Editorial: December Issue

Nostalgic I feel !

We all know that the old team of NELTA Choutari is on the way to departure and a new team of promising ELters is to join the board from the New Year on wards. At this moment, I feel a bit nostalgic about everything we had and we did being associated with Choutari. This moment reminds me of my early days in NELTA Choutari. The story is long and I do not have room enough to tell you all but I still remember how my journey in NELTA Choutari began and how I collaborated with such brilliant minds  in order to help transform Nepalese ELT. I have never seen Shyam Sharma(the key architect of Choutari)  in person, yet we are so close and at one by both heart and mind in shaping the profession. I have had very a few meetings with Balkrishna Sharma but the intimacy has grown so strong that we do care for each other not only personally but also professionally. And Prem Phyak is always close to my heart. What I would like to say is it is Choutari that has at times cemented and strengthened our relation.  We have been together for a single cause and that is transformation of Nepalese ELT and Choutari has been a common umbrella for us and for you.

At this moment, I am not and should not be evaluating the Choutari activities: I leave them upon the newcomers and others but this departure does make me a bit more emotional than I had ever thought I would feel. While I am writing this editorial, I am not in position to believe that I am quitting Choutari from January onwards. On the one hand, it makes me a bit gloomy that I will be, in a way, missing the wonderful company I have had for the last four years; I will no longer be compiling articles, contacting possible contributors and writing editorials. These are the things that gave me utter satisfaction in my academic life.  On the other hand I am happy that the responsibility now on has gone to the shoulders of a very effervescent team who have already shown their utmost commitment and efficiency to maintain the legacy that began four years back. I still remember myself talking to Shyam,  Prem, and Balkrishana for longer hours on messenger, Google chat and Skype, learning technology, requesting professors for interview, encouraging young ELTers to read the contents and share their comments, publicizing things in conferences and so forth. I believe my association with NELTA Choutari has fetched me more than I gave it.

All this makes me so wistful and also lets me nearly utter: “Team, I do not want to quit”. But there has to be a system of entry and exit in all associations and projects. And it is time for me to say “Good Bye”.  Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that it does not in any way curtail my presence from Choutari completely in the days to come. I will be ever happy to contribute NELTA Choutari whatever way possible. With this commitment and also wishing the new team good luck in their endeavor to initiate new but worthwhile discourses in Nepalese ELT, I would like to give a stop to this editorial.

Last but not least

December, the last month of the Gregorian calendar, has turned the last month of my association with NELTA Choutari as a co- editor but I am very much aware that I should not let it become the least in any sense. The issue of NELTA Choutari brings you with some new personalized ELT experiences having typical Nepalese flavor. To begin with,  the interview with Vishnu Singh Rai (my guru) on considerably a new venture that Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group sheds light on a new philosophy of producing poems and stories for use in Asian EFL/ESL classrooms. The discourse with him is insightful and will have a considerable space in Nepalese ELT in the days to come.  The next two entries again reflect on prevalent fallacies in Nepalese ELT. Whereas Maheshwor Rijal, in his write up, shares his individual reflections on teaching and learning of vocabulary during his school days, Binod Kumar Yadav highlights the need of rapport between teacher and students, the lack of which has considerably affected Nepalese ELT making it virtually a one way traffic. Similarly, Dipesh Sah, in his tiny entry, shares his own strategies of motivating students in EFL classrooms in rural Sindhuli and finally Bharat Babu Khanal measures the effectiveness of a US sponsored Micro-scholarship Access Program implemented by NELTA.

  1. ‘Creative writing brings fresh air in the classroom’: An Interview with Vishnu Singh Rai
  2. Revisiting Vocabulary Teaching/Learning: My Reflections    by Maheshwor Rijal
  3. Significance of Rapport in English Language Teaching and Learning by Binod Kumar Yadav
  4. Motivation in ESL/EFL Learning: Who’s Responsible? by Dipesh Kumar Sah
  5. The Impact of Access Program in Nepal by  Bharat Babu Khanal

Acknowledgement:

I would like to sincerely acknowledge Madhav Kafle’s support in compiling and editing articles for this issue as an intern. His sincere efforts have shown that he will make a good editor. I wish him all the best.

Sajan Kumar

Editor

NELTA Choutari 

‘Creative writing brings fresh air in the classroom’ An Interview with Vishnu Singh Rai

by Sajan Kumar

Vishnu S.  Rai is a well-known name in Nepalese ELT. An Associate Professor of English, Department of English Education, TU, Rai has been involved in teaching, training and research for more than two decades. To his credit, he has published a number of books and articles on linguistics and ELT. More importantly, he has designed present secondary level courses and written textbooks.

Besides, he loves creative writing and his stories poems and dramas are taught in Tribhuvan University, and other universities. He is one of the members of Asian English Teachers Creative writing Group which runs workshops and conferences and also publishes poems and stories for Asian students. The Group has already held conferences twice once in Kirtipur (2008) and in Dhulikhel (2010) in Nepaland this March the group is all set to meet in Birgunj for the workshop and conference. With reference to the objectives, activities and rationales behind those activities, I tendered some questions to my guru, Vishnu Singh Rai. Below are the answers in his own words.

1.       You are involved in Asian English language creative writing project? Could you please inform us about the rationales behind formation of such a group? What activities does the group do and what are the substantial achievements?

Thank you Sajan ji. I am delighted that you want to know about Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group, and intend to inform the ELT practitioners of Nepal about it.

The Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group was formed in 2003 by Prof. Alan Maley and Dr. Tan Bee Tin. I am pretty sure that those who are interested in language and literature interface know Alan Maley who was honored with the life time achievement award in ELT by IATEFL in 2011.

About the group: A small group of Asian teachers meets once a year in a different country to write original stories and poems in English.  These are then published and made available for use as teaching input to classes in the Asia region.

So far, the group has met in Bangkok, Thailand (2003), Melaka, Malaysia (2004), Fuzhou, China (2005),  Hanoi, Vietnam (2006), Salatiga, Indonesia (2007), Kirtipur, Nepal (2008.), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2009), Jakarta, Indonesia (2010),  Dhulikhel, Nepal (2010), Jember, Indonesia (2011) and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2012)  Participants to date have been drawn from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Nepal, Pakistan, Australia and the UK.

Rationale and Objectives: The group operates in the belief that teachers whose first language is not English are not only capable of but are also uniquely well-placed to write literary materials for use by their own and other students in the Asia region.  By virtue of the fact that they share their students’ background and contexts, they have an intuitive understanding of what will be culturally and topically relevant and attractive for them.  What they all too often lack is the confidence in their own ability to write interesting material.  The group operates to dispel this misconception.

The following rationale underpins the activities of the group:

  • A belief in the value of creative writing in English both for teachers and for students.(see below)
  • A belief in the ability of teachers in the region to produce their own English teaching materials.
  • A belief that these materials will provide useful input for promoting reading (and other activities) in English.
  • A belief in the value for professional and personal development of forming a closely-knit, Asia-wide, mutually-supportive learning community of teacher/writers.

The objectives are:

  • To produce poetry and stories appropriate in level and content for use by Asian students of English at secondary level.
  • To publish and promote these as widely as possible, thus creating a wider awareness of the value of CW.
  • To develop materials and activities for the teaching of creative writing.
  • To run creative writing conferences and workshops for the wider teaching community wherever possible.
  • In this way, to boost the self-esteem and confidence of teachers of English in Asia.

The intended outcomes are:

  • A set of stories for extensive reading and related language work.
  • A set of poems intended for language work, and to stimulate creative writing by students.
  • A set of teacher-generated creative writing activities.
  • Publications, website and conferences for teachers in the region to raise awareness of the value of creative writing activities.

In other words, the project aims at three main audiences:

  • A small group of writers who produce the materials, and in so doing develop professionally and personally.
  • English teachers in the region at large who will use the materials and hopefully go onto develop their own in due course.
  • Students of English in the region who will use the materials, and will themselves produce texts which can be fed back as input to other students.

2.       Do creative writing activities help to develop language skills of the students in anyway? You know that poetry often makes use of distorted language, i.e. poetry often breaches the code? Could you please specify the possible ways creative writing helps students to learn language?

Yes, I do believe that creative writing activities help students to develop their English in a more interesting way. This is the reason creative writing activities in ELT has been introduced in many countries. It is sad that it has not yet reserved its place in ELT courses and syllabuses. However, the teachers have realized its importance and usefulness in ELT, and they have started using it as an effective tool in ELT. The members of the group have introduced it with great success. I, too carried out a small scale research with M.Ed. Students (Major English) on creative writing activities and its usefulness in classroom teaching and findings were as expected. The students (the prospective teachers) found it very interesting although they had never done any creative writing in English. The research report was published in the NELTA Journal 2009.

I agree that most people believe that the language of poetry is archaic, that it cannot and is not used in daily communication. They are mistaken. If we observe people talking and communicating we notice that they use all kinds of figures of speech (what we call literary language) in their daily communication. We all use simile, metaphor, irony, paradox and what not in our “daily” language. And what’s interesting as an eye-opener is the fact that those who use more figurative language in their day to day conversation are liked by the hearers. The more we use figurative language the more we liked  and appreciated by the listeners.  Poetry ‘breaches’, I would use the term stretches the code of a language, but so does the spoken language in daily conversation. Creative writing helps students to equip them with the literary devices to make their language more beautiful and appreciable.

3.       The conventional belief has been that writers are born? Do not you think the group that you are involved in aims to deconstruct this established belief with the aim of teaching creative writing? Some people still questions if creative writing can be taught.

Firstly, conventional belief and truths might be wrong. We must keep our mind open and do not believe what is carried over as tradition. The tradition of Sati Pratha, for example was considered to be pious by Hindus but it has been discarded because it was based on false belief. The Earth was thought to be flat until 19th century. Had we blindly believed on that, mankind would have never achieved what he has achieved today. Let us not go fat –how about teaching. Traditionally, it was considered good to be caned by guru  -knowledge can gained only by hard work and the ‘hard work’ meant physical punishment by teacher. I still remember my childhood when my friends were slapped, caned and even kicked by gurus (thank god I escaped those punishments because I was somehow better than them). Today physical or mental punishment in schools is completely unacceptable. Our group don’t believe on the belief that creative writing cannot be taught.

I agree that some people have some special talents right from their birth –this is what you call ‘writers are born’. That might be true. But it is also true that creative writing is an art that can be taught or more suitably people can be helped to learn the creative writing art in the same way as they are helped to learn other arts and crafts such as painting, drawing or music.

Another thing which I would like to emphasize is the fact that there are two aspects of creative writing, (a) to be a creative writer and get published, etc., and (b) to use creative writing in the classroom. Our group tries to do both. But when we do creative writing in a classroom, the primary purpose is to help the learners develop their language skills without stress and with fun. It gives me great pleasure to say that some of our members started writing poems and story first time when they joined the group and most of them are published now.  So far, 11 volumes by Pearson Malaysia, 2 volumes by Bhundipuran Prakashan, Kathmandu, and 1 volume by LINCOM EUROPA, Germany have been published.

4.      I came to know that the group is formed with the belief that all too much of what is available on the international market is culturally or otherwise unsuitable in Asian contexts. Why do you think that the available literature is not appropriate for Asian students?

This question is related to the question –Who is a better teacher –native speaker of English or non-native speaker of English? Both have their strengths and weaknesses but teaching English as a second or foreign language, a non-native teacher (I mean local non-native teacher) is better because s/he knows their students and their culture and background far better than a non-native speaker.

Similarly, I believe that the textbooks and teaching materials developed and written by native speakers might be very good in themselves, but they might not be appropriate the students of our region. Although there are individual differences in them, there are many things which are common among Asian students (e.g. their second or foreign language learning style is different from those of the Europeans or Americans). It is quite natural that Asian teachers know more about their students than a native speaker teacher. Naturally then, the materials developed by Asian teachers or stories and poems written by Asian teachers are more appropriate, relevant and ‘larger than life’ for Asian students.

5.       What do you think are the implications of the activities of creative writing group  in ELT in Nepal and elsewhere?

Creative writing is fun. Creative writing breaks the monotony of the class. It brings fresh air in the classroom. It helps students to learn language with fun. The most important thing is that it boosts their morale. It gives them confidence that they can write poems and stories in English. The same is true with the teachers. Once they are exposed to creative writing activities, their self-confidence soars up.

6.      The group holds conferences in Asian countries to demonstrate that creative writing is feasible in a foreign or second language. This is what Braj Kachru said when he coined the phrase ‘Bilingual’s creativity’. How far have you (group)  been successful in unveiling the creativity of Nepalese? How many poets and story writers has the group produced in Nepal?

Well, as I said earlier, the group does not claim to produce Shakespeare, Keats or Yeats. It helps them to find and believe on their own capability. All the group members are published by different publishers in and outside Nepal.

7.       What are the reasons the group has limited its scope only to Asian EFL/ESL classrooms? Do not you think the works can go beyond? Do not you think the works can form a part of Asian literature?

Yes, we would like to see it grow. But you know growth without purpose and direction is like Kathmandu city which is growing in all directions resulting into a polluted city of cement concrete. The group has deliberately kept it small. Too big a group doesn’t work. This group has no president, no secretary, no election and no obvious material benefit as in other organization. All the members are dedicated: they attend the workshop in different countries on their own (they seek for funding on their own and if they cannot find it they do not attend or spend their own good money). So, it is not like NELTA which is big and being its member by paying some membership fee, you can have some material benefit (e.g. attend a conference in London or get a chance to further your study). Asian English Teachers Creative Writing Group is open for all who can look after themselves –the only requirement is that you can write.

8.      How do you compare the literary works by bilinguals such as Nepalese or Indians with native writers of English? Do not you think that the literary works produced by native writers are superior to those by bilinguals’?

Language is not a property of its native speakers. Their millions of native speakers of English but all of them are not creative writer. As to the second part of your question, I would say that there are many non-native writers of English who have won such prestigious prize as Booker Prize. Indian and African writers of English are world known for their creative works. Recently, Nepalis have also started writing in English and I am sure in the coming years, some of them will receive international prizes (some of them have already received prizes (e.g. Samrat Upadhyay for his fiction and D.B. Gurung for his poems) .

So, no. I do not think that non-native writers’ works in English are in inferior in any way to the works of the native speaker of English.

9.      Could you please let the readers know about next conference in details?  Who are the presenters and what are the programs?

The next workshop plus conference is going to be held in Birgunj from 8-13 of March. It has two parts. In the first part, we organize a three days workshop in which the members of the group meet and write poems and stories. Their works are peer edited. They also go to a writing trip to a local place and spend whole day there in their creative work. The products of the workshop are collected and published. The members who are coming from abroad are:

Alan Maley (UK)

Jaikaran Mukundan (Malaysia)

Mallika Vasugi (Malaysia)

An Thyu Nyugen (Vietnam)

Handoyo F (Indonesia)

Teng Minag (China)

Li wei (China)

Kanakon (Thailand)

Gillian (Maynmar)

Khaing Tin (Maynmar)

Iqubal (Pakistan)

In the course of inviting an acclaimed creative writer from Nepal, Professor Dr. Govinda Raj Bhattarai has been requested to be the judge of poetry recitation program to be hosted on the third day and also as a plenary speaker in the conference.

One person is coming from the US as a support from the US Embassy, Nepal. Besides these members from abroad from Kathmandu following persons will participate.

Tapasi Bhattacharya

Maya Rai

Motikala subba Dewan

Vishnu S Rai

In addition to these members, since the conference is being organized in Birgunj generously supported by Birgunj colleagues such as Mr. Kedar Prasad Shah and Sajan Kumar Karn, some enthusiast from Birgung will also participate in the workshop. They are: Sajan Kumar Karn, Suresh Shrestha, Pravin Kumar Yadava  and Ram Awadhesh  Ray. 

In the second part, we organize a two day conference for the local English teachers to expose them on various aspects of creative writing and its use in the classroom. All the members will present papers and run workshops on the various aspects of creative writing in the proposed two days conference. The member from the US will run workshops also in other NELTA branches after the conference is over. I am sure the teachers and ELT practioners in and around Birgunj will benefit from it. I would like to take this opportunity to invite all ELTers and others to participate and make the conference successful.

Thank you very much indeed for your co-operation! 

Revisiting Vocabulary Teaching/Learning: My Reflections

Maheshwor Rijal

Kathmandu University 

 

“Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed” (Wilkins as cited in Thornbury, 2006, p. 13). Undoubtedly, vocabulary has immense value in teaching and learning as it is one aspect or element that links all the four skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. In this article, I reflect up on the strategies I used while learning vocabulary in schools and colleges and my current research interest. I hope my story relates with many of you and will help us in uncovering the hidden realities and revisiting our pedagogical practices.

I was born in a remote area and got my schooling from a rural public school. I still remember the bitter pain I used to have in English classes.  The class was totally controlled by the teacher. Most of the teaching approaches that teacher used were traditional and boring and there was a little chance of flourishing creativity from my side. “Look and remember” with the help of bilingual dictionary, as I see now, seemed to be not very effective for the learners of English language like me. I was unable to show my creativity in spite of being eager in learning procedure.  My ELT class was totally authoritative and was only focused on examination, not on practical and real life situations.  Every set of words was taught according to bilingual translation and every student was compelled to follow the same method and I was also the part of same tradition. It was, of course, my compulsion that I had to follow the same tradition and had to apply what my teachers said. The teacher made us buy a dictionary and assigned all students to recite and memorize the words from the respective chapters. The classroom strategies were threatening, full of stress and pressure. My teacher used to come to the class with stick and beat students when they were unable to produce or say the meaning of the vocabulary items. I have had many ideas to express but due lack of exposure of English language I couldn’t express. It was due to lack of vocabularies when I needed. I used to go to school with a fear and challenge. So, when teacher came near to me I used to be scared. One of the recent articles “Beat the Teacher” by Khila Sharma in IATEFL journal nicely sums up my feelings: “vocabulary building is one of the biggest challenges English teacher in rural communities face. Even students who have studied English for ten years cannot give a simple narrative or express their thoughts and feelings. They have hard time when writing essays and resort to rote-memorization from their teacher’s note or commercial guide-books” (p.5). This is the reality of our schooling, even now.

After completing   my School Leaving Certificate (SLC) seven years back, I came to Kathmandu with a hope to pursue higher education. In my intermediate and Bachelor’s degree, despite my weak English background, I worked very hard on English and got the reward. I was also fortunate enough to have very encouraging teachers. Now, as a third semester student at Kathmandu University, I am on the verge of completing my master’s degree and busy in conducting academic research. So, my proposed academic research is finding out perceptions and practices regarding vocabulary teaching/learning in the EFL context of Nepal. Carrying out research on such area, as in other areas, is challenging as many terms and conditions specified by the concerned faculty and the supervisor need to be fulfilled.  Although I understand how to carry out research, I was never taught how to write a good research paper in my school life. I don’t have the expertise of producing a research article even after my undergraduate and graduate level of studies. Many of my fellow learners, I am sure,   may have the same catastrophic realization as they embark into the sophisticated arena of education research.

The educational standards of Kathmandu University (KU) have broadened my horizons of thinking. I have become aware of more useful strategies of learning vocabulary such as self defining context, pictures, synonyms, gestures, realia, audio visual aids, games etc. Reflecting on my own experience, most of the students are themselves in search of a new way of learning vocabulary. Now as a teacher (and a student), I have a real platform to develop new horizons for developing academic proficiency in my students using the strategies I just mentioned.

In the context of EFL setting, vocabulary should be taught interestingly, and to do so we can apply   different ways proposed by new teaching methods such as by Communicative Language Teaching. Despite the similar bitter experiences and the awareness of new methods and approaches, most of the techniques used by many of us in teaching vocabulary are still traditional. During my ongoing education in Kathmandu University, I have come to realize that teachers have a huge role in increasing students’ vocabulary as there is not much exposure from elsewhere. For better learning and better communication in English, one should assist the students in selecting the words appropriately as related to their goals, situation, and context.  Since vocabulary teaching/learning is a milestone to be reached in language teaching and learning, I think that it is our duty and responsibility to minimize such unpleasant experiences for the new generation of learners.

References:

Harmer, J. (1991). The practice of English language teaching. London: Longman.

Thornbury, S. (2006). How to teach vocabulary. Pearson Education Limited.

Sharma, S.P. (2012). Beat the teacher. IATEFL Journal September-October Issue -228.

 

 

 

Significance of Rapport in English Language Teaching and Learning

Binod Kumar Yadav

Executive Member

NELTA Siraha

The behavior of the teacher influences the behavior of the student, subsequently affecting learning outcomes. Student motivation is affected by a variety of factors, some of which are directly influenced by what a teacher does (how he structures the course and how he /she behaves in class) and some of which are largely beyond the teacher’s control (expectancy and attitudes students bring with them to the class).

Gorhan and Millette(1997)

Introduction

The term “rapport” lexically refers to “a friendly relationship in which people understand each other very well”, and in the context of teaching and learning, it means the relationship that the students have among themselves on the one hand and between teachers and students on the other hand. That is to say, the maintenance of a positive, enjoyable, respectful and socio-cultural relationship among the students themselves and with their teacher is the subject of good rapport – in the lack of which our expectation in teaching and learning realm ever remains as a wild goose chase. Human life takes its inception in society and ashes there too, where multiple actions are performed but are supposed to get successfully completed only if they are done in proper harmony with one another. It means a social action is effectively performed by understanding the desire or minds of one another that we call a social relation or an example of good rapport in society. Similarly, communicative activities in the target language (English) inside or outside the classroom are social actions wherein each participant should read the minds of others and develop a sense of social relationship among themselves and particularly between the teacher and students learners. This shows how socially they are participating in an activity; the good family behavior or the friendly one. So having a trustful relation between a teacher and students is what we call a good rapport. ‘A significant feature in the intrinsic motivation of the students depend on their perception of what a teacher thinks of them, and how they are treated’ (Harmer, 2008:25).

 Why a good rapport?

Teachers need to find creative ways to teach the language and increase the students’ motivation to learn the language and eventually appreciate language .It has been claimed that the more learners are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated the more they are independent , active, participating, autonomous and successful. One of teacher’s main aims, therefore, should be to help students to sustain their motivation using different activities or making them remind a variety of factors that can create a desire to learn. It means there are a number methods that English instructors can use to motivate students in class and outside and they (instructors) should flexibly imply the most suitable methods for the class. Kabilan (2000) stated “Teacher should develop mutual relationship with their learners”.  Thus, building good relation with learner by the teacher for learning and teaching process is a practical/ natural way of arousing curiosity in them to learn more and better. Motivation of the students also depend largely on their perception of what the teacher thinks of them and how they have treated. His/her behavior influences the behavior of the students and directly affects learning outcomes. It is also a fact that teaching and learning style or process with good rapport improves attitudes, behavior, motivation and learning.

Richard Amato (2003) states: “In classroom in which mutual respect is lacking, differing values can lead to conflict between student and teacher and between student and peer”.  Students are psychologically dominated by the teacher and they feel hesitation to participate in any activities; because they find much distance between them and their teacher; they lack mutual understanding and good relationship with one another. This is one of the major ever-failing factors for language learners. Unless there is a good social relation between them and teacher, they never enjoy their learning. It is only through good rapport, they can have the feeling of asking questions to the teacher, sharing their ideas with themselves inside or outside the classroom. A good teacher always welcomes/invites their learners to discuss what they need as an outcome anywhere. Such a teacher enjoys their company and treats students as friends- allowing them to talk to him/her frankly, face to face, on mobile, on public place, outside/inside the classroom, and on computer based technologies. Once I asked a question (in one of my class of ELT, 2nd year B. Ed) to my students ‘what kind of teacher do you prefer?’, and received the following answers which I think are worthwhile to mention:

-A teacher who knows how to deal with students.

-Teachers who don’t push their thoughts to the students.

-A teacher who has sympathy for us.

– The Teacher who keeps a smile on the face, funny, kind and caring.

-A teacher who never ignores students’ problems.

-Very friendly and active.

– The teacher who is always ready to  help us.

-A teacher who can read students’ minds and understand their need.

-A teacher who spends his time with students and work with them.

From many of them, the fact reveals itself that the learners want to be close to the teacher and share their problems with him/her. What occurs in the language classrooms must be extended beyond the walls of the classroom so that a link is created between what is learned in the classroom and what occurs outside of the classroom. But the problem is that the learners can’t share their knowledge with family members in general case. They need either their friends or their teacher, but they keep their touching on with them only if there is a good rapport between / among them. There is a cultural problem among the learners especially in Terai region regarding sound relationship between boy and girl students of the same or similar level/class. They are living in the same locality, encountering one-another very often, outside the school/campus areas, they hesitate to conduct any social discourse because they are still lacking a mutual relationship due to which they can’t create any link between what they have learned in the classroom with their real life contexts. Not only can’t this but they cannot share their feelings among themselves even inside the classroom.

Let me share one more experience that I have had currently from my campus to residence. Almost all my colleagues (even the most experienced ones in this field) blame me as a lenient and liberal teacher, not maintaining a good distance from my students (as they deliberately talk to me very friendlily, teasing me inside/outside the classroom). One day while we were having a little rest after our first class and about to leave for the second one, one student from B.Ed. 1st year whispered, indicating me from the door of the teachers’ room “Sir, it is your class” and  I signaled “I am coming “. Other teacher laughed at me simply because their students don’t have any dare to call them but mine did so. I didn’t take any care of their laughing at because I got an appropriate expression from my students in a different scenario. I have also found that the students talk to me more and better than any other teachers. I also find myself very pleased where I meet them in the market places and talk to them using very informal and broken English. All these seem to have taught me a lesson “It is the sound rapport between learners and teacher that determines the success and failure in teaching and learning process”. Children are good learners in the family because of sound support with their parents. Thus, if diagnosis of the right problem is said to be the half healing, building good rapport between teacher and learners and among learners is said to enhance natural way of learning, in which they also to take charge of their own learning.

The unanimous view from teaching professionals is diagnosis of the right problem is said to be half only healing” that can be appropriately obtained only through a friendship relation between students and teacher. Lack of students’ participants in classroom activities was the major encumbering factor for low performance level of English. We generally assume that teachers are just consumers who should adopt the new approaches, methods and techniques generated by the researchers or experts no matter how relevant they are to the needs of the students and classroom context .Sometimes the so called new techniques do not work in the classroom. So the first thing for the teachers is to find out what the real problem(s) is /is with his/her students. For this professional task of any teacher, only action research helps to find out the problems and ways to their solution which ultimately brings change in their teaching because it is directly concerned with a local problem and is conducted in new local setting but conducting an action research, teachers urge the learners to participate in new activities and solve the problems collaboratively as an ideal social group. This can possibly develop a sense of good relationship among learners and their relation with teachers. Therefore, the sense of good relationship can create the drive and energy to acquire the targeted language, enjoys the learning process, and experiences a real communication.

Ways to promote rapport

‘It is clear that teachers need to do everything possible to create a good rapport with their students, partly this happens  by providing interesting and motivating classes; partly this comes from such things as treating all the students the same” Harmer (2006). In order to develop a mental relationship between teachers need to understand the students who are from different backgrounds, have different interests, future goals, aims for English learning and most importantly, different personalities. Once the relationship develops, the classroom will become comfortable and enjoyable enough for students to learn positively from the teacher without any hesitation.

In my view, only a positive teacher can build a good rapport with his/her students because  such  a teacher is more interested in his students and his subject, learn all of the students names, allows for question and discussion in class, is available for conferences and encourages students see him/her if they need help. This is how the good rapport can also be developed. We can apply the following activities for building good rapport:

  • Teacher should maximally be guided with CLT approach, TBLT approach and other learner-centered approaches during teaching and learning process.
  • Group activities should be his/her preferred strategy
  • Articulating the name of his students while asking question or discussing.
  • Teachers need to acquire what students look for in teachers in order for -students to be motivated and activated in language learning.
  • Creating the classroom environment similar to a family one.
  • Presenting the lesson friendly, actively, and in funny styles.
  • Giving chances to students for discussion, frankly with teachers.
  • Teaching should be carried out more by doing and displaying than by saying.
  • All students are taken care equally.
  • Students are allowed to ask and talk to their teacher even outside the classroom.
  • Different programs should be organized: education tours, picnic, social visit etc.
  • Teachers should be tolerant and responsible for learner responses.
  • Lesson presentation should be  carried out with the involvement of the student.
  • Student’s actions should be praised.
  • Teacher should talk, stay, sit, watch TV, listen to radio and walk in the market with learners if possible.
  • Teacher should accept he/she also learner from students.
  • While working with students homework/class work teacher should call them one by one.
  • Teacher should conduct different language games inside/outside the classroom with students.

References

Brown,D.(1991) Principles of language learning and teaching . London: Prentice Hall.

Gorham ,J. and Millette, D.M.(1997).  A Comparative analysis of teacher and student perceptions of courses of motivation and demotivation in college classes.

Harmer, J. (2008). The practice of English language teaching. New York: Longman

Harmer, J. (2008). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

Kabilan, M.K. (2000). Creative and critical thinking in Language classroom. The Internet TESL Journal

Richards, J.C. and Rodgers, T.S. (2005) Approaches and methods in language teaching .New York: CUP

Motivation in ESL/EFL Learning: Who’s Responsible?

Dipesh Kumar Sah

dipeshsah76@yahoo.com

“Motivation- do we need it for effective language teaching?” has become common talk among the teachers worldwide. But potential ways for motivating English language learners vary in the perspectives of the teachers. However, effective strategies and local EFL contexts are also responsible for determining the potential ways of motivation

Motivation in second or additional language (L2) learning is generally defined as learners’ cumulative interests, feelings, and desires which dynamically keep changing throughout the teaching/learning process in relation with a multitude or internal and external factors.Such cumulative trait not only initiates and coordinates the cognitive and motor processes but also assesses, reshapes, and prioritizes initial wishes and desires that drive learners to acquire an L2. In other words, motivation is comprised of the thoughts and feelings that make us to do something, continue and turn our wishes into action as an influence.

Now I would like to share with ELT community how I have used the warming up strategy for teaching English language to my students.I encourage my students to regularly contribute to maintain the display board with some latest events, news, welcome-notes, birthday wishes, humors, short stories and so on. Additionally, I make use of web-based resources to get them concentrated on the content that we deal with in the classroom. For example, I let my students watch class related Ted’s inspirational videos (see www.ted.com)which they find much more inspiring and that way they are finally motivated for learning the lesson I planned to teach.

In our context, motivation needs to be created and once created needs to be continued too. If not, the learners become silent and show no interests to learn a particular language. But they may feel so interested when the classes are held in the language of their interest. The circumstances of higher classes in some remote areas of Nepal show that the learners completely abide by strict rules set by their instructors. Besides, the teachers are involved in practicing lecture method and developing the note taking system where students have to listen to them and write the notes as if in dictation. Students often feel frightened to learn English, for they argue that they cannot practice autonomy in the English classroom in comparison with other subjects.Besides, the lack of purpose and thus motivation is one of the reasons. Hence, proper motivation and promotion of learners’ autonomy could be the solution to the hesitation for learning English.

Learners’ motivation is affected by numerous endogenous and exogenous factors. Endogenous factors bring pleasure and satisfaction to students and can be the internal inspiration for them. On the other hand, exogenous factors relate to the tangible benefits of an activity such as the role of knowledge gained by learning a language that is required for the communication and for higher education in national and international universities, as well as professional and socio-cultural circumstances. I believe in making learners enjoy the classroom, for which learners’ motivation is crucial. To promote learners autonomy, interactive activities like role-play, pair work, and group work can become good icebreakers to overcome the classroom drudgery. It is also important to appreciate learners’ effort and the feeling. The abstract nature of motivation makes difficulties for classroom practitioners to gauge learner motivation by using a measurable instrument; therefore, practitioners/teachers can rely on their critical observations about learners’ motivational patterns during the course of an academic program. It is the fact about language teaching that motivation of language learners fluctuates and practitioners need to factor awareness of this reality into all curricular stages.

Learners’ autonomy, an intriguing phenomenon for the motivational part and one’s ability to decide the laws for oneself, is inevitable in all stages of learning. The learners really need a motivational strategy that lets them play with English in the environment.

Here comes the question: who is responsible for learners’ motivation? You may have different answers that may not concur with mine. I strongly argue that it is the teacher who is solely responsible for creating motivation in the classroom. I think that the work of a teacher is complete only if the students are able to acquire knowledge that is applicable in the real contexts. And it is only possible when the learners are interested to learn and teachers are successful in motivating them.

The concept of motivation derived from ‘movere’, a Latin word,means‘to move’. Therefore, the idea of movement is reflected in different commonsense ideas about motivation as something that keeps us working, gets us going, and helps us complete tasks. It is a process rather than a product. Therefore, we cannot observe it directly but we can infer it from actions and verbalization  The interactive methodology gives the students a supportive environment for effective learning.The purpose of sharing this blog entry is to suggest teachers like me to focus on the learners’ motivations and feelings as well as the course contents together so that students’engagement gets better. We should respect the feeling of the learners and try to know their psyche before they are given any tasks in the classroom. This provides untrue insights to learn the ways to motivate the learners.

The author, an M. Ed. in English from TU, Nepal is working at Tinpatan Education Campus, Sindhuli. Besides being a member of NELTA, he is currently involved in carrying out a research on Inclusive Education under the guidance of University Grant Commission.

 

The Impact of Access Program in Nepal

Bharat Babu Khanal

 Access Teacher

“Tell me, I forget; show me, I may remember and involve me, I learn.’’

Collaboratively run by the American Embassy/U.S. Department of State and NELTA, English Access Microscholarship Program has a short history in Nepal but it has become a truly effective means in the field of language learning as well as personality development. I feel proud to be a part of Access Program which has enhanced my own professional career as an English language teacher. Now I realize myself to be a modern teacher. It is obliviously an appropriate platform for my professional development. We teachers get various opportunities to E-Teacher Online Course Programs from the various American universities, participating different national and international teacher conferences.  Last year I successfully completed the course Teaching English to Teenagers (TET) from the University of Maryland which has provided me extra stamina to do better in the Access class. Currently, I have applied for another E-teacher Online Course named “Teacher’s Professional Development on Critical Thinking”. Likewise the Access Program provides us with various trainings from ELT experts. We instantly apply the ideas, activities and techniques in our classroom. Immediately after every end semester result, we have meeting with the parents. It helps them get actual information about their children’s performance in the class and achievement in the exam.

The Access Program officially started in Nepal in 2011 with 120 students and 12 teachers. Now it has expanded to 280 students and 28 teachers. The program is limited only in four districts with five different sites in Nepal but it has an ample horizon to be extended throughout the country. As it is a micro scholarship program for two years, students get free opportunity to develop English language, Nepalese and American culture and leadership development in a group of twenty. The prime objective of this program is to empower under privileged children studying in community schools of Nepal. Wherever the program is launched the particular NELTA branch of that district is responsible for making the program successful with regular monitoring and supervision. NELTA central office gives full ownership to that particular branch.

Within a short span of time, Access class has proved to be the appropriate avenue for the students to develop their English in a real life situation. Unlike their regular school English class, students feel distinct in the Access class as they practically learn things here in group and pair activities. As an Access teacher, I feel proud to work with young and enthusiastic learners in the class. There is no rigorous teaching of a language but the program focuses on creating a suitable environment to flourish their talent through English language. As community school students in Nepal do not have enough exposures to develop their English language, Access Program has taken a genuine step to quench their thirst. In the Access class, what we teach is not prominent but what students achieve is paramount. Students learn English language through various language games. They develop their communication skills doing works and working on computers. Similarly, they watch movies or play outdoor games. They also visit some interesting places like American Embassy, USEF, zoo, temples, mosques and other historically significant places. They participate in public awareness program like Human Rights Day rally, Clean Nepal Campaign, traffic management, etc. This sort of program obviously gives positive message to the locals of the concerned areas. Simultaneously, students become more responsible to the society rather than only to individual life.

The success of Access has to do with the fact that the American Embassy and NELTA work closely together. The prominent aspect of this program is that distinguished guests from the Embassy visit our program and share their feelings with teachers and students. NELTA central committee members and English Language Fellows visit our classes and inspire us to successfully achieve our goals. The Access Country Coordinator’s role is vital to implement to program smoothly in Nepal including receiving and submitting reports by the due dates. The attraction of the program is the participation of guests in American and Nepalese festivities. Students celebrate Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, Independence Day, Teej, Teachers’ Day and other important days in both cultures. It has proved that language learning takes place in natural settings. Book review is the regular activity of this class which encourages students to read new books purposefully. Drawing, painting and designing cards have developed our students’ art skills. Report writing is an inevitable part of Access class after participation in new programs.  It has helped them to present their report confidently on particular topic. I realize our students are getting better opportunity to experience a disciplined and responsible life through this program. A true education brings about a child’s behavioral change; also learning is for all round development of a child.

Indeed Access Program has become very effective medium to open a new horizon to Nepalese students for learning English language in real life situation. I hope it will be promoted and extended in more districts of the country. As our students have got this language learning opportunity, they will be able to grab various opportunities in future. In the globalized context, undoubtedly, they will be able to proceed confidently to meet their academic and personal goals in life.

 

Editorial

BEFRIENDING GRAMMAR

 

Thanks to language, man became man.

 Descrates

It is needless to reiterate that we are human beings for the reason that we are gifted with the faculty of language. Aldous Huxley joined Descrates when he made even a stronger claim that ‘deprived of language we should be as dogs and monkeys’. True, hundred percent true!  Words fall short to illuminate the value of language in human life.  However, a million dollar question is “what is something that makes a language?”, What is something that distinguishes language from other communications?   Of course, there are several defining features of language but perhaps most importantly, human communication is set apart from rest of the communications because language has the attribute of grammar which others do not. The enormous complexity in language also leads us to look for grammar.  Thus, men are not merely homo loquens but also homo grammaticus to tag along with Frank Plamer.

Arguably, grammar (and its instruction) is as old as human language.  Though the history of written grammar is traced back to fourth century in the East (India) and even later fifth century in the West (Greece), some grammar plausibly must have existed in oral tradition of language before. This existence of grammar implies the existence of grammar instruction in some way. To say more explicitly, we have been doing grammar in one way or other since the origin of language. And perhaps, we will not be able to imagine language without grammar any time in future.   Despite criticisms against its tyranny in language learning, grammar continues to survive either implicitly or explicitly. We have heard and read controversies for and against grammar instruction but the fact is that every language teacher is a grammar teacher. Whether a language teacher teaches different skills or aspects or various genres of literature, grammar is inherent. It is because language is language because of its grammar.   If so, then a sensible question is:  “how can we befriend grammar?”  Befriending grammar implies befriending changes in grammar. Changes in grammar are shaped by changes in language which is also called a living phenomenon. If the grammar of a language does not proceed in consonance with changes in language, the grammar can/should be declared dead. Similarly, innovations in grammar pedagogy have deconstructed our perceptions and practices both. Thus befriending grammar also requires us to be familiar with the issues and directions in grammar instruction both home and abroad. Some of the current issues in grammar instruction worldwide as Rod Ellis puts are: Should we teach grammar, or should we simply create the conditions by which learners learn naturally? What grammar should we teach? When should we teach grammar? Is it best to teach grammar when learners first start to learn an L2 or to wait until later when learners have already acquired some linguistic competence? Should grammar instruction be massed (i.e., the available teaching time be concentrated into a short period) or distributed (i.e., the available teaching time spread over a longer period)? Should grammar instruction be intensive or extensive? Is there any value in teaching explicit grammatical knowledge? Is there a best way to teach grammar for implicit knowledge? Should grammar be taught in separate lessons or integrated into communicative activities? These issues demand every grammar teacher to be alert and think critically over them.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Nepalese ELT has ever made an effort to adopt and adapt the global trends. The reason is Nepalese ELT does not have its own research foundation. Though some of the issues in grammar instruction can be addressed with the insights from mainstream ELT, several local issues seem to be cropping up and demanding course desiginers, experts and practitioners to think afresh, to initiate research to diagnose the gaps and to reveal new directions in order to reshape it. For instance, nativisation of English in Nepal has led us think in a new way on whether we should continue with grammar of British English, American English or we should have our own grammar of Nepalese English. We are already familiar with the fact that many discussions have taken place to justify new English in Nepal and to build a corpus for it. Likewise, with the privitazation of education, English grammar writers in Nepal are mushrooming but the quality of their products can be questioned on several grounds. Grammars based on borrowed materials and devoid of any attention towards English and Nepalese English corpus can in no way expose language learners with everyday English. Vertical course designing trend also poses another problem in grammar instruction. We gradually seem to be realising that teaching grammar in isolation does not fetch more and therefore it is the time we moved towards discourse grammar of English.

In this May issue of NELTA Choutari, through an interview and two reflective articles, an attempt has been made to inform the ELT practitioners with the issues in grammar instruction and also some insights and expertise to enlighten their perspectives and  practices both.

Though this issue lays its efforts to penetrate into the issues of grammar instruction in Nepalese ELT, we serve you with the following diverse contents:

  1. What, Why And How of Doing Grammar?  An Interview with Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari
  2. Gaps In The Expectations Of Course Designers, Teachers And StudentsBal Ram Adhikari
  3. Almost Every Sentence Has A Tense!!!Madhu Neupane
  4. Examining ExaminationsPavan Kumar Sah
  5.  The Training And Trainees!: A Reflective Report On Training In Birgunj-Suresh Shrestha

We are sure that while you go through the aforementioned writings, you will find the issues thorny, creating controversies and stimulating discussions. Please feel free to share your observations, no matter sweet or sour.

Sajan Kumar 

Editor

May Issue, NELTA Choutari

 

What, Why and How of Doing Grammar? An Interview with Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari


There is no denying that a language is language because of its grammar. Whenever there is a question of teaching and learning of a language, grammar stands as the most focal element there. In the context of Nepal, grammar instruction has ever been a vital element of English language teaching and learning both in schools and colleges.  Particularly, for school levels, many English grammars are written by Nepali authors, authenticity of which perhaps can be questioned in many ways.  These grammars seem to have a lasting influence on English language learning and teaching ahead in their life. Likewise, there are a number of misconceptions and issues with regard to what grammar is in actuality, why our students need to be taught grammar and how it can be instructed more effectively. In this interview with Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari, who has been involved in grammar instructions for more than two decades, an attempt has been made to penetrate into the issues regarding principles and practices in teaching grammar and to seek his insights to help address the issues.

About the Interviewee

Dr. Bal Mukunda Bhandari, an Associate Professor in the Department of English Education, Tribhuvan University has been involved in Nepalese ELT for about two decades. Dr. Bhandari has published more than a dozen of books on ELT and linguistics. He is also one of the authors of Lotus English Series, school level textbooks for English. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Centre for International Relations, Tribhuvan University.  

 Do you think grammar is necessary to teach at all in order to ensure teaching and learning of a language? There are many who go for interdisciplinary approach to teaching language where grammar instruction is not explicit.  What is your perception?

Human beings are capable of speaking and understanding language. They can use utterances to refer to a thing, state or action. The sounds they produce with a physiological process are shaped to form an intended word or sentence. They have a level of knowledge of the language that they speak. This knowledge helps associate the human sounds to extra-linguistic world. This is a preprogrammed knowledge imprinted in the human mind. This is the knowledge which in the world of linguistics is called grammar.

A second/foreign language is taught at least for two reasons. It is taught as an end to fulfill the immediate goals. For example, someone is going to work in an English speaking country as a waiter, or a baby-sitter or some people may need English in Nepal so that they can guide tourists, they can run a curio shop, they want jobs in the English speaking countries. In such cases, the learners need to learn English as a language, a means of communication. They don’t need the metalanguage. They don’t need the rules that underlie a language e.g. English. In many countries including Nepal English is taught in schools and colleges as a subject (as opposed to language) of an academic grade or degree. When the main focus is to introduce lexis and grammar (as a device of making sentences), the tests and grades matter a lot.

We have been applying two completely different approaches of English education in Nepal. In an approach we have courses on grammar from primary to tertiary level (post graduate level). A significant portion of the syllabus is occupied by grammar. In another approach we teach English through contents such as essays, conversations, interviews, short stories, poems, plays and novels. Students learn English mainly through reading, and their knowledge is tested through writing. There is neither grammar lesson in the class nor there are questions to test any specific grammar points. On completion of their education both the products are sent to perform the same function. No difference in the proficiency of language or in their performance has been noticed. Those who have undergone grammar course can’t exhibit better performance in grammar itself. This shows that grammar teaching in a language class has no ground support.

It is important to keep in mind that there is a strong relationship between grammar and vocabulary. Lexical items inherently posses some property. For example, no NP follows the word ‘die’ whereas an NP should necessarily follow the word ‘kill’ and ‘murder’. At the same time the words suggest that the NP that follows ‘kill’ has to be an animate but it should be human NP to follow ‘murder’.

The value of grammar instruction has been debatable since the beginning of teaching modern language as a foreign language. Everyone involved in teaching and learning has an opinion for or against grammar teaching. Some of them opine that a good knowledge of grammar is necessary if the learners’ have to use the language correctly. While others think grammar instruction is not necessary at all. They think it hampers language acquisition and slows down the fluency.

In the fields of second language acquisition earlier research findings (when communicative language teaching was in fashion) showed that grammar had very little to do in language teaching but recent research findings show that grammar has a role but they still do not accept direct grammar teaching. Grammar instruction may be used as a basis in some practice activity or sometimes as consciousness raising device, not as a device to learn to use a language.

Some say grammar incorporates only morphology and syntax but others tend to think that grammar should incorporate all the levels of language. In the broadest sense of the term, what a grammar is in actuality? On What conditions can we say that a particular sentence is grammatical?

Let us consider the following definition of grammar.

Grammar is the study and description of a language in terms of either syntax and morphology alone or these together with aspects of phonology, orthography, semantics and pragmatics. (The Oxford Companion to the English Language).

In past grammar was considered the art of speaking and writing. The word grammar would include the study of everything related to language. Structuralists separated the levels of language and defined grammar as the level between phonology and semantics so it meant the study of rules in a language for changing the form of the words and combining them in to sentences. However, linguists today treat grammar same as linguistics which is sometimes referred to as a linguistic grammar. Therefore to be a sentence grammatical it should be phonologically (in speech), orthographically (in writing), morphologically, syntactically, semantically and also pragmatically acceptable.

 There are two ways of teaching grammar: deductively and inductively. Most observations show that Nepalese teachers find deductive method to be more comfortable to instruct language with. Why is it so? Which method do you recommend and why?

I don’t label any method ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Both the methods have advantages and disadvantages. For example, the rules and explanations help students understand what is being taught. It respects the creative and generative power of human mind. It introduces bits of language in a systematic and gradual manner. Use of mother tongue makes the environment comfortable for teacher and students. On the other hand inductive method accepts the principle of learning to communicate through communication. It respects the learner as subject (as opposed object in deductive method). In learning a language, we’ll have two goals understanding about the language and learning the language. Deductive method caters for the first goal while inductive method caters for the second one.

I agree with your observation that most English classes in Nepal, we find deductive  (an imperfect  deductive) method. This is because the teachers who have been given the tag ‘trained’ have never got opportunity to undergo, observe or practice inductive classes. The teacher education institutions provide them with the theory of methods – no classroom application. On the other hand inductive method require good command in English, sufficient resources and materials. The attitude of making students ‘understand’ is the chief barrier which stops teachers using inductive method. In fact, language teacher’s job is to make students learn the language.

Application of a method depends on many factors. So the teacher should be capable of analyzing them. Choice of a method depends upon many factors. It is the teacher whose job is to analyze the factors governing the context and choose an appropriate methodology instead of a ‘method’.

Do you think linguistic grammar is any worth for teacher? How do you think a linguistic grammar and a pedagogic grammar interact with each other?

Linguistic grammar, also known as theoretical grammar, is the systematic description of language usually not concentrating on a particular language. It provides a language teacher with the apparatuses to investigate the features of the given language. Pedagogical grammars on the other hand are intended chiefly for classroom use under the guidance of teacher. They may contain rules, exercises, vocabulary lists, dialogues, reading passages and writing activities. There are many good teachers who have not studied linguistic grammar. However, the study of linguistic grammar makes them better. The source of pedagogical grammar is linguistic grammar. For a language teacher linguistic grammar is resource and pedagogical grammar is the teaching material.

Many English grammars written in Nepal are in vogue in both private and public schools of Nepal. How authentic do you find them in terms of contemporariness?  Do they reflect everyday English? How do you think this issue can be addressed? Do not you think that it is important to base grammar on corpus?

Privatization in education is thriving in Nepal. It has opened avenues of opportunities for the people of different sectors. As a result textbooks (pedagogical grammars) of English have come out in abundant number. Few years ago books were produced in Nepal because they were needed, but now books are produced as publishers and ‘writers’ need them. Because of this students and novice teachers are misguided, there is also unhealthy competition. Most of the grammars produced in Nepal are based on (i.e., borrowed materials from) traditional grammars of 19th and early 20th centuries. They have no materials of present day English.

Most grammars now in Britain and America are corpus-based which teach learners the real contemporary English. Languages keep on changing. It is natural and regular process. All the speakers of a language have internalized grammar. They do not follow grammar books but the grammar books have to follow the speakers.

  Do not you think that nativization of English or the birth of local varieties of English has created a big controversy over what is acceptable and what is not? Do you think that different varieties should have different grammar books to describe and explain different grammars? Do you recommend that English grammar for Nepal should base on Nepalese English?

English speaking people from England went to America, Canada, Australia and other countries where their English gradually deviated from the original one, and thus grew many varieties viz. American English, Canadian English, Australian English as so on. Varieties also appeared in the countries where English is taught as a foreign or second language. The English found in Nepal has its own characteristics. So it is also a non-native variety of English. The native varieties are intelligible to each other, but the nonnative varieties are more deviated. A language is what its native speakers speak and what they accept. The idea of writing grammars of different varieties can be done as linguistic research but not for pedagogical purpose. English is not a lingua franca in Nepal, nor a second language. The purpose of teaching a foreign language is to enable the learners to communicate with its native speakers. So the issue/idea of writing English grammar for Nepal based on Nepalese variety of English is illogical and worthless.

 Do you have any other observations to share on teaching of English grammar in Nepal?

In my observation, I have found that most teachers teach the structures in the name of grammar being isolated from the functional aspect of language. They give rule of form (for example, how a tense is formed) and some common examples missing the rule of meaning (for example, how, when and where a tense is used) and activities of language use.

Whoever observes English language classes in Nepal, very quickly recommends that the teachers should be trained despite the fact that almost all the teachers are trained either from a university (mainly from Tribhuvan University) or the ministry of education. The teachers often have to prove their training by showing their certificate. Once a government official rightly announced, “We have given training certificate to 98% teachers”. This situation very easily indicates the inefficiency of teacher education in Nepal. It has to be improved, and we, teacher educators, should take initiative.

Thank you so much for your contribution. 

Gaps in the Expectations of Course Designers, Teachers and Students

 

Bal Ram Adhikari

Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tahachal

 

 

Knowledge gap and expectation gap

A gap in our knowledge is natural. It is the gap that makes the process of learning inevitable, our communication meaningful, and living purposeful. In teaching, it is the knowledge gap that brings the teacher and students together in a specific world of sharing and caring. It makes cooperation and interdependence mandatory between them when both the parties strive for narrowing it down. However, before making concerted efforts in bridging the knowledge gap via teaching , we should be aware of another type of gap lying at the deeper level— the gap in the interpretation of the intension, purpose and expectation of the parties involved.  The gap of the second type results from our attempts to communicate knowledge without establishing a common ground for understanding. Successful communication of knowledge cannot take place unless the involved parties have understood the purpose of communicating that knowledge and the expectations that bring them together.  Against this backdrop, I would like to touch upon my own experience of teaching English grammar course entitled “English Grammar for Teachers” prescribed by Tribhuvan University for the master’s level students. Here I would like to shed light on the nature of the gap in expectations of the different parties who are directly involved in the production, communication and consumption of the course.

The major parties involved in the communication of grammar knowledge are course designers, teachers, students and examiners.  At the deeper level, the threads of communication among these parties are intricately interwoven. However, at the surface level we can specify who communicates what to whom where and how. In our context, this communication is almost one-way. In this monologic communication one party communicates to the other without establishing a sufficient ground for understanding each other’s purpose and aspirations.   Regarding this, I would like to refer to a fundamental question: Who wants what? raised by Chalker (1994) in designing and implementing an appropriate pedagogical grammar. The effectiveness of a course depends largely on how we answer this question.

Course designers and teachers

What do course designers want?   What do teachers want?

Course designers are the major architect of the course. They decide not only what to teach, but also how to teach and how to assess what has been taught and learned.  In our context, they are the people who assume the role of experts and communicate vertically with the teachers who they think are the people to translate their expertise and expectations into practice in the classroom.  Whenever any problem arises during the implementation of the course, the common practice is to come up with the conclusion that the teachers lack adequate knowledge in the subject matter and teaching methodology. On other hand, the teachers criticize the course designers for not taking into account of their views, and situational and institutional constraints. Students criticize both course designers and teachers for demanding too much from them. Such a culture of blame has become commonplace in the Nepalese context, and it is mainly because there is lack of communication among the stakeholders during decision-making process, before launching, during and after the implementation of the course.  The expectations of different parties are often taken for granted.

What is missing?

Knowledge of subject matter and classroom pedagogy are necessary, but not sufficient for the successful implementation of a new course.  The questions are: Have the course designers taken into account of classroom reality by involving the teachers in the decision making process?  Have both the parties shared what they expect from the course? Did both the parties have enough understanding of what they were going to achieve from the course and how? In fact, “these are the questions of negotiation”, and “typically, not enough time is spent on these kinds of questions” (Dragger, Clintok and Moffit, p. 8, 2000).  The lack of negotiation has caused a rift between what course designers want and what teachers want.

Based on the cursory observation of the course content and methodology (Adhikari, 2012), what the syllabus designers seem to communicate to the teachers is that the course is:

  1. detailed, comprehensive and exhaustive ( for it deals with four broad areas of grammar teaching: Basic Concepts of Grammar, Grammar in Practice, Grammar and the Language Teacher, Pedagogical Grammar),
  2. contemporary and in line with the recent research finding and practice of  grammar teaching (i.e. the course deals with task-based language teaching, lexical approach, discourse-based approach, processing-instruction, etc. ),
  3. pedagogical and practical.

In terms of classroom pedagogy, the designers expect the teachers to adopt the following procedures:

  1. Have students read the lesson before they come to the class or have them read in groups.
  2. Give reasons not rules.
  3. Engage students in problem-solving activities.
  4. Have them prepare and present lesson plans (maybe as mini-project work).

What have we teachers made of the course?

What follows is based on my own experience as teacher, and personal communication with the grammar teachers  like me who I came across during my visit to some of the TU campuses in an out of  the Kathmandu Valley:

  1. The course is lengthy. I do agree with the complaint that the course is lengthy. At the end of every session I have the feeling that I am unable to go into the depth of the course. Every year I manage to scrape through it with my epilogue “Yeah, I somehow completed the course.”
  2. The course is difficult to teach. Obliviously, a course becomes difficult to handle for want of sufficient orientation, group discussion, workshop, and training. Except of the one-day course dissemination program that took place once during the formal launching of the course, the concerned authority has not organized any formal/informal programs for teachers and course designers so far.
  3. The course is not well-contextualized. By whom and where the course materials were produced? It is a crucial question.  The course is universalist in its approach. The foreign books are adopted as course materials without taking into account of what Kumaravadivelu (2001) has to say about the parameters of an appropriate pedagogy: the parameter of particularity, practicality and possibility. There is no single academic work prescribed as a reading material that deals with our local/national context. Take for example, the problems that ESL/EFL students face while learning English grammar. All the evidence discussed in the textbook “The Teacher’s Grammar of English” (2009) are from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, German, Farsi and French speakers learning English. These decontextualied examples are very difficult to understand for teachers, let alone their students. Even if understood, what could be their relevance to our context?    The course designers have not justified why we need to discuss with our students the firstlanguage-specific problems faced by the speakers of the languages other than those spoken in our context. Nor are the teachers provided with practical guidelines for contextualising the universalist  materials to fit the local Nepalese contexts.

What do teachers want? What do students want?

There is another layer of gap that I have experienced in my grammar class. To align myself to what the course expects me to do in the classroom while communicating grammar knowledge to my students, I have tried to follow the procedures mentioned in the course— the procedure of  discovery-oriented and collaborative. But what I often feel is the resistance from my students by remaining absent or showing their low involvement in the classroom activity. I often have the feeling that I have failed to communicate my agenda to my students and I have failed to understand their agenda.

At the end of the class, I tell them what the coming topic will be and how it will be discussed. If the topic is theory-based, the next class will see the increase in the number of students. Most of them turn up with the prospect of listening to lecture and getting notes and summary.  If the topic is practice-oriented and the mode of learning is interactive, the number of students thins out. During the class, some students show  ‘open opposition’ to use Holliday’s (2010) term, by murmuring or not working out the solution or not showing keen interest in collaboration and sharing.  As I read the face of my students, some of them seem to have the feeling of not learning anything new as they find their notebooks without any notes or summary.

My teaching agenda:

  1. How to make their learning discovery-oriented and collaborative   so that they can work out the rules for themselves from the available linguistic evidence. As it is widely believed that such learning is meaningful and memorable. If so, it will certainly help them secure better marks in the examination.
  2. How to help them read the theoretical portions from the prescribed reading materials under my guidance and supervision. I want them to read extensively for general understanding of the text.
  3. How to help them envisage the wider application of their knowledge of English grammar to other fields such as copy editing, translation and creative/free and academic writing.
  4. How to take them out from the confinement of examination.

Let me present my students’ agenda that they have expressed in and out of the classroom verbally or through their behavior:

  1. How to pass examination.
  2. The most frequently asked questions are: Sir, what types of question are asked from this unit?

Sir, is this topic important? No questions were asked from it in the previous exams.

  1. How to get notes for the theory portion from the teacher.
  2. How to get ready-made answers and grammar rules for the problems given in the textbook.

Who should read the text for whom?

I want my students to read the assigned chapter before they come to the class. They get the following handout before I make formal entry into the course “The Teacher’s Grammar of English”:

Classroom procedures

  1. To succeed in class and examination both, you should have a good command of the material presented in the first section.
  2. Read the first section before you come to class.
  3. Your teacher begins each class going over the exercises. You are expected to answer the questions given in each chapter. The methodology will be “Give Reasons, not Rules”.
  4. From the second section of the chapter, your teacher picks out some typical errors made by the learners with different L1s. He will briefly discuss the possible causes of these errors and engage you in a short discussion of whether these errors should be addressed through pedagogical intervention.
  5. Your teacher will summarize the first section relating it to the second and third sections, which will be the reading assignment for the next class.
  6. The next class begins with problems and teaching suggestions. While reading the problem section at home, examine the types of errors and explore their causes as proposed by the writer. So far as the suggestion for teaching is concerned, examine and evaluate the activities proposed and discuss your ideas with your friends in groups.

Very few (sometimes not more than two or three out of forty or so) students do home reading. This makes the discussion of salient points from the chapter challenging and sometimes waste of time, for  my communication with the students turns out to be monologic, not dialogic. Contrary to my expectation, my students want me to read the text and summarize it for them. On the other hand, they may find what I want from them being contrary to their expectations.

The challenge that I have been facing is how to wean my students from dependency on me and how I can become progressively unnecessary for them. Despite my attempt to act as a guide to walk on their side (as the syllabus designers want me to do), my students’ expectations push me back to take up the traditional role of the teacher as a sage preaching from the stage.

The expectation gap has widened the gap in the communication of knowledge. So it is imperative that the concerned parties negotiate with each other about their expectations from the course. The course designers should sit with the teachers to find out how they have taken the course.  Also, the teachers should think of possible ways of bridging the gap between their teaching agenda and students’ learning agenda.

References

Adhikari, B.R. (2012).  English grammar: Views of student teachers

and  communication of grammar knowledge to their students. An unpublished mini-research. UGC.

Chalker, S. (1994). Pedagogic grammar: Principles and problems. In Bygate, M., Tonkyn, A. and Williams, E. (Eds.) Grammar and the language teacher (pp. 31-44). UK: Prentice Hall.

Cowan, R. (2009). The teacher’s grammar of English. Cambridge: CUP.

Curriculum Development Center (CDC). (2009). English grammar for teachers. Kirtipur: Tribhuvan University.

 Dragger, N.,  McClintok, E. & Moffit, M. ( 2000). Negotiating health development: A guide for practitioners. Conflict Management Group & World Health Organization.

Holliday, A. (2010). Appropriate methodology and social context. Cambride: CUP.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2001). Towards post-method pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, vol. 35, No. 4. 537-560.

Almost Every Sentence Has a Tense!!!


 

Madhu Neupane

Tribhuvan University

 

Even after spending 12 long years of my time in ELT, I am still puzzled why ‘tense’ always makes our students tensed. Even students in higher level encounter difficulty in distinguishing between simple past and past perfect not only in terms of structure but also in terms of their meanings and use. Despite our rigorous efforts, students keep on committing errors while using tense. Additionally, they seem to have developed an impression that grammar is merely for the sake of grammar and it has nothing do with the skills of language such as reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Ask students the rules for tense, most of them can easily mention since they have parroted the Nepalised mathematics like formula of each tense. Simple present tense is: Subject+V1/V5+Object and so on for others. Provide them with a sentence and ask them to transform it into twelve tenses, most of them can effortlessly do that.  Provide them with a sentence and ask to change the sentence as indicated in the bracket, they can still do that. Is there anything that they cannot do then with tense? Lots of things! Indeed!! They cannot appropriately use the tenses that they have learnt. They cannot solve the question if it asks them to put verbs in correct form in a given context. One of my students once asked me, “Ma’am, if we are asked to put verbs in correct form (that is tense), are we given the name of the tense that we need to use?” I said, “Usually not”. Then she said, “How can we know then which tense is to be used?” Then I said, “If you know tense, then you know which tense is to be used in which situation”. I do not know whether my answer satisfied the student or not but it did not convice me. This incident let me to think of the ways of making ‘tense’ less tense to my students.

My inference was that this situation might have arisen maybe because of the ways that we adopt to teach grammar. We teach grammar as separate book or separate subject, that is, in isolation from other language skills and ask questions in the same way which, in some cases, seem to be really meaningless in themselves. This frustrated me and I started a text based approach for teaching tense. I asked the students to bring “New Generation English” (one of the books prescribed for B. Ed. First Year) while I was teaching ‘tense’. Then I asked students to read a chapter “Once I Was Lost” at home and underline all the verbs there in the text, notice which tense has been used there, and find out the reasons behind it as far as possible. I asked them to refer to any English grammar book they had to study about tense. I asked them it did not matter if the book explained the rule in Nepali prescribed for any level irrespective of their level if the book has something to say about the tense. Next day students came by underlining the text and brought whatever grammar books were available to them. From this I found that some of them had difficulty even in recognizing verbs. I asked the students to find out the different forms of the verb they had underlined because my target was to make them understand the use of tense in real context and the use of tense is not possible without knowing the proper forms of the verbs for which they had to refer to different texts on grammar. It gave me a sense of satisfaction that the students did not feel that they were talking about tense in class; they were busy in doing things.

It gave them a sense of achievement as well. I asked them the reasons behind the use of any specific tense based on their self study. When they had finished, I started explaining why a particular tense was used in a particular context.  I wanted to make them feel that almost every sentence has a tense. With help of the chapter “Once I was Lost” I taught them simple past, past continuous, past perfect and past perfect continuous.

I selected the chapter “College Teachers” and “Drawing Natural World” to teach simple present tense. I went through the same procedure as mentioned and the students realized that the texts use simple present predominantly since they talk about things that are usually true (that is a sense of timelesslness) because what the writer talks in the text is arguably true. There are three types of teachers in schools and colleges at present, there were such teachers in the past and there will be such teacher in the days to come as well. The same thing is true with drawing natural world as well. The student’s facial expression, their desire to learn by taking their responsibility for their own learning during the process made me realize that text based approach to teaching grammar was more effective than teaching grammar in isolation.

Though the grammar book prescribed for B. Ed. first year is named “Exploring Grammar in Contexts”, it provides short contexts detached from English cultures thereby making the text difficult to interpret in many cases. Anyway it is better than the books which aim to teach grammar devoid of context. But I am in favor of larger context with the use of grammar points we want to develop in learners.

In this regard the textbooks of class nine and ten (I know them better because I taught them) seem to be better. Every grammatical item to be taught has been used there in context. It may be difficult to present each and every grammatical point in context. At the same time the coverage of the course might be low. But having observed the condition of students, I want to say that grammar should be made contextual. Maybe we can only choose certain grammatical points that we consider to be useful for our learners.

The advantage of the grammar books that we have prescribed in M.ED and B. Ed level is that we can introduce the learners with a lot of grammatical items even in the short span of time. This is, I think, a good technique for raising the consciousness of learners regarding grammatical points in question but these do not seem to develop language proficiency of the learners to the extent we assume. Presenting grammatical items without context makes the students suck grammatical items dry thereby reducing their real effect. Other alternative model might be presenting grammatical points with the help of text and making students use grammar books that we are using nowadays as reference books which they can consult if they have any problems with any grammatical points in the text.

In conclusion I want to say that if we are to teach grammar we need to modify the approach that we are practicing now. A point of departure might be text based approach to teaching grammar. The steps in a text based grammar lesson are presented below:

Steps in a Text Based Grammar Lesson

 

Steps

 

Aims

 

Students read (or listen to) the text that contains the target grammar. To check students’ understanding of the context that the target grammar comes from.
Students highlight the target grammar in the text. To focus students on the grammar that is to be clarified
Students check the meaning of the target grammar. To ensure students understand concepts    associated with the grammar (e.g. time       reference, intention etc.) and the way it is    used in native speaker language.
Students check the form of the target grammar. To ensure students understand the     component parts of the grammar and how it is put together.
The teacher highlights the pronunciation of the target grammar (if it is typically used for oral communication). To give very controlled oral practice of    phonological features of the grammar.
The teacher provides controlled to freer practice of the target grammar. To provide opportunities for the students  to use the new language in a variety of contexts.

Consulted

 

http://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/download/ng/file/group-4/n2460-esol-teaching-skills-taskbook-unit-4-e—teaching-grammar-2—grammar-from-texts.pdf

 

1 2 3