply summarizing an essay or retelling a story. Now, does this activity fit into any theory or method? Let us say that it doesn’t. Will the teacher feel confident talking about it as a “teaching strategy” in an ELT conversation? Probably not. The first activity could be seen as “putting students on the spot” and the second one may be considered as “regurgitating textbook content” within conventional ELT methods/practices.

Unless we as teachers are confident that different local cultures and contexts validate, as well as necessitate, different pedagogies, we may not find our local practices worth even talking about. When we build that confidence, we will shift the current field of ELT in Nepal from worrying about finding the established method in mainstream ELT discourse toward building and appreciating our own practices that work best in our own context.

More broadly, in our professional conversations, we should legitimize and build on what we already do, rather than focus on what is lacking. Often, this is only a matter of looking at our own work a little differently. Imagine a conference where a bunch of us as ELT scholars have gathered to discuss the theme of “ELT in the multilingual/multicultural context of Nepal.” Then imagine that we take turns at the microphone to lament the lack of “policy” about multiculturalism and multilingualism in Nepal. Say that no one challenges the assumption that “policy” doesn’t (or shouldn’t) only mean what is written on paper, formally adopted by some authority, implemented in a top-down manner, etc. Also suppose that the expert invited from abroad makes a great PowerPoint presentation, highlighting some good theories and perspectives but not really touching on multilingual and multicultural social realities like we have in Nepal.

Now, think about it this way. What is it–if it is not “policy”–that teachers in some schools punish (often corporally) their students when they speak their home languages? What is it when our district education officers quietly, informally encourage community schools under their supervision to switch to English medium in order to retain students and save the schools? What about the whole society’s understanding that English medium is a good enough reason to determine quality of schools? None of the above are formal and recognized, governmental or institutionally implemented policies. But they are “policies”. Some are tantamount to institutional policies, others are socially established practices and expectations, and yet others are individual preferences. The lack of explicitly formal, documented, and top down policies doesn’t mean that there are no policies at all.

So, the scholars in our imaginary conference could be talking about a lot of things instead of repeating that there are “no policies.” Simply adopting an established, mainstream definition and theory of the key terms can deflect our focus from the real situation and turn reality itself into a gigantic blind spot instead of being the subject matter!  Hence, a lot could be done by adopting the right perspectives.

Conclusion: Building Critical Mass

In this brief post, we have argued for adopting a bottom-up approach not only for promoting our students’ English language abilities but also for enhancing teachers’ own confidence in their practices and, from those practices, local scholarship. Teachers should not be passive recipients of knowledge about grand theories; rather, they should be “change agents.”

We are not thinking about “where to start” because our point is that we already have thousands of starting points: we just need to recognize and validate them. More and more of our colleagues across the country need to just come forward and share their ideas. There are an increasing number of ways for doing so: increased numbers of workshops and training events; local, regional, and national conferences; professional events abroad; opportunities to start local and national newsletters and magazines using alternative modes of publication like blogs and wikis; promoting personal blogs and podcasts that teachers may already be doing; and so on.  This process, we believe, will help the community of Nepalese English teachers build a critical mass to transform ELT profession from the ground up.

As the current Choutari  team completes their first year and rekindles its energy (including additional, enthusiastic members), we are ever more hopeful that this venue will help our professional conversations shift its focus from gazing at failures and lacks to building on our successes and resourcefulness.

As always, please join the conversation!

Nelta Choutari’s Four Year Journey

NELTA Choutari: Looking back and moving forward

Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Phyak

1. A brief history

“Over the course of the last few months, Bal, Prem, and I have been talking about a random but very significant set of issues via email (copying among the three of us). I am beginning to wonder if we should redirect that time and energy into something more productive, more shared, and more beneficial for a larger community. As Prem and I talked on Skype this afternoon, we should archive and share these discussions through blogging (I created this blog after our talk), through a wiki (I set up since that email also), a discussion list (way to go), or anything better than email–email is not designed for collaboration, for Pete’s sake!”

The above excerpt is what Shyam wrote on the very first issue of the NELTAChoutari in January 2009. Prem was in London, Shyam was in Kentucky, and Bal was in the middle of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. Before we gave birth to the Choutari, three of us used to exchange chains of emails looking for ways to get reconnected to our beloved Nepalese ELT community even if we were physically disconnected. Nelta Choutari was an outcome of that motivation and interest toward taking our ideas outside of our personal spaces (email) to a “choutari” (for those who don’t know this Nepali word, it’s the platform under/along with a tree, in or on the way to a village). In due course, three colleagues, Sajan Kumar Karn, Hem Raj Kafle, and Kamal Poudel joined the forum as moderators and connected Chouatri to the ELT community across the country back home; with their extensive experiences working with NELTA and its branches, affiliation with universities in Kathmandu and beyond, and added knowledge and skills in the field, the new colleagues helped take Choutari to its next level.

Choutari was also the product of increasing interaction between ELT and technology. But as we witnessed how technology was largely redefining ELT and professional networking across the world–through such affordances as online discussions, professional email listservs, Facebook updates and comments, online teaching and training, and so on–we also realized that technologies such as blogging were not penetrating very deep in Nepal, partly due to the lack of widespread access to the web and partly due to the academic systems that do not encourage individual teachers and schools toward educational innovation through ICTs. However, we were driven by the idea that we cannot wait until the house catches fire for the Nepalese ELT community to start talking about technology in ELT and education. So, we paid some attention to the subject of technology itself as well as using it as a vehicle of our discussions of all kinds of issues in the village yard.

More broadly, the main objective to establish the Choutari was to provide a professional space in which ELT practitioners across Nepal could learn by exchanging what we know and generate new knowledge from the bottom up. We wanted to promote local ELT scholarship through critical academic discussions; as some of our earliest posts (which we started publishing as monthly issues and called Choutari a “blog-zine”) indicate, we were interested in injected critical discussions on issues like critical pedagogy, the politics of language and ideologies undergirding language policies, the place of ELT in the bigger picture of education, democratization and decentralization of scholarship, and so on. One of our most passionate interests has been to let our colleagues at the grassroots level speak up as teacher-scholars through this forum.

In our attempt to bring out the voices of teacher-scholars across Nepal, we have tried to publish oral interviews, branch updates, success stories, personal teaching anecdotes, and even classroom humor from colleagues from NELTA branches. Not all the “columns” we tried were successful, but we believe we have excelled in publishing issues with a good variety of materials. We have spent hours and days discussing what kinds of posts and publications would cater to the needs and interests of our readers. Thanks to Skype, we have conducted several conference calls, argued for the best possible alternatives, constructively criticized each other’s ideas, and eventually formed consensus.

Choutari has come a long way and there certainly have been a few good challenges along the way. Often we would come up with brilliant ideas and try to implement them but some things didn’t go as well as we hoped. Our contributors, as well as we the coordinators, are very busy, and so participation has often been a challenge. For example, out of ten potential contributors we communicated to, seven would respond and five of them would promise to contribute a piece by the end of the month. When sent a second or third email, some of them either would not respond or would postpone their contribution for the following month. One or two of them would send the entry.

However, we always remained confident and enthusiastic and we are grateful to many colleagues who continued to contribute entries and comments. We are particularly grateful to a few wonderful and regular contributors who promptly responded to our requests, and sent the entries by the deadline. They were instrumental in keeping this blog alive. We also owe special thanks to a few NELTA leaders like Ganga Gautam who contributed content (including this interview) and provided great encouragement during and after his presidency. Our colleague Kamal Poudel joined us as a liaison of NELTA; with him on board, we began to conceptualize the idea of NELTA networking, a larger framework that would consist of blogging (Choutari), microblogging (Twitter), social networking (Facebook), content creation (wiki for branches), and so on. We have also tried to connect Choutari to the larger world of ELT conversations. For example, by blogging for the IATEFL conference in Glasgow in 2011, Choutari became an IATEFL registered online blogger; this kind of international networking is another area for further exploration for the growth of Choutari and other professional networking platforms in Nepalese ELT.

We believe that Choutari serves an important but a specific purpose (of being a space for discussing ELT issues); but we have always viewed this work not only an independent but well-aligned project that is meant to help fulfill NELTA’s central mission of promoting scholarship and professionalism. Furthermore, as indicated above, we have also viewed Choutari as a part of a potentially much larger substance-based professional networking initiative that can help NELTA fulfill its key missions. We have discussed the larger project extensively and it remains a great potential; as we hand over one successful part of that larger mission to a new group of ELT professionals, we are willing to further engage in that larger discussion with the new colleagues, NELTA leaders, and/or any other volunteer colleagues within the organization. We may not be able to dedicate as much time as we have the past four years but we remain as passionate as ever for contributing new ideas and helping to enhance Nepal’s ELT–its scholarship, professionalization, as well as its pedagogy–as much as we can.

2. Themes we discussed
Local literacy and critical pedagogy: One of the major themes that emerged out of the posts in the Choutari was local epistemology/literacy/pedagogy. We not only discussed what critical pedagogy  and local epistemology means in theory (see 2011, January Issue) but also presented some practical ideas based on teachers’ experiences, oral history project and interviews. Most importantly, we tried to generate critical ideas from the bottom-up while being aware of global ELT theories and practices. Critiquing on how the taken-for-granted globalized ideology of ELT may not be helpful in promoting diverse local epistemologies, Phyak (January, 2011) says that:

What I am saying is our full dependence on global methods, norms and textbooks in ELT may not help to promote and sustain our identities and treasure of local knowledge.  What I am saying is that we have wonderful ELT practices that we are not able to share with the people from other parts of the world which we need to do urgently.

Reflecting on his own dilemma created by the tensions between global and local and theory and practice, M. Kafle (November, 2012), S. Adhikari (August, 2012); Regmi (4/2011) and Limbu (March, 2012), deconstruct the notion of top-down literacy and pedagogical practices in English language teaching. While M. Kafle argues that we should critically look at whether or not the way we teach should foster  ‘semiotic process’ and ‘creative languaging’, focusing on the intelligibility, S. Adhikari argues that any varieties (not only British or American) which help us establish communication ‘emancipate us from western centred linguistic imperialism’.  Viewing from the perspective of global and local divide thanks to digital advancement, Limbu calls for teachers’ agency and collegiality to deconstruct dominant globalized pedagogical practice and look for opportunities that foster democratic pedagogies in which both local and global can go together. In this regard, quite related to H. Kafle’s (October, 2012) call for ‘interdisciplinarity’, Bhattarai and Yadav (November, 2012) and Sharma and Phyak (August, 2012) have worked with teachers on how different social issues like gender, poverty, child labor, human rights, and pollution can be brought into the classroom and help children find  a creative space for capitalizing both local and global literacy practices.

Teachers’ professional development: We received an encouraging number of posts on teachers’ professional development ranging from classroom practices to strengthening teachers’ associations. While M. Adhikari (January, 2012) suggests ways to deal with mixed ability classes, Ray (2012) critically unravels the tension between teachers’ motive for the monetary gain and professional development. In the similar fashion, Shrestha (September, 2012) and Panta (September, 2012) contend that present teacher training programs in Nepal lack both expertise and atmosphere for their implementation. Suggesting that observation servers as an important tool for teacher development, KC (October, 2012) and Bhusal (October, 2011) present various ways for engaging teachers in effective classroom observation practices while Budha (October, 2011) focuses on the role of reflective practice in teacher development. Other posts (not mentioned here, due to space limitation ) deal with designing tasks, organizing communicative activities, lesson planning, teaching writing and conference reflections. Together, these posts have provided ideas for the bottom-up and critical perspective on teacher development.

Teachers’ narrative: This is the most popular theme in our webzine. Teachers’ personal narratives (e.g., Bashyal, 10/2012; Dahal, 10/2012; Gautam, 7/2011; Khati & Shrestha 10/2012; Rijal, 11/2012; Neupane, 8/2012; Wagley, 3/2011) have provided an important impetus to make the webzine one of the most popular blogs in Nepalese ELT communities. By including the interviews of teachers (initiated by Heml Kafle) working at the different levels of education, we have tried to bridge the gap between the notions of language-teaching-as-it-is-perceived and language-teaching-as-it-is-practiced. We are able to draw on creative writing works (e.g., Dewan, 3/2012) to help students use English in creative ways (please search Andrew Wright’s post in Chouatri). The key issues that emerge from teacher’s narratives are: (a) to what extent we are able to utilize our own literacy practices?; (b) to what degree we are able to address student needs and contextual challenges?; and (c) can we teacher narratives’ be base for promoting local ELT scholarships?. We think that future discussion should go in this line. We see that teachers’ narratives about teaching, learning and attending conferences and workshops may provide an important avenue for looking at what is possible to apply in our own context.

Teacher training:  We also received a significant numbers of posts on teacher training and workshop report. Ranging from Tanahun (e.g., Pandey, 3/2012; Nidhi, 9/2012) to Rautahat to Ramechhap we were able to cover branch updates and their activities. These updates not only tell us about what is happening in different branches, but also contribute to generate discussions on teacher training, classroom practices and organizing conferences. However, we are not able to report on whether or not the training programs NELTA has conducted have been translated into practice. We think that this is one of the key areas we should explore in future.

3. Responses from the readers

The most important part of the Choutari is its readership. We are really encouraged with the increasing number of readers/subscribers of the webzine from home and beyond. The responses from our readers not only generate the critical discussions among the ELT scholars but also form strong sense of the ELT community of practice. We are happy to know that students from Kathmandu and Tribhuvan universities are finding the webzine very useful sources of information. The posts and responses from KU and TU students have shown the academic impacts of the webzine.  Through readers’ responses like the one given below, we tried to promote academic culture among the NELTA colleagues:

 

Kate Miller says:

June 6, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I completely agree with Leknath on the importance of programmes like SQC to encourage linguistic formulation of ideas, in an age appropriate way. Circle time can start with KG children, in a simple story and discussion, with both topics and language being extended according to developmental level. (Refer to work of developmental psychologists Piaget and Vygotsky.) In UK, we are encouraging both creative and critical thinking programmes. Some are based on the work of Reuven Feuerstein who developed content-free thinking programmes, one is called Philosophy for Children, P4C, based on the work of Matthew Lipman. Some people were outraged at the idea of children ‘doing’ philosophy, but it is simply a structured way of unpicking an issue at the level the children are at at the time and extending both their thinking and their language. How can we be expected to develop our own language, let alone a foreign language, without widening concepts.

(Kate Miller’s response to Lekhnath Sharma Pathak’s post of the Students’ Quality Circle)

Lekhnath Pathak says:

May 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I am deeply grateful to the readers and colleagues in this choutari. The write up that was posted over a year back is still drawing interest. This shows there is something in SQC. In fact, SQC is a complete package which includes all the issues like critical thinking, teamwork, developing language skills etc. which are quite common themes in ELT and other fields of academia. Officers Department of Education, Ministry of Education,GoN are also getting interested in this. The best thing is it canbe practiced in a well resourced school and quite underresourced school or college as well. Language is also not a barrier.You can do it in any language be it English or Nepali or even in any mother tongue.You just have to learn the systematic problem solving approach, tools and techniques that we teach and then you can adopt it to your own situation. ….

(A part of Mr. Pathak’s response to the readers)

In addition to these themes, we have also included expert’s interviews in which Professor Jai Raj Awasthi, Professor Govinda Raj Bhattarai, Professor Tirth Raj Khaniya, Professor Chandreshwar Mishra and Dr. Vishnu Singh Rai have shared their opinions about recent developments in ELT, language testing, language-literature-creative-writing. We also have teaching tips and classroom humors (though we do not have many) which can be useful for making classroom teaching effective.

4. Future directions

With this anniversary issue, we have handed over our legacy to a new vibrant team of  young professionals, both fresh and seasoned, who have a strong commitment to collaborate with fellow ELT professionals, solicit contributions from practitioners from the grassroots level as well as publicize it as a global academic forum reaching out to hundreds of readers worldwide. The strongest aspect of the new team has to be able to work with the teachers in NELTA branches and bring their professional voices to the public. Teaching experiences and pedagogical practices are valued more when they are shared, replicated and experimented by the fellow practitioners. Thanks to multiple blogs and wiki applications! Those teachers who, for some reasons, cannot contribute their posts in writing can send their oral anecdotes and narratives to the editors who can easily upload them online.

Four key words we want to emphasize and pass on to the new team are: sustainability, collaboration, variety, and coverage. NELTA Choutari should not die, nor should it be weakened in the future. Since we believe in democratic academic culture, we strongly believe in the principle of systematic entry into and exit from this forum although we did not start with any formal constitution. Although there is no such formal rules in this forum, we are guided with academic multiculturalism in which we enjoy working with different conflicting views, reflect each other’s perspectives, and think of grooming new colleagues, who could lead the webzine in future. Thank you to all new team members who accepted to take this challenging academic responsibility further. In this four years, six of us spent our valuable time and had a very productive experience, learning from each other and from the readers. The new team that starts at the dawn of new year can continue the legacy that are worth continuing, amend the tradition for a good cause and prepare next generation of who will replace them when time comes. Second, there is a lot to be done regarding collaboration. Our attempt and success to get the IATEFL blogger registration was one example. We also believe that Choutari can and should collaborate with local ELT branches, other organizations that have ELT as part of their mission, and other international ELT forums. It will be an appreciative task to invite contributions from writers from around the world; to ask them to share their experiences and anecdotes; and to encourage them to respond to the posts we share. When NELTA members travel to other professional venues such as IATEFL, TESOL, and other regional and local conferences, it is important to highlight what we have achieved so far from this forum. Third, we believe that readers always want varieties. Varieties can be in the themes or they can be in the modalities such as visual, oral, animations, images, and so on. Multimodality is something we tried but were not able to present as expected. Pictures of classrooms, videos of good teaching practices, and audio of teacher narratives, for example, are some of the wonderful examples in creating diversity in publication. Four, our subscribers should be in rise. Since technology and the internet has hit almost every regions of the country, local teachers should be aware of the fact that their fellow teachers have a professional khurak to share so that they do not always have to depend on international/foreign practitioners and writers. In addition, getting the Choutari entries to offline in printed format such as in the form of newsletters or small-scale journals would expand its horizon of coverage. This has already been started by our colleagues such as Sajan Kumar Karn and Dinesh Thapa. We always have to remember that we are doing everything for our fellow readers/teachers and they are the center of this project.

We wish successful collaboration among the new team to publish Choutari. Thank you once again for accepting our proposal to take the legacy we have initiated ahead. Please let us know how we can be of your help. We also urge the rest of NELTA community and readers beyond this organization to please continue to contribute to this wonderful venue in any way you can. We did it for fun and we are convinced that it was absolutely worth our time and energy and we can assure you that if you can spare the time and energy to join this conversation, you will find it satisfying as well!

Thank you very much!

Disciplinary Bias, Interdisciplinary Benignity

Hem Raj Kafle

 So many people today — and even professional scientists — seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest.

 – Albert Einstein

 

The less effective our schooling, the more limited our sense of academic disciplines can become. The more effective the schooling, the more specific our understanding of them becomes. Both cases entail the growth of disciplinary biases. The first involves deprivation as a root of bias such as in a countryside student who ends up doing liberal arts, education or commerce because of ignorance about and inaccessibility to alternatives, or financial inability to cash other opportunities. The second suggests abundance  (both of money and awareness) as a root of bias such as in a city-born child who grows through a more organized and entrenched academic route, and can choose technical and professional disciplines like engineering, medicine and other applied sciences for higher studies in a relatively more developed place, even including foreign institutions.

And society in general allows the biases to flourish in our attitude towards the relation between intelligence and disciplines. To take a case, there was a time, and partly still is, when passing the tenth grade (SLC) with higher second division or first division marks marked eligibility for science studies. Being in a science college then signified an ‘outstanding’ academic history in the school. And being in other disciplines more or less meant the absence of that history. Then not being in science with that history signified other exceptional conditions: either an indelible intolerance for science, a sudden conversion from brilliance to dullness, or unavoidable domestic obligations for landing elsewhere. That one is not born for everything, or that achievements in school did not necessarily signal potential for multiple talents for later life, or that success in life was the product of manifold experiences in addition to academic achievements, did not really concern people. The subjects in schools were forced upon you as quintessential to your growth envisioned in the general educational policy. The subjects you took in the university were supposed to either compensate certain proficiency impairments, or complement your potential for greater achievements. In both cases, an individual’s realization of the need for pursuing certain disciplines was systematically overpowered by external factors.

The biases have been replete among the academics in universities to the extent of mutual exclusion sometimes, and on other times, the unwillingness to appreciate others’ domains. Becher (1989) describes this condition as follows:

Men of the sociological tribe rarely visit the land of the physicists and have little idea what they do over there. If the sociologists were to step into the building occupied by the English department, they would encounter the cold stares if not the slingshots of the hostile natives … the disciplines exist as separate estates, with distinctive subcultures. (p. 23)

Perhaps Becher’s portrayal of academic biases rings very true about our universities also. We can sometimes ascribe this to a natural condition. For example, when we are limited/focused towards a specific course of study in a university, it seems commonplace to take that other areas of studies would never intersect our lines, and would therefore remain insignificant. We are bound (or taught?) to work within formal disciplinary compartments.  But, such compartmentalization lends itself to narrowing the path of scholarship, which only few people seem to realize even these days. According to Lattuca (2001), growth of specializations to the extent of disciplinary biases can “limit growth of inquiries and explanations” and “delimit the way of knowing.” She further portrays such narrowing of scholarship as “the decline of the front porch from which everyone could survey their territory” (p. 1). This implies the absence of a holistic platform from where every other discipline could be viewed as significant for the creation and sustenance of broader worldviews.

I see, however, that the decline is not finality but a temporary process. As we grow to be professionals disciplines themselves invite us to tread their territories, however shallow or deep the treading could be. Because our intellectual needs and reaches are so diverse these days, we are bound to step beyond our disciplinary compartments. In this line Lattuca (2001) suggests, “Scholars in a specialization may have a disciplinary home, but they often travel elsewhere to work.” Shin exemplifies this with a real story in which a group of scholars in geography traced an imaginary geography in the works of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, among others, which they did to discuss “the possibility of organizing and constructing an ideal place to live…,” and to understand “how places are related, positively or negatively, to the social and individual life of the people living in it” (“Confessions of an Interdisciplinarian”). This travelling is what forms one of the roots for the formation of interdisciplinarity.

Shin further asserts, “Interdisciplinarity begins when disciplinarians realize that what they are looking for is not found in their own disciplines (“Confessions”). Interdisciplinarity, however, signifies more than an individual’s realization for the need to explore knowledge in other fields. It suggests, as Moran (2003) puts, “forging connections across the different disciplines…or even attempting to transcend disciplinary boundaries altogether” (p.15). In the most general sense, interdisciplinarity can be taken to mean a form of discourse between plural fields of knowledge. The discourse, signified by the root “discipline” and the prefix “inter”, implies the expansion of precise, rigorous and focused subjects into warm, pleasant and discrete but mutually uplifting fields of scholarship (Frank, 1988). This further presents interdisciplinarity as being transformative to the direction of generating new modes of inquiries. Nissani names such character as “creative breakthrough” where productivity comes from “linking previously unrelated ideas” for a holistic perspective and “unity of knowledge” which can “readily spot a disciplinary slip up” (“Interdisciplinarity”). Interdisciplinarity thus is perceived as a representative location from where to examine multiple worldviews.

Interdisciplinarity emanates from and sustains in genuine collaboration between disciplines and disciplinarians. It does not signal the end of disciplinarity, but emphasizes the widening of disciplinary horizons and mitigating disciplinary biases. The true sense of interdisciplinary lies in the fact that scholars make efforts to know many fields of use, but not that they try to know everything. Similarly, it does not necessarily take to achieve the depth of every other field of value, but to be informed about the intensity of their value in everyday life. This should entail the awareness and skills to tackle what Nissani calls the “intellectual, social and practical problems” of life through a multi-faceted approach.

I end this essay with a thoughtful quote about how interdisciplinarity resembles the notion of taking different routes to arrive a single destination:

We all want to make our lives more meaningful tomorrow than they are today. This is our ideal. That ideal can be understood as truth for scientists and as an ideal place for geographers, as a good society for social scientists in general, and as a good life for the people in humanities. Because this ideal is to be achieved in the future, it is open-ended, and it requires the use of intuition and imagination. Again, I want to say that intuition and imagination know no disciplinary boundaries. (Shin, “Confessions”)

Perhaps it is time for us to redefine our scholarly pursuits and preoccupations and to begin to see the world through other people’s eyes — irrespective of how we have been schooled. Would the world look different then? Or, would it change the way we see ourselves?

 

 References

  • Becher, T. (1989). Academic tribes and territories: Intellectual enquiry and the cultures of disciplines. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
  • Frank, R. (1988). ‘Interdisciplinarity’: The first half century. In E.G. Stanley and T.F. Hoad (Eds.), Words: For Robert Burchfield’s sixty-fifth birthday (pp. 91–101). Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.
  • Lattuca, L. R. (2001). Creating interdisciplinarity. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
  • Moran, J. (2002). Interdisciplinarity. New York: Routledge.
  • Nissani, Moti.  Interdisciplinarity: What, where, why? Retrieved October 25, 2005 from http://www.is.wayne.edu/mnissani/2030/ispessay.htm .
  • Shin, Un-chol.  Confessions of an Interdisciplinarian. Retrieved October 25, 2005 from http://www.humanities.eku.edu/interdisciplinarian.htm .

[Courtesy: http://www.kufit.co.cc, April 2011]

Writing workshop: A Report

Praveen Kumar Yadav

Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) started publishing its journal annually after three years of its inception in 1993 AD. So far NELTA has published twelve volumes of its journal till 2011. All the journals are not peer reviewed, however. The Journal of NELTA became a peer reviewed journal in 2010 only. It has been an integral part of NELTA’s mission for ‘enhancing the quality of English language teaching and learning through professional networking, supporting and collaboration’. It is also a means towards achieving NELTA’s goal of providing a ‘forum for exchanges of ideas and experiences at national, regional and international levels’.

Following the NELTA’s announcement for the call for articles for the upcoming volume of the Journal of NELTA 2012, Mr. Bal Krishna Sharma, one of the editors of the journals and a former EWC fellow, who is currently doing his PhD in Applied Linguistics at the University of Hawaii, USA, facilitated the workshop cum presentation organized by NELTA Central Committee at its office in Kamaladi, Kathmandu on 4th Aug, 2012. Altogether fifty members of NELTA, who are interested to get their articles published in a peer reviewed journal, had enthusiastically participated in the workshop.

Mr. Sharma discussed the following issues during the presentation.

  • Things we should consider before submitting a manuscript to a journal.
  • How to Avoid Plagiarism
  • Why are manuscripts rejected?
  • Where do you find more recent academic resources?
  • What do the reviewers focus on while reviewing your manuscript?
  • How to respond to editor and reviewer comments? And many more such questions

In order to contextualize his presentation, he drew samples from the NELTA journal manuscripts and showed the audience examples of papers that were not accepted or publication. Contrary to my expectation, there were examples of research reports that cited from different sources but did not acknowledge the source. In addition, there were manuscripts that did not read like a research paper, but like a textbook chapter or a class note.

Mr. Sharma focused on two different themes in order to address these agenda: (1) formatting a research paper, (2) avoiding plagiarism

Formatting a research paper

A research paper/article usually follows an IMRD (Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion) format although there are variations and different labels/names for that.

1.      Title:

The title of the article should be concise. An author should use the key terms that s/he are going to use in the paper/article. The title should be written in such a way that helps readers to predict the purpose and content of the article. A good title helps the readers predict the content of the article.

2.      Abstract:

The abstract of the research paper/article should include three moves: Purpose/objective; methods; and major findings.

 3.   Keywords 

keywords refer to technical and conceptual terms used in our paper. The keywords help readers find our article in google.com. These are the words typed to find our paper/article.

4.      Introduction (funnel shape— moving from general to specific)

  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Literature review
  • Theoretical/conceptual framework
  • Niche/hole and significance of the study
  • Research questions

5. Methods

  • To describe the theoretical approach, the material analysed and the procedure applied (Swales and Feak, 2004).
  1. is explicit about what the author(s) did;
  2. gives reasons for actions, explains procedures, specifies categories etc., may give examples;
  3. procedures normally written in the past tense;
  4. packed with terminology
  5. sometimes subdivided into sections:
  6.     Context/site of research
    1. Participants
      1. Tools and data collection
      2. Analytical procedure

6. Results/Findings

–     To describe the findings with “variable amounts of commentary” (Swales and Feak, 2004: 157).

–     Answer our research questions

–     Arrange sub-headings according to the order of our RQs

–     Do not set out to answer that you did not propose

–     Double-check if you answered all RQs.

–     Note: It  may merge into discussion

  • It goes beyond factual recount of the findings;
  • It may involve a discussion section as well as the following:

–     Justifying the methodology;

–     Interpreting the results;

–     Citing agreement with previous studies;

–     Commenting on the data;

–     Admitting difficulties in interpretation;

–     Pointing out discrepancies (Swales and Feak, 2004: 171).

7.      Discussion (Conclusion)

 

  1. to offer “an increasinglygeneralized account of what has been learned in the study” (Swales and Feak, 2004: 157).

i.      must go back to the research question(s) asked in the introduction;

ii.      focuses on points rather than facts;

iii.      is interpretive rather than descriptive.

8.      Conclusion (Concluding or Final remarks/Direction for future research..)

Move 1: consolidate your research space (obligatory)

Move 2: indicate the limitations of your study (optional)

Move 3: identify useful areas of further research (optional)

9.      Reference

  • Use the suggested style, e.g. APA
  • Use alphabetical order
  • Cross-check all in-text citations are in the reference section and vice versa
  • Use the latest available resources

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty. Acts of academic dishonesty include Plagiarism (representing the words or ideas of someone else as one’s own), Cheating (getting credit by deceptive means), Fabrication (making up information), Falsification (altering information/records), Multiple Submissions (using the same work to receive multiple instances of credit) and Complicity (in any of the forms of academic dishonesty above)

People often plagiarize when they do not know about plagiarism and they do not feel their language skills are good enough. Those who are do not have enough time, people often plagiarize. Dishonesty and laziness and cultural differences are also responsible factor for plagiarism.

As consequences of plagiarism, we may defame our names.  We do not get published and we may be expelled from a college. Our thesis may not be accepted and we may not be promoted in our job. Therefore, we need to avoid plagiarism.

To avoid plagiarism what we need to do is to be honest of ourselves. The strategies that can help us to avoid plagiarism are as follows.

• Summarize (and cite the source) = general meaning + our words           + citation

• Paraphrase (and cite the source) = exact words         + our words           +            citation

• Quote (and cite the source + page N) = exact words+ quotation marks+ citation +page no (APA)

 

Paraphrasing is used when we want to report all of the meaning of a sentence or passage, quotation should not be used while summarizing is probably the most common method used when we only want to report the main points of a passage or paper. Both paraphrasing and summarizing are similar in the way that they both involve putting information into our own words.

Quoting can be useful for showing exactly what someone has said about our topic, or when an author’s exact words are very important or interesting. While quoting, we must not quote too much but 10% of total paper –or less-in many fields. We can use quotes as the original words sound better than my words.”

 

Conclusions

Mr. Sharma concluded the workshop cum presentation with Do’s and Don’t’s in publication.

Do’s in Publishing

Don’t’s in Publishing
  • Plan ahead
  • Read and follow submission guidelines thoroughly
  • Review the most recent research on the topic; Review journal articles
  • Find some gap/hole in research
  • Write to the editors if you need resources or suggestions on your research
  • Show the paper to your colleague before you submit; Extra pair of eyes are useful
  • Write to the authors if you did not hear from them
  • If your manuscript goes through the review process, read the reviewer and editor comments carefully; they have spent a lot of time for your paper. Editors ‘never’ say they accept your paper without any changes.
  • Write to them for clarification or any possible conflicting suggestions from reviewers
  • Submit the revision; mention in the email what major changes you have made to the revised version
  • Wait patiently for the final decision; Make further revisions whenever necessary
  • Do not draft your paper overnight!
  • Do not plagiarize. We have softwares and techniques to trace that.
  • Do not write a fake research report. Editors can ask real data and can scrutinize further on methodology. Fake research reads fake.
  • Do not submit a paper that you wrote 10  years ago. Update it.
  • Do not include sources in references that you did not mention in the text, and vice versa
  • Do not submit a thesis chapter!
  • Do not submit a paper that is more like a text-book chapter; Journals publish ARTICLES.  (data-based; empirical)
  • Do not submit one paper simultaneously in two journals
  • Do not challenge editors!

Editorial: August 2012

Dear Colleagues,

This time again, we have a variety of contributions. Raj Dhakal discusses how English teachers can create interest among students. He also gives an example from a Thai context– setting where he is teaching now. Surendra Raj Adhikari provides a critical overview of World Englishes perspective and questions the symbolic dominance of English as a global language. Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Phyak’s report on critical literacy workshop cogently argues for a need to address broader social and critical issues while teaching language. Umes Shrestha reflects on a number of English expressions from students in his school and asks the Choutari audience to share similar experiences. Bal Ram Adhikari, drawing on his experience as a course writer and teacher trainer of the same course, puts forth new aspirations and challenges that the teachers are facing. And Madhu Neupane’s reflective write-up reviews a number of themes from the American context and provides some insights for a critical pedagogy.

As always, I hope you will share your thoughts and comments. Here is a list of entries for the month.

1. How to Interest Students in English Class? : Raj Dhakal

2. Symbolic Dominance Vs Transformation in Relation to World Englishes: Surendra Raj Adhikari

3. Workshop on Critical Literacy: Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Bahadur Phyak

4. An English Teacher’s Dilemma: Umes Shrestha

5. Advanced Reading Course: New Aspirations and Challenges: Bal Ram Adhikari

6. My Recent Trip to the US: Reflections and Some Insights for ELT: Madhu Neupane

Thank you.

Bal Krishna Sharma
Editor, August

To Interest Students in English Class: A Common Challenge

Khagendra Raj Dhakal, MEd (TESOL)

Asst. Dean / ELT Specialist

Faculty of Applied Arts

King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok

Let’s recall when we sat for an uninteresting lesson for hours. I bet you remember a few moments that you spent just yawning in the class. Even a knowledgeable teacher can fall apart to having the students attentive during the class if the lesson doesn’t click them. A teacher’s hard preparation can be less effective when it fails to incorporate what enthuse students in the lesson. This is really true in terms of English teaching in many cases if not all.

So what creates the joy of learning in English class is a common challenge to all English teachers. Does this require a language teacher to have some extra talents? I think it’s more about a vision of a teacher that can take away the classroom stress by designing interesting activities. It takes a lot of planning and work but can pay off well in the end. A meaningful learner friendly activity can create an environment where students face some challenge, make decisions on their work, explore the solutions, don’t get penalized for making mistakes, and enjoy doing the task. Often time teachers have given up teaching profession just getting frustrated from a non cooperative class despite strong efforts from them. Pity those teachers who gave up instead of analyzing what it took to pique the students’ interests.

The key point here is a teacher should know the students and should prepare the lesson that fits them. By considering the students’ language level, age, background, and aptitude, a language teacher can contextualize the lesson in a way that becomes more important to their lives. In the worst case, students do not even understand the 10 % of classroom language due to the limited knowledge of the target language. Expecting such students’ active participation in the lecture that is not connected to real life can be unrealistic. Simple techniques like making eye contacts, calling the students by their names, praising their small effort, grouping them differently can sustain the students’ interest to the lesson. Unless you create the environment that challenges students to be part of your lesson, there is very little or no learning even though factors like culture and loyalty to teachers can make them ideally present in your class.

Let me share an activity that interested students which I used for undergraduate class recently in Thailand. The lesson for the day was about ‘A City Square’ and students were supposed to learn the use of ‘Prepositions of Place’. I started the lesson by asking my students what they can see in the nearest city center (Siam Square) in Bangkok. They kept telling different things including movie theater, post office, mail box, book store, coffee shop, park, gym, ice-cream shop, ATM, drug store, newspaper shop, hotel, clinic, library etc. I elicited their answers making a list on a side of the white board. Then I asked the students to draw a rough map on the board spotting the elicited places. I urged everyone to participate to complete the overall map of the Siam Square which they love to visit frequently. Some students took the lead by sketching the different roads in the Siam Square and rest continued to complete the map by spotting all the places on the map. Students seemed excited while contributing to the map sketching activity. They completed the map in the best possible ways they could as I saw them advising their friends to spot certain places properly to make the map look better.

The activity didn’t end there. I further extended it into a game. Students were divided into 3 groups each having 7 members and played the Hide and Seek out of that map. In this game, each group sends a representative (in rotation) to the front of the class to hide himself/herself in one of the places on the map and informs the place to the teacher so that teacher can play the role of the judge. While a hiding student represents one group, the rest two groups go on guessing for 5 times taking the turns. To ease the game, I introduced some sample structures on the board. For example: Are you beside…? Are you near…? Are you next to …? Are you on …? Are you  between…? Are you across from…? Are you on the corner of…? Are you behind…? They keep guessing using the questions based on the sampled structures. The hider usually said ‘No I am not’ or ‘Yes I am’ in the response. When students were not sure about which preposition fits better to describe a certain place, they sought my help. The successful group who could locate the hider was awarded with a point. This process went on for 7 rounds. I facilitated the game and scored on the board. The higher scorer group was announced as the winner of the game.

This activity illustrates that presentation and practice stages of the lesson should be interesting. The most important thing during this lesson was students enjoyed the game and learned to describe the places using appropriate prepositions at the same time. The presentation stage should be as short as possible just to introduce the vocabulary and target language while the production stage can relatively be longer. If the students like the activity they work hard to please the teacher spontaneously and practice stage of the lesson becomes more live. I observed both groups cheering their groups during the game. Considering the available time and the students’ interest to the activity, you can vary the length of the practice stage of your lesson.

Production stage is another critical phase to keep students interested in the target language lesson. I have heard a lot of colleagues complaining about the students not being responsive in the last part of the language lesson. Again there may not be any magical wand to keep them interested but offering an opportunity to experiment the language they learned in the practice stage can help it going. You can assign a different game or fun activity during the production stage. Students appreciate the variety in activities just as the fashion lovers do in the dress selection. For the production stage of the lesson discussed above, I assigned a ‘pair talk’. Students worked in pairs and asked each other about the location of the different places on their university campus. By taking turns they conversed like: Student A asked where is the coffee shop in our university? And Student B replied it’s between the 7/Eleven store and the university clinic.  Every one was engaged in the conversation using the earlier learned language skills in a fun way. I just went around and observed their talk. The class was really noisy which I love to see.

At the end of the lesson, I asked the location of a few popular places in Bangkok to the individual students to trail their understanding of the lesson. More than 98% students answered correctly that showed to me that this was an effective lesson. A few students committed some errors in the sentence construction level but still they placed the preposition (included in the lesson) appropriately. Such learning experience was taken very differently by the students than dictating pages long rules of using preposition of place with some paper pencil exercise to practice. As researches support, there could be higher chances that students could apply this sort of learning experiences in new situation and the activities that have touched them deep inside can stay longer in the mind.

The underlying point here is activities conducted in the classroom should be meaningful. The activity that students don’t consider important for them will definitely end up being a burden, thus creates the frustration in learning. This is applicable to language class in a sense language learning is a purposeful act. A Chinese girl who wants to set up a teashop at China Town in NYC may want to learn how to communicate to the customers. If you put her in a situation where she has to talk to the customer in the class, she will definitely put her effort to the best of her capacity. On the other hand, if you gave her a role of a traffic police to deal with a motorcycle rider on the street, she may not put the effort as she did for the former role. Though both situations are student centric the latter one can’t interest her as the former does.

Another thing a teacher can do to interest language students is designing activities that require critical thinking. As a teacher you can pose a controversial issue that is somehow directly related to your students. It helps the students dig out the issues going beyond the cold hard facts. Such activities can give a ground to practice and develop the language and critical thinking skills. Not long ago, I experimented this concept in Grade 9 English class in an international school in Bangkok. Age wise they were critical, generation wise ultra modern, and background wise diverse. So, it was always a challenge to me especially to keep them going throughout the session. The language items I was supposed to deal with, a lot of times used to be already familiar concept, thus my conventional attempts could no way interested them. At times I was frustrated too. However, I didn’t give up but kept contemplating. Consequently, I came up with a new idea of organizing a debate in the class to enhance the same language skills. I divided the class into two groups and allowed them to debate on ‘homework in language learning’ in a parliamentary style.  Apparently, the class went live with strong logics from both sides on the given topic. Even the class ended, students were busy discussing on the feedback of the debate they had. Young students gave me a lot of compliments also for assigning such tasks and requested to continue such in the following classes.

This activity was far more effective than my power point presentations which I used to spend hours to prepare. At the same time this new idea made my work easier, it was just mere an idea that worked effectively. The students today can’t be satisfied by anybody who just stands in front of them in the name of a teacher; understanding them is essential. It gave me a lesson that students of the 21st century are far more different to the students of the past. Even a gap of ten years is producing two distinct generations of learners. A language teacher with the mindset of the 20th century or earlier can blame the new generations for being ‘hard headed’ but may not review his/her teaching approach; carrying a grandfather’s time prescriptive grammar book, s/he enters the class and bores the students to death and boasts with his sophisticated knowledge in the subject matter. Just the knowledge of the subject matter alone may not make one a language teacher in this changed context. A language teacher now requires sound vision of teaching, capacity to understand the learners, knowledge of the new technologies and skills to adapt them all in the lesson.

In my journey of teaching English, I was fortunate to meet students from different backgrounds from Non-native to Native English speakers, the list of countries that my students have come from span four different continents. I dealt with such diverse body of students in different level and contexts from international school to the university settings. There was a time an American parent approached me in the school and raised a question that how come his daughter failed an English test I gave. I had no words to reply him but her answer paper to show. There was another time my students evaluated me as the best teacher of the year as I could understand them better. While dealing with varieties of English courses with such diverse body of students, I have realized that each student I met was a different personality with different talents. However there was one common thing I observed in all of them was everyone loves fun. So this magic of fun can be integrated in language class to interest the learners successfully.

Just to interest students into the lesson is not everything about the greater transformation in teaching that has taken place recently, but it’s one of the major components for sure. Changing oneself to adapt to such transformation in language teaching context is a harder thing to do. In the classroom there are really two sets of learners. The students who learn how to use English better from their teachers, and the teacher who accepts that learning how to be a good teacher sometimes involves how the students react to you. Now I am teaching in a university where the interaction to students gives me new insights to change myself to be more understanding teacher in every new lesson. This way, it took me over a decade to realize that I have a lot more things to learn to be a successful teacher. Nowadays, I try to consider the silent voices within my students as my guidelines to figure out what activity fits them better. I must credit my delightful students for my present outlook on teaching English as they really taught me to think this way. So, here I would like to urge all fellow English teachers to review on how they define their role once and see if they are also taking so long to transform like myself to understand their students.

 

Symbolic Dominance Vs Transformation in Relation to World Englishes

 Surendra Raj Adhikari

(MEd, MA,  MPhil, English)

Rainbow International College

This paper I provide a conceptual discussion on how symbolic dominance of a specific language such as British English is imposed by inner circle countries on outer and expanding circle countries, how the cultural arbitrary is reproduced in dominated groups, requirement of critical perspectives for transformation and thereby validation of multiple varieties of English along with the perspectives of some Nepalese academia.

These days, hot debate is going on regarding the world Englishes. Different academia in different countries are found advocating for ownership building of English. Perspective to look at the spread of English and its position in different social settings has geared the debate of power balance among different varieties of English throughout the world. During colonial period, the voices against colonist and their language remained suppressed and awareness of colonized group towards imperial language such as English became either futile as the demand of circumstance. However, colonizers had already been aware of this fact that they were creating hierarchy among them and ‘others’ – colonized group. This kind of ‘otherness’ expanded in such a way that the colonized group could not properly maintain their cultural and linguistic identity in particular. On the other hand, colonizers – to be specific British and American imperialists– accelerated their influence along with linguistic imperialism. With the advent of globalization and neo-liberalism, English started getting commoditized and those countries which were not colonized also formed the policy of promoting English through formal education system. In post-colonial period, English linguistic imperialism got mixed responses from the colonized groups. The group of academia who do not recognize any kind of imperialism created by ‘the inner circle countries to outer and expanding circle countries’ (Kachru,1996) accept the linguistic legitimacy in the name of standard English as taken for granted and are reluctant to go for the alternative of local variety of English. On the contrary, voices against legitimate standard English are leading nowhere in the country like Nepal. Let me discuss about how symbolic dominance may help for linguistic legitimacy.

Symbolic resources, such as money, scholarship, and so on boost up symbolic dominance. As said by Bourdieu (1991), jobs and educational settings create symbolic market. Having learnt English, people expect to get job. In case of Nepal, parents invest so much amount of money for educating their children in English medium schools with the expectation that their children may find better jobs, scholarship in foreign countries, etc. In this symbolic market, people want to get material resources such as money. This ultimately leads to symbolic dominance of a particular language. This symbolic dominance supports for linguistic legitimacy so that certain norm is created of particular language such as standard British or American English and others have to follow it. The speakers of the particular language such as English hold the ability to control over others. In this regard, influenced by Bourdieu (1977), Heller (1995:373) says, “The ability of certain social groups to maintain control over others by establishing their view of reality and their cultural practices as the most valued and , perhaps more importantly, as the norm.” This creates imbalance of power and there starts resistance. When speakers of other language realize that certain hierarchy is created among native speakers of the particular language (English) they seek for transformation. For instance, some Nepalese academia are raising the voice of Nepali English. However, I have found some academia who are playing the role of skeptical duality – they call for Nepali English but they themselves speak standard English. In this pretext, is it possible for transformation?

Dominated group requires empowerment for transformation. Outer and expanding circle countries which are forced to follow standard variety of English are dominated groups. The idea of transformation opposes with Bourdieu’s concept of a constraint and reproduction of social structures, including inborn cultural capital (habitus), hierarchical socio-cultural status, and advantaged ethnicity. In this regard, while teaching English, learner’s mother tongue can also be used not only to facilitate their learning but also to oppose learning English in the culture of inner circle countries. Supporting this idea, Rivera (1999) who suggested that in educational process, the use of learner’s native language “not only as an aid to learning English but also as a terrain of knowledge and a field of possibilities that linked students’ experiences to collective action” (p. 485). However complete use of mother tongue in English class may create problem in some cases, such as translating everything into mother tongue may not be possible. It may create unintelligibility while talking to the speakers of other varieties of English. Mainly cultural issues that may make dominated group inferior require to be discarded. This shows that to be transformed, one has to go out of the box and start thinking. It is very important for inner circle group to accept multiple realities, too. Not only dominated groups but also dominant groups require to be transformed for maintaining balance of linguistic capital.

Varieties of English in different countries are emerging and English learners are embodied with their own habitus, which may not match with standard variety of English; imposing them to learn in standard variety of  English and their cultural capital may not be justifiable. Though Nepali English has not been emerged as its own existence, its relevancy, need for its existence and its recognition in international level may be another part of research. In this regard, I tried to understand the perspectives of some Nepalese academia.

In Nepal, English language is used as a foreign language in academic institution. As far as my experience shows almost all of the people are in favour of standard varieties of English. However, a few academia are found advocating for Nepali English. I know that the large number of academia is very radical supporter of standard British variety of English and advocates for teaching and learning strategies in the same line. Similarly, the English curriculum is also designed in the same way, which aims at producing the students as native like competence. English curriculum at the Faculty of Education, Tribhuvan University, the greatest and oldest university of Nepal, which produces teachers, lays more emphasis on correctness in English based on Received Pronunciation (RP), grammar, linguistics and English language teaching. British English is given more preference in academic sector than American one though the latter is not rejected. Based on this, in an informal talking with me (on 2nd June, 2012), Kamal Pandey (pseudonym), the strong supporter of standard British English and experienced campus level English teacher of T. U., contended:

“English is not ours [……] I think that ownership building is narrow-mindedness. [….] If different countries make different kinds of English, communication may be broken when we happen to communicate in international level. We started learning English as spoken in England, were asked to follow Oxford advanced learners’ dictionary and have been asked to teach our students in standard way, however, we have not been teaching students properly.  If we use the same dictionary properly, communication with native speakers can be effective but making English of different kind is foolishness and it may not help our children, when they go to international locality. This is the reason why our students are feeling regret – it is the biggest problem in Nepal now.”

Mr Pandey’s opinion shows how ‘symbolic dominance’ (Bourdieu, 1991) is affecting reproduction of cultural arbitrary. Regarding Nepali English he said a bit emotionally:

‘We never make English! If they don’t have their words, they may borrow our words. We may fail if we start speaking English in our own way.”

Mr. Pandey’s opinion seems to be very positivist. He claims on single reality of standard English but hesitant to accept multiple realities of socio linguistic situation of the world. Furthermore, his statement such as, “Nepalese can also speak like native English speakers, can’t they?”shows how ‘reproduction of cultural arbitrariness’ (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) imposed by inner circle countries is reflected.

Mr Kumar Dahal (pseudonym), the English lecturer of Tribhuvan University and supporter of world Englishes said:

“I prefer to make Nepali English and respect world Englishes. English is getting its popularity along different communities of the world with ownership building. English speaking countries are trying to colonize us mentally. We can speak English in our own way but it should be based on the communication purpose. I mean it should be understandable throughout the world. Making Nepali English does not mean that it should not be understood by other people of the world” (25th March, 2012).

Mr Dahal’s idea seems to be in favour of resistance of power imposed on outer and expanding circle countries by inner circle countries – it further supports argument against symbolic dominance; he is aware of Western chauvinism to avoid so- called standard English which is supposed to be an exclusive vehicle.

Concluding Remarks: My perspective regarding varieties of English aligns with multiple realities and emancipation from the oppression of  so called legitimate Standard English , the exclusive vehicle, which carries symbolic violence implicit ‘in the hierarchies of language’ (Thompon, 1984), whereby I neither favour Western chauvinism in the form of linguistic imperialism produced by ‘misrecognized cultural arbitrary’ (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977) nor breaking the structural integrity in the name of different varieties of English, such as Nepali English which may be unintelligible in international community.

Intolerance of many possibilities by inner circle countries and ranking standard British or American English at higher level whereas other varieties such as the varieties spoken in the countries of outer and expanding circles as inferior may have a threat to  ‘individual prestige and status’ (Tsuda, 1997), that being so, I would stress on celebration of world Englishes regardless of legitimate and illegitimate varieties ; transformation of  speakers of all varieties of  World Englishes by stressing ‘the WE-ness among the users of English’ (Karchu, 1996: 135) is required – native speakers of standard varieties may be respected if they are able to tolerate many possibilities getting rid of linguistic imperialism and those speakers of other varieties of English, breaking the taken for granted cultural capital imposed by inner circle countries, through critical literacy, need to celebrate their own identities reflecting socio-linguistic reality with autonomous structural linguistics without breaking structural integrity among different varieties of English of the world. In case of Nepal, as English is not used as native variety, being critically aware, following any variety of English such as British or American  or any other or our own if it is intelligible in the international community might emancipate us from western centred linguistic imperialism.

References

Bourdieu, P. (1977). The economics of linguistic exchanges. Social science information16(6), 645-68.

Bourdieu, P. & Passeron, J. C. (1977). Reproduction in education, society and culture (R. Nice, Trans.) London: Sage.

Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. (G. Ramond & M. Adamson, Trans.) Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Heller, M. (1995). Language choice, social institutions, and symbolic domination. Language in Society, 24, 373-405.

Kachru, B. B. (1996) World Englishes: agony and ecstasy. Journal of Aesthetic Education. 30 (2), 135-55.

Rivera, K. M. (1999). Popular research and social transformation: A community-based approach to critical pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 33(3), 485- 500.

Thompson, J. B. (1984). Studies in the theory of ideology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Tsuda, Y. (1997) Hegemony of English vs ecology of language: Building equality in international communication. In L. E. Smith & M. L. Forman (Eds), World Englishes 2000 (pp. 21-31). Honolulu: University of Hawaii.

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