Welcome to the June Issue of ELT Choutari: Language Planning and Policy

Language Plan & Policy

Editorial

English teachers should initiate discussion on rationales of English medium of instruction

It is common to experience different issues in teaching-learning process in educational institutions, which is not desirable but inevitable. Most of the problems can be solved through an effective communication and discussion among the team.

One of the key issues in our educational institution now is the appropriate use and practice of language/s both as a medium of instruction and access of children’s mother tongue in teaching learning. Before addressing the issue of mother tongue based multilingual education, there has arisen another key issue in teaching learning, which is the increasing use of English as a medium of instruction in our multicultural and multilingual classes. And the interesting thing is the practice of English medium instruction is merely guided by a statement in policy, which states that “the medium of instruction at school level can be Nepali, English or both. However, Mother tongue can be used up to basic level and the same language should be used for a language subject.” There is no any other policy guidelines to systematise this practice. Schools are imitating each others and the practice is increasing. In this backdrop, the communities, local governing bodies and teachers as local executives should also play an important role to make a wise decision on the language practice in the educational setting. An initiation from a teacher also can make a big difference. Therefore, teachers, especially English teachers should initiate effective communication and discussion among the team to avoid the situation from getting worse because they know more about English language and its limitation.

In the context of Nepal, the increasing shift to the English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) seems to be guided by two major factors. First, to stop the transfer of students to private boarding school and increase students in community school. Second, the belief that the English language proficiency of students can be enhanced by teaching all subjects in English medium.

There are several other factors behind the distrust of parents towards community schools, resulting the decrease in number of students. Merely introducing English medium instruction does not solve the problems but its impacts can further deteriorate the condition of school. On the other hand, schools and parents believe that the teaching all academic subjects in English can improve the language proficiency of students. But are schools only English language teaching centres? Or they have roles to deliver the academic contents effectively to students as set by curriculum. Can the existing teachers deliver the contents effectively in the new language? Are students ready for that? Most importantly, is it necessary to deliver all academic contents in English language from primary level? What is the rationale behind it? What do the researches suggest?

We, therefore, need to consider several important questions before making the decisions of language shift in schools. It is very important decision, which can affect the future of children and society but schools are taking it very lightly.

As an English teacher, we can do something to rethink and review this practice. Firstly, we ourselves should be clear that language is just a medium to deliver the information, knowledge and skills. Therefore, the medium of instruction should be the language in which both the students and teachers feel comfortable. It has been huge challenge even for teachers of English to teach English effectively around the nation and how can other teachers teach academic subjects (well packed with contents) effectively to students? Therefore, let’s teach English language subject effectively first. If only English language is taught effectively, students can achieve a level of conversational English. In the name of EMI, actually parents are asking for a workable conversational English, which is possible through effective teaching of the English language. It is not necessary to make such a big shift to attain this purpose. As an English teacher, if we only can clarify these illusions in our school management and school family, it could avoid the random practice and decisions regarding the medium of instruction.

And presenting you the June issue for you, we have tired to re/start the discussion on the language planning, policy and language practices. This issue is packaged with language planning and policy, language in education, professional development and general thoughts on education. The following lines will guide you to select the writing in the area of your interest:

In the first post, Kumar Narayan Shrestha talks about language planning and policy, and its process, and also reviews the language planning and policy of Nepal.

Similarly, Gyanendra Kumar Yadav explores the actual language practice and the issues related to language policy and English language teaching (ELT) in Nepal.

Likewise, a PhD scholar Karna Rana, shares the global need of multilingual citizens and rationales for education in children’s mother tongue.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Prem Phyak shares his insights on the effective approach to language planning and policy analyzing the flaws in the existing language planning and policy. Similarly, he also shares the possible approach in language in education and multi-lingualism and evaluates ELT in Nepal.

In another post, to present you a different taste, Dr. Shyam Sharma urges us to reframe our perspectives and look the realities through positive lens and encourages everyone to take action from their level for language policy and quality education for all.

In the last but the not the least post, Shikha Gurung shares how teachers can continue their professional development through the three dimensional act of reflection, research and networking.

Here is the complete list of the posts in this issue:

  1. Language Planning in Nepal: A Bird’s Eye View: by Kumar Narayan Shrestha
  2. Language Practices and Food for Thought for Language Policy Makers: by Gyanendra Kumar Yadav
  3. So What, If Not Mother Tongue?: by Karna Rana
  4. Language Planning and Policy Should Embrace Inclusive and Co-learning Practices: Dr. Phyak: by Prem Phyak
  5. Beyond Beating Dead Horses: by Shyam Sharma
  6. A Three Dimensional Approach to Professional Development of English Language Teachers in Nepal: by Shikha Gurung

Finally, I would like to thank Karna Rana for his rigorous support in reading and editing. Likewise, I am thankful to Ashok Raj Khati and Praveen Kumar Yadav for their support to release this issue. Similarly, special thank goes to all the contributors of the issue.

Read, comment, share and write your own practices and send to us at 2elt.choutari@gmail.com

Happy reading!

Jeevan Karki the Editor of the issue

Jeevan Karki
the Editor of the issue

Language Planning in Nepal: A Bird’s Eye View

Kumar Narayan Shrestha

Kumar Narayan Shrestha

Introduction

Nepal is a multiethnic, multilingual, multi-religious and multicultural country. According to the latest census (2011), there are 123 languages and 125 castes and ethnic groups. However, Lewis (2009) and Yonjan-Tamang (2005) claim that there are 126 and 144 languages spoken within the territory of Nepal (as cited in Rai, Rai, Phyak & Rai, 2011). Although, languages are sources of knowledge and icon of identity, the majority of indigenous languages spoken in Nepal are endangered due to various reasons.

There were recorded ten different religions viz.  Hindu, Bouddha, Islam, Kirat, Christian, Prakriti, Bon, Jain, Bahai and Sikha. Similarly, there are four llanguage families/genetic: Tibeto-burman, Indio-Aryan, Austro-Asiatic/Munda, Dravidian (Kansakar, 1996, p.1). But Rai (2016) says there five families (Kusunda no family ye), fourteen scripts.

According to (CBC, 2011), the major five mother tongue speakers are as follow:

 

1. Nepali 44.6%
2. Maithali 11.7%
3. Bhojpuri 6%
4. Tharu 5.8%
5. Tamang 5.1%
6. Newar 3.2%

 

According to Yadav (2007) many indigenous languages of Nepal have spoken form only. Rai (2016) says there are 14 scripts: 1. Nepali 2. Lepcha 3. Kirati 4. Tamang 5. Sherpa 6. Newari 7. Santhal 8. Gurung 9. Maithali 10. Bhojpuri 11. Magar 12. Sunuwar (Koich) 13. Dhimal 14. Muslim (Urdu)

According to Yadav (2007,10) Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Maithli, Newari, Sherpa, Tamang, Tharua and Urdu have all kinds of publications, whereas Bajjika, Chepang, Danuwar, Jero, Kumal, Lohorung, Nawa, Nuhbri Ke (Larke), Santhali (Satar), Surel, Tokpegola/Dhokpya and Uranw/Kudux have no publications and other languages have some publications available.

Language Planning and Methodology

Language planning is inevitable for any government since it is associated with the notion of national language. Language as an identity can be a source of national unification as well as source of dispute in a country. Therefore, in the multilingual situation like in Nepal, proper initiative needs to be adopted to build a unified nation.

For the first time, the term ‘language planning’ was coined by Einar Haugen in the 1950s to elucidate the process of language development. It is “a government-authorized, long-term, sustained and conscious effort to alter a language’s function in a society for the purpose of solving communication problems” (Weinstein, 1980, p. 56.). Conclusively, following Cooper (1989) it can be understood as deliberate efforts to influence the behaviour of others with respect to the acquisition, structure, or functional allocation of their language codes” (p. 183). Mostly, language planning is carried out by authorized agencies but to restrict it to the work of authoritative institutions is to be too restrictive (Cooper, 1989).

Different scholars suggest different stages of language planning. Such as, Haugen (1966) proposes four aspects of language development: selection of form, codification of form, elaboration of function and acceptance by the community. On the other hand, Cooper (1989) suggests three stages of language planning: corpus planning, status planning, and acquisition planning.  The stages mentioned by Cooper (1989) can be described as follows:

Corpus planning

Corpus planning deals with the reform within the language structure. Most commonly, a language or one variety of a language is picked up by the government to standardize it. Cooper (1989) states it as the “the creation of new forms, the modification of old ones, or the selection from alternative forms in a spoken or written code” (p. 31). It focuses on the internal condition of a language or language variety. It aims to standardize a variety of language and change its condition. It generally includes the development of orthography, new sources of vocabulary, dictionaries, and literature, and the deliberate cultivation of new uses so that the use of language can be extended to government, education, trade and link language and so on. It may include creation of new forms in spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. As Corpus Planning of Nepali language, British Scholars such as J.A. Ayton (1820) and Sir Ralph Turner (1931) began the standardization process by producing grammar and dictionaries of Nepali. (Kansakar 1996, p.3)

Status planning

Status planning changes the status of a language either by raising or degrading the status of a language. It may deprive or allow the speakers of a minority language to use it in government, education, and trade. It deals with efforts undertaken to change the use and function of a language. It is the allocation of new function to the language in question. Conclusively, for Cooper (1989) it refers to ‘changes in the systems of … speaking’, ‘changes in a language’s functions, ‘language use’, ‘use of language’ and ‘organization of a community’s language resources’. It is concerned with the relationship between language rather than changes within them.

Acquisition planning

It aims to expand the number of speakers of the language in question. Following Cooper (1989) “When planning is directed towards increasing a language’s uses, it falls within the rubric of status planning” (p. 33). It focuses on the teaching and the use of language. Cooper (1989) mentions three types of acquisition goals:

  1. Acquisition of the language as the second or foreign language;
  2. Renativization or revitalization of the language;
  3. Language maintenance.

In case of acquisition planning, the learners are provided with opportunities and incentives to attract their attention. Acquisition planning becomes effective when the language in question serves all the functions desired by the speakers or learners.

Phases of Language Planning in Nepal

Weinberg (2013, p.63) has mentioned three phases of language planning in Nepal.

Periods before 1950 (As rare as snakes in Ireland)

This phase is considered to begin around the annexation of Nepal by Prithivi Narayan Shah and existed till 1950. It stretched within two absolute reigns of Nepal, absolute Shah before Ranarchy and Ranarchy itself. The use of then Khasa language has become Nepali language now which was supposed to germinate politically during Shah Regime in Gorkha. This very language was nurtured by Ranas later. However, “The Rana rulers were not interested in developing the feelings of nationalism that often inspire the imposition of national language policies” (Burghart, 1984 in Weinberg 2013, p.63). They were also opposed to widespread education therefore there was no need to set language in education policies.

First language policy in Nepal was made in 1905. Then, Nepali language was made as language of law and government. However, Hutt (1988 in Weinberg 2013, p.63) claims that no documentation of this declaration has been published.

On the other hand, though Nepali was only permissible court language, Rana (Janga Bahadur) wanted English-language education for his children. He established Durbar School for Rana family. It was the first government-run English medium school in Nepal. However, Hindu Pathshalas and Baudha Gompas were using Sanskrit and Tibetan respectively as medium of instruction from the time immemorial in Nepal.

Later, Dev Shamsher opened 200 Nepali language schools. Likewise, in 1905 Chandra Shamsher started a Nepali-medium school to train civil servants. In 1934, Nepali was declared as the official language of education (Caddell, 2007 in Weinberg, 2013, p. 69).

Padam Shamsher’s regime is marked as a turning point in the history of language policy of Nepal. He proposed ‘vernacular’ schools inspired by Gandhi.

The first post-secondary educational institution in Nepal was Trichandra College, established in 1918. In this college, language of education was English. Its purpose was to shelter students of Durbar school and to prevent them from going abroad (India). His underling purpose was to prevent Nepalese from getting radical ideas which could be dangerous for them.

From 1950-1990 (Panchayat Era: one language one nation)

After 1950 for the first time, Nepal’s government became interested in cultural unification. According to Rai et al. (2011) Panchayat government imposed their political goals through the slogan of ek bhasha, ek bhesh, ek dharma, ek desh (one language, one way of dress, one religion, one nation), which attempted to spread Nepali, Hinduism, and other symbols of nation throughout the country to create a unified national identity. Its goal was to assimilate people of different culture and linguistic background into a Nepali identity based on the cultural practices of elite, high-caste hill Hindus (Onta, 1996a, as cited in Weinberg 2013)

Education was taken as a tool for teaching the end. After the introduction of democracy, new educational language policy was formed considering the recommendation of Nepal National Educational Planning Commission (NNEPC). The report of the NNEPC strongly supported Nepali as the medium of instruction for schooling, largely for purposes of national integration. The report advocated the use of Nepali language not only in classroom but also on playgrounds and in all spheres of life. It states:

The study of a non-Nepali local tongue would mitigate against the effec­tive development of Nepali, for the student would make greater use of it than Nepali – at home and in the community – and thus Nepali would re­main a “foreign” language. If the younger generation is taught to use Ne­pali as the basic language, then other languages will gradually disappear, and greater national strength and unity will result. (NNEPC, 1956, p. 97).

NNEP followed Hugh B. Wood’s personal view and practice of his country (English as medium). Another educational policy was proposed by National Education System Plan (NESP,1971). It advocated the use of only Nepali in administration, education and media. Stressing the need of monolingual situation, it states the goal of education as”

“to strength devotion to crown, country, national unity and the Panchayat system, to develop uniform traditions in education by bringing together various patterns under a single national policy, to limit the tradition of regional languages…” (Ministry of Education, 1971, p.1)

Throughout Panchayat era Nepali language speakers got privilege as the goal of education was to unify nation under one language and one culture.

Schooling After 1990: The Right to Education in the Mother Tongue

After the restoration  of democracy in 1990, for the first time new constitution recognized Nepal as a multicultural and multilingual country. The Constitution of 1990 states “All the languages spoken as the mother tongue in the various parts of Nepal are the national languages of Nepal. (His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, 1990). For the first time language in education policy was stated in the constitution. It paved a way for running school in mother-tongue and even teaching at least up to primary in mother tongue.

In 1993 a commission for formulating policy for national languages was formed to promote national languages and their use in local administration, primary education and media.

Rai (2016) claims that as a result of ‘Education for all (2015) campaign’, textbooks are published in twenty two indigenous languages. Quite recently, the constitution of Nepal (2015) has provisioned the right of language under fundamental rights and states, “Every Nepalese community residing in Nepal shall have the right to get education in its mother tongue and, for that purpose, to open and operate schools and educational institutes, in accordance with law. (The Constitution of Nepal, 2015, Part 3, Article 31)

The School Sector Reform Plan, 2009-2015 provided supported use of mother tongues in grade one through three (Ministry of Education, 2009). The government has approved a set of guidelines for implementing multilingual education and commissioned a report on teaching Nepali as a second language to speakers of other languages in Nepal (Yonjan-Tamang, 2012 in Weinberg, 2013, p.67).

Conclusion

Language planning tries to develop the uses of the country’s national language for the purposes of education, trade, technology and so on. Language planning is ideally based on language policy. Language planning mainly embraces corpus planning, status planning and acquisition planning. In the history of language planning in Nepal has gone through many ups and downs, from monolingualism to mother-tongue rights which still lack feasibility and ground based reality in planning and implementation. Since it is the era of local identity, the government has accepted its spirit through linguistic inclusion.

 

Kumar Narayan Shrestha, M.Ed. and M.A., is a faculty at Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is an M.Phil. scholar at Kathmandu University. He has been associated in teaching for seventeen years. He has published articles in different journals and presented papers in national/international conferences. His professional interests include ELT, research and translation.


References

Central Bureau of Statistics. (2014). Statistical pocket book of Nepal. Kathmandu: Author.

Nepal Gazette (2015). The Constitution of Nepal (2015). Kathmandu: Author.

His Majesty’s Government, Nepal. (1990). Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 2047 (1990). Kathmandu: His Majesty’s Government.

Kansakar, T.R. (1996). Language planning and modernization in Nepal. Nepalese Linguistics, 13 .1-13.

Ministry of Education. (1971). The national education system plan for 1971-76. Kathmandu: His Majesty’s Government.

Nepal National Education Planning Commission. (1956). Education in Nepal: Report of the Nepal education planning commission. Kathmandu: His Majesty’s Government.

Rai, G. (2016, August 26). Ojnelma chaltika anya lipi [Other prevalent scripts in shadow]. Kantipur, p. 11.

Rai, V.S., Rai, M., Phyak, P. Rai, N. (2011). Multilingual education in Nepal: Hearsay and reality? A report. Paper commissioned for UNESCO. Kathmandu: UNESCO.

Weinberg, M. (2013). Revisiting history in language policy: The case of medium of instruction in Nepal. Working Paper in Educational Linguistics, 28 (1), 61-80.

Weinstein, B. (1980). Language planning in francophone Africa. LPLP, 4 (1), 55-77.

Yadava, Y.P. (2007). Linguistic diversity in Nepal perspectives on language policy. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 237459920

So What, If Not Mother Tongue?

Karna Rana

Karna Rana

“Probably I’m the only person here who speaks one language. I wish I could speak more languages.” – An English native.

Why language matters in our daily life becomes a hot chilli at teatime, at lunch break, on a journey and at other round tables. One day on a fifteen-minute teatime break, one of my workplace colleagues who speaks only English said, “Probably I’m the only person here who speaks one language. I wish I could speak more languages.” His statement caused laughter among the four of us who used to sit at the table, and they were from different countries. All of us except he could speak at least two languages. There were other colleagues from China, Taiwan, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Korea, Samoa, Fiji, Somalia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Jordan, and some other countries. I was among them from Nepal. He was the only English native in the group of about fifty-five people excluding the supervisor. Those who were from different countries could speak their mother tongue as well as English. Most of them had colleagues from their own countries and majority of them were females. The environment obviously allowed them to speak in their own  languages. There were four of us (only males) not having colleagues from our countries. The English native who used to sit beside me could only understand English. When others were talking in their own languages, he used to look at their face and smile, which was unusual for English native living in the English country.

It is an example to understand the scope of multiple languages. The place of language as a situation has a connection with several social and cultural aspects. Whether the right to language matters or not, the place where someone is, has a value of speech. The smile of the English native would not often deliver his thoughts when other language speakers used to communicate in their own languages. The situation requires a link language (lingua franca) for verbal communication between the different language speakers. It is still not sure whether the link language can fully transmit their understandings, feelings and meanings. It often happens that two different language speakers using a link language get confused and misunderstand each other. Moreover, the link language may not transmit the feelings of the speakers. When we talk about feelings, it is one of the main characteristics that makes us distinctive, i.e. human being among the creatures in the world. The human feeling is associated with the place where he or she is born and grown up. Thus, beyond than the right to language, there are other human-related important aspects that need to be understood before imposing any other language on the speakers.

“It often happens that two different language speakers using a link language get confused and misunderstand each other. Moreover, the link language may not transmit the feelings of the speakers.”


It may be worthy to write about a seminar on e-Learning and language development that I recently attended in New Zealand. Although the seminar was intended to focus on the research related to digital technology and language development of preschool children, the atmosphere gradually emphasised the socio-cultural aspects of language. A professor from Samoa used Taro (Colocassia in English and Pidaloo in Nepali) farming as a metaphor to develop language in children. His childhood story of planting baby colocassia in a wide land in the right season and harvesting thousands of tonnes of colocassia reflected that the children are the seeds of language which grow in a wide range. When he focused on the right season to plant, it indicated the age of children when they start their social life and acquire language. His words ‘harvest tonnes of colocassia’ represented the growth and development of language. His metaphor was sufficient for us to understand how we can save several indigenous languages in Nepal. In the seminar, the further interaction emphasised that the children’s cognitive development depend on their culture. Another professor remarked that the children conceptualise in their own language other than English in the classroom. She added that the children think in their language and communicate. She suggested that it is necessary to promote the children’s mother tongue from personal, community and national levels. For knowledge, New Zealand has a number of immigrants from different countries who have their languages.

I recently visited Linwood College ( a secondary school with year 13) in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was my second visit to the school to observe the classrooms with a group of Teaching Quality Improvement (TQI) project trainees from Bangladesh. In the interaction with the principal,  head of English Language Learning and other three teachers, Navjot, the head of English  Language Learning, briefly explained about the school environment and classrooms. She stated that the school had students from 21 countries including Nepal. She further explained that the children from different countries and socio-cultural backgrounds speak their languages. However, they have to speak the next language ‘English’ and write in English. She specifically focused on their two different varieties of English, that is, heard language and eye language. She added that the children from different language backgrounds in her school also learned English in their communities or countries. However, they faced difficulties to understand native English at the initial stage. She gave an example that the immigrant children have eye language as they learned English by reading books in their countries. She said that the children learn English from the books, but they think in their mother tongue and try to express in English. It was an example for me to understand why second language learning and speaking becomes so complicated. She also mentioned that her school encourages the immigrant children to use their language. She said, “I encourage them to speak their language and strengthen their language. Use the language as much as they can.”

When I stand on the socio-cultural ground of Nepal, I see a number of indigenous communities, their cultures and different languages. The census of 2011 recorded 125 languages excluding dialects in Nepal. We know that Nepali is the primary language in school education where English is the next language in the community schools. However, the private schools, as well as some community schools, have imposed the English language as a medium of learning and instruction. It is wise not to criticise against the schools’ English language policy without in-depth study in this field in the country. However, it requires the government authority to consider mother tongue as a language of thought and expression, as well as the right to the mother tongue. It is the only way to save the culture, community and the national identity.

Does the above example suggest the education planners in Nepal consider school teaching in those dominated languages in Nepal?

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

He can be reached at karna.maskirana@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

Language Planning and Policy Should Embrace Inclusive and Co-learning Practices: Dr. Phyak

Teaching English as a language is different from using English as language of instruction

Prem Phyak

Prem Phyak

Prem Phyak (a PhD from the University of Hawaii, USA) is a lecturer, at department of English Education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. His area of PhD is Second Language Studies, with a focus on multilingual ideologies, policies and pedagogies. His research areas cover identity, agency, and social justice in the intersection of language, space and education.

Our Choutari editor Jeevan Karki has spoken to Dr. Phyak on the area of language planning and policy in the context of Nepal. 

1. Welcome and congratulations Dr. Phyak for your fresh doctoral degree from the University of Hawaii. What are you doing these days?

Thank you, Jeevanji. It took me sometime to settle in Kathmandu. I spend most of my time teaching at both Masters and M.Phil./PhD programs at the Central Department of Education, Tribhuwan University.  Besides, I am working on a project Art, Language and Public Space. I am looking at the enactment of multilingualism in public space of Kathmandu and exploring both the reproduction and resistance of monolingual ideologies through the use of languages in city space.

 2. As we know, one of your areas of interest is language policy in education. For our readers, can you explain what language policy and planning is and why does it become crucial in Nepal, a multilingual country?

Yes, my research draws on interdisciplinary approaches to language education.  There are multiple perspectives of language policy. Traditionally, language policy has been defined as what different bodies of government decide about the use of languages in various agencies like education, mass media and government offices. This perspective is top-down and constructs language policy as a normative (establishing, relating to, or deriving from a standard or norm) practice, which may not necessarily recognize complexity of linguistic diversity and multilingual practices in real life situations.  But my perspective on language policy is bottom-up approach. For me, language policy is what and how individuals, communities, and institutions practise languages in their real life without any censorship and symbolic dominance. From this perspective, each individual is taken as an agent of language policy. Since each individual and community can decide, what language should be used where and for what purposes. It is important to understand on-the-ground language practices. More specifically, language policy is simply a legitimacy of actual language practices on the ground. This perspective goes beyond language-policy-as-text idea to language-policy-as-practice.

“Language policy is simply a legitimacy of actual language practices on the ground.”


In Nepal, language policy discourse is dominantly guided by a top-down and normative ideologies. In other words, government tends to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach in the creation and implementation of language policy. Yet, such a policy does not work in multilingual contexts where languages across their boundaries and practices become fluid and dynamic. Therefore, language policy should be grounded on multilingual ideologies as experienced by bi-/multilingual speakers and epistemologies of language minoritised people.  For me, language policy is ‘plural’ and ‘multiple’ and should recognize language practices of all individuals and communities; it should not impose monolingual ideologies in the guise nation-state and neoliberal ideologies. This perspective on language policy is crucial in a multilingual context like Nepal for two reasons. First, this perspective recognises bi-/multilingual identities of each individual. Second, while taking language policy as a multiple and agentive process, this perspective challenges normative boundaries between language that create hierarchy and unequal power relations among languages. Most importantly, it is necessary to situate language policies within local language practices in various domains, particularly at home and an immediate community of interlocutors.

3. So, regarding the language in educational planning is concerned, do you think Nepal is following a right model? I make a reference here, many children start their early foundation of schooling from English in Nepal.

A great question, Jeevan-ji! Yet, I should be careful when I say ‘a right model’.  The notion of ‘right model’ in language-in-education planning can be hegemonic and may reproduce linguistic inequalities. Developing one ‘right model’ of language education planning may support a deficit view of language education that considers particular languages, mostly minoritised languages, problem while giving educational value to other languages. Rather than saying ‘a right mode’, I would like to use locally appropriate and linguistically sensitive approach.  This approach to language education planning recognises all children’s language practices as resource for learning, both language and academic content.

“We should embrace locally appropriate and linguistically sensitive approach for the language in education.”


Nepal’s current language education planning is extremely narrow and unable to embrace real multilingual practices. Although there is some level of awareness of the importance of multilingualism in education, at macro level, both language policy discourses and pedagogical practices reproduce monolingual ideologies of language. For example, I had an opportunity to attend two language policy-related discussions in the last five months in Kathmandu. Both discussions were attended by linguists, teacher educators, government officials and teachers. Although those programs were organised to analyse issues concerning multilingual policies in education, the discussions could not challenge rather reproduced monolingual ideologies. Mostly because the discussion questions were framed by upholding monolingual perspectives, the panelists could not go beyond linguistic boundaries and neoliberal language ideologies. For instance, most often, in one discussion, the panelists were asked to express their opinions about the use of English against multilingual education. In another discussion, panelists were focusing on a ‘trilingual policy’ (English, Nepali and one ‘mother tongue’) and analyzing that the use of minoritised languages in public domains (e.g., education) is a problematic. Both perspectives see multilingualism in education as problem and construct binary oppositions between languages. For example, in the first discussion multilingual education is presented as anti-English language teaching while the second discussion, which was intended to discuss legitimacy of ‘mother tongues’,  simply wrongly interprets ‘trilingual policy’ as multilingual policy. Such discussions invite tensions, but do not lead us to decision-making processes that are informed by academic research and on-the-ground language practices and meaning-making processes.

The increasing use of English as medium of instruction and its teaching from the pre-primary level should not simply be celebrated as a panacea, as seen in the current language education policy discourses, rather it should be understood as a part of broader ideologies, pedagogies and policies of multilingualism. I don’t mean multilingual education is anti-English, but it is, as studies have consistently shown, an incredible resource for learning English and any other languages. More importantly, it is important to understand that teaching English as a language is different from using English as language of instruction. Our policies have given space to teaching English as a compulsory subject from the first grade. Teaching of English and any other languages is not a problem, but reproducing monolingual English ideology is a grave issue.  The body of literature from language learning and teaching from multilingual contexts have identified that using students’ prior linguistic knowledge (home language) in classroom pedagogies has a transformative impact in student learning. It is important to understand that students’ communicative and academic literacy knowledge in their home language plays a foundational role in learning new languages and academic content. In the current policies and ideologies of English language teaching, we have not been able to embrace students’ multilingual competence. While embracing outmoded the-earlier-the-better and the-more-the-better ideologies, the current language policies and practices are supporting subtractive model of language education. This model eventually leads to multilingual students’ lack of access to knowledge.

4. While having research on medium of instruction, I had a talk with some of the parents from Sherpa, Rai and Magar community. I asked them what if there was a provision of educating their children in their mother tongue in schools, they said there was no scope of their language for the future of their children and hence they were not enthusiastic about what you called ‘students home language in classroom pedagogies’. Therefore, if the community feel that multilingual approach to education is not necessary for them and even not possible, why do we need this? 

I think the problem lies in how we frame our questions about language, but not with what parents and communities think about language. The problem lies in power relation constructed in our language education policies that have reproduced the dominance of particular languages, backed up by political and economic reasons for long, rather than educational and socio-cultural relevance. As you have said, parents are often asked whether they see the relevance of their home languages in relation to Nepali and English. They are asked which language(s) they prefer to be used in education. Such questions create a binary relation between languages and are deeply influenced by a monolingual ideology. But we have not asked parents what multilingual education actually is nor have they been engaged in understanding what multilingual education actually is. We have not asked an inclusive question about language and discussed with them how multilingual education is relevant to supporting quality and effective learning of all children. In other words, our questions make parents think that their home languages do not have value in education. It is not uncommon for parents to have negative attitudes towards home languages in the context where language education policies are guided by political economic rather than educational rationale.

5. The national and international policy documents assert the use of Mother-tongue-based Multi-lingual-Education. However, the practitioners say, it is next to impossible to practise it in Nepal, where more than 125 local languages are recognised. Therefore, what can be the practical solution for it? Or has the time come to look for another alternative approach?

I don’t think ‘practitioners’ are saying that multilingual education is ‘next to impossible to practice’. Indeed, in the context like Nepal, what is impossible is not to have a multilingual policy. I know that there is a dominant ideology, based on 18th/19th century European monolingual ideology, which portrays multilingualism as problem in education and other public spheres. However, as multilingualism is our reality, it will be costly, from both educational and socio-cultural perspective, to imagine and impose monolingual policies and pedagogical practices in education.  The argument that multilingual education is impossible to implement due to a greater number of languages is fundamentally flawed and reproduces a deficit view of language education. More importantly, such a view is ill-informed and not supported by any educational and language learning studies, but it is politically motivated (supporting status quo and maintaining power relations among languages). What is true, as I have mentioned above, we have not been able to engage in informed discussions and decision-making processes. Seeing multilingualism as problem in multilingual country is the byproduct of ill-informed discussions. There are schools, communities and states, around the world, that have been using multiple languages in education successfully.

Although multilingualism in education is indispensable to support effective teaching learning, the existing multilingual education policy has two major issues. First, the transitional bilingual education model which gives space for using students’ home languages (other than Nepali) up to Grade 3 only does not support students to develop academic competence in multiple languages. This model, which eventually focuses on learning of dominant languages, does not contribute to develop multilingual competence of students. Second, the policy does not provide clear guidelines towards adopting multilingual pedagogies. We can see that, both in policy documents and pedagogical practices in schools, the existing multilingual education, unfortunately seems to support monolingual ideologies. For example, I have observed that most teachers and government officials interpret multilingual education as teaching of three languages—Nepali, English and one mother tongue—separately in school. While embracing this kind of separatist ideology, teachers are discouraging the use of multiple languages for pedagogical purposes in the classroom. Teachers are not educated and empowered to use multiple languages to achieve pedagogical goals in a planned and systematic way. My point is that we have to discuss what alternative pedagogical approaches, which embrace basic principles of multilingualism in education, that do not support a separatist ideology rather embrace an inclusive and co-learning practices could an effective approach. Two-way bilingual education programs, content-integrated multilingual education, inquiry-based learning and translanguaging pedagogies are some of the alternative practices that could appropriate in Nepal. These pedagogical approaches recognize linguistic and cultural capitals of all children in teaching-learning processes. Rather than considering multilingualism as a problem, these pedagogies take all students’ languages and language practices as integral part of learning language and academic contents. While saying this, I would not argue for a one-size-fits-all approach rather I focus on the need for working with teachers, students and communities in developing pedagogical tools that best address their linguistic, cultural and educational needs.

6. How do you evaluate the English language teaching (ELT) policy and practices in Nepal? What kind of policy should be developed to fit our context?

ELT policies and practices are unplanned and deeply shaped by global neoliberal ideologies. I have always argued that learning English is necessary; however, the construction and imposition of monolingual ideology as panacea for addressing educational issues is counterproductive for both ELT and learning academic contents. Second language acquisition and literacy studies have clearly shown that students cannot learn both language and academic content effectively if they are taught in a language they are not fully competent. In this regard, there are two major issues concerning ELT in Nepal. First, a dominant misconception takes ELT and the use of English as medium of instruction (EMI) synonymously. Considering ‘compulsory English’ (as a subject of teaching from the first Grade) insufficient, there is a growing trend to adopt EMI policy to teach content area subjects such as science, mathematics, and social studies. This policy is grounded on the assumption that students learn English better if all subjects are taught in English. However, what is lacking is critical and informed discussions and analysis whether or not this policy contributes to students’ cognitive and academic investment in learning processes. A growing body of literature has suggested that teaching students in a language they are not fully competent leads to lack of access to knowledge, cognitive investment and creativity in classroom.  So the current monolingual view on ELT should be critically assessed and adopt a multilingual approach to English language pedagogy. In doing this, it is important to engage teachers in pedagogical planning to create space for multiple languages for an effective learning process, while achieving the goals of lessons.

“English is necessary; however, the construction and imposition of monolingual ideology as panacea for addressing educational issues is counterproductive for both ELT and learning academic contents.”


7. Finally, what do you suggest to a critical mass of scholars in the field of linguistics, applied linguistics and language education and ELT in Nepal?

I would like to highlight two major points. First, linguists, applied linguists and language educators, including ELT practitioners, should engage themselves in discussions that are informed by theories and findings from second language acquisition, language policy and illiteracy studies. This engagement includes understanding of both policies and practices from other multilingual contexts and critical assessment of whether or not language policies and practices are supporting students’ agency, identity and existing linguistic and cultural capital. This kind of engagement is necessary to make informed-decisions in language policy and develop alternative pedagogies in language education. Second, it is important to engage teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders in analysing language ideologies and pedagogies in order to raise their awareness of multilingualism and its importance in language education. For this, concentrated efforts should be invested in developing pedagogical tools and materials in collaboration with teachers, students and communities and implement in the classroom. Doing this will shift our attention towards embracing multilingualism as an integral aspect of education. For this, we should discuss how teachers can use multiple languages in the classroom in a planned and purposeful way. I would argue that rather than reproducing monolingual ideologies—both in policies and practices—our emphasis should be how to bridge gap, created by separatist ideology, between languages and discuss in what teachers can tap in students’ existing language competence. In sum, there is a need for reframing our language policy discourses and focus more on learners and their identities in language education.  

 

A Three Dimensional Approach to Professional Development of English Language Teachers in Nepal

Shikha Gurung

Shikha Gurung

Learning to be a teacher of English language in Nepal is a part of professional development of English teachers. The desire of becoming a better teacher is an important aspect of teaching profession. Calderhead and Shorrock (1997) acknowledged a question ‘What makes a good teacher?’ which intrigued and challenged philosophers, researchers and policy makers and teachers over many centuries. It generated diverse answers, varying in their nature and degree of specificity in different countries and across different periods in history.

In the context of Nepal where English language is one of the foreign languages taught in schools, every English language teacher has a challenge to establish himself or herself in the profession as he or she has to deal with the learners who speak one or more out of 125 indigenous languages in Nepal. English language teachers in Nepal have more challenges to move with the global circumstances, emergence of digital technologies in social life and integration of various technologies in instructional activities. Richards and Farrell (2005) defines professional development of a teacher as an examination of different dimensions of his or her practices. They suggest that teachers need necessary support to make them understand their professional values. Thus, teacher education must emphasise teachers’ knowledge and skills.

English teachers in Nepal can follow three ways such as reflective teaching, teacher networking and researching to develop their professional skills. Keeping teacher education at the centre, the teachers can generate their ideas and develop professional learning strategies themselves. Instead of highly relying on their teacher education, they can actually learn by doing, that is, they can reflect their own experiences on their jobs. Their experiences of teaching and learning process can be both the input and output. English teachers can record their teaching activities and review for the further teaching. Such reflective teaching of teachers can develop the habit of correcting own weakness and gradually improve their teaching skills. Here is more on reflection ….

Likewise, teacher networking helps them meet and socialise with people which provides them with opportunities of collaborating and sharing ideas with each other. Similarly, researching on their own experiences can support English teachers to identify own pedagogical issues, study about the issues and broaden their knowledge.

Reflective Teaching

According to Richards and Lockhart (1996), documentary analysis is one of the most practical approaches to the development of teachers that reflects their learning on their teaching. English teachers can make a diary about their daily teaching and examine their own teaching activities as well as the students’ classroom activities. This practical approach provides them with an opportunity of understanding their own teaching, analysing their teaching activities and improving their professional practices. This reflective approach to professional development of an English teacher can be the next strategy besides formal teacher training. Reflective teaching approach may be followed by writing report. English teachers in Nepal can prepare their reports by doing survey, peer observation and interview. English teachers can report about their English language teaching motivation, students’ learning attitude, learning behaviour and so on. Reflective teaching allows the teachers to work on their own weakness and strengths.

Teacher Networking

English teachers in Nepal can establish their professional network and share their ideas with each other to improve their teaching skills. For instance, Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) can be a platform for many English teachers in the country. English teachers can organise seminar, workshop, hot seat presentation, group meeting and so on for the better practice of ELT. Besides face-to-face meetings, they can also develop online learning community on social networking sites like Facebook, twitter, skype and so forth to share their problems and ideas. Such networks allow English teachers to exchange their understanding and experience of English language teaching. In course of time, English teachers can also attend national and international conferences where they can share their ideas. Kuti (2000) stated that network between the teachers provides them with opportunities of discussing their problems and sharing expertise across the world. McDonald and Klein (2003) claimed that professional network of English teachers helps them increase pedagogical skills and develop leadership in the profession.

Research

Teachers in their role are also researchers who consistently gather information throughout their everyday teaching and classroom activities, analyse the information and reflect on their instructional activities. Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) advocated that teachers, besides formal training and workshops, can develop their professional skills through research activities in their field. From the research activities, they actually start learning as they have to study and understand their professional issues in depth. They gradually become proficient to investigate their teaching and learning issues and become professional. In the 1960s, educational research particularised fields such as classroom research, teacher research and action research in teaching and learning process. Classroom research emphasised the evidences relevant to instructional activities, teachers’ perceptions and classroom resources. MacKay (2009) claimed that research on their own classroom activities makes the teachers more efficient in their profession. It is relevant in helping teachers review previous researches, become aware of the challenges of doing research and understanding what goes on in the classroom setting.

 

Sikha Gurung is an MPhil scholar in English Language Education at Kathmandu University School of Education since 2016. Professionally, she is an English teacher at Kathmandu University High School, Chaukot and an English lecturer at K and K College, New Baneshwor. She likes exploring various issues of ELT and writing about them.


References

Calderhead, J. Shorrock, S.B. (1997). Understanding teacher education: Case studies in the professional development of beginning teachers. The Falmer Press, Taylor and Francis Inc.: London.

Richards, J.C. & Farrell, T.S.C. (2005). Professional development for language teachers: Strategies for teacher learning. Cambridge University Press: New York.

Richards, J.C. & Lockhart, C. (1996). Reflective teaching in second language classrooms.    Cambridge University Press: New York.

Kuti, Z. (2000). ELTeCS: English Language Teaching Contacts Scheme a network for developing your expertise and a forum for sharing views. Pilgrims Ltd: Budapest, Hungary.

McKay, S. (2009). Second language classroom research. In A. Burns & J.C. Richards (eds.) The Cambridge guide to second language teacher education. New York: Cambridge.

Avenues of Mobile Phones in ELT-Practices of Remote Schools in Nepal

Jeevan Karki- head shot

Jeevan Karki

Access to mobile phones are quite common in Nepal at the moment. It is even more common for teachers- both in the towns and remote areas. According to the Management Information system (MIS) report of Nepal Telecommunications Authority (mid-April, 2015), 90.4 percent of total population in the country have access to mobile service. Mobile phones are basically used for communication. Besides communication, it is used for taking photos and videos, listening to radio and music, watching videos even TVs, doing calculation, recording audios, flash light, playing games, surfing internet and even used as a mirror! This device has replaced some of other devices because of its multi-functional uses.

The use of mobile phone is widely discussed in classroom teaching learning in literature. Along with the advancement of technology, the features available in the mobile phones have assisted in teaching learning in classroom. The device seems to be an integral part of our lives. People can avoid their food but cannot avoid the mobile phone in the present context! The device is assisting both teachers and students in many ways in teaching learning. On the other hand, some people believe that mobile phones should not be allowed in the classroom both for teachers and students. They argue that it distracts them from teaching learning. As we cannot avoid it in our day to day lives now, we also need to look for creative ways of using it in schools. We can use it appropriately in schools and show students the proper use of the device and encourage them to use it appropriately and properly.

In the subsequent topic I discuss the use of mobile phones in ELT classroom with reference to the teachers’ practice of mobile phones in the remote schools of Solukhumbu.

Discussions

Solukhumbu is located in Northern part of Nepal, which is in the geographically challenging landscape. Roadways are difficult here. So is the case of communication. There is no proper access of telephone in some places of the district. However, teachers use mobile phones not only for communication but also in teaching learning in the classrooms. In a training for English teachers in Solukhumbu, I talked with teachers on how they have been using mobile phones in English classes. One of the teachers, D. L. Shah (pseudonym) said:

We use mobile phones for dictionary, songs, teaching chants through audio visuals and teaching listening.

It shows that the teachers can use the mobile phones both for themselves and students. They use the device for teaching language through songs and chants. The authentic audio and the language used in them is good exposure for children to learn language. Likewise, the video facility makes presentation of chants and songs even more special for children. On the other hand, teachers use it for teaching listening, which is one of the effective use of the device. Mobile phone is very easy device for teaching listening. Listening can be done in two different ways. First, we can store the authentic listening materials in the device, design some tasks and use the audio. Likewise, if such audios are not possible, we can also record the audio ourselves or by the help of our colleagues or even students and use in the class. This can bring variety in the classes. While interacting with primary level teachers, it is found that they generally skip or do the least, the listening activities in the textbook or while the curriculum gives more emphasis on listening in this level. Curriculum has allocated 40% of total activities of class one in listening, 35% in class two, 30% in class three, 25% in class four and five. Use of mobile phones can bridge this gap. Not only for students, the device is also serving as a resource bank for teachers’ professional development. Like, Shah uses the device for dictionary. Teachers can install dictionary in their smart phones (even in simple phones) and use it for searching the meaning of word, pronunciation, spelling, parts of speech, synonyms/antonyms and the use of the words. Talking about the use of it as a resource bank another teacher, Arjun Thapa said:

We use it to see teaching resources like curriculum and teachers guide in PDF form and also play games with children on the phones for entertainment.

It further explores another avenue of the use of mobile phones. The device can also help them to collect the resources, store and use whenever required. The resources like curriculum, teachers guide and books are available free of cost through curriculum development centre Nepal (there is even apps for smartphones). This saves both their money and time. It shows the device is proved to be equally useful for reading too. On the other hand, if there is access to internet, we can have the abundant knowledge in our fingertip and the mobile phone has made it even easier to access. Some of the useful site for teachers can be Wikipedia, teaching channel, British Council etc. Likewise, as Thapa mentioned, the device can also be used for entertainment with students. Not merely entertainment, there are apps that give both teachers and children education and entertainment. Badal Basnet, a young teacher added this very benefit as follows:

We can teach grammar using mobile phones e.g. grammar apps to practice on different topics, show the pictures for vocabulary.

Basnet focuses on use of the device in teaching grammar and vocabulary. There are several English grammar apps, which are useful for both teachers and students. For even junior students, we can use the grammar apps to design the language presentation and practice activities. If the number of student is less, we can even use the apps to practice the language items in groups. Another very important use of this device as stated by Basnet is the use of pictures to present vocabulary. Pictures are very useful to present vocabulary, which is especially useful for the beginners. We can use the camera of the device to click the pictures of animals, birds, persons, things, fruit, vegetables, plants and so on and use them to teach vocabulary. In the same way, there are pictorial apps to teach vocabulary. Adding another technique of teaching vocabulary using the device another teacher, Jitendra KC said:

We can record the sounds of animals and play for teaching vocabulary. Likewise, it can also be used to take photos of objects, animals and person, and generate talks.

Opening another avenue KC shared how we can record the sounds of animals available in his surrounding and use in teaching vocabulary. One of the most used features of the mobile phones these days is the camera and hence it is very common to have real life photos in our device. KC thought of using them to generate talks. Photos are very useful for teaching speaking. We can show a photo to students and generate simple to high level discourse. Photos can be used to practice wh and yes/no questions. Teachers can show a photo and encourage students to ask questions like, where did you take the photo? Who/what are/is in the photo? Did you take it in Tihar? Etc. In the same way, the same photo can be used to generate conversation of students. Students can talk about the photo with each other. On the other hand, the same photo can be used for teaching writing- a wide range of writing skills from words to paragraphs. After having the talks and conversation about the photo, we can now ask student to write few words or sentence or small paragraph about the same. In fact, the device can assist us to provide input for students to generate outputs. It also can help to minimize the use of other resources.

Conclusion

Mobile phone is a new digital resource and material. It contains variety of resources and yet handy to use. We can use this device to teach all four skills and the aspects like grammar and vocabulary in ELT. Not only in ELT, this device can be used in teaching other subjects too. It is useful both for teachers and students- especially senior students. Although there can be some threats of using mobiles, there are multiple advantages of using this device in classroom teaching learning. In fact, using mobile phone in classroom teaching learning is an opportunity for new generations to teach the proper and appropriate use of the device.

Jeevan Karki is an editor with ELT Choutari.

Children Taught Me English language

Karna Rana

Karna Rana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bal Ram Adhikari

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What are the further plans of the Society?

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

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

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

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Peripheral Classrooms: Reflections of English Teachers in Nepal

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

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

562665_685671534783323_943408360_nBabu Ram Basnet                                                     Mahendrodaya Secondary School, Salyan, Solukhumbu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELT at Tertiary level: Perspectives from Far-West Nepal

14925264_721645791318453_3766757234139576756_n

Lal Bahadur Bohara

Background

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

Introduction

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

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

Gap in contents

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

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

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

Increasing use of technology

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

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

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

Teacher centered strategies

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

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

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

Use of L1

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

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

Participation of students

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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