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
पिंजरा
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.

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