Let’s Borrow Something from Nepali Language Classrooms into English Classrooms

Ekraj Koirala (Siddhartha)*

I worked as an English language teacher, then worked as a teacher trainer. Now I have taken the new role of basic reading skills development expert in the Nepali language! Actually, it has been an interesting experience for me to work in the teaching-learning of both languages. Now, I am now trying to see how English language teaching can help Nepali and vice-versa. With the recent development of the five component- based reading approach around the world, the focus of reading skill development in native language has been shifted. And the latest approach is giving better results. In this post, I am trying to explore the trends and gaps in reading skills teaching in English language and share some encouraging changes in the reading skills in the early graders in the Nepali language. Finally, I propose to borrow the five component- based reading approach from the Nepali language classrooms into the English classrooms.

Reading skills in English language classroom

Though the curriculum states English as the second language in the classroom, there are students from many different backgrounds, which makes Nepali the second language for them and English after that. In a way, it is taught and practised as the foreign language. One of the general objectives of primary level English curriculum (Primary Education Curriculum, 2063) is “…to help them develop enthusiasm for reading so that they will be responsive and knowledgeable readers” On the other hand, one of the objectives of reading in early grades (1 to 3) is to “put sounds together to read words and sentences and read words and simple sentences, and understand them.” English teaching as a subject in early grade aims of developing students’ ability to use English effectively in real life situation as per the national curriculum framework of Nepal.

As the curriculum suggests teaching-learning activity is to be based on oral-situation-approach. However, during my time of working closely with teachers and students as well as the close observation of teaching-learning in classrooms, I found only a handful of teachers using target language i.e. oral situational approach in the classrooms and most of them use the grammar-translation method to deliver the lessons. Mostly, teachers are active and take more talking time in the learning process, while students are passive receivers and get no or insufficient time to use or practice the language in the classroom. As a result, students learn about the language only not the language itself. During the lessons, for instance in alphabet teaching, teachers ask students to follow him/her like, a… for apple, b… for ball, c… for cat… The early graders are provided with the Nepali translations of new words from the teachers and they are also supposed to mug up the meaning of a particular word in Nepali. Even teaching chant is done in a very unsystematic way where students read chant like reading any other text. Yes, read not sing! Students are seen decoding the letters but cannot decode (read) words or utter them at once. On the other hand, those who decode do not understand the meaning. In my observation, a very few numbers of teachers engage students inchild-centredd activities as prescribed by the curriculum. Group work, pair work and other learning strategies with specific learning tasks are very rare in the classroom activities. As the most popular strategies the teacher uses are; explain unfamiliar words and text in Nepali, read aloud, choral reading, reading by a few students, and answers the comprehension questions using the grammar-translation method. During my observation, I found few measurable gaps in teaching English in early grades (1-3) such as;

  1. Less exposure of English language: Not only the students get less exposure to use the target language in the classroom but teachers themselves use handful expressions of English. Few short expressions of English is used such as stand up, come in, ok, you read, did you understand, now read, your turn, turn page no are the most common expressions as the classroom language.
  2. Focus only on teaching items rather than skills: The teachers only cover the teaching items of the textbook where they focus only on the contents. They are less aware of the basic reading skills such as phonological awareness, concepts of print, letter-sound association and blending of sounds, syllable reading, vocabulary building, comprehension and fluency.
  3. Comprehension teaching is less focused: The main emphasis of teaching is mostly based on the drills and deliver the meaning of the whole text in Nepali. Although reading comprehension is regarded as the essential part of reading, it is mostly neglected during the lesson. Actually, teachers read the text and write the answers on the board and students are asked to copy that. Now the question is who is learning here- teacher or students? Students are not prepared to strengthen their reading comprehension.

Nevertheless, a few good examples of letter recognition is seen in English learning. Few teachers were seen using readymade domino game to link relationship with sound and letter. Students were able to utter correct pronunciation of English letters after the domino practice. They were able to decode the letters in words. When it comes to the matter of word reading, a few students were able to decode words with proper pronunciation. Generally, they were able to decode the monosyllabic words such as bus, high, red etc. but had difficulty in multi-syllabic words. In my observations, I found most of the teachers struggling in making students read words at once. In addition, teachers are struggling to develop vocabulary, reading fluency, and reading comprehension in students.

Reading skills in Nepali language classroom

While working closely with teachers and students and closely observing the Nepali language classes, I found some changes in teaching the Nepali language.  First, there is an extension of time for the Nepali language in schools. With the emphasis of giving more inputs and exposure of Nepali language to students, two periods a day is allocated for it. Second, a new approach called five components based learning approach is used in teaching the Nepali language. And third, a new strategy called gradual release of responsibility is used in teaching learning process.

Now let me basically share about the five component based reading with a short account of classroom activities and the gradual release of responsibility strategy. The five component- based reading includes phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency and reading comprehension.

Teachers start his/her ninety-minute class with the everyday lesson with Phonemic Awareness activities like sound recognition, blending syllables into words and segmenting words into syllables. Then they gradually move to Phonics activities like introducing letter, its corresponding sound and possible words that it comes with. In addition, they involve students in stroke writing, syllables (Brahakhari) reading, word reading and reading a short decodable text. Moving onto the next component of Vocabulary, teachers introduce the vocabulary before presenting a decodable text/story. They introduce three new words with proper pronunciation, meaning and use in a sentence. Then the students are asked to read the text/story to improve their reading Fluency followed by necessary support and model reading from the teacher. Then to assess the reading Comprehension, teachers use factual and inferential questions. Finally, to test the students reading and writing skill, teachers use dictation technique.

In order to teach these components, teachers use the Gradual Release Responsibility strategy. There is basically three phase of presenting a learning item according to this strategy. At first, the teacher demonstrates the new skill of language for a few times, which is known as “I do”. During this time, students are only supposed to watch and listen to the teachers. Then the teacher and students practice the skill together, which is known as “We do”. Finally, the students are given the responsibility to demonstrate the new language skills, while the teacher observes closely and supports them. This phase is known as “You do”. This concept is developed to transfer the new skills of language from teacher to student in a non- threatening way. After all, the ultimate goal of teaching is to enable students to demonstrate knowledge and skills themselves. Gradual release of responsibility believes that students should be presented with a good demonstration of what the teachers expect from them. Then the teacher should slowly engage students in the activity. This phase is mostly teacher guided but both teacher and students are involved. Finally, the students are asked to practice and demonstrate the skill. This concept can be illustrated in the following figure:

Gradual Release of Responsibility- Pearson & Gallagher (1983)

Student learning in the class

I was surprised to see that most of the students in classrooms were able to decode the taught letters and bring themselves into storybooks of different genres from classroom corner library. Teachers, on the other hand, were seen feeling comfortable in doing the lesson in a structured way. They shared that they had never ever experienced such a learning environment in the classroom since they begin to teach the Nepali language. And they believe that this approach is significantly supporting even the students from non- Nepali background to learn Nepali in a better way.

In the follow-up discussion, the teachers expressed that a majority of students have been dropping out from schools when they reach the upper grades. They also revealed that the majority of droppers could not read the text properly and comprehend the meaning. Consequently, they feel ashamed, disheartened, ignored and are punished in many cases and leave the school.  Those who continue their education struggle to achieve better.

Researches have shown that students who do not learn to read in the early grades are more likely to repeat the grade. Those who are upgraded are more likely to drop out of school. In Nepal, if 100 students enroll in grade one, only 30% of them stay in school till the end of their school education. About 70% of students drop out of the school system. It is believed that this horrible situation will lessen once they get competency over the language during their early grades and achieve overall academic success.

Achieving the objectives of the English language curriculum primarily in early grade is inevitable in order to retain the students in upper grades. If students cannot achieve competency over the English language in early grades, their academic success in upper grades cannot be ensured. To address the lacking part in English learning and make the students competent reader in English, Nepal government should introduce five components based reading approach as the core approach to teaching language in early grades. As discussed with cases of Nepali language above, students in this approach get good opportunity to practice reading skills in a carefully guided environment. Moreover, it controls teachers from being active every time and gradually releases the responsibility of learning from teacher to students.

References:

Curriculum Development Centre (2007). Primary Education Curriculum (in Nepali). Curriculum Development Centre, Ministry of Education.

Pearson, P. D. and M. C. Gallagher, (1983).The Instruction of Reading Comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, (8), 317-344.

* Mr Koirala is an MA from Tribhuvan University. He has been working in the capacity of literacy officer in an organization. His area of interest also includes writing, theatre performance and art.

Why There is No Good Reading Habit in Our Students: An Exploration

Nabina Roka*

Many formal and informal discussions emphasize that developing EFL reading at public schools of Nepal is challenging. In this narrative writing, I am therefore trying to investigate the existing scenario of EFL reading in our public school, its impact on developing reading habits and some hints for promoting it.

Let me share an incident that took place in my class. I asked a student to read a simple reading text. In the beginning, he was ready but he tried a little and stopped. I asked him why he stopped but he had no answer to it. He felt insulted in front of the class and flushed in anxiety. At first, he thought he could but as he tried he couldn’t because his reading skill did not support him. Majority of the students who belonged to public school had a similar story (perhaps, still have), a sad story of having difficulty in reading an English textbook fluently. This story reminded me to recall my first stumbling days where I put my full effort, mind and heart to memorize those individual letters ABC…XYZ without knowing what reading actually means. So, till the date, I remember the interesting way of our reading. We were taught to read word meaning in such a way, h-o-u-s-e- house mane (means) ‘ghar’ and gradually started to read sentences.

Reflecting back to those days, what I feel now is that our reading in my time was probably focused on developing the ability to read English alphabets. Later, it was associated with the production of words and sentences than context, meaning and many more. So based on my experience as an ELT practitioner, I do not find any significant difference between past and today. No doubt that reading is definitely a skill, an active skill along with other three fundamental skills of language. Some studies (e.g Dabarera et.al, 2014; Ismail, 2015& Lee, 2012) related to reading skill reported that reading is one of the significant skills foreign language students need to learn for academic success in English. .  .

Firstly, we were taught in Nepali even in English language class. Our teacher translated English text into learners’ native language (Nepali) as far as possible. As a result, we are compelled to think in Nepali and literally translated the language into English. This process involved the use of grammar-translation method in language learning and we are still practising it (nani dekhi lageko bani).  In our English class, our English teachers used to explain the text into Nepali and asked us to memorize the difficult word meaning. When he taught a lesson, he followed the ethics of grammar-translation method.  He read the text and translated into Nepali language, so did the students.  Thus, we never felt that it was our English class and we were reading in English. On the other hand, we felt bored like my SEE students when their teacher starts giving a lecture in English class. The interesting thing happened in both classes (classes of my time and now) were similar where students requested their teacher to tell the text into Nepali. In this respect, I would like to add a statement of my SEE student.

She shared, “Miss, can you please explain it in Nepali? We did not get you?” (Translated)

This is only the very common example. As we are using the Nepali language in most of the English class, it automatically creates a problem in reading. Throughout the observation, we experienced the same and even understood that students might have felt difficulty in reading due to the deep impact of the dominant method. There is a lack of concern and exposure of English inside the class. The contexts are also limited.  It is my experience that the teaching and learning English in public schools is oriented to how to pass the exam.

The students of public schools did not have exposure in reading from English teacher, parents and elders for developing reading skill since the past till now. So, reading becomes a complex process for them. The students do not know what makes them a good reader and what the right way of practice developing reading skills is.

Another reason behind the lack of students’ motivation in reading is due to the lack of additional reading materials. Most of the public schools of Nepal do not have the access to reading room i.e. library in schools. Even though there is a library, students are not trained how to find appropriate books and read fluently. Moreover, lack of trained English teachers, lack of enough teaching aids students of the public school are poor in reading. If we could provide reading related book like English magazine, storybook, poem, drama and so on to our students from the early grades, there might not be seen such problems in the field of English language teaching. So, establishing a resourceful library is essential for the development of students’ better-reading habit.

Similarly, the reason behind our students’ demotivation in reading (mostly in public school) is the teachers’ own reading habit. Therefore, teacher and their reading habit can be one of the sources of inspirations for the learners. I, thus, think that to improve the quality of present government aided education system and more importantly to develop the reading habit to the student, every school should establish a teaching community of practice. McLaughlin and Mitra (2000) emphasize that teachers’ community of practice is an important vehicle for sharing ideas and getting help from each other in their educational practice.  I hope schools can be the best model for teachers along with their students for developing reading skill. In my view, only establishing a library is not sufficient to promote reading habit, but there should be an environment for reading community to enhance the better reading of their young learners. It means there should be a practice of taking children to the library, choose appropriate books and read, then share what they read with their friends and others.

Finally, motivation is one of the key strategies a teacher can use to make his/her students sound in reading. Motivation has positive power for transforming individuals towards wellbeing, Therefore, I felt that at the beginning, mostly the students require a great deal of support and guidance from their ELT teachers. If they get the proper guidance and motivation, they can enhance their reading.

Ms Roka is a recent graduate from the Department of English, TU. Her master’s thesis explores identity construction of female EFL teachers in Nepal.

References

Dabarera, C., Renandya, W., & Zhang, L.J. (2014). The impact of meta -cognitive Scaffolding and monitoring on reading comprehension. System, 42,462-473.

Fairbairn, J., & S. (2001). Reading at university. A guide for student. Philadelphia: Open University Press. USA

Harmer, J. (2001). The practice of English language teaching. London: Longman.

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. London: Pearson Longman.

McLaughlin, M. & Mitra, D. (2000). Theory based change and change based theory: going broader. Journal of Educational change, 1(2), 1-24.

Middleton, E (2011). Reading Motivation and Reading Comprehension. An unpublished thesis of Master of Science in Graduate School, Ohio State University.

Richards, J.C., Rodgers, T.S. (1999). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Original (1986), Third Edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wyatt, M. (2012). Issues in supporting the teaching of reading in English as a second language to Arabic speaking children. The reading Matrix.vol. 12, 2.

My Experience of Teaching Reading in Higher Secondary Level

Yashoda Bam

I began teaching English some eight years ago in a way that I could not help commencing it as the profession. One of my friends requested me to take classes on her behalf when she was not able to continue teaching in the middle of the academic session. When I recall the first day, I was really nervous standing in front of the staring eyes of several students, though it was my luck that I was appreciated by them. The appreciation from the students and my own rewarding experience during this period motivated and encouraged me to take teaching as the career. In the beginning, I found many reading texts quite difficult to interpret to the students. I had had many sleepless nights to prepare those texts. In this short blog post, I share my experience of teaching reading texts in post-secondary level in far-western part of Nepal.

Experience

During these eight years, I taught English in a few community and private English medium schools from secondary to university levels. I mainly collected experiences at the post-secondary level i.e. grade 11 and 12. I facilitated both compulsory and major courses of English which contain various genres of literature such as poem, story, essay, drama, novel and so on. While teaching these genres, I have gained some inspiring experiences.

When I was teaching reading an essay “Look At A Teacup’, the girls of grade 11 hid their heads. Furthermore, they were seen absent the next day. I learned that the reason of their absence was the sexual context in the text. They did not feel comfortable with the content. I consoled them separately and made them feel comfortable. And I also adopted a rapid reading strategy for that particular text. However, I have had quite contradictory experience of teaching a story i.e. “About love” to the students of grade 12. The students were too curious to listen to me. I observed that they were found excited to listen to the story. They paid full attention with no hesitation and wanted me to translate the story in the Nepali language. I realized that the content about love attracts those teenagers.

Another different experience was teaching a dramatic story “The Three Day Blow”. Students became quite passive and felt bored while reading the text thoroughly as it is too lengthy. They reported me that it has some unnecessary conversations. I made a summary of this particular reading. Then I realized that they made meaning in a way that love is like ‘The Three Day Blow’ at the present-day world.

One different situation that I had gone through was while teaching a poem entitled “My Heart Leaps Up When I behold”. Even though it was simple and short, students became quite confused with this paradoxical line: The child is the father of Man. Later on, I changed the strategy to impart the meaning showing a chart to make the meaning clear and they received the hidden meaning of the paradox. I felt quite happy when they comprehend the figurative meaning and internalized it.

I love reading poems but it is hard to deliver the underlying meaning of those poems to students in some cases. Most of the students prefer reading stories and novels to other readings as it has denotative meaning, whereas poem has connotative meaning. One of the girls from grade 11 said, “reading novels and stories interest me because it is easy to grasp the meaning of reading and provide us pleasure.” And a boy also said, “Novels are real-life based, and the stories reflect our characters and lives.”

Challenges and my Strategies

Like other teachers in this region, I also faced a lot of challenges to teach reading texts regarding the contents, students’ behaviour, learning environment and teaching techniques. At first, I used to apply the lecture method. Later students’ progress and my deep engagement motivated me to use student-centred techniques to make students more active and engaged in their classroom and improve their reading ability.

While teaching reading in one of the government schools of a remote area in the region, I had to face a lot of challenges because students were very weak in reading and writing in English. So, I used the Nepali language for every English words and sentence. When I read in English, they were startled and had no responses in the beginning. However, while I was reading something in Nepali, they were quite happy as they found the texts easier to comprehend and grasp the meaning of them. In that situation, I had to take extra (out of office hours) classes to facilitate reading and focus on simple grammar rules, structures, vocabularies and pronunciation of the new words.

As English is a foreign language in my context, there is no doubt that everybody feels some difficulty to master over it. Children in the school coming from different linguistic and social background also feel hesitation and difficulty to speak English. Practice makes man perfect. In earlier days, I used to stay the whole night for reading, underlining the words and write down their meaning. I constantly scanned my own comprehension. This is not something happens at the end of every page but this happens at the end of every sentence. I was scared of thinking that what I should do if I do not understand what I am reading. So reading helped me to deliver the content confidently. I was particularly inspired to see my students’ progress in reading and I think, reading never ends.

Therefore,

I feel that students need to be engaged in reading books of their interests, magazines, newspapers, stories, novels, comics and so on in Nepali, English and the languages they feel comfortable to enrich their reading habit. During these eight years, I find that reading allowed me to expand my knowledge, explore and understand my own identity and made my mind creative and critical.

Ms. Yashoda Bam is a post graduate teacher (PGT) at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari Kailali.

A Professional Journey of Exploration, Experience and Expression

Bal Ram Adhikari*

This paper recounts my professional journey as a university teacher that I started nearly one and a half decade ago. In this narrative account, by exploration I mean textual exploration, experience stands for direct contact with language, working in and through language, and expression has to do with communicating ideas through writing.

Underlying assumptions:  i) learning ceases with over-repetition; exploration gives continuity and safeguards against fossilization; ii) language has to enter into and move through the experiential zone; iii) expression is vital for communication; communication failure leads to professional alienation.

First two years and repetition of sickness

When I started teaching at the university, the entry requirement I possessed was the Masters degree. It was the only professional competence I possessed to teach Masters course. I had some level of confidence because I was going to teach the same course I had studied. The campus where I started my university career was like my home. However, I did not have extensive reading and writing experience apart from coursework, particularly the Masters thesis. My knowledge in the subject was limited. I was confined to the given course, but the subject I thought, for example, Translation Studies demanded interdisciplinary readings in Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, contemporary critical theories like post-structuralism. Apart from reading across these different subject courses, the courses also required me to have experience of translation.

When I recall those early days, particularly the first two years or so, I was a course-teller rather than a teacher. Gradually, I felt more comfortable with the course content, since I had repeated the same course. Also, I felt more secure in the class. However, the lack of job satisfaction led to the devoid of academic charm. I was suffering from what Nietzsche has called “repetition sickness” (Myerson, 2001).

My key professional responsibility

What lies at the heart of my profession is teaching the prescribed courses to prospective English teachers. That is, my first and foremost duty is to stand in front of the class and deliver lectures to the students in the classroom. Other professional responsibilities include supervising researchers, training teachers, designing courses, compiling and editing course materials. Again, all these revolve around the key responsibility i.e. teaching.

Classroom teaching has limited reaching

After some years when I started attending the conferences and visiting the academic forums and creative writing workshops, I began to realize that classroom teaching has limited reaching. I was alienated from the broader academic community. It often struck me that only by confining myself to classroom activities, I might not be able to expand my professional presence beyond university premises. Only by teaching one cannot grow professionally. This feeling would often strike me.

I often asked myself:

  • To what extent can I call myself a professional teacher?
  • Do I only teach or do I also READ?
  • Do I only teach and read or do I also WRITE?
  • Do I only teach, read and write or do I also SHARE?
  • Do I only teach, read, write and share or do I also CARE the emerging writers?

These questions were in fact inspired by Penny Ur’s (1991) notion of professionalism. The questions like these urged me to set on the journey of exploration, experience and expression by means of reading, writing and translating documents.

Desire for expanding my professional presence

I prefer not to limit myself to the reading and writing within my profession. I love plunging into the open space of reading and writing beyond the given profession so that I can traverse neighbouring disciplines, and bring back insights and information to expand and strengthen my profession. I have sensed that it has helped me expand my core identity as an English teacher. Apart from a teacher, now I can also call myself a writer and translator. Translation and creative writing have connected me to the broader audience.

Reading for exploration and experience

Reading is a process of exploring texts as well as information. I normally explore three zones of texts. I often begin with the core zone i.e. the texts prescribed in the course. It’s vital for my professional survival and success of my students in the examinations. However, reading the course texts is not enough. Then, I explore additional texts related to the core zone. I call them the texts from the peripheral zone. I need to deepen and widen my reading experience. To this end, I site the prescribed topic or text in the neighbouring disciplines like linguistics, literature, philosophy, and also refer students to such disciplines to broaden their understanding. Whenever I have time, I choose one of the areas and take to independent reading. I call this the texts from the outer zone. Let me give an example, poststructuralism and translation, a topic from the course. The course requires me to deal with the topic from the linguistic perspective only. Apart from linguistics, I move to peripheral texts that shed light on the topic from the literary and philosophical perspectives. Later I suggest students to carry out an independent study of poststructuralism when they have time.  Thus, as an advanced academic reader, I encourage my students to move to the outer zone from the core.

This exploration helps the reader experience the content and language from different disciplinary perspectives, with varying degrees of intensity. Moreover, it is the process of reading across the disciplines. With such exploration, we become the members of broader academic and creative communities. However, there is a risk involved in such a reading. The reader should not forget to return home i.e. his/her own discipline, say ELT in our case. The only aim of reading beyond the home profession is to enrich one’s professionalism in terms of language and content, not just to become a textual wanderlust.

Writing for exploration, experience and expression

I realized, very late though, that writing is equally intensive and hard to reading, but it is also a source of self-satisfaction. This exploration needs more physical and mental preparedness, more commitment and more motivation than reading. While writing this article, I am exploring my inner and outer worlds simultaneously. Writing requires me to explore my own consciousness by reflecting on professionally who I am, what I am doing, what my expectations are, what my students expect from me, and how I can contribute to my professional community. In a similar vein, I need to explore relevant information available in the textual world to such questions. Writing is the combination of information that I collect from various sources.

Writing is an event. It is the event that engages the writer in language, in content and in context. For example, I, while writing this article, am experiencing English directly. I am not just thinking about English but thinking in and doing through English. I am face-to-face with its components ranging from spelling at the lowest level to discourse at the highest.

I always find myself in crisis while writing because every time I am unsure of spelling. I look for suitable words, proper structures, natural flow in the texture, effective rhetorical devices, relevant information and striking insights. Moreover, by writing I am linked with my students beyond the classroom. It has extended my presence beyond the classroom and multiplied the number of my audience. It has also helped me become a producer of knowledge rather than a mere consumer.

Translation for exploration, experience and expression  

Translation has been instrumental in shaping and expanding my profession in terms of language, content and my identity. My early inclination to translation was due to my desire to improve my English. Later this inclination morphed into a life-long passion and profession. When I start translating a piece of work, I find my English inadequate. So, I need to search English dictionaries for better words, suitable expressions, natural sentence constructions and effective rhetorical devices. It has compelled me to be a tenacious language learner. Moreover, supplementary reading is a must in translation. In order to translate a Nepali book in English, I need to read peripheral English books. For example, when translating Yasodhara, a poetic play in Nepali by Sharada Subba, I had to explore several books and even movies in Buddhism. That led me to the path to Buddhist literature. Old Path White Clouds is one of them. Apart from being helpful in translation, insights from reading of the books like this have broadened my understanding about life and my relationship with students. This book has changed my attitude to teaching as service rather than merely a means of livelihood.

Moreover, while translating, I am engaged in the double helix of reading and writing. My reading is directed to writing. I need to read the text in the deepest possible level and (re)write it in the most accurate way. In both the cases, I am in intimate contact with language. Drawing on my experience, I agree with Sujeet Mukherjee’s (1981) revelation – Reading for translation is the highest form of reading. This acute process of reading has given me a means of expression. I have been expressing myself through translation for many years by now. I believe that I can contribute to the disciple by translating and writing about translation.

Benefits I have reaped from this triune journey

I have reaped a lot of benefits from this triune journey. Some of them are as follows:

  • Contribution to university courses: Selecting texts for such courses as Interdisciplinary Readings is next to impossible without wide reading. With this, I have been able to contribute to university reading courses, particularly in the text selection from literature, philosophy and critical theories.
  • Exposure to language and content across disciplines: I find myself shuttling back and forth across different reading zones. It gives me a sense that I am studying about language, content and its style. This makes my reading interesting and exciting. I can directly experience English used in other disciplines. Such reading exposes me to a variety of language and content. It has helped me guide students, earn their trust. This has improved my English and given me content to contemplate, to teach and to write.
  • Safeguard against professional lethargy: Constant reading, writing and translating has freed me from professional lethargy.
  • Knowledge contributor: My role as a teacher is not only the consumer of knowledge but also the producer of knowledge.
  • Sharing beyond the classroom. I have been able to share my ideas beyond the classroom by means of print and electronic media.
  • Self-humility: Finally, the journey has taught me self-humility i.e. I don’t know but I try to know.

References:

Mukherjee. S (1981). Translation as discovery. India: Allied Publishers.

Myerson, G (2001). Nietzsche’s thus spake Zarathustra. UK: Hodder & Stoughton.

Ur. P (1991). A course in language teaching.  Cambridge: CUP.

 

*Mr Adhikari is a lecturer of English Education at Tribhuvan University. Moreover, He is also a translator, editor, poet, and essayist. You can follow him on Twitter @balaramadhika14/bal ram adhikari

My Experience of Teaching Writing in School

Shanti Upreti

Introduction

I have been teaching English for a decade and a half. I started teaching English from a private English medium school in Kailali. As a novice teacher, I had an energy and ideas to teach.

Later I got a mentor; a head teacher of a reputed school in the region. She was quite inspiring for teachers. It was a turning point in my career. I found myself motivated to make changes in the classroom as I learned many things from her.

Chalk-and-talk method was the main teaching way in this part of the country in those days. It does not promote student-centred activities nor does it enhance their creativity. Many English teachers wish to improve students’ writing skills. However, it is not an easy job. Writing skill receives less attention in my context although it is well specified in our school curriculum. It has been evident that writing plays a significant role in improving overall English language proficiency.

Writing practices

I teach the English language to the upper primary and secondary level students. Writing is an expressive skill and it is felt one of the most challenging language skills to be taught and learnt in my context. I believe writing is not merely a transfer of ideas from one’s brain to paper; it involves organising and structuring ideas. Writing skill begins with copying the given text and ends with free writing provided that students have mastered the skill of combining letters into words and basic vocabulary. Learners have to learn vocabulary and a pattern of writing. Likewise, they need to generate ideas to be organised and a point to be developed; the theme to be explained in the piece. Many students are fluent and coherent in speech but they do not produce coherent pieces in writing of the same speech.

Students do the writing tasks both as homework and classwork. These kinds of writing tasks they do are completing exercises given in textbooks or practice books, answering comprehension questions, filling in the blanks and so on. They are also required to write short paragraphs and essays on different familiar topics.

Here is an example of a paragraph on the topic ‘library’ written by a student of upper primary level:

One of the other examples are writing is book reviews. The following is the book review on ‘The Alchemist’, an international bestseller written by one of my students:

In general, one of the objectives of teaching writing at the upper primary level is to develop skills in students’ to express their personal thoughts, insights, feelings and ideas. Teachers assign various activities depending upon the level of students and objectives of the lessons in this level. Some writing exercises aim to develop the ability of students to think independently giving them room for innovation. Students generate ideas on paper, construct paragraph and develop abilities to use grammar, vocabulary and punctuation marks properly.

My Experiences

Students usually answer questions, write paragraphs and essays. Most of the exercises are based on textbooks. I follow learner-centred activities to develop writing skills rather than writing on the board and making students copy it. Learners go through different stages of writing and they learn to write by doing. Furthermore, I provide maximum opportunity for them to think on the related topics, generate ideas and make notes of them. Then they are encouraged to organise those ideas.

In my experience, my students show a positive attitude towards writing. They pay attention to writing, describe the surrounding nearby them and try to get the meaning from what they write. They practise reading out what they write. They are careful of their spellings. Some of them also summarise the written texts in some instances.

However, it is not always easy for my learners to write as they lack confidence in it but I feel happy with them when they try improving the use of new vocabulary and sentence structures and make a flow of writing. My students commonly make errors in writing but for me, the errors are of great interest and usefulness. I collect the errors, study them, classify them in various ways and implement different ways to tackle them. The learners primarily commit errors in grammar, punctuation marks, contextual vocabulary and parts of speech. I have experienced that the more exposure they receive in the English language, the less error they commit. Therefore, I recommend teachers to provide maximum exposure in English and provide specific feedback to their errors rather than saying good, excellent or try again, improve your writing etc.

Conclusion

Students frequently write answers of short and long questions, write paragraphs and essays. Most of the exercises are text book focused. I employ learner centered activities to develop writing skills excluding write on the board and make student copy it. I attempt to provide maximum opportunity to think related ideas and make notes of them. Then they are encouraged to organize those ideas.

Ms. Shanti Upreti teaches English at upper primary and secondary level in Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya, Teghari-Kailali.

Thesis Writing: A Hard Nut to Crack (A Student’s Experience)

Muna Rai

Background

No doubt writing a thesis is a hard work. But it becomes harder for students like me who have a limited idea about a subject that I am going to study. My study was always focused on ‘how to pass’ the exam. I rarely voyaged beyond the prescribed books and rarely generalised the things in life that I have studied. I always had a due respect to my teachers and their powerpoint slides and I became successful to note and rote them. I was like a ‘broiler kukhura’ (poultry chicken, not free range), who merely depends on others. Since I started writing my Master’s thesis, I realised the real sense of reading and writing. Before that, I might have just read and written the alphabets and words. Having little knowledge of Critical Discourse Analysis I became crazy. This was the time I suffered the most. Those were the days when I lost my hunger, sleep and even I forgot to smile. I used to see my seniors being scared of the word ‘thesis’ like a ghost. They used to say “oh god, how to write a thesis, the most terrible thing while pursuing a master degree”. I could see a thesis phobia in their eyes. And when the time came for me, I was not an exception to it.

Choosing the area of research

Before the notice came out for thesis writing, I started thinking about it. I became so much worried regarding my research topic that I could not sleep properly many nights. I planned to take some steps for selecting a topic, hoping it will help me to lessen my tension. I kept in mind the classes of Mr Ashok Sapkota, my research methodology teacher, and Prof. Dr Anjana Bhattarai, my academic writing teacher. I looked into the previous thesis titles provided by Mrs Madhu Neupane. I went to my friends’ circle and talked to them about the thesis title. They told me to “Take it easy”. Some of them said, “Thesis can be done within a month. You just go to Curriculum Resource Centre (CRC) and choose one best topic, collect two-three theses and copy and paste some portion of each”. How can I do that? I didn’t understand whether my friends were consoling me or consoling themselves.

One evening, I laid down on my bed and started to think about the research topic starring at the ceiling continuously. I recalled all those subjects which I had studied throughout four semesters. Among them, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) struck to my attention. I quickly remembered CDA taught by my teachers in the past. And then I became determined that CDA would be my research area. The following day, I went to the department and met my teacher Mr Guru Prasad Poudel to know some possible topics on CDA. To be honest, I was seeking a topic with his help to carry out my research. I said, “Sir, I am planning to do my thesis on CDA, please suggest me one best topic on it?” My question was straightforward. He smiled with anger and said, “How can I provide you a topic, Muna?” and added “In CDA, there are two facets: one is spoken language and the other is written. You can do your thesis on anyone that interests you”. And I choose the second one.

Becoming ‘specific’ – narrowing down the area

I pulled put those bulky photocopy collections on CDA from my bookshelf and read them restlessly focusing on written texts. I became inquisitive and searched CDA in Google and Wikipedia but none of them worked out. Alas! I couldn’t find the topic. After some days the department published the lists of the students’ names and their supervisors. I was under the supervision of Dr Prem Phyak.  On the same day, he informed me that he was appointed as my thesis supervisor and he invited me and other friends in the department for the first meeting with him the following day. The following day was concluded with the general idea about the thesis. In the meeting, I expressed my interest in studying in the field of CDA.

I have the habit of reading newspapers and magazines. I used to see so many advertisements. So, at the time I thought of doing my thesis on advertisements. I became so much happy that I was able to find the thesis topic. I felt like I was flying in the sky. Another day, I rushed to the department and met my supervisor. I said, “Sir, my research topic is Critical Discourse Analysis of advertisements, how is it, sir?” Quickly he replied, “Yes you can but what kind of advertisements, Muna?” I said, “Sorry sir”. He replied, “There are different types of advertisements, which are you going to work on? Please be specific, Muna”. Honestly, I didn’t understand what my supervisor was saying. I returned back with the empty heart.

Every second the words ‘be specific, Muna’ sounded in my mind. I became so restless and I could not sleep well. I didn’t like to eat at all. Later on, a day when reading The Himalayan Times, an English newspaper, an advert about Pond’s beauty cream attracted my attention. More than that a beautiful lady’s face scratched my heart. Suddenly, I remembered the time when I was attracted by the beauty product advertisement ‘Fair & Lovely’. When I was in my early twenties, ‘Fair & Lovely’ beauty product was very popular. At that time, I could see the advertisement of ‘Fair & Lovely’ on T.V screen and in different newspapers. I was highly influenced by the language ‘Get moonlight fairness in your face just in seven days’. I even tried that product wishing to be like them but I could not get the result as said. Now I realized I was being manipulated by the language used. So, I decided to do a research on the title ‘Critical Discourse Analysis of beauty product advertisements’.

I went to the department and met my teacher Mrs Madhu Neupane. I asked her whether this topic would be appropriate for my research. The same day I also met Mr Guru Poudel and got some information about Fairclough’s CDA model. And then I met my supervisor and expressed my intended thesis topic. He said, “Great! Muna. It’s a wonderful idea”. But I had no idea about how to make that great, a really great in action. Everyone praised my topic. As I was confirmed to my research topic, stress topped over my head. It was the first time I understood research is done in a very specific area. After that, I talked to my guru Prof. Dr Jai Raj Awasthi and shared my interest and intention of doing research on that particular topic with him. Soon he sent me plenty of books, theses and articles on CDA and advertisements. I downloaded those sources and read them.  I just read the title and looked at page numbers. Rests of them were books and international theses above hundred pages. I didn’t dare to open them but kept them safely.

Writing proposal

After some days I along with other friends was called by my supervisor for the discussion for the second time. The night before I opened one short article ‘Beauty product advertisements: A Critical Discourse Analysis’ by Kaur et al. I read it twice because it was short in length as well as it was written in understandable language. The following day we had a discussion on everyone’s topics and objectives in short. The supervisor made us aware by saying “now it’s the time for work” and suggested us to start working on it. I don’t know what my friends did but I started to read. I started reading not because I loved it, but because I had no choice. While reading, I took note that struck my attention. I highlighted those lines which I didn’t understand. I went to CRC and overview the previous thesis. I searched theses related to my area but I didn’t find even one relevant to my interest.  Instead, I found almost all theses written from the definition of language and I did the same. I wrote my proposal from the definition ‘Language is a means of communication…’ thinking it might be the best way of writing a thesis.

One day my supervisor asked me “do you have Fairclough’s CDA book?’. I replied “Yes, sir. I do have”. “Which edition?”, he asked. I said, “1998, sir”. He said, “That one is very old; I will give you the latest edition, 2010”. The next day he handed me the book ‘Critical Discourse Analysis: The critical study of language’. My happiness was out of control. I thought I would grab the whole book and make the best out of it. I came back to my room and started to read it. I turned the first page and searched the definition of CDA. I turned the second page, third page, fourth page respectively. Alas! I couldn’t find the thing what I was looking for restlessly. Eventually, I found the book worthless for me. The things I didn’t understand is the book on CDA which consists of above 500 pages did not have the definition of CDA.

I finished writing the introductory part of my proposal in about a month. I sent it to my supervisor for his comments. After some days he called me at the department. The first question he asked me was “why did you start writing your proposal from the definition of language, Muna? Does it make any sense?” I remained silent, as I didn’t have the answer to his question. Then he handed over the corrected section of my writing and asked me to go through it. He also asked me to take out the definition of language. To my astonishment, about 80% of my writing was red marked. I again lost my confidence and thought that I could not cope with CDA. I nearly decided giving up my research on CDA and find another simple topic to carry on. It was only then I realised how weak I was in the English language itself although I was soon going to be an M. Ed graduate. I evaluated myself and felt disheartened.

Facing the viva – proposal

I remained silent for a month as I was looking for another simple topic. During the period, I received a mail from my supervisor who wanted to know about the status of my proposal. I informed him that I could not go further as I found CDA quite tough. I also told him the difficulties on doing a research from the level of knowledge I had on the area I was trying to pursue. He tried to encourage me to do better in my work. He also suggested me to believe in self. His words energised me again. I stood up again. And then I vowed not to let down myself. I started to read the related sources again. I tried to play with the words and thought differently. I went through the corrected part of my introductory portion. I again opened the publications by Fairclough, Foucault, Van Dijk, Wodak and many more and read them line by line. The most painful situation for me was when I went through the bulky books and understood nothing. I felt hard to understand Fairclough’s idea. When I went through his book, I completely understood the first paragraph, but hardly understood the second. When I reached the last part of the book, I even forgot the little idea I had framed. But I had no choice except to read it repeatedly. I kept on reading it even though I didn’t understand.  Ultimately, I continued writing my proposal and prepared the first draft in about four months. Then I mailed it to my supervisor and got his suggestions. This process continued thrice.  Finally, I survived the viva and got confirmation of my thesis proposal.

And facing the thesis viva

Then I set out for my fieldwork. I visited different publications and stationery shops to know about the local magazines and newspapers. As the objectives of my study were to find out those magazines that contained beauty product advertisements meant for women. I collected magazines and newspaper such as WOW, WAVE, Family, Nari, Nawanari, Himalayan Times and The Kathmandu Post published from 2016 to 2017. From these newspapers and magazines, I collected one hundred beauty product advertisements.

Though I was asked to submit the first draft of my thesis before Dashain (two-months after facing my proposal viva), I couldn’t do it. The whole country was enjoying Dashain and Tihar but I was busy in the collection of data for my study. Finally, I was able to collect data but I did not have any idea of interpreting the data.  Again I read Kaur’s article repeatedly and got the basic idea. I followed that article and moved ahead. I made observation guidelines and analysed the language used in beauty product advertisements in terms of their lexical and syntactic features. I also investigated the discursive techniques that represent the identity of women.  I completed the fourth chapter of the thesis by the end of Tihar vacation. I sent it to my supervisor and started to work on concluding the chapter.

I went to the department to meet my supervisor to get his feedback on chapter four. I became happy as he said “Good Muna, this time you worked hard”. He also suggested me to put some pictures in the language analysis part and give sub-topics in the discursive techniques part. I made the corrections suggested by him. I also completed the fifth chapter and sent both chapters to my supervisor for the feedback. After some days, I received his feedback and worked on it. After the fourth round of feedback from supervisor, my thesis was finalised. I successfully defended my thesis on 20th March 2018.

My reflection on this one-year journey

Through my research journey, I learnt to be patient. It made me creative. Now I knew that research is a systematic and stepwise procedure. As a researcher, I learnt to think critically, paraphrase idea and construct it by playing with words. I experienced writing a thesis is the most important part of my journey to achieve the Master’s degree. It led me from tension to creation. It ultimately helped me enter the academic world.

We do not have a habit of discussing academic matters with our friends nor do we have time to exchange our idea with them. I understand that a piece of research is a collaborative work. With my experience, I now feel that although thesis writing is a hard nut to crack, as the time passes by with our own efforts we can not only crack it but also chew and digest it with utmost satisfaction. Therefore, I suggest my juniors to make critical comments on their friends’ ideas. For this, the creation of a friendly environment is required in the academic circle to promote collaboration that may yield constructive outcomes. Exchanging of ideas plays a pivotal role in research writing, so we need to go beyond books.

Finally, in this academic journey, I am highly indebted to my supervisor, Dr Phyak, for his constructive suggestions and guidance. I now sincerely believe that the thesis supervisor’s role is to hold our hands so firmly that he/she would never let us tumble down until we are done with our work. Most importantly, I have due respect for all the authors and researchers who indirectly enlightened me to successfully complete my journey. Moreover, I cannot forget to acknowledge the advertisement companies that remained the heart of my entire work.

Muna Rai is the Master’s student at the central department of education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. She is also a life member of NELTA since 2015.

A relevant post from our past issue by Dr Bal Krishna Sharma: Writing thesis or academic papers? Read this…

Sharing My Experiences of Masters Thesis Writing

Mamata Bhattarai

Talking to my personal experience in thesis writing, I experienced a way of learning when selecting a research topic, planning for data collection and writing process and I learned to struggle and enjoy pleasant moments.

Selection of the topic

Firstly, I had a level of motivation when selecting the topic: “Linguistic Features in English Usage on Commercial Billboards in Kathmandu Valley” and a curiosity to study in an area ‘Linguistic Landscape’ in the context of Nepal. The term relates to language study of signs, texts, symbols and logos, multimodality (the mixture of texts and signs, symbols, scripts, codes, styles, translation and transliteration).

Most importantly, I would like to thank Dr Prem Phyak, my thesis supervisor who supervised my thesis despite his many other academic and professional commitments. I acknowledge his invaluable suggestions and constructive feedback from the very beginning to the end.

Secondly, the selection of the topic came up in my mind as I was attending my ‘ELT Seminar and Report Writing’ class, and there I got to know about ‘Linguistic Landscape’, its introduction to language use on public areas. After that, I started gathering some information about linguistic landscape from various websites. Gradually, the topic was finalised. I intended to study about the way of the language used at public places, the advertisers’ policy of language adaptation and management with multimodality usage on their billboards, the way the shop owners’ display by designing texts, codes, scripts, logos and symbols with the fusion between them.

Planning to Write

I selected the topic of my interest. After that, I followed a framework mentioned by Shohamy and Gorter (2009) to support my study in the specified area of the linguistic landscape. The linguistic landscape framework was applied to structure my study design. Moreover, the plan as a framework was maintained to study on social and cultural aspects, language policy, power and ideology, linguistic features and multilingual meanings of the contents and contexts of languages used on billboards.

The Process of writing the thesis

Firstly, I introduced the topic as termed to linguistic features and linguistic landscape. Then the reason as mentioned for the selection of the topic was introduced. I stated the main objectives of the study. To meet the objectives, I included some research questions. I reviewed the term linguistic landscape, globalisation of English language, areas and features of the linguistic landscape, functions and taxonomy of linguistic landscape, and linguistic features such as code-mixing/ switching, transliteration, stylistics, scripts, and translation. The study also presented empirical review, its implication for the study and conceptual framework of the study.

For the research data, I collected billboards’ photographs about 100 photographs as the sample.

Struggling as well as pleasuring moments in thesis writing

I faced several challenges when collecting research data (100 photographs of various adverts). I visited various shops around Kathmandu valley, selected various adverts and took pictures of them. I had to select different display board which contained various linguistic features. Some of the advertisers let me take their billboards’ photos with curiosity and interest of my study but some others did not allow me to take photos of their display boards. In some places, shop owners permitted me to capture their adverts after my explanation of the purpose of taking photos.

After the data collection, I gradually stepped onto the process of writing the thesis. To be honest, I did not have any idea from where to start my thesis writing. I needed to study more and prepare myself. After that, I had put a lot of efforts on it, I got the way and order of writing. I consulted my supervisor frequently and he directed me to a certain way of structuring and managing the data. In the beginning, I was worried about how to find the way and managing the writing but I read foreign books and journals related to linguistic landscape and started writing. The ideas I learned from publications helped me shape my thesis at the end. After getting motivated each time by the supervisor for my effort to writing, I got the energy to learn more about how to follow the way of writing the thesis.

Personal experience and reflection

When I selected the new topic of my interest in writing the thesis, I got a load of priceless joys at first. Eventually, I thought as a dreamer to be good at my own writing but it did not happen in the process of research what I had thought. I had to tackle lots of challenges during thesis writing. However, thesis writing brought both pleasure and pain throughout the study. The pleasure led me to become more curious towards the interests of study and generated energy to face the pain during the research process. I now feel that I learned a basic process research writing.

As the linguistic landscape is an essential resource to be implemented in the classroom for teaching and learning, due care should be given to make it as a good teaching and learning instrument. The aim of teaching and learning should not be merely limited to the classroom teaching. It should rather equip students with learning beyond the classroom, learning through the language codes, vocabulary, and structures of multilingual language scripts. Similarly, my personal experience targets to teaching through textual signage in the classroom as it comforts the students to learn better, learning through pictures and symbols along with multiple language codes. An English teacher can take the formal features of signage texts like metaphor and transitivity as what ideological value they carry in consideration while teaching. A teacher, as well as students, can make an appropriate choice of textual signage material while teaching and learning. Finally, the study can be equipped with the selection of appropriate features and functions to learn specific aspects and skills of English use as well as greater understanding of how they are reflected in the language use of others.

Mamata Bhattarai is the M. Ed student at the Central Department of Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

A Teacher’s Journal of Teaching Writing in Community School in Nepal

Bimal Khanal

Writing is one of the important language skills. A piece of writing communicates our feelings, emotions and ideas. In order to develop the writing skills of our students, we can ask them to take notes, summarize and answer questions given in the textbooks. Likewise, dairy maintaining, writing travelogues, reflection, and journals improve their writing skills and helps them build confidence to express their feelings and ideas. Particularly students can perform their language ability, record their critical moments. As a teacher, we can motivate our students to do these writing activities.

My experiences and feelings

In my experience, teachers and students in Nepal, particularly from government schools, hesitate to write an academic piece in the English language. It is perhaps because of not having enough grammar skills and having the limited vocabulary. I believe that the grammar skills and vocabulary in any language are fundamental to compose a piece of writing in that language.

I am aware of the school and community environment where the Nepali language is the major language leaving many other indigenous languages in different ethnic communities. I rarely encounter someone speaking English on my way around the school and community. However, the current generation of children in Nepal would like to learn English and develop skills of the English. But there are so many issues behind it. I have tried to collect some information from students about current challenge of teaching writing skills in community schools. One of my students said, “I can’t write what I feel. I feel writing in English is hard, how to start to answer questions. I don’t get an idea how to start.” The English language is not a common language of conversation Nepal. Around 123 languages are spoken Nepali being the national language in this multilingual country. The English language is learned in the classroom and is limited in the classroom. Hence, it is obviously challenging for children to attain the advanced skills in the English language including the writing skills. However, teachers can try out some ways of teaching writing skills in their classrooms. The teachers can start with asking students to copy something with good handwriting, then gradually assign them some guided writing practice. Once they are confident with guided writing and able to compose appropriate and accurate sentences structures, now we can slowly introduce creative writing to them. Perhaps creative writing helps strengthen their writing skills. Teachers can provide their students with various writing opportunities in different fields like essays, letters, story development, paragraph writing, dairy writing, travel journal writing.

One of my students expressed the difficulty of writing in English, “I can’t write properly because I don’t understand many types of word meaning. How to find out the difficult word meaning?” As a teacher, we always have pressure to complete the curriculum in each academic session. I repeat the same book in the classes each year. There is no provision of additional books to enlarge the vocabulary of students. Extracurricular activities are also conducted for the formality only. English subject related activities such as essay writing, story writing, English debate competition, word meaning, spelling context, etc. get less priority. I think the school administration should manage extra classes for writing after the consultation with parents. Sometimes, guest resource persons of writing should be haired for inspiring the students for experience sharing and writing. On the other hand, the teachers also can do some activities to encourage students like diary or journal writing competition. Then, the good writings can be displayed on the school notice board or wall magazine. Likewise, the teachers must be update-to-date with the new trends of teaching writing effectively to the students.

After the students write, the teachers must read and offer feedback for rewriting if necessary. Generally, the writing process of our students never goes around another cycle. They just write once. Teachers mark the writing and what. Nothing. The process stops there. Actually, teachers must orient their students about the writing process and cycle. The first writing is the first draft and it should be rewritten if necessary. The role of teachers is very vital in reading the composition, offering the feedback and encouraging them to rewrite.

Most of the students are eager to learn the English language. They know the importance and scope of the English language but their foundation is very weak. One of the reasons behind this is the teachers’ own proficiency in English language. Some teachers (of course not all) have problem in composing a good paragraph and conversing in English with their students and colleagues. One of my colleagues expressed that, “There is no English environment in community school. All the students should speak English in their school premises.” It made me think further about learning and teaching the English language. I would imagine that my colleague has an overwhelming concept of educating children, but his expression reflects that he needs to differentiate between the English language and education. If he is teaching the English to his students in the classroom, he has to focus on the language. The increasing shift to English medium instruction from Nepali in the classroom has rather influenced the students’ Nepali language learning and learning of other subjects such as Science, Mathematics, Social Studies and History. The strategy of imposing the English as a medium of instruction in the classroom raised a question: are we teaching the English language? On the other hand, despite using English as a medium instruction, the writing of students is not satisfactory. And it is obvious that the demand of writing composition is going to be increased with the introduction of English medium instruction. Therefore, we need to review and rethink our method of teaching writing to the children.

Bimal Khanal is an English teacher in a community school in Kathmandu. He is also a freelance researcher. 

A Teacher’s Practice and Perception on English Language Textbook of Secondary Level

Prem Prasai

As I take the trip down memory lane, I vividly behold vistas of years I spent on the teaching career. It’s been more than a decade and a half since I embarked on a journey of teaching in a private school in Jhapa. I was in my late teens when I entered a class as a novice teacher. I have been currently teaching English at the secondary level in a renowned school in Lalitpur for more than a decade.

In this course of teaching, I have used many textbooks of different publications as ELT materials. In this context, this write-up draws on my personal experiences of teaching English to secondary level students in an institutional school and shed some light on the textbook(s) I am using as ELT materials. However, I will focus more on different facets of the government prescribed textbooks while making passing reference to additional books prescribed by the school.

Textbooks and additional materials I’ve been using

In my school, there is a combination of government prescribed textbook, i.e. English and additional books prescribed by the school. The additional books include Tales from Shakespeare (Shakespeare’s plays in story form), Intermediate English Grammar and Friday Afternoon and Composition for class nine. Pride and Prejudice replaces Tales from Shakespeare for class ten.

The additional books have been prescribed to expose students with more engaging reading materials to cater to the needs of reading longer pieces of literature. In the additional section, Murphy’s grammar book is a good resource for students to learn grammar independent of or some guidance from the teacher. Friday Afternoon and Composition offers reading texts for comprehension and composition writing skills.

The government prescribed textbooks for secondary level have recently been updated and revised not only in line with the change in the broader socio-political spectrum in the country and in its implications but also with changing principles of English language teaching and learning in the recent years. The content coverage is more comprehensive and contains more variety of topics and activities compared to the past textbooks.

Books selection in schools and necessity of additional materials

As far as the selection of textbooks in my school is concerned, there is no option in case of government prescribed textbooks as they are mandatory throughout the country. However, there is hardly any binding framework followed for selecting additional textbooks. The selection of books primarily depends on the intent of the school authority than the informed choice and recommendation of concerned subject teachers.

Talking about the necessity of additional materials, I think they are not so necessary because the government textbook itself demands more time if we do the set activities and extended activities properly. Furthermore, I think some room should be given to the teachers to explore and bring the resources as per the objectives and the needs of students rather than prescribing. For example, in place of using the prescribed storybook, the teachers can collect or download the relevant story to their students and work on that. But when the books are prescribed, they are under pressure to finish that and hence there is no room for them to use their creativity. Nevertheless, the prescribed additional textbooks are useful for the novice and lazy teachers as they don’t have to spend time searching and collecting something appropriate for their learners.

Students’ perception of English Textbooks and materials

Perception of students towards a particular subject and its teaching material plays a significant role in the effective implementation of the curriculum. Students of institutional schools tend to pay less heed to English subject as they think they are the students of “boarding schools”. Besides, they are influenced by the grades of their seniors in English in the board examinations such as SEE which tend to be far higher than the scores of community schools. This mentality results in a lax attitude in students. Further, it piles pressure on the language teachers to make their lessons interesting and engaging.

The government textbooks match the level of students in institutional schools as they have a comparatively good base of the English language. The recently revised textbook of grade nine and ten are more enjoyed by students because the content is relevant and appropriate for them. Like, there are texts and activities on, one of the favourite foods of students “mo: mo:” Likewise, in the writing section, sample resources are given to students, which helps them to draw the frame of writing. Thus making the activity inductive. Similarly, there are also project works as the extended activities for students, which helps them to explore their learning themselves.  However, some students do not fare well as they concentrate less on English as they think it is easier to get through English compared with other subjects.

Analysis of Government English textbook

As regards the organization of the exercises in the government prescribed textbook English for class ten, each unit is organized under one dominant functional aspect in English language learning. For example, unit one is entitled Giving, Withholding and Reporting Permission. Each unit blends all four language skills. Reading Section is introduced after warm-up exercises on the pertinent issue or theme to be raised in the text. These pre-reading activities are called Engage Yourself and Study Time. The reading is followed by various exercises such as Vocabulary in Use, Question/ Answer, True or False Statements, etc. Each unit contains a section entitled Grammar which employs a three-step approach to a grammar topic. The first step introduces the grammar topic and gets students interested in the topic. The second step focuses on the core area with example and problems, and the last step integrates the grammar item with either speaking or writing exercise. Listening and Speaking Sections follow the same steps. Writing Section begins with a sample writing text, presents the major writing task to the students before relating the writing task to their possible real-life situations. Every unit provides an opportunity for students to do creative work under Project Work Section. Finally, the unit concludes with a relevant fun activity or exercise under Fun Corner.

Overall, some strengths of the exercises include the following of inductive teaching and learning approach, presenting simple to complex ideas, beginning with pre-reading and writing steps, and going beyond the text to explore and relate in real life situations. However, each unit is heavily loaded with exercises, slowing the progression of the course if conducted as per the spirit of the exercises.  An endeavor has been made to make the book a complete whole in itself by integrating different aspects of learning English. For example, major reading texts including some good pieces of poetry, short stories, real and context-specific interviews. The interviews with Nepalese doctors Imran Ansari and Rajan Poudel on Bird Flu and Typhoid Fever respectively help students to relate learning to their life. Besides, the textbooks include many practical writing topics such as making posters, drafting an invitation, writing the notice of condolence and congratulation, composing emails, preparing a CV, writing a job application and a letter to the editor, designing an advertisement, preparing leaflets and pamphlets etc. Moreover, it also exposes students to the idea that intelligible pronunciation is a must in spoken English and to achieve this end, class nine English book introduces the basic sounds and their phonemic symbols to the students. An extended glossary at the back of the book is also of a help for students. Major readings and writing part are received well by the students in institutional schools.

One of the challenges using the English textbook is to be able to do the justice to all the activities as per the spirit and demand as there are plenty of activities and exercises to do. Similarly the timely availability of the audio material poses another challenge. Moreover, there are some grammatical lapses which may confuse students. For example, while reporting a question the reporting verb “told” has been used in question no. 2.(f): Navaraj told Saraswati……. . Another blunder creeps in the following short question (2. i. g) where the preposition “to” is not required before the object Tom:  What did the angel tell to Tom (p. 147)?

There is no denying the fact that the content of the book is culturally appropriate as it encompasses the texts drawing on culturally relevant and context specific texts. This is expected to foster a sense of mutual respect and tolerance in students and the appreciation of the good in everything. Though the content coverage ranges from local to global issues and texts, more interesting and stimulating texts could have been incorporated.

Available teachers’ resources and capacity building to implement curriculum

For the effective implementation of the textbook, Teacher’s Guide Book plays an important role. However, it is not available yet though I checked on the official website of the Curriculum Development Center and its mobile application. A couple of months ago, I got the opportunity to be familiar with the revised curriculum in a session organized by PABSON, Lalitpur in coordination with the subject expert from CDC, Bhaktapur. More workshops are yet to receive.

However, I am aware of the curriculum set by CDC. This awareness helps me to choose from many options available to achieve the learning competencies in my students. However, candidly speaking, always designing learning activities keeping in mind the set curriculum is a herculean task.

Conclusion

As the textbook is an essential resource to carry out the effective implementation of the curriculum set for a particular level, due care should be taken to make it a good teaching-learning material. The aim of the textbook should not merely be the transmission of knowledge. It should rather equip students with a repertoire of skills for acquiring and building knowledge and instill in them a positive attitude as well as the love for lifelong learning. A textbook should enable students to learn how to make use of different ways of learning. It should also provide an appropriate amount of culturally appropriate and interesting texts. An authentic textbook provides students with opportunities for developing diverse skills of learning according to their interests, needs, and abilities.

On the other hand, teachers also should not merely depend on the textbooks but should adapt them as per the level, interests, and needs of students.

Mr. Prasai is an MA in English Literature from TU. Currently an M Phil scholar in English at KU. He is an English Faculty at Public Youth Campus and GEMS School, Lalitpur.  

We’re Still Toddlers in Designing Materials for University Level: Bal Ram Adhikari

Bal Ram Adhikari is a Lecturer of English Education at Tribhuvan University. Mr. Adhikari is a translator, editor, poet, and essayist. He is involved in designing ELT courses and course-books for universities. He is an editor of NELTA Journal (2015-2016) and a country editor of SAARC Poems (2012 & 2013). Our Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has managed to talk with him on the course development process in higher education, trends, his observations on the available courses and his experiences as a whole.

1. What was your expectation as a university student about the curriculum & materials and how it turned up as a contributor to courses and course books for higher education? Can you share your experiences?

As a university student, I belong to the generation of the 2050s. This generation of students of English education was exposed to English mainly as a system. Our exposure to English was mainly confined to pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Our obsession was with accuracy in pronunciation and grammar. We rarely experienced English as discourse, art, and ideology. With these components of English, the courses also offered methods and techniques to open up linguistic resources to the students. What we were studying was the abstraction about English rather than actually experiencing the language as a whole. As a student I wanted to read English; I wanted to write; I wanted to speak. There was no any reading-based course for English students save one compulsory literature course in B. Ed. and the elective in M. Ed. Our English reading was scanty so was writing. The courses were encumbered with definitions, phonetic symbols, phonological and grammatical analysis on the one hand and methods and techniques of transferring them to the classroom on the other. Such division and analysis have their own merits but they mar aesthetics of language and its generative power. Consequently, we suffered from deprivation of content, for content we needed exposure to authentic texts in English. I would read the texts prescribed for the Humanities of English in order to supply myself with necessary nutrients of English. I wanted to see English at work.

I started my teaching career at University in the early 2060s. Our professors had felt the necessity of introducing content-based courses apart from giving continuity to the courses on linguistics, applied linguistics and pedagogy. It was the year 2012, I got a chance to work in the team of Prof. Dr. Jai Raj Awasthi in his capacity as the chairperson of Subject Committee. Prof. Govinda Raj Bhattarai had a crucial role in framing out these courses and selecting the texts for them. Since then I have contributed to different courses and course books.

2. What’s the process of designing and developing course books at the university level?

I can only talk about the reading courses and course books I am involved in. For such courses, authentic texts are selected from diverse disciplines and geographical locations. Mostly the texts are prescribed from books, magazines, and newspapers. For the convenience of students and teachers, such texts, which are widely scattered across disciplines, geographies, and sources, are to be compiled and accompanied by appropriate reading and writing tasks. Rather than writing, this is the process of compiling and editing the text and developing the tasks in congruence with the course objectives and levels of students. To my knowledge, there are no specific guidelines as such for developing course books in our university. Nor is there any workshop, seminar, and orientation for this. Normally, the course of study itself serves as the guidelines for compilers, editors and task developers. It means we are mostly guided by our own experience as students and teachers of English, the theoretical knowledge we have garnered over the years, our intuition that might tell what fits and what doesn’t in our context, and our interaction with the teachers who handle such courses.

3. What new trends do you experience in the process of designing courses and materials in the university?

Current global ELT trends have some bearing on our university courses and materials. The global trends such as content-based instruction, technology-based/-supported instruction, inter-disciplinarity, context-sensitive and context-responsive pedagogy, and blending of the global and the local have begun to appear in our courses too with varying degrees of intensity. There is a growing trend in valuing the role of content for the balanced development of English. We are slowly getting out of our age-long obsession with formal components of ‘container’ i.e. teaching English primarily as a system. What is being prioritized in the courses is the content that fills in the container. Lately, Department of English Education has adopted a content-based approach to teaching reading and writing for academic purposes. Similarly, the content-based courses are open to global and local experiences and expertise. If you go through the courses such as General English, Expanding Horizons, and Interdisciplinary Readings there you can see the presence of creative and academic writings by Nepali writers too. We are on the way to claim with pride that we are not only the consumer of knowledge/information but also its producer. This, in the long run, will dilute native speaker hegemony in our English courses. We are not only ‘downloading’ global texts but also ‘uploading’ our local texts for our courses. This will strike a balance between globalization and localization and might result in glocalized version of English education.

Another emerging trend is the inclination towards strategy-based instruction. The guiding assumption is that to teach is to equip trainee teachers with different strategies so that they can learn in their own way and continue their learning even in the absence of the instructor. This will contribute to learner autonomy. Technology-based/-supported instruction is also making its way into the courses. Recently, the B. Ed. curriculum has included a course on technology and ELT. I should also mention here the revival of translation and the space it has gained in English curricula. ELT curricula of Tribhuvan University, Far Western University, and Mid-Western University have prescribed a separate course on translation theory and practice. It means translation has come back to second language pedagogy after a long banishment. Now the courses have realized it as a reality of ESL/EFL contexts. In the pedagogical framework of World English, for instance, David Graddol identifies translation as one of the skills needed on the part of teachers. Translation has also played a key role in engaging students in (re)generating Nepali texts in English.

As to designing materials, we should accept that we are still toddlers. Not many courses contain the materials developed by our university teachers. The general tendency is to prescribe books published by multinational publishers and articles published in international and national journals.

4. How do you evaluate the available English language curriculum and materials for higher education?

My observation on the courses and materials will be primarily holistic, experiential and impressionistic. I will also draw on some empirical information from my own research work. Overall, the English curricula of Faculty of Education have outgrown the yard of linguistics, their parental discipline. With the inclusion of the courses like Expanding Horizons in English, Critical Readings in English, Mass Communication, Translation Studies, Literature for Language Development to name but a few, the curricula of B. Ed. and M. Ed. are being more interdisciplinary. There is a growing realization among course designers that apart from linguistics and applied linguistics, the neighboring disciplines such as literature, critical thinking, mass communication, and science and technology have much to offer to the English language curriculum. The curricula rate is high in terms of knowledge and skill components they impart to trainee teachers. By and large the curricula aim at exposing trainee teachers to a) subject matter (knowledge about language in general and the English language in particular), b) pedagogical content and skills (knowledge about how to teach and skills of translating knowledge into practice), c) general and academic communicative competence in English d) experiential knowledge of professional action (actual act of teaching) e) knowledge and skills in carrying our research,  and f) subsidiary skills for teachers (translation and mass communication).

Integration of knowledge and skill components is one of the strengths of the courses.  As to organization, the curricula have adopted a mixed-approach of syllabus designing i.e. process and product approach and analytic and synthetic.

I sense that our curricula rate low in terms of the curriculum development process. Theories and principles of curriculum development say that we should make informed-decision about all aspects ranging from policy to classroom pedagogy and assessment scheme. Our curricula are not firmly based on the information collected from research. Its consequence is the disparity between course objectives and students’ expectations as well as classroom reality. It means we are heavily inclined to and probably satisfied with the top-down approach.

In the year 2012, I carried out a research funded by the University Grants to find out student teachers’ views on the grammar course offered to them. They viewed that the course and reading materials both were silent about the reality of our ELT context and it was theoretically loaded. These two major findings of this course can be generalized to other course and materials too. All courses are prone to such weakness where there is lack of needs analysis. In the absence of needs analysis and the analysis of the situations, courses and materials might fail to achieve ecological validity. The courses are ecologically valid when they take into account of contextual factors and underscore their roles while setting goals and objectives, and selecting materials, and designing assessment schemes and tasks.

There is the poor transfer of knowledge into skills, owing to lack of adequate space for action and reflection in the everyday teaching-learning process. The curricula are yet to adopt a model that calls for theory followed by action and reflection. In the absence of action-cum-reflection, the theoretical knowledge imparted to students will only remain information. As you know, information is important but not sufficient for transformation. The English curriculum has recently included a course on technology at Bachelor’s level. However, my impression of the overall courses is that the course designers still think that technology in education is a luxury, not a necessity.

Even from the cursory survey of the prescribed course materials, you can sense that there pervasive dominance of global reading materials. Few courses contain the materials embedded in the Nepalese context that address our issues. That is, our English curricula have to respect and capitalize on our own professional experience and expertise. This is necessary to actualize principles of post-method pedagogy that advocate particularity, practicality, and possibility.

Nonetheless, the course designers seem to be aware of this fact and they have worked in this direction. Some of the courses, for example, have allocated a separate block for Nepali writings under the headings such as “Reading our Own Context”. The initiative like is praiseworthy and commendable.  But the problem is the lack of sufficient English texts by Nepali writers. We need more and more creative and issue-based academic as well as nonacademic writings related to the Nepalese context.  Such writings should emanate from diverse areas such as education, literature, culture, science and technology, and entertainment, to name but a few. Given the proliferation of English texts by Nepali writers, we will have sufficient texts from which we can select those appropriate for our students. At present, we are resorting to Nepali literary texts in English translation to fulfill the demand such texts. However, translation might supply creative writings, not the academic and issue-based.

You might raise a question. Why are we lagging behind in quantity and quality of English writing? The problem lies with our courses in higher education. The space they allocate for generation of ideas and creative expression is scanty. Apart from pedagogy, the courses should also teach the students how to appropriate English to express their general views and creative urge through this language. To this end, we should shift from mechanistic framework of teaching methodology to what Prof. Bhattarai in 2015 NELTA Conference said “Teaching of English as Art”. To this, I add, the teaching of English as Art and Ideology.

5. We develop and prescribe the curriculum and course book/textbook for university students but in the other part of the world universities develop curriculum & materials in collaboration with students? This is of course high sounding. But can we not start including students (to some extent) in the process of making the decision about what they would like to study?

In principle, collaboration with such key players as students, teachers, and administrators is integral to curriculum development and course books writing. Students are obviously the most important of all. They are key agents. All materials and human resources outlined in the curriculum are geared towards linguistic, psychological and content needs of students. Collaboration is instrumental in diagnosing their needs, expectations, and limitations. Based on the diagnosis we can design effective pedagogical intervention and realistic mode of assessment. We know that students are active agents in shaping teaching-learning process as well as the learning outcome. Very often, experiences they bring into the learning community and expectations they have from the courses are key to their success. Moreover, by collaborating with them, we can generate relevant teaching materials from themselves. In our context, the irony is that we ‘prescribe’ knowledge and skills to our students in the package of courses and course books without consulting them, let alone collaboration. Whenever the issue of collaboration, or say consultation at the very least, with students and teachers crop up, it’s dismissed something as ‘high sounding’, ‘impractical’ or ‘ideal’. Sure enough, something is high sounding so long as it is confined to ‘words’ not extended to ‘work’; it is ‘impractical’, so long as we do not put into practice; it is ideal so long as we lack the willpower to actualize it.

As to “can we not start including students” (to some extent)? Sure, we can. For this, first we need to shift from product-based approach to the process-based to designing courses and course materials. Second, we need to train teachers for collaboration with their students. It’s the teachers, not a small group of curriculum developers and course designers, who are in everyday interaction with students. Moreover, we should change our views that teachers are not ‘implementation agents’ nor are students ‘mere consumers’ of what is prescribed to them. The outcome of teacher-students collaboration can be shared with the curriculum developers, course designers and material compilers/editors/writers in seminars and workshops. For the fruitful outcome, I envisage two levels of collaboration: collaboration between teachers and students, and collaboration between teachers and curriculum developers.

6. What challenges do you see in designing English courses for the higher level?

For want of research, it would be difficult to pinpoint the challenges. ELT in Nepal is in a state of flux. English is gradually taking in Nepalese culture and losing its traditional status of a foreign language. However, it is not a second language either. It means we need to rethink the status of English in relation to other languages and its role in our context.  ELT has morphed into the most rapidly spreading educational and academic enterprise. With this has cropped up a myriad of challenges at all levels of curriculum development and course designing. Drawing on my own experience, I see the following as some of the challenges: redefining the goal of teaching English, striking balance between forces of globalization and ethos of localization, extending the range of English use respecting students’ first languages, incorporating local practices and expertise, making the courses diagnosis-based, practice-oriented and reducing the disparity between course objectives and classroom reality, and creating sensible space for technology in the courses.

It’s high time that we redefined the goal of teaching English in the multilingual communities like ours and its role and position in relation to other languages. We should clearly define in the policy the type of communicative competence (apart from the professional competence) we aim to develop in the prospective teachers. Now the time has come to shift from the monolingual notion of communicative competence to what Cook calls “multivalence??”

How to incorporate technologies is being a pertinent challenge. No need to reiterate that presence and dominance of the internet technology is pervasive in all walks of our life. With the entry of WIFI-connected mobile phones into the classroom, there is the influx of information. With this, each student is carrying a learning resource in his/her pocket beyond imagination. Gone are the days when the students had to rely on the scanty notes and hands-outs given by the teacher. I mean, resources and information are flooding in our classrooms. Thanks to technologies but, there is lack of knowledge and skills for their exploitation to support teaching, to enhance learning and to maximize the outcome. Let’s take M. Ed. English curriculum as an example here. Even a cursory glance at the courses reveals a fact that few of them have made scanty reference to online resources. I sense that the internet, which lies at the heart of our everyday life, still lies at the fringe of the courses. The sooner our courses embrace technology-enhanced and –supported learning the better the result.

Related to the global spread of and easy access to technologies, particularly the internet, is the tension between forces of globalization and ethos of localization. The courses cannot prioritize one at the expense of the other. See the tension. On the one hand, we want to produce English students/teachers who are not only globally aware but also can sell their knowledge and skills in the global market. To this end, our courses need to expose them to global issues, methodology, and materials. On the other hand, we are advocating national, ethnic and even geographical identities in the medium (English), the message (content) and methodology. We wish to see our own geographical colors in English, and we are claiming ‘our own variety’ of English called ‘Nelglish’. Looking for the balance between these two forces is likened to treading a tightrope.

1 2 3 16