Crossing Borders and building Bridges with Global English

The presidential keynote address by Dr. Yilin Sun at the TESOL convention held at Metro Convention Center,Toronto, Canada from 25 March to 27 March 2015 was a clarion call to the English language professionals of the world to work with a missionary zeal to promote and propagate English language for peace, prosperity and harmony in our changing global society. It is the English language that enables us to cross the geographical, political, social, ethnic and linguistic borders and paves the foundation of everlasting cultural, social, emotional and linguistic bridges that unite us as the equal partners of a global society.
Based on her cross-cultural teaching, learning, and research experience in China, Canada, and the United States, Dr. Sun shared her journey as a TESOLer and discussed the roles and responsibilities of TESOL professionals in our changing global society.
Listening to her keynote address strengthened my conviction that English is not merely a language, it is a way of looking at things from a global perspective, it is an indicator of our global identity. Ignoring English means ignoring the globalized horizons, depriving our children of the resources of this language is nothing but depriving them of the benefits of their right as digital natives. The prophetic vision and the emphatic assertion of Tagore, the Nobel laureate flashed before my mind’s eye when I was listening to Dr. Sun talking about building bridges. In the poem “The Indian Pilgrimage” (Bharat Tirtha) Tagore said, “ All shall give and take, mingle and be mingled in, none shall depart dejected.” (Dibe ar nibe, milabe, milibe, jabena phire). The philosophy of ‘give and take’, ‘mingle and be mingled’ can be translated into action globally if we teach English as a global language, a language that represents the hopes and aspirations of the digital natives of the 21st century.
A few days prior to the TESOL 2015 convention at Toronto, I had the privilege of listening to Rod Bolitho at the Teacher Educator Conference organized by the British Council and EFL University at Hyderabad, India from 27 February to 1 March 2015. In an interview during the Conference (available on U Tube ), Rod Bolitho pointed out the importance of teaching English for international communication. He maintained that English learners of the 21st century are digital natives and they look beyond the confines of their own towns or cities. Therefore, there should be a paradigm shift in our approach to ELT in a global context. English should not be taught as a mere school subject.
If we are to build bridges, we have to teach English for international communication. We have to remember that the 21st century learners have access to a great deal of language beyond the classroom, and English teachers and the English textbooks are no longer the sole sources for learning English.
As English learners can get enough ‘comprehensible input’ from the digital environment, the traditional notion of English teachers as the providers of English language inputs has become obsolete in the digital world. Are English teachers ready for a facilitative role in the changing ELT world?
PS. Crossing borders and building bridges with the help of English as a global language should not be at the cost of our individual, social, cultural and national identities. Our collective identity as global citizens is not incompatible with our distinct identities. When I think of the global English, I think of the color and beauty of the mosaic. The digital world is not a melting pot, it is a world that respects and preserves diversity. How can English connect us if we don’t preserve our distinct identities and diversities? The global English is indeed the symbol of our global unity in diversity

Ensuring quality in English Language Teacher Education

Conferences can be intensely taxing, perspiring and tiring affairs. But conferences can be stimulating and engaging too especially when they are organized by organizations like the British Council, IATEFL or the TESOL. Last month, I had the opportunity of attending an international conference which was intellectually stimulating, academically challenging, professionally rewarding and socially refreshing. Yes, I am talking about the Teacher Educator Conference organized by the British Council in collaboration with the English and Foreign Languages University at Hyderabad, India from 27 February to 1 March 2015.
The central theme of the Conference was ‘Ensuring quality in English language teacher education’ and the subthemes were ‘policy and quality initiative’, ‘monitoring and evaluating quality’ and ‘enhancing the quality of curriculum, materials and methods in English language teacher education’.
As I had expected, the conference provided a platform for a highly stimulating academic discussion among academics drawn from different countries of the world and the company of the dedicated scholars, researchers and teachers committed to the cause of ELT inspired the young and the old as well as the experienced and the novice working the field of English language teacher education across the globe. Basing on my personal experience of attending IATEFL conference in UK, I have no hesitation in naming this conference as another edition of the IATEFL. So meticulously organized, so nicely propelled professionally, intellectually and academically! Such a focused and result oriented international conference presupposes a total commitment of the organizers.
The key note address of Rod Bolitho will resonate in the ears of the delegates for years to come. He looked at the quality in English language teacher education from a number of different perspectives: (a) How do you define ‘quality’? (b) What is the profile of a competent English language teacher in the second decade of the 21st century? (c) How to prioritize quality in teacher education in India and the wider region? (d) How do you ensure quality in in-service training (INSETT) and continuing professional development (CPD)?
As the central theme of the Conference was ‘quality’, all the speakers and the presenters dwelt at length on the issues related to quality. The role played by motivation in ensuring quality, peer observation as a means to improve quality, institutional initiatives for quality, research-led approaches to qualifications and assessment, evaluation in teacher education programs, maintaining quality assurance in difficult circumstances….. all these discussions kept the delegates busy during the conference.
Now that the Conference is over, I wonder how many delegates have started working on the issues explored during the conference. Hope the deliberations of the conference bring a paradigm shift in the ELT scenario of the country.
Looking at the ELT scenario in India, I have a mixed feeling. It’s nice that we have been organizing ELT conferences at the international, national and the regional levels years after years. We have been exploring and debating the issues of quality in English language teacher education with the intention of bringing a qualitative change in the ELT scenario of the country. But, is ‘quality’ just a buzz word used by the stakeholders of ELT in India? Hope, it’s not. It is the ‘mantra’ that has to be translated into action. Any post-conference follow-up session?

English in the Inner Circle of Indian families

The purists of Indian languages may frown at the use of English during our interpersonal communication in Indian languages. The champions of the mother tongue education may consider code switching from Indian language to English a sign of our snobbery to a foreign tongue that we inherited from our former colonial rulers. But the language behavior of an average educated Indian often indicates an all pervasive influence of English in our day to day life. Though English is an associate official language of India, its use in our daily life is not always official, it is often more than official, it is personal, emotional and social. English has become an integral part of the inner psyche of a large number of educated Indians who are exposed to English in numerous contexts. The spontaneous use of English words, phrases, idioms and expressions in the inner circle of the educated Indian families is amazing indeed! The way English has been replacing the use of mother tongues in the verbal repertoire of the educated Indians in their emotional life is a fit case for sociolinguistic study.
While watching a number of TV serials in Bengali, I started wondering if the word ‘Husband’ comes from the Bengali lexicon. In a TV serial “Didi No. 1”, the anchor asks a participant, “Who has come with you?”, Quick comes the reply, “amar husband”. (my husband). Being intrigued, I watched some other serials in which the female characters had to refer to their husbands. In all the cases, it was “amar husband” (my husband). Though Bengali equivalent of husband is ‘swami’, ‘pati’,’bor’, the characters in the TV serials never use them. Doesn’t it follow the general trend followed in the educated Bengali society? A young educated girl asks her newly married friend, “ ei, tor hubbir khobor ki?” ( Hi, how is your hubby?). Hubby, not ‘Bor’. Are Bengali words ‘swami, ‘Bor’’ becoming obsolete?
আন্টি (auntie) is another word that has replaced Bengali words like মামি, পিসি and মাসী. Mother’s sister (Masi in Bengali) or father’s sister (Pisi in Bengali) had an emotional bondage for the Bengali children of the earlier generation. But these words are often alien to the tongue of the Bengali children of the present generation. The Bengali lullaby, “Gum parani masi pisi, moder bari eso” does not make any sense to the English fed Bengali children. Similarly, Words like ‘kaku’, ‘jethu’ are being systematically replaced by the word ‘uncle’.
‘Girl friend’ and ‘boy friend’ have also become Indian terms of reference. No young man refers to his ‘girl friend’ in translation! In a number of regional films, the hero and the heroine express their feelings in Indian language, but when the ultimate moment of proclamation comes, it’s in English, “I love you…..”. Is the intensity lost if it is uttered in the mother tongue? No, English is spontaneous, the voice of the inner self!!!
The language landscape of the educated young generation of India is too complicated and should be studied dispassionately. The so called linguistic boundary of the fifties and the language debates of the past make no sense to the multilingual young people of India. They speak languages, not a language, they have thousand voices, not a voice, they have multiple perspectives, not the sole didactic perspective of their parents.

Multilingualism in Action for Adult Learners of English

TEC 2015, one of the greatest ELT conferences on earth is coming to India next month. What is TEC? It’s ‘Teacher Educators Conference’ which is jointly organized by the British Council and the EFL University, Hyderabad every year. I had the privilege of attending TEC 2011, 2012, 2013 and missed the 2014 due to a mishap. Hope to attend it again in 2015. The temptation of attending TEC is irresistible, I should admit. New ideas, new experiments, new plenary speakers, new researchers and new directions in the field of ELT. You must attend TEC if you want to know what is new in ELT.
The other day I was going through the papers presented in the past conferences and came across one of my papers presented in TEC 2013. That forgotten paper entitled “Multilingualism in Action: Theory and Practice” tried to explore the theoretical as well as the practical implications of a multilingual strategy to English language teaching in the Indian context.
The paper was based on an experiment done with the teachers of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas of Rajasthan and the teachers of Windmills and Epsilon schools of Bangalore, Karnataka. Using parallel texts in two languages, the project tried to find out how the use of Hindi and English texts in Rajasthan, and Kannada and English texts in Karnataka helped the teachers of regional medium schools to develop their language sensitivity and communicative competence in English. How does cross language transfer of skills help multilingual adult learners in developing their language awareness in a target language?
Tota Kahini, A Parrot’s Tale originally written in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore has been translated into English and many Indian languages. In order to find out the efficacy of using parallel texts in two languages, 21 teachers of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas of the various districts of Rajasthan undergoing a ten day orientation programme in ELT at Jaipur were asked to read the English and the Hindi versions of the story. After the reading the story in Hindi and English, they worked in groups to find out the lexical chain in the texts and the cohesive devices that maintained the continuity of the story thematically as well as structurally. Each group was finally asked to prepare a dramatized version of the text and to enact it before other groups.

Using parallel texts
1. Lexical chain in two languages
While reading the texts in Hindi and English, the participants were asked to find out the words related to the ‘bird’, the ‘cage’ and the ‘teaching’ of the bird used in the first four paragraphs.

तोता बहुत मूर्ख था
खूब उछलता था,
फुदकता था
उड़ता था
नहीं जानता था कि तहजीब किसे कहते हैं।
an utterly foolish bird.
sang songs
but did not read the scriptures
It flew
it jumped
did not have the faintest sense of etiquette

अपना घोंसला
ऐसे आवास में
सोने का पिंजरा
पिंजरा ऐसा सुंदर बना
the tiny nest
a good cage
building the cage
The cage turned out to be so exquisite
the bird has got the cage

विद्या पढ़ाने बैठे
थोथी पोथियों
पोथी लिखने वालों को बुलवाया
पोथियों की नकल
इतनी विद्या

came to teach the bird
a few books won’t do
summoned the scribes
Learning is going to overflow
scribes got cartfuls of rewards.

2. Narrative Structure
The participants were asked to underline the sentences which had a teleological effect on the narrative structure of the story.

राजा ने हुक्म दिया, ‘‘इस तोते को पढ़ाओ
पण्डितों की बैठक हुई।
सबसे पहले तो यह जरूरी है कि इसके लिए कोई बढ़िया-सा पिंजरा बना दिया जाये।
सुनार बुलाया गया।
वह सोने का पिंजरा तैयार करने में जुट गया
पंडित जी तोते को विद्या पढ़ाने बैठे।
उसने उसी समय पोथी लिखने वालों को बुलवाया
पोथियों की नकल होने लगी।

He called the minister, and commanded, “Educate it.’
The scholars held long discussions
So, first of all, it was necessary to build a good cage for it
The goldsmith started building the cage
The pundit came to teach the bird
The nephew summoned the scribes
They copied from the books

3. multivocality

The participants were asked to note and discuss in groups the narrative openings in both the versions of the story. How do the narrative opening orient the readers by giving person, place, and tone and the authorial voice?

1 . देखने वाले कहने लगे, ‘इस तोते का भी क्या नसीब है !’’

2.जिसने भी देखा, उसने यही कहा,‘‘शाबाश ! इतनी विद्या को धरने की जगह भी नहीं रहेगी।
1. Some said, “Education indeed!” Others said, “Education or no education, at least the bird has got the cage! What a lucky bird!’

2.Whoever saw it, said, “Bravo! Learning is going to overflow!

The language pedagogy used in this experiment was oriented towards the process of developing language sensitivity and communicative competence, it did not insist on the results and this preference for the process ensured the participants’ motivation and participation. The task of preparing the script for the drama enhanced the participants’ understanding of the text and the dramatic situation. It also helped them to apply their linguistic and pragmatic knowledge of the first language to English for a better understanding of the way the target language is used for communicative purposes.

Story telling in a second or a foreign language classroom: Pedagogical considerations

That story telling is a very important pedagogic tool in a second or a foreign language class is an axiom. If you are a language teacher for young learners, you must be a good story teller. Story telling is the original form of teaching and there are still societies in which it is the only form of teaching. Story telling is a living art and like music and dance, it is brought to life in performance. A good teacher is a good performer, isn’t she?
What are the advantages of storytelling to young learners? Story telling develops children’s imagination, provides exposure to the target language and serves as a powerful communication tool ( Augusta Baker and Ellin Greene, 1977:17). Besides helping the young learners in developing listening skills, storytelling helps children to develop a sense of structure. The narrative structure of a story has a magnetic attraction for children and as language teachers of very young learners we should exploit this magnetic field. While discussing the characteristics of a narrative, Michael J Toolan has remarked, “Narrative typically seems to have a ‘trajectory. They usually go somewhere, and are expected to go somewhere, with some sort of development and even a resolution or conclusion provided” ( Toolan, M.J, 2001:4) The moment you start a story, children are impulsively drawn to its narrative structure. If you try to deviate from the normal structure of a story or its sequence, children will immediately catch you for distorting the structure or disturbing the sequence!
Story telling is conveying of events in words, images and sounds. It is an authentic and creative use of language. Colloquial or literary, traditional or modern, standard or non-standard, unaffected or flowery, prose or poetry…. the full range of language with its diverse manifestation is present in stories and therefore, story telling exposes the young learners to the language in its totality. Pedagogically, you may call it a ‘whole language approach.’
A resourceful language teacher can use stories for enhancing the linguistic as well as the cognitive abilities of her young learners. Story telling provides ‘experience with the interpretative mode for learners even at a very early stage of language acquisition’( Curtain,H and Dahlberg, C.A, 2010:73).
Depending on the age and the background of the young learners, I have used different techniques to make story telling pedagogically useful. For very young learners of English as a second language, the first choice is the use of stories which have songs or repetitive expressions so that children get a chance to participate in the story telling sessions. It’s a community event, you are a facilitator, not an all knowing narrator. Let the stories grow with the active participation of your young learners who may be more resourceful than their language teacher! Dramatisation, pantomime, using visuals and relia to illustrate the content of the story, supplementing the story with non-verbal expressions, relating the stories to their immediate experience… these are some of the techniques I used to make the story telling sessions a meaningful learning experience for my young learners learning English in a non-native context, Asking the young learners to express the story line with drawings and paintings and to role play the characters of the story using the target language is another useful technique.
To sum up, stories use a holistic approach to language teaching and they support natural acquisition of the target language. They help children develop critical thinking skills in a very unobtrusive manner. One story a day, make the language learning a play. Happy story telling!!

The theory and Practice of Curricular Material Development in Languages

I had my first class of the current semester yesterday. Though 18 postgraduate students interested in learning the theory and practice of curricular material development in languages had enrolled for the elective course called CMD(L), 14 students reported for the first class. A good beginning, I assured myself. On seeing the bright, inquisitive eyes of the boys and girls coming from as many as 12 States of India, I felt the same kind of thrill that I felt in my first class a few decades back.
As soon as the class started, I was glad to note that the students had gone through the course website and had studied the first chapter of the book ‘Developing Materials for Language Teaching’ by Brian Tomlinson. This augured well for a lively discussion on the issues confronting material development for language teaching and the relevance of the theory of language learning in the field of material production in language.

What’s so great about this CMD(L) course? Well, this course on Curricular Material Development in Language primarily focuses on the actual development of curricular materials and an understanding of the concept that is to be taught through that material. The development of curricular material in Language is not be an end in itself, rather it leads to a sharpening of the students’ ability to convert their disciplinary knowledge to pedagogical content knowledge. The two pronged strategy of the CMD(L) course helps the students to evaluate available textbook and to design a textbook as per their theoretical orientation and pedagogical inclination and conviction.
Curricular material development in Language is a technical skill. Material developers in language should try to achieve an articulation of their theories of language learning keeping in view the pedagogical implication of that articulation. Therefore, during this course, I intend to reinforce the students’ understanding of the nature and processes of languages and to show them how this ought to influence the making of curricular resources in languages. Other objectives of my course is to
• To familiarize and critically engage the students with a range of resources across different stages of the school curriculum and to differentiate school textbooks from textbooks and other survey materials used in colleges and universities
• To grasp the factors that condition the development of curricular materials in English or any other Indian language
• To understand the process of resource creation across different stages of education.
• To develop resources keeping in mind certain learning objectives and the vision for the teaching English in India
• To explore the possibility of creating resources for autonomous learning in the Indian context.

If you are to prepare curricular materials in a language, you should be familiar with the structural, functional and communicative functions of curricular materials, the scope and the comprehensiveness of the materials and the authenticity of the materials for pedagogical purposes. It’s a challenging task, no doubt, but it’s a rewarding experience too. Some useful books for anyone interested in exploring the theory and practice of Curricular Material Development in Languages:

Byrd, P. (ed). (1995). Material Writer’s Guide, New York, Heinle and Heinle.
Dewey, J, The Child and the Curriculum, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1902)
Diana, Hacker. (2009). The Bedford Handbook, Boston, Bedford/ St. Martins.
Freire, P., Pedagogy of the Oppressed, (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1972)
Grundy, S. (1987). Curriculum: product or praxis? Lewes, Falmer Press.
Hall, Kathy, Patricia Murphy and JanetSoler. (2008). Pedagogy and Practice: Culture and Identities, London,Sage Publications.
Harwood, Nigel (2010). English Language Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice,New York, Cambridge University Press.
Kennedy, Mary Lynch, and Hadley M. Smith.(2010). Reading and Writing in the Academic Community, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall-Pearson. 6
Rafik-Galea, Shameem.(2004) ELT Teaching Materials: Theory and Practice, Petaling Jaya, Sasbadi Sdn.BHD
Tomlinson, Brian. (2003). Developing Materials for

Multilingualism as a Resource in an English classroom in a non-native context

Why are our English teachers afraid of using a Multilingual pedagogy in their classes? How many English teachers use parallel texts written in English and the mother tongue of their pupils? Is ‘multilingualism as a resource in ELT’ a mere pedagogic slogan? Well, let’s consider the Indian case.
The aim of English language teaching in India, according to the NCF 2005 Position Paper of the National Focus Group on English Language Teaching, is the creation of multilinguals who can enrich other Indian languages. This vision statement of the Position Paper prompts us to examine the question of using multilingualism as a teaching strategy in our English classrooms. Multilingualism, which is defined as speaking two or more languages, is often viewed as an impediment to the teaching and learning of a second language. A survey of the ELT scenario across the globe indicates that the importance of the first language is often minimized in the second language classroom (Cook,2001) and it is no wonder that many Indian English teachers avoid the use of the mother of the pupils in their classrooms.
Taking note of current ELT scenario of the country, the Position Paper on ELT states that at present, “the mother tongue enters the English class as a surreptitious intruder” The Position Paper suggests that “ the mother tongue need not be an interloper but a resource” and it can occur in tandem with the first language. In spite of this unequivocal policy statement made by the Indian ELT experts ten years back, the immense possibility of the use of multilingualism as a resource has not been fully explored by the ELT practitioners of the country. Though the said Position Paper recommended the introduction of parallel texts in more than one language for a successful ELT pedagogy, little has been done till today to implement the recommendation.
Metalinguistic awareness, knowing about and being able to talk about how language is structured and how it functions is a special advantage of multilingualism ( Cook,1995; Jessner, 2006, Svalberg,2007). Multilingual children learning more than one language gain in flexibility because they can understand and analyze concepts using more than one language system. A lot of research work has been done to find out the correlation between bilingualism and cognitive ability (Peal and Lambert 1962; Cummins, 1984;Hakuta and Diaz 1985), but all these isolated studies were done with reference to the bilingual education of young children. How does cross language transfer of skills help multilingual adult learners in developing their language awareness in a target language? The role of bilingualism in academic learning in a context where the learners’ competence in two languages is of varying degrees seems to be an unexplored are of research.
There is no denying the fact that interpretative skills are transferable across languages and an exposure to the stylistic analysis of a literary text in the first language helps in the analysis of the same text written in a second language. Adult learners who are already familiar with a systematic interpretative study of a text in their first language can easily grasp the stylistic features of the same text written in a second language. By using what the learners already know of a text written in their first language, they can explore the text written in a second language without any inhibition. By comparing the way language is used in the text written in the first language as well as in the second, adult bilingual learners acquire a mastery of the second language unavailable to the monolingual learners.
L1 and L2 do not reside in two separate compartments in the mind of the bilingual learners. L1 and L2 are interwoven in the L2 user’s mind in vocabulary (Beauvillain & Grainger, 1987), in syntax (Cook, 1994), in phonology (Obler,1982), and in pragmatics (Locastr,1987). Therefore, ‘learning an L2 is not just the adding of rooms to your house by building an extension at the back: it is the rebuilding of all internal walls ( Cook, 200:407). The use of parallel texts written in L1 and L2, therefore reinforces a learner’s repertoire in both the languages.
I will be happy to know how many English teachers teaching English in a non-native context use parallel texts in their English classes.