My Experience Using Digital Technology in Primary School

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Ambadatta Joshi

Along with the new rising sun, there are new developments in science and technology. More than that in the sector of education, digital technology is being the focus for all the schools. All the students and guardians are attracted toward the school where there is the use of digital technology.

While telling my experience of learning basic letters of English and Nepali, I learned to read and write on ‘Dhulauto’ (a small wooden board with spread dust on it used to write with a little stick, erase and rewrite). My teacher used to catch my hand and get me to write the basic letters on the board. Gradually, I used ‘Kamero’ (made of white mud and water) and then ‘Khari’ (soft white stone) to write on pati (a wooden board). Gradually, I came to use ink that was developed by fermenting locally available particular tree leaves in boiling water and filtering with a piece of cotton cloth. The pen was made of Nigalo (a particular type of bamboo found in the hills and mountains). For writing, I used to use Nepali paper locally made because my father used to develop it at home out of a kind of bush plant to write horoscope of people. Nowadays, these pens and paper are not utilised in the schools.

Those days, students were quite afraid of English teacher with no reason. They used to be rather happy when the English teacher was absent. In English lessons, we used to write the pronunciation of all the words under the line in Nepali so that we could ready easily and correctly. This was the situation and feeling toward English language and English teacher when I was a student in a primary school.

Nowadays, where there is the use of digital technology in English period, it is entirely different than those days. In my own school, OLE Nepal has provided 42 XO-laptops (E-pati) for the students that we use to teach English as well as other subjects. The lessons and activities those are available in E-pati are designed to obtain class-wise and subject-wise goals of education. There are audio-visual materials that help teachers and students in teaching and learning activities.

We have e-library (local server) that contains over six thousand digital books in Nepali and English. Those reference books help the children as well as teachers gain extra knowledge about various local and global activities. Even the high school and campus near the school take advantage of this school e-library. This has developed good habits of reading in the children.

Nowadays, the teachers feel abnormal without digital technology in their teaching and learning in our school. I can say that the schools which have got this technology are lucky. In my case, this has brought a huge difference in teaching English. The technology has cultivated energy in my profession. This has provided more opportunities for the children to practise their lessons and given relief for me in the classroom. When the children have some problems, I facilitate them in their activities. Since we got this technology, this has decreased the burden of gathering several teaching materials and saved teachers’ time as it contains several audio-visual materials for teaching and learning. The animated pictures in e-paath (an application that includes course books) have decreased my unnecessary lecture in the classroom. Various videos about wild animals, the universe, internal body parts, baby growth, development of plan out of the seed, etc. have made classroom teaching and learning very effective. Use of the technology has developed a mind of both the children and the teachers. This has become very supportive in engaging the students in the absence of a teacher in the school.

The technology in the school has gradually made the guardians feel ownership of the school’s property. Their positive response toward the change in teaching and learning with the new technology has made the teachers more responsible. They feel pride that their children are learning with new technology which they had never seen before three years. The digital technology has encouraged them to further develop the school.

The use of new technology has increased the number of students and decreased the drop-outs from the school. The children learn singing, dancing, playing games and other activities by watching videos on the devices. They freely select various digital books like poetry, stories, etc. for reading or drawing pictures. The most important aspect the technology has developed in the children is learning interest.

I wish all other schools will get this technology to bring change in their teaching and learning activities. Otherwise, this will increase digital divide between the schools and children. In the end, the teachers should be well-trained to use such digital technology in their instructional activities to improve teaching and learning and to achieve educational goals.

The author: Ambadatta Joshi teaches at Shree Kalika Primary School, Sunkuda, Bajhang

The Seven Years Journey of ELT Choutari: Reflections

As ELT Choutari enters into eighth year, Choutari editor Ashok Raj Khati has talked to Dr. Balkrishna Sharma, Narendra Singh Dhami, Praveen Kumar Yadav and Dr. Shyam Sharma, to reflect back its seven years journey. They have  put their voices in light with the contribution of ELT Choutari to local and global ELT discourses too.

Dr. Bal Krishna Sharma, a founding member of Choutari

13173997_10209640185584950_7635820056705789107_nI would like to comment mainly on two points when reflecting back the Choutari’s seven years. First, Choutari has been able to groom a new generation of scholars capable of writing on topics they have read about in others contexts or learned in their university classrooms. We did not have a stronger tradition of academic writing in TESOL and applied linguistics in the context of Nepal in the past. The Journal of NELTA was there, but young Nepali scholars did not consider themselves qualified enough to write for the journal. I had a similar view when I completed my M. Ed. In 2003. There still is a popular assumption that only experienced ‘scholars’ write for the journal, and the younger scholars are positioned in the receiving end of the journal readership. Since the starting of this webzine, this assumption has been questioned, renegotiated and redefined. I can see a whole lot of new scholars turning themselves into academic writers with greater confidence, refined skills, and thoughtful pedagogical tips. Second, the traditional mode of printing and publication in Nepal reached only to a small group of readers, usually with a long time gap. Consider, for example, the NELTA journal we have. It includes a collection of homegrown scholarship, but we have to wait for one year to read about ten or so articles. Webzine like the ELT Choutari has again challenged the tradition, expanding its reach to a wider audience, with a large number of readable articles. This again has promoted a new generation of writers and readers, who necessarily are not the university professors.

Regarding the contribution of Choutari, I was reading the latest issue of Choutari before I wrote this paragraph. This issue largely reflects how Choutari has been able to address both local and global concerns in the field of ELT. Lal Bahadur Bohara, for example, brings voices of English teachers from the far-western region. I was intrigued by Lal Bahadur’s observation that teachers in the region do not only question the Western decontextualized cultural content in English lessons, they also question the so called ‘localized’ content in textbooks and contents written and produced by Nepali writers. This article reminds me of an onion metaphor used in language policy research, highlighting that language policy is like an onion reconciled in several layers, processes and levels. So is the issue of culture: it operates in multiple levels, and national dominant cultures may not serve as a local culture in all the contexts. Lal Bahadur’s blog post is one representative examples from Choutari with regard to how Nepali young scholars have tried to raise and redefine the ‘local’ in language teaching, questioning and challenging some dominant traditions in our field.

Another article from the same issue that connects the local with the global is by Sujit Wasti. Sujit aptly uses the metaphor of McDonaldization by sociologist George Ritzer to take account of the impact of globalization on the local, including language and the environment. This was fascinating for me because ELT has not paid much attention to the discourses and concerns of the environment in pedagogical contexts. It makes sense to address the concerns of climate change and environmental degradation, which are equally local and global, in our policies and practices.

When the local voices and issues are narrated and circulated to a global audience through the internet on ELT topics that matter to people around the world (e.g. critical pedagogy, teaching tips, ELT humor, literacy, and many more), this is as an evidence that Choutari is both local and global.

Narendra Singh Dhami, teacher at Khimti Project school, Kirne, Dolkha

I have been reading the Choutari Khurak since its first issue published in 2009. I found that the blog posts are very useful resources for me and my fellow teachers. As its name suggests, it offers different tastes and colours on teaching strategies and activities as well as theoretical insights for professional development.

We have formed a group of five teachers in our school to discuss on the posts of each new issue of ELT Choutari. We often save the published articles from the website and discuss on each post among us. We also apply the best strategies and current trends of ELT approaches mentioned in our real classroom teaching situation. Some articles are truly inspirational, some are insightful to new teaching strategies and some are really research based too. The Choutari teaches us on how to grow  professionally in the remote parts of the country. And, of course, Choutari has broadened the horizon of ELT discourses in such remote area where it is quite difficult to get textbooks in time. The varieties of posts in each issue of Choutari always reenergize me to improve my teaching practices. I shall be much glad to read some posts on child psychology and motivational stories in the days to come. I am so grateful to the editorial board for providing me an opportunity to reflect on ELT Choutari.

Praveen Kumar Yadav, an editor of Choutari

As ELT Choutari enters into 8th year, we would like to thank our valued contributors and readers for their continued support. The ELT journey without their support was never possible to accomplish seven years. The ELT Choutari today has won acclaim for its commitment to contributing to discourses focused on various issues related to English Language Teaching and Education.

Generally speaking, the past causes the present, and so the future. Looking into the origin of Choutari, the web magazine was started as a wiki collaborative project in January 2009 to supplement the ELT conversations that have been going on for many years within the mailing list of NELTA. In order to make accessible to such ELT conversation by the rest of the ELT community outside NELTA (here’s what one member wrote in the original “about” page), ELT Choutari was initiated.

First initiated by Ghanashyam Sharma (Shyam), who was accompanied by Bal Krishna Sharma and Prem Bahadur Phyak, this networking initiative had six core moderators (Sajan Kumar Karn, Kamal Poudel, and Hem Raj Kafle joined later) from 2009-2012. Then, this initiative is being continued by a team of young ELT practitioners and scholars. They believe that we can develop very useful and probably most relevant intellectual/professional resources for the Nepalese ELT community and those interested through a discussion forum like this.

So far, more than 500 posts has been published by ELT Choutari, followed by more than 1000 comments over the past seven years. Our journey over the past seven years did not remain smooth. Our journey began with challenges, continued with the same and they exist even today. For instance, in the beginning of our journey we embraced challenges when internet and blogging was much exposed in Nepal and ELT community. Even today, challenges are ahead as we look for ELT enthusiasts to come and joins us for the mission.

Amid challenges, we chose to remain optimist to see them as the opportunity for us, just like Winston S. Churchill’s saying, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” We are driven by our courage and willingness to change. We never pretend that nothing has happened or we are not ready to move ahead.

Dr. Shyam Sharma, a founding member of Choutari

I think Choutari has made unique contributions to Nepali ELT discourse. The community had a great journal, and we also had an active listserv; but we wanted to provide colleagues a place to share ideas that was more public/open and interactive, where especially younger colleagues could contribute their ideas and experiences and run conversations. Many scholars who chose to run this blogzine also had the opportunity to practice publication and leadership skills while serving the profession. This publication has slowed down a little bit, but I am confident that new scholars will take the baton forward. In fact, I also hope that more venues like this will emerge and make new kinds of contributions to the field of ELT in Nepal.

The few colleagues who started this journey would have never imagined that hundreds of scholars, including scholars from around the world, would contribute to this venue–nor that new local voices would join and develop like they did. Thinking about how we started the initial conversation (by putting some of our email conversations in the more open platform of a wiki) is just humbling. The first set of editors (Prem Phyak, Bal Krishna Sharma, and me) took a few important steps in the journey, but we never imagined the many new areas that new colleagues would go on to cover, new ideas they would implement. Just the number of posts and comments and the generation of ELT scholars at home who have participated in the conversation through Choutari is truly inspiring.

As a reader, I urge other readers to read and share the good work here, to contribute as writers, and to consider leading the venue. And I thank the colleagues who are running it today and tomorrow.  ​

Children Taught Me English language

Karna Rana

Karna Rana

When I was a cowboy going to high school in the late 1980s, there was no educational mission in my life. Born in a poor economic background, even thinking of high school after primary school (Year Five) was just like imagery. Almost all the primary school graduates used to travel to India for work after primary school education in our locality. This came to me too in the long run of schooling but my illiterate (cannot read and write) mother and two elder brothers (who could not complete even their primary school due to loss of father) insisted me to join high school which was/is at the distance of three and half hour walk from home. After learning English alphabets at grade four and five, my journey to learning English in high school started in the mid-80s. That used to take whole morning to reach the high school after crossing dense forest, river, and walks up and down the hills via three villages. Over three hour walk in the morning and the same distance back home after school every day was more than enough to make me very tired. The dreams might be away from the sleeps but the real dream of life i.e learning English and speaking like professional was alive even in the sleeps, every walk and work throughout the high school.

Although there was no English learning environment in my school, the thought of learning English emerged listening to the rhymes of the kindergarten children of private school and looking at a couple (both teachers) of the school. I wished I could speak English like those couple teachers who were running that kindergarten school. There was no any English language learning centre around the school. Otherwise, I would have possibly joint the class. Gradually, I completed my high school with almost ‘no learning of English language’. I could just read words without understanding what the text meant. However, I passed SLC by memorising the texts, especially teacher’s notes. I must thank those high school teachers for their intensive teaching of English grammar that supported me to learn English in university later. Apparently I could not speak English even if I had every day English class from primary to high school.

This is a common sense – Nepal was/is not a ground of English though the neighbour had been colonial land of English for hundreds of years. I must thank the earlier generation of Nepali who saved Nepal and the diversity of over 125 languages that exist in Nepal even today. Though I could not learn proper English in high school, I learned formal English during my university education. How I learned English is quite interesting to share here. In fact, I learned almost no English from university classes but I learned English speaking and writing from my teaching profession at private schools in Kathmandu. Thank God, I got a job at private primary school where I used to teach kindergarten children. Actually I was learning more than teaching those kids in the school. The English language began with ‘May I come in, sir? May I go to toilet, sir? Come in. Go…’ Wow! How lovely the children were, who taught me English speaking and writing which was really helpful to study English on campus. I could speak general English in the very first year of my teaching profession. That teaching was reflected in the result of my I. Ed. English papers when I got very good marks. Therefore, I always thank those kids who taught me English language.

Let me continue the issue of professionalism in English language. Since 1995, the beginning of my university education and teaching profession excluding high school, I have been learning English. When I was almost at the scratch level even after SLC, I thought of developing English in me. I could develop English to some extent from my teaching profession as well as university education. I was always keen to develop my academic English proficiency throughout I.Ed, B.Ed and M.Ed. That was the main reason I selected English as major subject in the university. Sometimes I used to feel wretched when I could not understand native speakers’ English on TV or movies. Of course I had been teaching English at different English medium schools and community campus in Kathmandu for about eighteen years before travelling to the United Kingdom for my second Masters in September 2009. However, language is observed in communication and academic arts. One of the reasons behind going to study MA in Education in the UK was the same to develop English language in me.

Let me tell my real story in the UK. I could mostly understand the people in the university but it was quite different when I had to communicate with customers at my work. I used to work in service oriented company where I had to speak over the phones and face-to-face with local English people. I don’t know how many mistakes I might have done in the very first month due to misunderstanding of people’s language. There I realised what the real English is. This reminded my linguistic theory that I learned in B.Ed and M.Ed classes in Nepal ‘Language is human specific.’

I believe this reflective story is worth sharing with teachers, policy makers and English language learners. Only running after English language may be killing our innovative and productive life. At the same time, it should be understood that language is/not universal phenomenon and it should be realised in the education policies of the nation. As an emerging researcher, I have been reading education policy of Nepal and other countries, there is a gap between socio-cultural values and English language education in Nepal. As I said earlier Nepal was/is not the land of English where over 125 languages still exist with their socio-cultural diversities. Quite significant, most of the developed countries are gradually adopting migrant languages to reflect their diversity, inclusion and preserve their socio-cultural values. When we lose our languages, our socio-cultural values also die with the language. One reality that we have to understand is that language is not solely education. This is just the vehicle of education.

Lastly, I am writing this from the land of English (i.e. New Zealand). Just a reminder, I have realised very lately that English is just a language for communication that anyone can learn from the environment. This is similar to one of the 125 languages in Nepal. Now I speak and write English but I wasted my valuable time of life just running after English language and ignoring life skills. Now I think, I should have learned how to cultivate a beautiful flower in a pot that would give me handsome earning in any part of the world.

Mr. Rana is a PhD Candidate in the School of Teacher Education, College of Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

Translation as a technique; not a method in ELT: Bal Ram Adhikari

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Bal Ram Adhikari

Society of Translators Nepal has recently organized the first ever translation conference in Nepal. The conference served as a forum for translators, researchers, linguists and translation enthusiasts to share their knowledge, experiences and construct new knowledge. The conference also explored the issue of the use of translation in ELT. Although translation method has been severely criticized in ELT pedagogy, the latest approaches and methods entertain judicious use of translation. In this context, Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has spoken to Bal Ram Adhikari (Vice- president of the Society, Translator and Faculty, Department of English, TU) to explore more about translation, the conference and translation in ELT.

Q: Welcome to ELT Choutari! What are you doing these days?

Thank you for this sharing opportunity! Apart from writing essays in Nepali, I’m busy in different translation projects.  I’m giving the final touch to Nepali Anubad Sahitya-ko Itihas (History of Nepali Translation Literature), a research-based book to be published from Jagadamba Prakashan. A Grammar of Contemporary Nepali is ready for the press, which is going to be published from Nepal Academy. I’ve just finished the translation and editing of sixteen English short stories into Nepali. I’m also fine-tuning my previous research report Anubad Siddhanta (Translation Theories) for Nepal Academy.

Q: When you look back, how long is the history of translation in Nepal and what is the scope of translation in Nepal?

Let’s look at the first part of your question— History.  Nepalese translation has a short history with a long tradition. Tradition is what we do and history is the documentation of what we have done so far.

As a tradition, the translation activity in Nepal is as old as the languages like Nepali, Newari and Maithili. Translation has remained an integral part of this multilingual landscape. Documentation of this age-old activity has begun now. Translation in Nepal is believed to be more than 850 years old. However, the early translation was confined to such writings as royal inscriptions, and records of donations and deeds. To talk of literary translation, it is believed to have begun with the translation of Shakti Ballav Arjyal’s translation of Mahabharat Virat Parva in 1771 from Sanskrit. In my research, I have divided the duration of eight and a half century into four periods, namely the early period, the developmental period, the modern period and the contemporary age.

As to English-Nepali translation, it’s almost a century-old phenomenon. Nepali-English translation, on the other hand, has only crossed five decades. Shyam Das Vaisnav’s collection of poems Upahar is the first Nepali literary writing to be translated into English. Laxmi Prasad Devkota translated it under the Present in 1963.

Now, let’s turn to the second part of your question— its scope. Translation is growing as a widening gyre in Nepal. Academically, all Nepalese universities have recognized it as a distinct discipline. Literature, linguistics and language education departments have a separate course on translation in their master’s programmes. In practice, translation has been lifeblood of all forms of news media. Now the success or failure of our multilingual information marketplace depends largely on our ability to translate into and from the dominant languages like English. Similarly, publishing houses in Nepal are heavily relying on the translation business. Look at the books translated from English and Hindi floating in the book bazaar. Professionally, some daring bilinguals are coming to the front, who proudly call themselves translators. It indicates that translation in Nepal is moving in the direction of professionalism. There is also an organization of translators ‘Society of Translators Nepal’. Similarly, Nepal Academy has established a separate department of translation.

dsc01824Q: It sounds encouraging. Let’s relate this to the recent fervour created by the Society of Translators Nepal. Last month, the Society organized the first ever conference on translation in Nepal. What was the aim of it and how do you evaluate the conference?

The Society organized a two-day conference and a three-day exhibition of translated books. It was our effort to put our motto into action:  Sharing, Caring and Daring in Translation. That is to say, the aim of the conference was to create a platform where translators, translation researchers, theorists, and translation enthusiasts could come and share their experiences, practical insights and theoretical information. This is what happened in the conference. They came. They shared their experiences and insights. They cared each others’ views. They dared to admit their own limitations and weaknesses as translators.

Success! This conference has created academic and professional discourse on translation in Nepal. We translators are in a position to claim our academic and professional visibility. We had 18 paper presenters and more than 100 participants, including professors and university students. One of the goals was to bridge the gap between translation academicians and translation practitioners. I think we have been successful to some extent achieving this goal.

Q: What is the role of translation (process) in the language development of an individual?

It’s an issue under the perpetual debate. Translation is a bilingual process- a mental process which connects one language with the other. Such a connection can take place at different levels of languages ranging from words through sentences to discourse and pragmatics. Now let’s turn to the second part i.e. language development, which implies the growth of an individual’s verbal and syntactic repertoire, and their contextual use. The question is– how does translation contribute to an individual’s language development?

The role of translation in language learning is always positive! Sure enough! But the condition is its cautious handling. It should be used as a technique of teaching and learning a second language rather than as a method. In the past translation as a method was overused. As a result its impact on language development was negative.

The impact of translation on a person’s language development can be explicit as well as implicit. We can see its explicit impact on learning vocabulary. It is direct. The use of a bilingual word list to expand word power in the second language is pervasive. So is case in learning grammar structures. However, in the case of language skills, its role is not as dominant as in learning vocabulary and grammar. Its impact is implicit. Moreover, we should not confine translation only to word-to-word and sentence-to-sentence rendering. It’s also the mental transfer of first language awareness to second language learning. Mental translation is always at work in the mind of a second language learner. From our own experiences, we second language learners can tell how valuable translation has been in our overall language learning process.

The translator is in direct encounter with two languages at the same time. The translator enters not only into the mechanism of language but also experiences its inner spirit. From my own experience as a translator, I can say that it is probably the best way of developing language sensitivity and sensibility.

A communication crisis is another important factor that pushes our language ahead. During the work, translators find themselves in a communication crisis. The crisis is that they always struggle for words, expressions and structures while communicating the source writer’s message to the audience of a different language. They become untiring researchers in search of proper expressions. They are in the choiceless situation- they have no choice but to find out expressions in the target language to communicate with their readers. They often come face-to-face with their own ignorance i.e. limited knowledge of language. The very realization of ignorance forces them to read more, write more and contemplate more. This ultimately develops their language knowledge, and reading and writing skills both.    .

Q: What is the state of translation in second language pedagogy, ELT in particular?

Translation is a reality of the second language teaching. Translation is not something from outside that we are imposing on second language learners. In the context like ours where English is being learned as an additional language, we cannot skip translation. Our learning setting is bi-/multilingual; our students are aspiring bilinguals in English; English teachers are bilinguals; the goal of teaching English itself is to make our students bilingual in English. And translation, be it textual or mental, is a route along which our students and teachers shuttle back and forth between their mother tongue and English.  I think, to negate translation and advocate monolingual practice (i.e. English-only) is to negate all these bilingual realities.

Contemporary second language theories and practitioners are awakened to such realities. Most of the second language teaching approaches and methods have recognized the intrinsic value of translation in language teaching and learning.  However, by this I am not saying Grammar Translation Method has made its comeback to second language pedagogy. Here my focus is on translation as one of the several techniques of language teaching and learning.

Let’s name some of the teaching methods that candidly cherish translation as a teaching technique. Communicative Language Teaching is one of them. In the early 1970s, CLT gave space for the judicious use of the mother tongue in the second language classroom. Other contemporary methods, namely Task-based Language Teaching, Participatory Approach, and Content-based Instruction all have regarded translation as a technique that can be used in different stages of a lesson with the varying degrees of intensity for various purposes. It means the question is not whether to use translation or not but how to use translation for effective teaching.

At this point I am reminded of David Graddol’s book English Next. In the book Graddol has clearly stated that translation and interpretation are two dominant skills to be developed in users of Global English. Its implication is that translation is not only the means, it is also being one of the goals of English Language Education.

But I am disappointed to see how translation is perceived, treated and used in our context. English teachers, educators and trainers are still oblivious to the changing perspectives towards translation. In private schools translation is still a taboo as it was in the early and mid 20th century. They are practicing their ignorance. They are swayed by the fallacy that the use of the mother tongue and translation hamper the learning of English. On the other hand, in the public schools, translation is either overused or wrongly used.

I hope that English teachers trained in the contemporary language teaching methods will find respectful space for translation in the days to come and will use it in a balanced way.

dsc01814Q:  The quantity of translated books (both in English and Nepali) is increasing in Nepal. How is their quality?

It’s good to see the increasing number of translated books in the market. It’s not only the books, with the books is increasing the transfer of ideas and literary crafts across the languages. With the transfer is increasing cross-cultural awareness. Also with the growth of translation is expanding our publishing industry and translation is on the way to becoming a profession. However the worry is that quantity is waxing and quality is waning. Obviously, when there is a race for quantity, quality is often left behind. Most of the translations are poor in quality i.e. clumsy and stilted language, misinterpretation of the source text and its distorted presentation. But we should not forget that some translations are exemplary. I hope such translations will inspire the new translators.

Q: Whose role is it to ensure the quality of translated literature and other materials? What is the role of Society of Translators Nepal to improve their quality?

It’s the translator who becomes the target of criticism when the text fails to come up to certain standards. Undoubtedly, quality is subject to translator’s art and skills, sincerity and sensibility. It means the translator’s role is the key to good translation. However, there are a myriad of other factors at play in translation. First, we should understand that translation is not everyone’s cup of tea. There is a widespread misconception that any good bilingual can be a good translator. Translation is a distinct area of creative writing which calls for rigorous practice, study and training. Moreover, policy and investment of the publishing houses are of paramount importance. Most of the publishers offer a meagre amount to the translator. Even worse, they make no provision for editing. Likewise, the readers’ role also cannot be overlooked. Quality conscious readers can contribute to the publishing of good translations.

Society of Translators Nepal is not the organization to make a direct intervention in quality enhancement. All it can do and has been doing is raise awareness of translation through informal interactions, talks and seminars, and conferences. We invite translators to our talk programme to share their experiences. We have been organizing a seminar to mark the International Translation Day on 30th September. This year we organized the first national conference.

Q: What are the further plans of the Society?

Apart from the annual conference, the Society (http://translators.org.np/) is going to publish its first journal within a couple of months. We are midway through editing of A Bilingual Glossary of Terms. Similarly, we have planned to run some small-scale translation workshops.

Q: What do say to the budding translators and the translation enthusiasts?

First and foremost, we should understand that translation is a distinct field of study and practice. It has its own charms and challenges. No suggestion works unless we sit down and translate. When we start translating, our own experience will guide us. What I say is that those who do not love language should not come to this field. Fall in love with language; be the explorer of meanings; be ready to be an unsatiated leaner of language; be ready to fail and learn from your own failure.  Be a voracious reader and be an everyday writer. Be the part of the shangha of translators. Share your experiences and listen to others. Translate something every day.

***

Peripheral Classrooms: Reflections of English Teachers in Nepal

In community schools, teaching and learning of English has always been taken as a ‘difficult’ task. Teachers and students confess that it is a difficult subject to teach and learn respectively.  As a teacher, do we reflect on our own classes? Do we ask ourselves how are our classes going? Reflection upon our own classrooms certainly assists us to improve our pedagogical practices.

In this connection, our Choutari editor, Ashok Raj Khati has asked to five English teachers to reflect on their own English classrooms from different regions of Nepal. In the context of English language teaching, they briefly express their ideas in relation to resources, participation of students, use of English and L1, their best practices in English classroom and challenges they face.The five secondary level English teachers are: Babu Ram Basnet (Solukhumbu) Chandra Singh Dhami (Ramechhap), Kamal Raj Basyal (Palpa),  Durga Prasad Pandey (Dang) and Khagendra Nath ‘Biyogi’ (Bajhang).

562665_685671534783323_943408360_nBabu Ram Basnet                                                     Mahendrodaya Secondary School, Salyan, Solukhumbu

Teaching English is not always a fun but it is a very tough job in this part of country. We do not have enough resources, like the internet and other supportive materials, to facilitate English language teaching. Therefore, students do not get enough and authentic exposure in English. I have to read out listening text myself as we do not receive cassettes in time. There are 65 students in grade 10, which is a large classroom in our context. In the same way, the large classrooms are a barrier to many participatory activities. There are many activities to be done and performed by students such as drama, simulation, games and role plays. I am not able to do all these in such a large class which ultimately affect their learning achievement.

Students come from different socio- cultural and economic backgrounds, they usually speak in Nepali language among them. They are generally good in writing but hesitate to speak in English. They have fear to lose face among their friends if they commit any mistakes. So that, I am not satisfied with their fluency in English. To some extent, I am applying traditional method while teaching English. It is often challenging to correct their home assignments in a class of 45 minutes. I use group and peer correction technique several times. I conduct class test in regular interval to know how they are doing. The most challenging part of my teaching is developing speaking skill on the part of students.

15174624_1208623562564901_1405021138_nChandra Singh Dhami                                                       Manthali Higher Secondary School, Manthali, Ramechhap

My classroom in tenth and ninth grades are large, which contains the students with mixed ability. Likewise, students come from diverse socio-cultural and linguistic backgrounds. We have a ‘media’ hall equipped with different facilities such as internet, speakers, tape recorder, dictionary and projector. I often make them watch movies, biographies of poets, popular TV show and show activities related to English language learning. For instance, while teaching English sounds, I often download native speakers’ accent for them to practice. I regularly conduct unit and monthly test. It provides me timely feedback on the areas to improve. We have cassette players, charts and other daily use materials. Students sometimes prepare charts in different lessons.

Majority of students try to speak in English in the classroom. I often use group work and drilling. I make them write in group as a process writing. Students also speak in Nepali language particularly when they do not understand reading texts. I encourage them to speak in English even outside the classroom. Students also take part in speech and debate competitions. I use shorter expression. Even if, students have positive motivational orientation towards English, I am still not satisfied with the progress. Many students do not have same pace in learning English and it can’t be. However, the challenge for me is to cope the students with different levels of English language proficiency.

15239253_735504923267147_1974166001_nKamal Raj Basyal                                                                 Krishna secondary school, Peepaldada-Jheskang, Palpa

There are 56 students at grade 10 in my school which accommodates 29 girls, 26 students from Magar community and 5 from Dalits. Three language use can be observed there in the classroom – Magar, Nepali and English. They are from low income and mostly from middle class families. Their socio-cultural background is not much trouble for me while teaching English as they have positive motivational orientation toward learning English. Likewise, we have whiteboards, electricity, audio-tape/cassette players and necessary charts in English in the classroom. But, we do not have the internet facility in school.

I have found that my students are active in different learning activities in English class where I try my best to use English only and inspire them to use it. I believe it maximizes exposure in English. Next I have generated weekly discussion on certain topics related to the course. In regular interval, I conduct several contests like debate, spelling and quiz in English. Regarding teaching technique, I generally use group and pair work and role plays to facilitate English language learning. I also encourage them to go to library and read books. Therefore, teaching English has always been a fun for me. I am satisfied with their progress. I specially enjoy teaching grammar and vocabularies. However, I often find myself challenged while teaching listening and free writing. So I need to be well prepared to deal with listening and writing activities.

1931541_925213197563390_775367134454601593_nDurga Prasad Pandeya                                               Padmodaya Public Model Secondary School, Ghorahi, Dang

I work in a government funded school having the classes from grade 1 to 12. It has around 87 classes and 5, 000 students. Generally, the student- teacher ratio is one to 50-78 students. Therefore, we teach in large classes. We have irregular internet access and the multimedia projector is only in the audio visual room and students have very less access to them. We also have a smart board but there is no skilled man power to operate it but white boards are available in each room. Teachers make charts and posters for the upper classes and use printed charts the lower/primary classes.

When I reflect on my English classes, my students work very happily in pair and groups particularly to practice speaking skills and some project based tasks. Many of them are found excited and interested to work in group or pair but a few are found reluctant to do all these activities and they prefer individual tasks. I instruct them both in English and Nepali languages. I particularly need to use Nepali as they understand me and are unable to respond in English. They are also not encouraged to converse in English. Another challenge of teaching English is being unable to create English speaking environment in school, which is the result of the low exposure of English in lower classes. It eventually affects their performance in upper classes.

11178286_1427707574212674_9151478527758031773_nKhagendra Nath ‘Biyogi’                                                   Bhairab Higher Secondary School, Jhota, Bajhang

I as an English teacher in this rural area, find myself encouraged in the recent years. Although the classroom is large, we have some minimum resources to facilitate English language class such as tape recorders, computers and other necessary materials. They are taken to computer room to play various language games. Similarly, I make use of laptop and the internet in the classroom. Students prepare charts of CVs, wild life reserve, language functions and so on inside the classroom. There are many different charts in schools, student make use of them in English class in different ways. Many of them use Nepali language inside the classroom. However, I inspire them to speak English. Every day, I ask them a question (as a part of general knowledge), related to English and they enjoy it very much. (For instance, how many words can you make from the word ‘examination’?). I also conduct quiz, debate and speech competition. Regarding the participation of students, they normally work in group and pair. Students are always invited to the front of the classroom to work or present the task assigned. Few students also feel shy to do so.

In the same way, I am selective on using methods and techniques in my ELT classes. Most importantly, I reflect back on my classroom activities to figure out what is working and what is not. Students are found improving the skills of English language these days. It might be the result of increased exposure of English through technology and social media. Another important activity that I do is to visit students’ parents (nearby school) once a week. I talk to them about their children’s progress. While talking with them, I figure out four types of students – outstanding, excellent, good/average and low achiever. The most challenging task for me is to teach and work with the low achievers. Some of them cannot read and write properly. Therefore, it is always challenging to find the strategies to support them.

Choutari team sincerely acknowledge teachers who shared their valuable reflections in this interactive article. They have particularly highlighted the diverse pedagogical practices and issues while teaching English in peripheral parts of Nepal. Now, we request you to feel free to share your thoughts and reflections after reading these reflections here.

ELT at Tertiary level: Perspectives from Far-West Nepal

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Lal Bahadur Bohara

Background

I was grown in a hill district (Bajhang) of far western region. I completed my masters from Tribhuwan University. When I joined a TU affiliated campus in Bajhang, I had some different experiences in teaching English and working with students there. Students’ perspectives toward English language learning, their expectations and efforts made me rethink about my way of teaching and working with students. It made me further investigate the perceptions of ELT professionals and challenges they are facing in far-west region. In this blog post, I am presenting the voices of ELT professionals from this region. It is just a presentation of preliminary data for my paper in Kathmandu University.

Introduction

I taught English in rural areas of far western Nepal for a decade. I think teacher is an only source of motivation for students to learn English in our context. In my case, the way I deal my students sometime motivate them and some other time demotivate. The experience of teaching English in this region, made me further investigate in the area of ELT. This piece primarily discloses the perspectives of English teachers in relation to prescribed English courses in B.Ed. level, common strategies teachers employ in the classroom and challenges they face while teaching English. I had a talk (not structured one) with five English teachers teaching in B.Ed. level in far western region – they were from Bajhang, Bajura, Kanchanpur, Achham and Dadeldhura. They were teaching English in different campuses under the affiliation of Tribhuvan University.

Now, I present the preliminary findings of my study on four major themes. I shall be analyzing the findings and share in future issues.

Gap in contents

I found that academic courses are de-contextualized in relation to contents and culture. In other words, it is found that the contents at bachelor level are de-contextualized with particular reference to the respect to society, culture, age and prior knowledge of learners. Hence, there is a gap between the local reality and the contents in the syllabus. In this regard, a participant put his voice this way:

The prescribed courses are not harmonized with the level of prior knowledge of students in bachelor level. Further, the prescribed books do not incorporate the culture of far western region, even if they were written by Nepali scholars.

Most of the academic contents were from other culture which does not appropriate the socio-cultural background of students in the far western region.

Increasing use of technology

I found that English teachers make of use of the internet, Google and several ELT Webpages. The trend is increasing in urban areas. A teacher mentioned that:

               I use Facebook and make use of several ELT groups and pages. The                               discussions over these venues assist me to facilitate teaching of English                             and keep me up to date in the area. Similarly, webpages such as Learn                           and Teach English of British Council and other ELT resource sites are                             quite helpful for me. Certain mobile applications have also been                                       supportive to me.

It shows that increasing use of technology has added advantages to teach English at tertiary level and the trend is growing in this region.

Teacher centered strategies

Except in a few cases, all participants agree that teachers basically follow lecture method, the conventional method of teaching English. A participant states that:

Without using translation method, the students do not understand the contents. They seem to be happy with translation in Nepali and local dialect. In the classroom of compulsory English (language subject), the number of students is large and teacher primarily depend on lecturing and GT method. In compulsory English classes, some students are from poor language background.

The study shows that in urban areas teachers are, to some extent, more resourceful and innovative than in rural areas. They also agree that students join the English stream with inadequate basic standard in English. However, a participant reports that he sometimes uses project work, group work and problem solving techniques while teaching English.

Use of L1

Next revealing phenomenon is that teachers and students use maximum Nepali and local languages in English classroom in this region. Another participant articulates this practice this way:

Without using local and Nepali language, students can understand nothing. During the lesson, Nepali is a medium of instruction. I often try to use English but students just listen to me, they don’t respond or interact. Then I have to immediately switch to L1.

Participation of students

It also shows that learners’ participation in classroom is very low. Most classrooms are heterogeneous in terms of socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds of students. Therefore, the one prescribed curriculum from the top does not capture their interests and different motivational orientations. Here is what a participant expresses:

Majority of students neither complete their assignments nor actively participate in classroom activities like pair work, group work, and dramatization. Most importantly, they tend to be highly absent in classes.

Therefore, the study shows that multi- level classroom, students’ irregularity and hesitation to speak English are few reasons to mention for the low participation of students in teaching-learning activities. Likewise, many classrooms do not have sufficient teaching materials which better facilitate language learning. The study also reveals that teachers mostly depend on the textbook. They do not have any internet access.

Conclusions

Teaching English language in non-native context is a challenge for several reasons. Most academic contents were from ‘the other’ culture which may not be suitable for the students in the context of far western region of Nepal. Teachers basically follow the same route, an easy job – lecturing in the classroom. Maximum use of Nepali and local languages can be observed on the part of both teachers and students. Classrooms are heterogeneous in terms of socio-economic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds of students. Students generally expect class notes from teachers and there is low participation of students in teaching learning processes of ELT in the classrooms. In the same way, classrooms are under-resourced, except a few classrooms in urban areas like Dhangadhi and Mahendranagar. However, increasing use of technology by teachers could be an additional advantage to teach English at this level in various ways. Preliminary findings show that the situation of English language teaching is not so encouraging in this part of country.

Mr. Bohara teaches English at Jaya Prithivi Multiple Campus, Bajhang. He is currently pursuing his MPhil in ELE from Kathmandu University.

Writing about Writing

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Doreen Richmond

During my recent visit and involvement with teacher training programs throughout some rural parts of Nepal, I did a lesson on writing, both in schools and during training sessions. Writing about Writing illustrates the process I go through when I teach writing. In this article, I have tried to outline the steps I take while teaching writing for both younger developing writers and older more experienced emergent writers.

When I teach writing, I teach it as a process because that is the way that I view it. Writing involves planning, writing a draft, editing and revising and publishing. It takes practice to develop your skills as a writer; it just doesn’t happen overnight.

To begin with, when I work with students, I do several things that vary only with the age and skills that my students have. First, I activate prior knowledge by having students brainstorm the different ways that they use writing. Younger students generally talk about the notes they write their moms or the handwriting practice they do while older students talk about lists, taking notes, writing letters or now-a-days, texts, and writing stories. Activating prior knowledge is important because students need to become aware that we use writing in many ways and for many different purposes.

After brainstorming about how we use writing, I model my own writing so that my students see me as a writer. For example, if I am asking students to write about themselves then I share with them the process that I go through when I am writing about me. It is important that students watch the process of writing so that they know that this is a process that all writers go through. Again, this process is planning, draft writing, editing and revising, and then publishing.

Let’s say that it is the beginning of the school year, and I am asking my students to write about themselves. If I am working with younger students or developing writers, I will first model a picture plan by drawing a picture of myself, my family, my house and a few other interesting details. Then I would orally go through my picture and describe it while at the same time labeling key pictures, (myself, my husband, my dog, cat, house, ect.)

By orally describing my picture and labeling, I am showing my students the picture/word association and also giving them some ideas about how they can do their own picture plan. I would also include some discussion with my students about their own families, who is in it, where they live, what they like to do, ect. Before letting students go off and do their plans, again, giving some guidance for their plans. Then I would set them free to draw their picture plans about themselves, their families, where they live, the things they like, and any other details that they might like to add. Picture plans work well for kindergarteners, first graders, and other developing writers.

Older students generally have more language and can use a different type of plan.  Generally, for older students I use a circle map, which is a type of thinking map; thinkingmaps.org. A circle map has a frame around it that guides the writer’s ideas. The frame is usually divided into four sections which can vary dependent on the topic you are writing about. A beginning piece about themselves might be framed with things like:  Facts: name, age, family members, where I live; Things I like; My Favorites; and My Goals or things I’d like to get better at this year. Using a plan like this allows students to jot down their ideas before they begin writing.  Students then list the answers for these questions or topics in the different areas of the circle. I try to remind them not to write out complete sentences in their circles because this is just a plan and that draft writing is when they put their ideas into complete sentences. Just as I did with younger students, I model my own plan and go over it with them and then show the students how I moved from my plan to my piece of writing. For this assignment, I give the direction that they are to write at least one paragraph about themselves using information from their plans.

As students finish their plans, my job as a teacher would be to go around and have them describe their picture plan to me so that I could help them label it. I would encourage students to label what they could beforehand and share their plan with their neighbor, but I would try to get around to all the students to help them label and add any extra details. Planning might take a whole class for some students but for others, it might be quick and they might be able to continue on to the next step- draft writing. My directions for younger students might vary dependent on the age and development of their skills as a writer but usually I would give a direction for students to write 1-3 sentences about their picture. My goals for younger students are to get them to write so I accept invented spelling and look to see that they are generating some sentences that give me information about their picture.

Conferencing with students, I might point out spacing issues, handwriting difficulties, but primarily I am focusing on their ideas. “Wow, I see you wrote that you like to play with your dog. What is your dog’s name? Can we add that to your sentence? Good job.” I like to think of a “Star and a Wish” when I am giving feedback. Writing takes practice and it is important to praise what a student is doing well rather than focusing on the things they need to correct. If I see many students having the same errors or difficulties, then I use that as a teaching point and do a mini lesson the following day about whatever the issue was, or I say, “Today I am going to be looking for good spacing between your words as you write” to draw their attention to something I noticed was an issue previously. If my students need more support to generate their ideas then I will use some patterned sentence starters to help them. For example, I might put on the board the following pattern: My name is ____. I live with _____. I like to_____. I might also have a mind map that I’ve done previously with students to list things they like to do; again, the idea being that they have a list of words already generated that they can use for their own labeling or to add additional information to their sentences.

When I model my paragraph, I point out that I didn’t use all my details to make my paragraph, but if I wanted to use all the information then I share with them how I could write a multi-paragraph piece of writing that included all the information from the plan. I show students both models of writing, (one paragraph and multi-paragraph) and then provide them with models of patterned sentences/paragraphs that they can use for either writing one paragraph or multi-paragraphs. These are written out on charts and hung on the wall, or they are written on sentence strips and put in a pocket chart for students to see.  I also talk about topic sentences, (main idea sentences) that begin a paragraph and let the reader know what my writing is about.  Then I talk about closing sentences that end my paragraph by summing things up or by adding an emotion to it.  I add this in the form of a sentence starter and label it with either topic sentence or closing sentence.  We also spend some time brainstorming aloud some other ideas for topic sentences and closing sentences and if needed, this is organized as a mind map for students to see and choose from.

Now, my students are ready to begin the process of writing at least one paragraph about themselves.  First, they plan and I go around and comment on their details and ask a few open-ended questions where necessary to encourage them to add to their ideas.  I also might make my own connections to their ideas to reinforce to them that I’m interested in them.  For example, one student writes that purple is her favorite color, and I say, “Oh, purple is my favorite color too; how cool is that!”  As the purpose of this writing activity is to help me get to know my students, it’s important to connect with them about common or shared interests when and where I can.

After students finish their plans, they can begin their draft writing and can use either the patterned sentences model for one paragraph or the multi-paragraph model to help them write, if needed.  Again, I rove and comment here and there on something they’ve written, but I don’t use this time to correct, unless a student is asking me something specific.  When their drafts are done, then I set up a writing conference with them, and that is the time to point out some things that might need fixing up or to emphasis some details that might be needed to strengthen their writing.  I still use the idea of a star and a wish to guide my conferencing, and I don’t overcorrect. By pointing out something that they are doing well with their writing before adding a constructive point for them to think about, I help my students recognize their strengths in their own writing while also encouraging them to look more critically at how they can strengthen their writing. I also try to get  students to read back over their writing first before coming to me or to share their writing with a neighbor or a friend first.  I want to be able to help them self edit and do revisions on their own.  I also look for common errors and use them as a teaching point for a mini lesson the following day.

If I have students who are more proficient with their writing skills, then I use my conferencing time to extend their writing.  Some things I might do are to to ask them to select at least two sentences to revise by adding more details using adjectives, adverbs, or other figurative language such as metaphors or similes.  I might also ask students to select a few sentences and add more details by adding the word, “because” to let their readers know why they like something or like to do something.  Combining ideas and varying their sentence structures so that they start their sentences in different ways to improve the fluency of their writing might also be something to conference about.  How I use my conferencing time with students is dependent on their skills and needs.  As with writing, everyone is different; however, taking the time to conference with students isn’t.  It is an important part of the process.  It takes time, but it is important for students to get that one on one time with you to look more critically at their own writing.

When conferencing is done, students go back and revise their writing to produce a final draft, which is their published piece.  Whenever possible, I encourage them to word process this or to hand write it neatly and if time, to add an illustration to it.  We share our published pieces with the rest of the class, so students know that their work is valued and then it is posted in our Writer’s Corner for others to see.  Celebrating their work helps students see that writing is important and something to be proud of.  A saying I like is, “Writing is Power.”  If you can write well, you can do anything.

Teaching writing is something I’ve done for many younger and older students.  While the topics and content may vary, the process for teaching writing is generally the same.  Planning, developing their ideas, drafting, and then revising and editing before publishing are steps that all writers take with their own writing.  By modeling and providing structure and guidance, students of all ages learn how to develop their own skills as writers.  They also learn to appreciate that writing is a process and an important one.

The Author: Doreen Richmond has taught at all grade levels in the USA. She was a Special Education teacher for many years and currently teaches Reading and Writing in the Transitional Learning Department at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington.  Recently, she has been involved in a teacher training program in Solukhumbu, coordinated by REED Nepal.

Post-PhD Ramblings: What Is There to Remember?

Hem Raj Kafle

Hem Raj Kafle

I was a bit concerned when my friend Shyam advised me to write about my PhD experiences for this month’s Choutari. Would it be worth a read? But, then, I remembered reading Philip Guo’s PhD Grind with my exhausted, empty mind post-defense. This little book, an account of a computer scientist’s six-year engagement in Stanford University PhD, had nearly inspired a memoir of my own six years in Kathmandu University.

I remember reading a line from the acknowledgements page of a graduate thesis written for an American university. The author, with a visible sigh of relief, writes something like this: I thank my wife [Name] for not eloping with someone while I remained either engrossed in the writing or absent for library or field work. This is perhaps an ‘extreme’ feeling for a culture like ours, where you do not need to fear polygamy or elopement to result from such a pious mission as the PhD. But how you miss the family joy, and remain apprehensive of having become a nuisance to your own dear ones!

I began one of my post-PhD talks with this quote I happened to read on Facebook, “Long time ago, people who sacrificed their sleep, family, food, laughter and other joys of life were called saints. Now they are called PhD students.” Someone asked me right away how I had grown through that supposed phase of sainthood. I said I had come out of a very ungenerous conviction that my own family was the biggest hurdle to my growth and that I sometimes felt like dumping everything away and starting the life of an ascetic. This is another extreme feeling one could ever speak to an eager audience.

Yet, I do not aim to present a very personal experience, which might rather take the form of a grumble than a celebration of success. This is the real danger of post-defense rambling. I would rather love to foreground the aspect of learning and personal growth. People think PhD must have made me wiser. I have no desire to deny this. I take this opportunity to share what I consider worth sharing from my six-year engagement.

 PhD is an adventure marked with meeting many people – interested, disinterested, uninterested – and talking about your research. It is an anxious journey from the known to the unknown and back to the known. In such a process, I travelled to India five times. I presented papers at four international conferences. A couple of these travels were planned for meeting with Prof. Raman, my Supervisor from BITS-Pilani Goa. I travelled alone, with friends, with my better-half. Each travel involved some confusion, some excitement, some irritation, but gave enough impetus for further work.

I spoke to international audiences half a dozen times, a different work and perspective in each presentation while rhetorical theories, Nepalese history and newspaper editorials featured in each discussion. Inside Nepal, I would explore possibility of integrating rhetoric in English teaching and present in NELTA conferences, and grasp any aspect of editorial discourse and present in the conferences of Literary Association of Nepal. In the process, I collected dozens of books in Nepali. I would in fact pick up anything from Kathmandu streets if it spoke of media, movement, contemporary politics, and any stuff from the internet that had a key ‘editorial’, ‘rhetoric’ or ‘fantasy theme criticism.’

In the university, I taught English and communication skills integrating elements of classical rhetoric wherever possible. I made and taught syllabi for the courses in media studies and communication ensuring the inclusion of some useful aspects of rhetoric and discourse. I encouraged undergraduates to take up projects in rhetorical studies, and got about a dozen reports produced on representational themes.

I spent hours downloading YouTube video lectures on communication, rhetoric, discourse, and critical discourse analysis. I spent hours on Facebook gossiping with friends about my progress, crafting statuses and posting notes. I ran at least five blogs, writing, editing and publishing diverse contents. I wrote poems, essays, memoirs and newspaper articles. When I look back at the bulk of the dissertation, its accompanying raw materials, the blog entries and the collection of poems and essays in English and Nepali, I feel that the six years with PhD were my life’s most creative period.

PhD is a phase that comes to your life only when you choose to bring it because you must. Once it comes and you enter a process, it shakes your life to the core. What you have to learn and practice does not necessarily come from your earlier learning, nor from your regular work. Circumstances teach you how to put aside all the previous pomp and baggage. I name this a compulsion of “ruthless submission of adult arrogance to childish ignorance.”

PhD makes you develop a passion for listening and making others listen. My own main temptation was to talk if someone was there to put up with me. Dr. Adhikari, my supervisor from Nepal, would spend hours with me listening and talking things. Each time after I parted from him, I felt reinvigorated. A lot of new ideas would surge up and I would ramble a dozen pages forward no matter whether they made it to the dissertation or not. Then I would talk with my wife about my current epiphanies and progresses. I would explain to anyone my project if they showed a little curiosity to know how I was faring.

There is greater pressure in the share of a scholar in English. You have the burden of the virtue of not committing grammatical and stylistic errors. Most often, you are others’ guru and friend so far as teaching these vital aspects of dissertation is considered your own pious, universal responsibility. You are your own guru and enemy. You know how to tutor yourself, and at the same time keep on accumulating pressure in the name of ensuring quality.

I would take to my undergraduate and graduate classes any theory, method, tips on writing or speaking. That’s how the concept would matter to others and get registered and matured as valuable knowledge for myself. I must have scribbled the largest number of junks during the formative years. The junks were the most original things about my learning and experiences. They still look dearer than the 351-page ‘final’ dissertation.

PhD gave me many good things, especially the readings that were useful to life if not to the dissertation and degree. The materials wait to be revisited, helped to mature and brought to their actual discourse community. They continue to claim to have been the degree’s legitimate offspring.

I understand that the product of PhD (dissertation/thesis) is specific for a small discourse community. Not many people will and have to understand the work. Parts of it may come to a wider network of readers only if the writer opts to work beyond the degree either into a book or a journal article if only he or she is in or joins a university teaching position.

Once your work is brought to the public, every literate person appears to believe and may sometimes brag that they could have done as good or even better if they had thought about doing what you have done. But you are the only person who did it. The work is unique. And you are your own reader. Your supervisor has read it, plus a few people in the evaluation committee. Except for five or six persons, the product may have only a very small audience in the future. I am sure not more than half a dozen people have read my thesis. I only hope some people will read part of it if they happen to work on an identical topic. Else, as far as the saying of many goes, it will remain proudly at a corner accumulating dust – for ages.

What do you find out, or develop out of half-a-dozen years’ straining? Perhaps, you create knowledge, or a perspective. Or you have uttered a popular idea in a more interesting and philosophical way. Someone else can give equal scholarly hue and worth to similar task later. But for the moment yours has got qualified, it is the only work on earth that can claim novelty if it is novel.

Nevertheless, the dissertation is not out to change the world, neither the degree it brings, but you are. You are at least expected to initiate some kind of change.

The people from your scholarly network may read you and try to make a difference. You have not closed the lid for new perspectives. You cannot do so. You only transfer one perspective to your community and hint at new avenues of reflection. If one PhD ended all possibilities, we would have been mugging up stale thoughts and moth-eaten books and none would ever think of sweating for three to six years.

The hard-bound black book is only a signifier that a section of the work in continuum has taken a tangible shape. Every dissertation is in the making. It is just a beginning. A ‘finalized’ work has several other works ingrained in it. Only some curious and profoundly informed scholar can interpret the text and nourish its discursive embryo into one or more useful births later. The continuum exists. A scholar in discourse lives in this continuum.

The author: Dr. Kafle is an assistant professor and coordinator at humanities and management unit, school of engineering, Kathmandu University Nepal.

 

 

Attending an Online Course: My Experience

 Rajan Kumar Kandel Teaching Assistant Surkhet Campus (Education)

Rajan Kumar Kandel
Teaching Assistant
Surkhet Campus (Education)

This post deals with a short synopsis and experiences of participating an online teacher training course named Practical Applications for Listening and Speaking Skills (henceforth PALSS). It is written to share the willing teachers to help participating an online course in spite of the challenges like frequent power cuts and unstable networking.

Introduction

The course was 10 week long, (started from January 7 to March 15, 2013 for me) offered through the University of Oregon, Linguistics Department, American English Institute (UO AEI) as one of the nine courses funded through the E-Teacher Scholarship Program. We spent at least 8 to 10 hours per week engaged in online studies and activities. We had to score 70% or above to pass the course.

It required us to have the Google email and Skype account which was used exclusively to communicate with the instructor. The course included weekly asynchronous readings and online Nicenet discussion, synchronous weekly small group Skype meetings with the course instructor, synchronous weekly small group Skype meeting with a conversation leader, weekly audio journals where we reflected on what we learned that week, and self-study materials to improve our listening and speaking skills using online resources among others.  We had to keep a record of self-study along with reflective comments by the end of each week, in the self- study log (click here to view my self-study log). The course also included whole-group webinars at different times during the course. There were 7 webinars altogether and we were asked to attend and view at least 3 of the webinars and write synopsis and reflection. At the end of the course there was final project of preparing a long lesson plan integrating new methods and activities for teaching listening and speaking. We had to put the written assignment into the appropriate weekly folder in the Dropbox shared by the teacher.

We were expected to read the weekly readings and then post at least two times each week in the related Nicenet online discussion. We had to reflect about our activities during the week in an audio journal. I was much tempted to get acquainted with all the activities of the course and was hurried and impatient to know what I was going to achieve after I complete the course and become eligible to receive the certificate. A kind of storm was haunting inside me.

A glimpse of the course topics and the activities performed

The first week included introduction to the course, meet and interact with course participants, instructor, and conversation leader. The Nicenet discussion for the week was self-introduction. Everyone was asked to write the first post between 100 to 200 words and then post a reply to the post of at least one other participant. As the assignment was finished the obtained marks was immediately sent through the Jupiter Grades.

The second week brought the topics -listening and speaking, accuracy and comprehensibility, and learning objectives. The concept of weekly audio journal and synchronous Skype meetings were started from the week. We enjoyed both synchronous Skype meetings very much. I also prepared 5 minutes audio journal describing and reflecting everything done on that week as I was suggested and I posted it in the Drpobox week 2 folder.

Week 3 started with the topics: speaking, evaluation, teacher and peer evaluation with rubrics, and social bookmarking. The first webinar of the course was also scheduled for that week. The webinars were delivered via a program called Blackboard Collaborate. The webinar was on ‘Building Classroom Community’.  Because of the unstable connection I could not attend the online webinar that week but I managed to view the recorded version the next day.

The fourth week was focused on listening and accuracy, lesson plans, and scaffolding with graphic organizers. The synchronous Skype conversation that week was on the use of social media for instruction and the teacher led Skype meeting on information gap drawing. Asynchronous Nicenet discussion was about lesson planning. I attended the webinar for the first time. The main agenda of the webinar were overview of PBL and its application to ELT illustrated by a real example of PBL for ELT. I found it very much interactive, interesting, encouraging, and fruitful.

Pronunciation, syllabus and word stress, and lesson plans were the topics for the fifth week. The asynchronous Nicenet discussion that week was based on correction and providing feedback while teaching speaking. Transcription of the first one minute speech of any of the journals earlier was an added assignment for that week that provided an opportunity to observe and evaluate my own speaking. The webinar that week was on ‘Integrating Pronunciation across the Curriculum’. I got familiar with different steps that we can consider while teaching pronunciation.

The sixth week dealt with listening, note taking, and final project. I explored the websites VOA learning English and BBC Learning English for more than two hours and thought how it can be helpful to me and my students. I thought about how I can make use of those websites in my class.  I completed the self-study log and posted in the Dropbox. We studied the mechanics of note taking and found it new and impressive. I prepared the audio journal for the week and posted in the week 6 folder of the Dropbox.

Week 7 introduced the topics: speaking with focus on fluency and speed, using music in the classroom, and final project. Asynchronous Nicenet discussion that week was based on the importance of accuracy and fluency in language learning and which one should be focused at what time. I posted on the Nicenet about the topic and replied on the posts of other participants. I completed the first draft of final project plan and sent it to Mr. Salah Mohammad Ali, my feedback partner for necessary feedback. I also got his plan to suggest some feedback for him. I transcribed first one minute audio of my week 6 audio journal and listed the reflection of my speech. I posted it in the week 7 folder of my Dropbox and shared with my instructor. Synchronous Skype conversation was about role model and teacher led meeting was on songs and lyrics. I found that it was very easy to teach to speak/pronounce longer and complicated constructions using backward build-up technique. The webinar that week was on ‘Free Listening: Autonomous Extensive Listening for ELT’. It discussed about the three strands of listening instruction by Nation and Newton (2009): language focused listening; meaning focused listening, and fluency building listening. I learned that fluency building listening should consist of message focused activities; it should have easy task, and high level performance.

The eighth week was based on listening comprehension, using video in the classroom, saving audio and video online files, and copyright. I posted in the asynchronous Nicenet discussions about how to introduce and use video activities with our students. Synchronous Skype conversation group discussion that week was about music. Teacher led meeting was about the discussion on the TV news video and one of the best songs of Whitney Houston. I also attended on the webinar on ‘Independent Pronunciation Practice for Intermediate and Advanced Learners’.  I worked on final project plan, read Salah’s plan thoroughly and completed the lesson plan feedback checklist and sent it to Salah and Donna (my instructor) both.

Pronunciation with the focus on suprasegmentals, fluency, using L1 in the L2 classroom, and lesson plans were the issues for discussion during the ninth week. I posted on asynchronous Nicenet discussion about teaching pronunciation: techniques and activities and replied the post of one of the colleagues. Then, I completed final project- preparing lesson plan and posted it in the Dropbox week nine folder. The synchronous teacher led Skype meeting was on suprasegmentals and mainly focused on the sentence stress. Our teacher taught us comprehensively that  the content words, negative contractions, question words, possessive and demonstrative pronouns are generally stressed but function words like articles, auxiliary verbs, personal pronouns, prepositions, possessive and demonstrative adjectives are generally not stressed. We were illustrated that stress is based on the emphasis or the focus. I participated in conversation group discussion and we shared recipe of our best food. The seventh and final webinar was about ‘Jazz Chants for EFL Classrooms’ which taught the basic information about Jazz Chants. I knew that Crolyn Graham, the musician, writer, teacher, and teacher trainer, was the originator and creator of Jazz Chants and she has written many books on Jazz Chants. It is musical and it is loved by all learners: children and adults. It helps the learners to learn pronunciation, stress, and rhythms very easily and comfortably. It can be a great assistance in pronouncing the connected speech in natural speed. It helps to develop fluency of the learners. It can make the environment funny and really safe. Jazz Chants can be used with music or without music even in a crowded class.

The tenth week focused on course overview, dictation, post-course listening assessment, post-course survey, and teacher evaluation. It was the shortest week and the course ended on Friday, March 15. There were no readings and self-study log to do. Nicenet discussion, the last transcription task, course evaluations, an audio journal, and two synchronous Skype meetings were there as the assignments. Asynchronous Nicenet discussion was mainly focused on the course evaluation.  Synchronous Skype conversation was about the concluding remarks of the course and any queries related to it. Teacher led Skype meeting was about dictation. I transcribed the first one minute audio of the week 9 audio journal. I also prepared the audio journal of the week as usual.

The course contents for every week along with the checklist, activity plan, and other links were sent by Gmail the day before the week started. I was so interested and busy during the course. I even left many of my regular duties. I never regret for that. As a whole it was much engaging.

Conclusion

I got opportunity to interact with many colleagues teaching English as second or foreign language at different location of this universe in different context, virtually. It also helped me to think critically and creatively to overcome the potential problems in teaching in general and in teaching listening and speaking in particular. I have realized that it has also helped me to evaluate my own learning and teaching English.  I knew different new techniques much comprehensively than ever. Frequent speaking with the native and non-native speakers of English and the weekly audio journal helped to sharpen my spoken English. Transcription of the audio journal and different webinars not only added to the improvement of my listening and speaking English but also comprehensive teaching of these skills to my students. Readings and the self-study options expanded my horizon of English and broadened the creative faculty of my lesson preparation and presentation. I found the information gap activity, the backward build up activity, the illustrative description of old and revised version of Bloom’s Taxonomy of objectives, the rubrics, graphic organizers, word and sentence stress, and music and chants in EFL classroom really enlightened me. Synchronous teacher led meetings and conversation group discussion, and asynchronous Nicenet discussion among many participants built my confidence. I encourage novice ELT practitioners to try such online courses.

Reference

Course website PALSS course https://sites.google.com/site/uopalss2013winter/

Conference through eyes of a rapporteur

Jyoti Tiwari

For the first time, I have ever attended an international conference recently. I was not just a participant but I was one of the rapporteurs in the 20th International Conference organized by Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) in Kathmandu from 17th to 19th February 2015. The conference covered wide range of issues about various aspects of English Language Teaching (ELT) among ELT professionals, practitioners, researchers, experts and scholars. It proved to be a change agent to promote better ELT scenario in the country. In this blog entry, I make an attempt to share with you about the conference from personal and rapporteur’s view.

It was my first experience and perhaps in the ELT history of Nepal that over 800 participants including teachers, professors, researchers, trainers, and other freelance professionals from 16 different countries including UK, USA, Bangladesh, India, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, UAE, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, and Nepal presented, participated and made discussions on different issues of ELT.

Prof. David Hayes, Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics, Brock University, Canada and Prof. Elka Todeva, a language educator with a doctorate in English in Applied Linguistics, who now works as a professor at the SIT Graduate Institute in the USA, were the keynote speakers of the conference. Both of them have highlighted on the conference theme. The theme of the conference this year was “The Quest for Quality ELT: Riding the Waves and Creating the Landscapes”.

In addition to the keynote speeches, there were 10 plenary sessions, 2 panel discussions, 161 concurrent and 18 Interactive Language Fair sessions.

Day One (Feb. 17, 2015)

I attended a few other panel discussions and concurrent sessions other than the plenary sessions on the first day. The two concurrent sessions that I attended, as one of the rapporteurs, were from India and Bangladesh. Uma Maheshwari Chimirala, one of the ELT professionals from India presented a paper on impact of anticipation and peer assessment on oral task performance who discussed ‘anticipation’ as a teaching strategy to design ‘anticipatory’ tasks to maximize learner investment, noticing and learning opportunities in the ESL classroom.

In the second session, Md. Eftekhar Uddin, an associate professor in the department of English Language and Literature in International Islamic University Chittagong, Bangladesh, made a discussion on ‘Developing Postgraduate ELT Students’ Research Skills through Blended learning Approach’. He presented a detail course module for developing research competence of MA ELT students in a private university in Bangladesh. The module was based on blended learning approach using tech tools like Schoology, Padlet and PowerPoint.

Day Two (Feb. 18, 2015)

The second day of the conference on February 18, 2015 began with the plenary talks by key note speakers Prof. David Hayes, and Prof. Elka Todeva and Prof. Dr. Abhi Subedi.

Key speaker Hayes facilitated a plenary talk on Teaching Learning and Context: What We can learn about Innovation and Quality in ELT from Studying the Lives and Careers of English Language Teachers. In another plenary talk was on Tapping into the Good Learners in All of Us. Likewise,  Dr. Subedi facilitated a plenary talk on ‘Is Writing Colourless Green Ideas Sleeping Furiously Together?

Following the plenary talks on the second day, I attended three concurrent sessions. The first concurrent session was of Catherine Owens and Robert Burges from Thailand, who jointly presented a paper on “Blended Learning: Building Critical Awareness and Autonomy”. Secondly, Humaira Cheguft Chowdhary from Bangladesh made a discussion on “Using Pictures to Enhance Appropriate Uses of English Descriptive Words”. In the third con-current session,  Ganesh Kumar Khanal from Nepal presented a paper on ‘Addressing Multiple Intelligence in EFL Classroom’.

The second day concluded with two plenary sessions by Z. N. Patil on ‘Enriching Linguistics and Communicative Competence through Literature’ and Ganga Gautam and Zakia Sarwar on ‘Learners Autonomy in Large Class through Innovative Project Based Learning’.

 3rd Day (February 19, 2015)

The third day of the conference began with three plenary talks and followed by concurrent sessions. Sanjeev Upreti from Mimic Man to Global Citizen: Interpreting EFL from post-colonial and post-modern Perspective”. The next plenary talk was by Laxman Gnawali on ‘Not Just Action: Blend Activities with Conten’. The last plenary talk facilitated by Balkrishna Sharma was on ‘Whose Waves and For What Qualities: Nonwestern Philosophies for Professional Development in ELT’.

I participated in four concurrent sessions facilitated by the presenters from Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Asmaul Husna from Bangladesh presented the paper on ‘Movies for the English Class’ while Akhilesh Kumar Sharma from India on ‘L2 Teaching learning Process: Students Preference’. Likewise, Thirth Karki from Nepal presented on ‘Short Stories in EFL Classes’. Last but not the least, Praveen Kumar Yadav facilitated a session on ‘New Media Technology for English Language Teaching and Learning: What and How.

To conclude, the three-day conference was a huge success. NELTA president Hemant Raj Dahal’s closing remarks wrapped up the conference. I must say everyone who are directly or indirectly related to ELT field, they must join this forum. As one of the rapporteurs, I felt myself confident and proud to be a member of this largest ELT forum of Nepal. 

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