My reflection on second ELT and applied linguistics conference in Nepal

Somy Paudyal

I attended NELTA (Nepal English Language Teacher’s Association) conference last year which was my first experience of attending a conference in my life. I learned a lot regarding English language teaching in the conference. I remember one presentation where a teacher shared her experience of telling stories to her students by the use of wheel cycle and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, English language teachers are so motivated.’ I felt energized and encouraged at the end of the three-day conference. After a year, when I first heard of second English Language Teaching (ELT) and Applied Linguistics Conference that was going to be held in TU, I could feel the flutter in my chest out of happiness.

The image of the first day of the conference is still fresh in my mind. It was February ninth, Saturday and it was raining heavily. The weather was chilly, the clouds gloomy; nevertheless, I could see smiling faces of the people around me who, like me, had come to get something out of the conference. I also saw expats coming to the university arena, some on tourist buses while some on the back of the motorbikes with raincoats on. The program was delayed by half an hour or so due to the weather as many failed to arrive on time. However, by lunch time, the rain had stopped and all could bask outside in the lovely sun.

Regarding the events on the first day, I remember cultural dances, plenary sessions and there were nine concurrent sessions going on at the same time. I was enthralled and had a hard time choosing which session to attend to as all of them seemed really interesting. However, I do remember one of the very first workshops I went to. It was Jeevan Karki’s workshop on academic writing where I learnt a lot about how we can choose a good topic, brainstorm ideas and give a proper shape to our writing. The highlight for me that day, however, was panel discussion on the topic: English Medium of Instruction: Assumptions, Policies and Practices. Dr Jay Raj Awasthi, Dr Lava Deo Awasti and Mr Dinesh Thapa did a really good job on raising some burning issues regarding the medium of instruction for effective learning. The insightful discussions compelled the audience to think about those serious issues. There was equally good wrapping up of the program with some cultural programs.

The next day, however, was a sunny day and everybody seemed to enjoy basking in the sun in the little break they got. The spirit of the conference did not die out but instead was more enlivened with Sanjeev Uprety being a keynote speaker who gave the message on how literature can indeed be used as ELT resource and he also talked about discourse. For me, the hero of the second day was V.S. Rai. His talk inspired me and I became a fan of him. In my opinion, he gave us an important message on how we should rethink our methods and policies of using one language over others in our teaching and how that can lead to dying language like Tulung. It was a great insight for me. The concurrent sessions went on. There were interaction sessions and panel discussions with some interesting cultural shows in-between. A drama at the end was like icing on the cake to wrap up that day. I went home fulfilled with lots of ideas and things to think of.

The final day was as exciting as the first day of the conference for me.  I was so much inspired by the speech of Dr Jay Raj Awasthi , the  keynote speaker who is the guru of gurus how he explained about the trajectories of ELT and Applied linguistics in Nepal. He told us about ‘Post-modern method’ and added that we, as teachers should not only adhere to western method but should also research in one’s local context about the appropriate method to teach. I got to see wonderful presentation of Dr Laxman Gyawali on teachers’ readiness to learn and their practices of EFL writing in Nepali Secondary Classrooms. In addition to that I got to see wonderful presentations in the concurrent sessions. One of the presenters was Guru Prasad Poudel who talked a lot about teacher’s identity. Finally, I got to see Ganga Ram Gautam’s plenary session on Fostering Learner Autonomy in Large ELT Class.

The highlights for me of this conference were: getting to meet international and national scholars, networking and this conference opened the door to opportunities for new ELT practitioners like me to get exposure to a lot of new content. I have heartfelt gratitude toward Dr Prem Phyak and his team for organizing the conference for us. I have gathered the experiences that I am going to remember all in my life.

The Author:

Somy Paudyal is an M.Ed. student of Central Department of English Education at Tribhuvan University, Kritipur, Kathmandu.

My story of growing as a professional English teacher

Narendra Airi

I adopted teaching as a profession some 18 years ago. My teaching career commenced from a private English medium school. It was after I completed proficiency certificate level examination. In this blog post, I am sharing my experiences from a novice teacher to a professional English teacher. The article explains that how I grow as a professional English teacher. It also depicts what different stages of my journey of teaching passed through.  

Teaching is my favorite profession. It is my passion too. I have been turning my passion into action teaching in different levels and schools. What I adore is standing in front of enthusiastic pupils and delivering something. This passion led me to adopt teaching as a profession. Before I started teaching, I had some exposure of English Grammar and language for the Level I had to teach. After I had completed the examination of intermediate level, I started teaching. I was selected as the teacher after my class observation. In order to perform well and mark good impression on the part of observers, I had gone through all the topics of grammar that I studied in high school level. Furthermore, I went through an English speaking course book to improve my speaking skill. The book incorporated various language functions, vocabularies used in daily conversation, class room language, Nepali –English translation and so on. When I read the book twice, it broadened my horizon of knowledge in using the English language.

After teaching in two private English medium schools for a year, I joined a government-aided school. It was the school where I had studied at lower secondary level. The school proved a turning point in my life both as a student and a teacher. It proved a turning point in my student life in the sense that I could make my foundation of English strong as a volunteer teacher from the U.S.A. taught us.  In the beginning, it was quite difficult to grasp what she uttered. She was the class teacher for a whole academic year. We, the students, were exposed to native tone in English in EFL (English as a foreign language) setting. Gradually I could get what she spoke. The way she pronounced English words or the way she delivered in the class helped me to grasp the native accent. Moreover, the school proved a turning point in my teaching career as I took my further study and teaching ahead simultaneously.  I completed my Bachelor’s Degree (B.Ed in English education) during my service there.

Then I attended training on ‘Interactive Radio Teaching’. All the trainee teachers had been given one set of radio to each. A live program would broadcast from 2:05 to 2:50 pm by Curriculum Development Centre. I had to teach English taking the radio set in the classroom to Grade five. It was a formal training in distant mode. All I had to do was to turn on the radio in the class and make the students listen to. And I had to repeat after the instructor on the radio so that students could understand what was delivered through the radio. The program particularly helped me to improve my pronunciation of English sounds and pedagogical skill.

Moreover, I attended micro-teaching (also called peer teaching) by the end of bachelor’s 3rd year. Later on, I had to teach the 10th graders for one and a half month as practice teaching. I got acquainted with practicality of communicative approach of teaching during this period. The course book that I studied in Bachelor’s level and the practice teaching I was involved in proved fruitful for my teaching. This practice teaching added some teaching techniques, skills and application of knowledge in me. During 45 days’ practice teaching I received feedback from my peers who taught English in other classes. Moreover, my classes were observed by the internal and external supervisors as the subject experts. Thus, the peers’, subject experts’ feedback made me more competent and confident to handle the class and deliver subject matter effectively. To be well prepared, I came to know that the teacher’s guide was helpful. I borrowed and went through it during this period. It has multiple benefits in teaching in a way it provides clear direction to teach English.

Besides I grabbed an opportunity to attend short-term teacher training program which helped boost my performance. After having attended the training, I started teaching the students using learner centered approach. I also learnt how to teach grammar creating situation to the context. Furthermore, I learnt to teach the vocabularies more than just giving synonyms and translating. I grasped some techniques and ideas on how to motivate the students towards learning English too.

While teaching English in grade 10, I felt some difficulty to teach some poems. I consulted several practice books; went through questions and exercises in the textbook and made notes in diary. I could interpret the poems. However, I was not fully satisfied. I went through many hurdles at personal and professional level. On the one hand, I was only job holder in the family and the other I went through obstacles in teaching career too. As I had strong passion for reading from which I could get sheer satisfaction and joy, I pursued my higher study and completed my master’s degree. After the completion of teaching practice by the end and M.Ed. 2nd year, I was offered to teach in Grade XI and XII. I got a decent platform to consolidate the subject matter that I had learnt in campus and university level. In this teacher education program, I studied various course titles such as linguistics, phonetics, translation studies, grammar, semantics and pragmatics and so on. These courses made the foundation of language, linguistics and grammar stronger in me.

In the course of time, I joined a residential Military school in western Terai of Nepal. On the very first day, when the students had enrolled, the school organized an orientation program for the first batch. I had been assigned the responsibility to host the entire program. I did not have any difficulty to teach English and to speak in English. But I had never got the exposure of public speaking in English. I did not have much idea on how to conduct a program though I know what to speak.  The principal just gave me the program details. I went through it. It struck my mind. It was the first time I was going to host a formal program in English. I mustered courage, I made notes; prepared rough draft; read it. Then I consulted one of my friends in the telephone who had the experience of conducting such program. I was well- prepared to host the program. I hosted the program. I received good feedback. It shows speaking in English in EFL setting is not an easy task. Furthermore, these types of real life contexts are really instrumental to enrich the professional growth. Like me, many students hesitate to speak English in different situations. Therefore, positive attitude toward target language can definitely enhance learning of the language. It also indicates that the abstract knowledge (competence) is to be brought out (concretized) through performance. The competence of an individual has to be sharpened through performance.

After I had attended 23rd international Conference of NELTA, I received a congenial atmosphere to learn more. The key speakers from foreign universities, presenters belonging to the expert groups and practitioner groups gave wonderful sessions. I received many insights on various issues and topics in ELT (English language teaching). Likewise, a mentor, my principal, who usually assigns me to work on various responsibilities – proof-reading the articles, writing articles and editorial for school magazine, writing proposals and certificates in English, inspires me to improve my writing skill. It shows that attending conferences and collaborating with experienced teacher or mentor helps to grow professionally.

Where there is a will, there is a way. In other words, every problem has a solution. During my teaching career in the school where I have been teaching for 8 years, I taught several course books in English. Almost every year or sometimes after 2 or 3 years the course book are changed. Moreover, a teacher has to teach three/four course books in a class. The teachers have to work hard to perform well in the class. I am not the exception. I taught an English Course book which mainly dealt with English literature to the 4th to 7th graders for two years. In other genres of literature, I had no difficulty. But I felt difficulty to teach poetry. It doesn’t mean I was unable to teach poetry; I could teach poetry to the students; I could interpret the poem. But I was not satisfied myself. Later I found myself less interested in poetry. It shows that teachers’ area of interest matters a lot in teaching learning process.

It is said handwork pays. Working as a teacher, I teach 4 to 5 periods a day. Besides classroom teaching, the teachers have to conduct co-curriculum activities in the school. Not only this, the teachers are assigned various other tasks- writing proposals, reports, certificates for various purposes, and articles for annual magazine and so on. Among the four language skill writing carries comparatively a greater importance. In this connection, the words of Francis Bacon are worth-quoting ‘Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.” This quote highlights the importance of writing. Furthermore, writing is considered to be more difficult than other skills of language. One has to read a lot to enhance writing skill.

To conclude, in the journey of my teaching, day-by-day I began to feel more excited and motivated. Moreover, I felt more confident and competent. It was possible because of the readings, working with mentors, peer observation, feedback from the experts and most importantly my passion for teaching, a positive attitude toward the English language; an internal motivation to perform better.

Through my journey from a novice teacher to a professional teacher, I come to a conclusion that it is not difficult and impossible to transform ourselves. One needs to have desire to grow and enhance the professionalism in the course of time. He/ she needs to update to adjust him/herself in the changing context in a regular basis. It is possible only if he/she is dedicated, inquisitive and studious.

The author:

Narendra Airi is an M.Ed. from Tribhuvan University and the head of English department at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidhyalaya Teghari, Kailali.

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

Muna Rai

Background

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

Choosing the area of research

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

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

Becoming ‘specific’ – narrowing down the area

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

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

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

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

Writing proposal

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

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

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

Facing the viva – proposal

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

And facing the thesis viva

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

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

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

My reflection on this one-year journey

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing My Experiences of Masters Thesis Writing

Mamata Bhattarai

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

Selection of the topic

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

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

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

Planning to Write

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

The Process of writing the thesis

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

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

Struggling as well as pleasuring moments in thesis writing

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

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

Personal experience and reflection

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

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

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

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.
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