An Interview with NELTA President Mr. Ganga Ram Gautam

January 1, 2010

Choutari: How does our effort for promoting professional communication relate to NELTA’s goals and how might we be able to enhance them?

Mr. Gautam: First of all, I would like to appreciate the efforts of our young colleagues Shyam, Bal, Prem and Sajan for taking initiative to begin the NELTA Choutari forum which has offered a professional platform for the NELTA members to share their ideas, arguments, views and their observations. This effort is directly related to the NELTA goals. As mentioned in the NELTA constitution, the two key objectives (among five objectives) of NELTA are: (2) To provide a forum for individuals, institutions and associations having similar goals and (3) To foster the exchange of ideas, resources, information and experience among people associated with ELT and for the last one year you have been trying to enhance the professional communication among the members through this forum. This is indeed a big achievement and we need to continue this in the future. However, the readership network of this forum is still limited and we need to discuss how we can expand the readers’ network and make sure that they read and contribute to the discussion.

C: How do you think we can increase engagement/contribution to networked discussions by NELTA members who have access?

G: This is indeed a key concern for all of us and we need to work collectively on this issue. One of the strategies could be to use the quick communication channels such as facebook/twitters etc. to publicise about this forum and motivate people to read and contribute. For example, if someone posts a quick note on the facebook that s/he read the article posted in NELTA Choutari and make a very brief comment on this on the facebook and link the site on it so that people get motivated to read and contribute. Similarly, we can also put the notice in the NELTA newsletter and make announcement in the NELTA conference. Also, we could have a brief presentation on this in the forthcoming NELTA conference. We shall be happy to have a brief webinar on this if you would like to make a short presentation on this.

C: Do you have any suggestions for conducting networked discussions in better ways so that branches and members can contribute better?

G: Friends, this has been a great challenge for us and we need to find ways to engage the branch members in the professional discussion. I think we need to find a contact person in each branch who has internet/email access and work through that person. Some branch members have already started doing so on individual basis now we need to institutionalize this in all the branches. One of the strategies to promote this could be through the regional network that we plan to establish. Birgunj has already started the regional conference and Surkhet is holding the next. Similarly, we could have other branches from different regions to initiate this kind of activities and the lead branch that organizes the regional event could work as a satellite to disseminate this information. We have proposed this modality for the next English Language Fellow (ELF) when we submitted the proposal to the US embassy. (I have attached the proposal for your reference to give you detail picture of what this is about). These regional centers can be mobilized to promote communication among the branches. Perhaps we can start this on pilot basis.

C: Do you have any practical suggestions for us to collaborate with NELTA in its efforts at increasing professional communication on and off line?

G: Some of you have been very generous to offer your time for the NELTA journal. On behalf of the NELTA committee, I would like to thank you very much for your contribution and I can see that there are a lot of places where we can work for NELTA breaking the distance barrier. Some of the things that I can talk about now are:

a)  Our members include teachers, trainers, researchers and various ELT practitioners. A large number of our members are also trainee teachers who at some point carry out research in various aspects of ELT. In order to support them with the resources, can we set up a site on NELTA Web page, or Yahoogroups or NELTA Choutari or maybe in all of them where we can hyperlink the academic research sites and also upload the articles from the US for our students so that they can have access to the materials? We can also include these materials in the discussion forums.

b)  We would like to put all the Master’s Thesis Titles and Ph.D. thesis titles on the NELTA web so that students can see what has been researched so far.  It would be nice if you could also find the link from other universities where our students can see what kind of Master’s thesis are produced in other parts of the world.

c)  As I and Shyam talked on the phone, we could assign someone from NELTA to liaise the NELTA committee and groups like NELTA Choutari or individuals who contribute to NELTA on the Web. This will make the communication much easier and quicker.

Finally, I once again thank the team that has managed NELTA Choutari very professionally and I also take this opportunity to say Happy New Year 2010.

——

to leave a comment, click here (editor: Bal Sharma, Shyam Sharma)

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Testing the Testing System of Nepal: An Interactive Article

June 2, 2014

Choutari Editors

Testing is inevitable although not desirable. It is necessary in order to keep the track of overall progress of language teaching programme. Debates have been going on for and against the testing. However, the important point to note here is that it is the faulty process of testing that is being criticized not the concept of testing itself. In fact, such criticism is necessary as it can help improve the system. The sphere of language testing in Nepal is also not free from criticism. Therefore, we decided to test the testing system of Nepal in this interactive article. We have attempted to explore the existing problems in the field of language testing and possible solutions to them after an interaction with experts and readers. We believe such interactive can play a significant role to reform the system. A thematic question was asked to language experts as well as Choutari readers. The question was ‘What is a major problem in language testing system of Nepal and what can be the solution to it?’ Among the responses collected, we have presented the opinions of eight respondents here:

Shyam Sharma:
There are many problems with current language testing regime (as well as some good things). One issue that’s come up in our conversations is how testing practices typically ignore multilingual competencies. At first, this may seem like an impossible ideal, but if you look deeper, the question becomes why not. Ours is a multilingual society and students’ language proficiencies are not isolated; their English is a part of a complex sociolinguistic tapestry; their other languages don’t “hamper” English; languages aren’t just mediums but rich epistemological resources; and, humans have always spoken multiple languages without seeking a monolingual standard. So, when we face the task of teaching and testing students’ English abilities in isolation, we shouldn’t act like helpless slaves of the system; when discussing the roots and stems and branches and bitter fruits of the current regimes, there’s no need to surrender to the “reality.” The reality includes politics, power, and possibilities beyond their grips, and thus, we must broaden the base of our discussions so we can see testing as a broader phenomenon than, well, testing. Scholarly conversations under the tree here can and should help the community rethink the fundamentals.

Shyam Sharma is an Assistant Professor in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University (State University of New York)

Prem Phyak:
I call it an ‘issue’ rather than a ‘problem’; why do we still ‘test’ monolingual ability (although our students have bi-/multilingual ability)? Another issue embedded within this issue is: How can we test students’ multilingual ability? First, we must be clear that ‘testing’ is not a ‘fixing-shop’ where you can fix a ‘problem’ rather it is a complex discipline which needs a critical scrutiny from multiple perspectives for a valid evaluation of students’ ability. Our assumption that ‘language testing’ should only test ‘monolingual ability’, meaning that multilingual testing is impossible, is the major challenge for reforms in language testing. This dominant assumption decontextualizes language testing from students’ cultural, linguistic and educational contexts. So, the major issue is: our tests are not context-sensitive. For example, I still remember that we were often asked to write an essay in SLC (School Leaving Certificate) exam about different highways in Nepal but I had never seen any highways (when I was in school). We were asked to memorize their lengths, construction dates and so on. I could not even conceptualize what a ‘highway’ was. However, I could write more and better when I had to write about ‘my village’ or ‘my school’.

The issue of contextualization is closely associated with testing multilingual abilities; locally-contextualized test items require students to work with their abilities in more than one language. For example, when I had to write an essay about my village I used to think in Limbu, Nepali and English. I (and my friends) could not think about the topic in only one language – no separation of languages! But the tests did not allow me to use my Limbu and Nepali abilities while writing essays in English. This is the major issue, right? If language tests are meant to test ‘language ability’, why don’t we test students’ functional abilities in multiple languages? This applies to Nepali language tests as well. For example, when students speak Nepali they simultaneously use English as well (and/or other local languages if their first language is other than Nepali); one cannot create the fixed boundary of a language. Suppose a bilingual student writes “आजको class मा कस्तो frustrate भएको…” (I had frustration in today’s class) for her Nepali essay (it can be more complex than this in the case of Maithili and Newari children, for example), how do we evaluate her Nepali language ability? The first reaction could be ‘असुद्द” (incorrect –literally impure). However, she is expressing her views fluently by using both Nepali and English in her repertoire. She cannot separate one language from another. This means that monolingual tests do not test students’ bilingual or multilingual abilities. Unfortunately, the students who show their bi-/multilingual abilities in language tests are considered ‘deficient’ and ‘poor’. However, the above example represents the use of language in the real-life (authentic) context.

There are ways to test multilingual abilities. For example, an inquiry-based formative assessment, which engages students in doing research and working with teachers to receive qualitative feedback on their work, can be one way to help them fully utilize their multilingual abilities. Such assessments encourage students to translanguage (use multiple languages to perform different tasks) to achieve the goals as specified by the test criteria. However, any kind of so-called ‘standardized test’, which are guided by the monolingual assumption, cannot test bi-/multilingual abilities. We should say a big ‘NO’ to the standardized tests if we truly believe in developing equitable language testing.

Prem Phyak is an MA (TESOL), Institute of Education, University of London, UK, M.Ed., Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Tirth Raj Khaniya:
Lack of professionalism is the main problem of English Language Testing in the context of Nepal. Professionalism is known as ability of applying fairness, ethics and standards in exam related issues. While dealing with exam related matters we need to be fair. We assume that we are professional but in reality we are not professional thus the test is not testing what it is supposed to test.
In language testing for teachers’ to be professional they require both necessary skills and abilities and application of those skills and abilities in a proper manner. To maintain professionalism it is necessary to have wide discussion among teachers and therefore all those who are involved in exams will have clear understanding.

Tirth Raj Khaniya has a Ph. D. in Language Testing from University of Edinburgh, UK. Currently, a Professor of English Education, he teaches language testing in the Department of English Education, TU.

Ganga Ram Gautam:
The main problem of language testing in Nepal is that the test itself is faulty. It does not test the language skills but test the memory of the text materials given in the textbook. There are also other several problems that include the issues with the test writers, test item construction, test administration and validation of the tests.

One solution of this problem could be to develop standardized tests and administer them in the various key stages such as primary level, lower secondary level and secondary level. In order to do this, we need to train a team of experts to develop the test and the test should be standardized by going through the reliability and validity testing. Once the tests are developed, they should be administered in a proper way so that the real language proficiency of the students can be obtained.

Ganga Ram Gautam is an Associate Professor at Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University and former president of NELTA.

Laxman Gnawali:
There is no need to reiterate that the aim of the learning a foreign language is to be able to communicate in it. In order to find out whether English language learners in the Nepalese schools have developed communicative skills in this foreign language, there is a provision for the testing of listening and speaking at the SLC level. I feel that this test is not serving the purpose. The lowest marks students get in speaking is 10 out of 15, which is 66%. However, when we communicate with the SLC graduates (let alone who fail the examination), most of them perform very poorly. There are two reasons for this inflated marking: the speaking test includes predictable questions for which the responses can be rehearsed: personal introduction, picture description and one function-based question (which is repeated so often that students can prepare a limited set of responses and be ready of the test). Secondly, there is a kind of extreme leniency in the examiners; they just award marks irrespective of the quality if the responses.

Two interventions could improve the situation. Firstly, the examiners should be trained to ask very simple everyday realistic questions which students cannot respond without knowing the language. Secondly, each test should be video recorded so that inflated marks can be easily scrutinised. Administrative issues should not come in the way of quality testing which has far-reaching consequences.

Laxman Gnawali is an Associate Professor at Kathmandu University and Former Senior Vice President of NELTA

Laxmi Prasad Ojha:
I think we are giving too much priority to examinations and tests in our education system. We do not understand the purpose of testing and evaluation. We don’t test the comprehension and understanding of students. This is the main cause of the failure of our education system in many cases, including the language teaching programmes.

Uttam Gaulee:
I think “formative” should be the key word here. Laxmi ji, pointed out an important bottleneck we have experienced due to lack of purpose of testing and evaluation. If we think of a typical Nepali school, we do give more importance on summative tests than the formative ones. What we seriously lack (and that’s why we have a tremendous opportunity to work on) is systematic feedback for student.

Uttam Gaulee is Graduate Research Fellow, University of Florida College of Education, Gainesville, Florida

Bal Krishna Sharma:
Yeah, one way would be to introduce and practice more formative type of assessment. This will evaluate and test students’ ongoing progress and learning outcomes.

Ph.D. student, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Although the issue was one, the thematic question unbelievably raised so many genuine issues. The respondents highlighted the issue of testing multilingual competencies apart from only testing monolingual ability and also suggested some ideas on how to test students’ multilingual abilities. In the same way, the interaction raised the issue of lack of professionalism in language testing. Similarly, the respondents also urged that our memory-driven testing system itself is faulty. Furthermore, there is problem in test construction and administration and suggestion is put forward to develop and practise standarized tests to minimize the problems. In relation to the problem in testing listening and speaking in SLC exam, it emphasized that the test items are predictable and examiners are lenient and award marks irrespective of quality. The solution proposed is to train the examiners properly and introduce the system of video recording students’ performance. On the other hand, overemphasizing exams and not testing what it should test is characterized as a problem. The solution discussed over such problem is to give more importance to formative test rather than summative test, which helps keep the track of students’ achievement.

Now the floor is open for you. Share what you think is the problem of testing system in our context and what can be the solution. We believe such interaction contributes in the development of innovative ideas in ELT.


What to Write

May 1, 2014

Many colleagues have asked us, “What can I write about for Choutari?” in response to our solicitation for blog entries for upcoming issues of NeltaChoutari. We tried to address this question generally in our guidelines about two years ago. But it looks like contributors could make use of a little more detail. Hence this page is helpful for those with the question–What can you write about for this blog-zine?

We cannot possibly cover all the specific ELT-related topics that you can write about for this blog. So, we have tried to list here some of the major types of blog entries, linking randomly picked examples from the past four and a half years. The examples are only meant to indicate “what” types of subjects you can write about; for illustration of “how” to write effective blog entries for this forum, please see the other page.

(Note: This page is also a “work in progress” so we will be finding better examples for the different types of writing, adding new ones, and clarifying the points. For this reason, we would appreciate if you could please suggest your favorite readings for any category, or even a new category to be added in the comments section below).

1. Teaching Anecdotes and Stories: One of the blog entries of this type that stood out for us is a description of and reflection on a specific incident in the classroom written by Lekh Nath Pathak. The specific incident or incidents in such narratives can also be a part of a broader framework for reflecting on one’s teaching experiences. Prithvi Shrestha takes the second approach in the entry titled “Teacher’s Anxiety,” which is a recognized phenomenon on which there is also scholarship (and this writer cites some); he starts by briefly reviewing the literature then tells his story to illustrate that concept, finally encouraging teachers to be reflective about their anxiety. Among the many other great “narratives,” there is one by Hem Raj Kafle hat is written like a piece of literature, an American scholar, Alban S. Holyoke’s reflection of his teaching experience in Nepal, and areflection on the her teaching career by Ekku Maya Pun.

2. Scholarly Idea with a Personal Touch: Using his personal experience, Bishnu Kumar Khadka presents his scholarly ideas while reflecting on teaching and testing listening skills. Similarly, in the English teacher, Dinesh Thapa links current realities of many English teachers in Nepal with a self reflection strategy, as does Ashok Raj Khati in his entry on student centredness.

3. Reporting or Reflection on Experience of an ELT Event or Travel/Study: Many NELTA scholars and guests have shared their experiences of attending conferences at home, as Mandira Adhikari does in this entry about NELTA Conference. Other writers, like former President Ganga Ram Gautam, have shared their experience of traveling and participating in professional development programs abroad; here’s an entry about participating in the Hymphrey Fellowship program by Ganga Ram Gautam, and here is an entry aboutparticipating in the IATEFL Conference in the UK by Laxman Gyawali. Please note that when you write such reports, you should briefly report the event and try to take more space for sharing your thoughts, your perspectives, etc. Here is a whole series of reflections on a special conference by Vishnu S. Rai from Nepal, Kanokon from Thailand and Li Wei from China. Please also note that you are welcome to provide a summary or reflection of your own presentation (like this oneby a keynote speaker for a NELTA Conference) or your participation in a conference or a specific workshop/training (like this one by Praveen Yadav).

4. Reports, Updates, News Items from NELTA Branches: Since Choutari is run by a group of NELTA members and it has garnered wider readership among NELTA community, it includes reports, updates, news items from its centre and branches. For example, Dinesh Thapa reports about a district conference in Lalitpur in this entry, the editors of the month received and compiled updates from multiple branches in this entry. Indeed, one of the most motivating objectives among Choutari editors has been the possibility of creating a forum for discussing scholarly/professional issues where fellow teachers from across the country can participate. So, we are always eager to publish reports, news, reflections, stories, and anything appropriate that come from different parts of Nepal.

5. Teaching Tips or Other Types of Suggestions for Teachers/Scholars: Being an ELT forum, tips regarding language teaching abound in different forms have been one of our favorites so far. For instance, Shyam Sharma shares thoughts about the value of professional learning networks by using a few specific suggestions for the community; Alan Maley , U.K., provides a list of suggestions about integrating creative writing in ELT classrooms; Praveen Kumar Yadav describes how to use newspapers in the ELT classroom.

6. Review of Scholarship on an ELT Topic: Even though we don’t publish academic articles,we still consider articles with brief literature review and then go on to connect the issue with personal experience. To give you an example, Uttam Gaulee does so in this entry about whether to separate boys from girls. He provides a review of the literature on single sex classroom, though he goes beyond that as well. There are not many such entries yet, but this looks like a good idea for new contributors to consider writing, because this kind of entry will be very helpful for teachers and scholars in the community as well.

7. Theoretical Discussion: You can also discuss issues theoretically, especially with some contextualization. An example of an entry along this line would be Janak Pant’s discussion of important issues/concepts about teacher training in the context of Nepal; you may also want to see how Kapil Neupane highlights the importance of lesson planning in ELT by sharing his own story of professional development. The best theory for a forum like this is one that is put to practice, at least put to the practice of identifying, explaining, or showing how to tackle a problem. If you find yourself veering into full-throttled theory, consider punctuating it with examples/application or illustrating it with examples. Also revise your draft to make it interesting in other ways. (If you see what we’re trying to say, one of the major downsides of abstract/theory only pieces is that it may put most readers to sleep!).

8. Research Method, Result, or Experience: Reflections on research process including data collection and analysis are welcome. Just to cite some examples, Manita Karki highlights the importance of action research based on her own experience of learning/using it and Umes Shrestha carries out an Error Analysis from subject a verb agreement perspective. Needless to say, ours is a community that should do a lot more research and share knowledge about how to do it.

9. Argument or Call to Action about Teaching, Research, or Policy: Critical pieces that deal with various complexities of the profession are equally welcome. In our first example of this type of entries, Davi Reisargues that we must fight the good fight against these conditions in the profession and the society/world. In his essay, Bal Krishna Sharma points out an important local pedagogical and intellectual tradition. In his reflection about the shocking fail rate in SLC exams of 2013, Shyam Sharma urges Nepal’s English language teachers to situate themselves in the big/national picture of education vis-à-vis ELT. Likewise, Madhav Kafle points out a problem (that of monolingualism) and asks readers to think about how we have normalized it by engaging in critical conversations. Among the many entries of this type, Dr. Binod Luitel argues that there’s a need to rethink conventional approaches used for teaching English in Nepal.

10. General Commentary on an Issue or Problem: Your initial thoughts on a particular topic or a theme also can make good blog entries. Here is an example of this type, where Maheshwor Rijaldescribes the lack of a research-oriented academic culture in Nepal (with an example) and Eak Duwadi discusses the challenges of assessing students’ writing skills in Nepal. As you can see from these examples, you can write highly effective blog entries without having to formulate a theoretical position, a research framework, or clear solutions for a problem; you can just brainstorm on some researchable issues that you are interested in, highlighting any challenge and/or opportunity for teachers and scholars of ELT.

11. Humor, Parody, or Satire: After all, we are humans. We can’t simply keep talking about research, teaching, education, etc without sometimes adding some spice to our conversations. Here are some language related jokes that may be useful in the classroom, and here is a collection of fun stuff about ELT collected from the web by one of the editors. New types of materials have been getting priority in the past few years, but we are still interested in adding some flavor to our monthly issues. If you are good at adding fun to work, please do not hesitate to send us what you have.

12. Description or Thoughts about Inspiring People, Ideas, or Achievements: Readers are eager to learn and discuss educational issues in general on this blog. Uttam Gaulee shares his reflections on the progress made by Nepal in the light of global initiatives ‘Millennium Development Goals, Education for All and the Issue of Dominant language’. Similarly, Tirth Raj Khaniya envisions Future Development of Education in Nepal. In another entry, Apar Poudel writes about a Nepalese youth icon’s inspiring initiative ‘teach children free of charge’.

13. Successful Efforts in Scholarship: Besides reporting and reflecting on your participation in conferences and other events, you can also share about successfully attaining scholarship, grant, or other types of support/rewards in the pursuit of professional development. For example, Laxman Gnawali reflects on his experiences of gaining a scholarship to attend the 47th Annual International IATEFL Conference 2013 as well as that of attending the event in Liverpool; similarly Madhu Neupane reflects on Sharing Best Practices: Strengthening and Extending Teachers’ Associations in South Asia based on her participation in a regional workshop organized by Hornby Regional School in collaboration with British Council in Bangladesh. Sharing about such experiences/successes can be informative and inspiring for the community.

14. Columns that Editors Have Run (but members of the community could volunteer to write for us): Editors of Choutari have collected and published a medley of genres including interviews like this one with NELTA Presidents on their visions for the organization (the link is to an interview with Hemanta Raj Dahal), interviews with other experienced scholars (this one is with Professor Gobinda Raj Bhattarai) on issues of their expertise, summaries of keynote speeches (by Dr. Joann Crandall), the community’s comments about Choutari as it completes a year, our own reflections on the growth of the blogzine, and oral history in text (Dr. Rajendra Bimal) or in audio (Ekku Maya Pun) format, to name a few. We would love it if members of the community can help us collect similar materials or even suggest and present miscellaneous materials that will help us promote ELT conversations of different types.

NOTE: Please submit your draft at least three weeks in advance of the next month’s publication (first of the month) at nelta choutari gmail dot com. If you have questions about what or how to write, or if you’d like to send a draft for feedback, please do not hesitate to do so.


Welcome to Nelta Choutari March Issue 2014

March 8, 2014

EDITORIAL

Umes Shrestha
(with Usha and Jeevan)

Dear Readers of Nelta Choutari Blog Magazine,
We took an extra week to publish this issue, but the time has been worth it!

As we present the ‘NELTA Conference special issue’, including an amazing set of blog posts based on the 19th International Conference, we are excited by many things. We have continued our tradition of the special issue after this important event for Nepal’s ELT community. We are also proud to see the emergence of new venues of professional conversation, most significantly the “official” blog started by NELTA (www.neltaeltforum.weebly.com). We see such development as the community’s dream coming true, because there should be more venues of professional conversation, some run by individual scholars, others by groups, some less structured and formal than others, and so on. We remain an independent community of bloggers who strive to publish the voice of other colleagues on top of ours, in the spirit of the Nepali way, building scholarship from the ground up.

We remain inspired by the passion for promoting critical pedagogy, promoting local scholarship, incorporating the voices of local teachers, writing ourselves to value the voices of teachers on the ground across the country, and fostering creativity and innovation in the teaching of English… drawing on global scholarship for promoting local professional practice. We continue to explore new landscape, ask new questions, and try new ideas. Our strength lies in our ability to engage almost 3,000 visits to the site every month from more than 80 countries around the world, and in the achievements reflected in almost four hundred blog entries, a thousand comments, 1.53 lakh total views. Former and present editors and also the ELT community have put in a lot of hard work and dedication over the years. And we are driven to take Choutari to new heights every year, building on our strength in quantity and quality.

Now to focus on the theme of this special issue — The conference was held in two phases, first in Kathmandu and then in Hetauda, under the theme, ‘Authentic Assessment: A Paradigm Shift from Traditional to Alternative Assessment’ and it was attended by over 600 presenters and participants in Kathmandu, and by over 300 in Hetauda. It has become a tradition in this blog to dedicate an issue to the conference and to show our solidarity and respect to NELTA as an organization that we belong to, and to all English language teachers and professionals all over Nepal.

Let me start by sharing my personal reflection. Initially, the theme of the conference didn’t really create any interest in my mind. However, after attending the plenary sessions by Professor Stephen Stoynoff (US), Professor Keith Morrow (UK), and Professor Z.N. Patil (India), and pondering over what they presented and shared, I realized the gravity of the issues related with testing and assessment in our context.

For far too long, and for the worst, we have snubbed our learners and students based on the results of one-off examinations. We, both teachers and parents, have robbed them of their true potential and pushed them into the dark ‘You’re a failure’ zone. I have always thought that our assessment system had holes all over it, but now it seems to me that it is a total disaster. For years, the primary objective of our traditional assessment system has been about how to make students pass the tests (or how to make them fail the tests), instead of how to make them literate, proficient, and talented.

Our teachers may have changed with time, our students too – but the curriculum and assessment system has not changed at all. It is still ‘old’ and terribly traditional, and it constantly victimizes numerous learners and students. Out of fear and pressure, students study only to pass the test, unfortunately, not to be educated. And, as one of our writers has said on this blog, this is the tragedy!

So, this is what I’ve decided. The next time I enter the classroom, I will not judge any student based on their performance on the exams. This is one idea that I’m going to take from the conference into my classroom. And specifically, I will never hold any biased or indifferent attitude toward ‘low-scorers’ or ‘under-achievers’ because now I can understand and empathize with their struggles, motivation (or lack of it) and various external reasons which are somehow the spiraling repercussion of a very ‘poor’ assessment system.

I might have painted a very bleak picture of assessment and its objectives but it’s time to get real and it’s time to act. We must act, individually and collaboratively, and raise enough strength to wipe out the damaging consequences of one-off assessments, like the SLC exam. Prof. Stoynoff quoted Bob Dylan and said, “Times, They Are a-Changing” and indeed, the concept of assessment and its purpose is changing. The change, however, must be towards viewing assessment through sociocultural perspective and the change must be towards teachers and authorities taking more responsibility.

Having said that, here I present the blog entries of this special issue.

Besides the conference related posts, we have also included Gopal Prashad Bashyal’s experience of attending a BELTA Conference held in Dhaka of Bangladesh. Also adding some variety, former and current Choutari editors, Shyam Sharma and Uttam Gaulee,  have collaboratively written a reflection on a recent Choutari meeting. And, finally, to go along with the reports, reflections, and essays, we have also included a photo-highlight of both phases of Nelta conference.

Table of Contents

  1. Professor Stephen Stoynoff’s Keynote Speech: Ganga Ram Gautam
  2. Nelta Conference – Hetauda Phase: A Short Report: Narayan Prasad Tiwari
  3. Interactive Language Fair with Photo Feature: Laxman Gnawali
  4. What Does ‘Authentic’ Assessment Mean?: Mabindra Regmi
  5. A Presenter’s Reflection on Nelta Conference: Prema Bhusal
  6. A Report on plenary “Do We Still Need Dictionaries?” led by Dr. Elaine Higgleton: Suman Laudari
  7. Learning from the self and others: Gopal Prashad Bashyal
  8. What Are You Taking Into the Classroom? Conference Experience: Santona Neupane
  9. A Workshop on Language Testing and Assessment – A Reflection : Ganesh Datt Bhatta
  10. Before the Sun Rises – A Reflection on a Recent Choutari Meeting: Shyam Sharma & Uttam Gaulee
  11. Photo Highlights – 19th Nelta International Conference: Umes Shrestha

After going through the blog entries, please post your comments and feedback, and help us experience an enriched professional communication.

And, please don’t forget to join our new initiative – Choutari Mentorship Project. Some of our colleagues have already started benefiting from this project. We sincerely thank all participating mentors and mentees. You can also watch a short video by Uttam Gaulee explaining the purpose of this project here. This video was part of a presentation in the 19th International Conference of NELTA in Kathmandu.

As usual, please like us on our Facebook page, encourage writers by liking their posts, leave comments, share what you like on your network, and contribute your own blog posts for future issues.

umes

Umes Shrestha
Editor for March Issue
Email: umes.shrestha@gmail.com


Professor Stephen Stoynoff’s Keynote Speech: Classroom Assessment

March 8, 2014

Ganga Ram Gautam

stoynoff

Prof. Stoynoff in his keynote address during 19th NELTA International Conference held in Kathmandu on Feb 27, discussed his professional journey in the field of language assessment using a “trekking” metaphor as part of an anecdote from his Nepal visit long time ago.

The highlights of the message that he conveyed through the metaphor were:

a) a beginning is always exciting but not easy

b) we need to understand the challenges and put every effort to face them in order to get to the next level

c) we must understand the significance of our endeavor in the work that we do

d) we should not give up but try various alternatives so that we might find a better way for addressing the challenges and issues

Describing the various landscapes of language assessment in the last few decades, Prof. Stoynoff shared about two key orientations, namely, the psychometric perspectives and socio-cultural perspectives, which have influenced language assessment. Highlighting the key features of these perspectives, he also talked about the shifts that have taken place in the area of assessment along with the changes in the curriculum and materials in English language teaching and learning.

Drawing on the principles and practices of the socio-cultural perspective in language assessment, he elaborated alternative approaches to language assessment and how these approaches address the issue of ‘authenticity’ in language assessment. The key message that Prof. Stoynoff delivered during his presentation was that it is the teacher who is chiefly responsible for selecting the appropriate assessment and in many cases developing them, administering them properly, interpreting the results correctly and using results responsibly. He advised the teachers to be more attentive to the purposes and practices associated with assessment and their impact on students’ learning and their teaching. Thus, he highlighted the term “Assessment Literate” as the key that every teacher should be aware of.

As concluding remarks, Prof. Stoynoff said:

a) Set ambitious goals

b) Persist in important endeavors

c) Periodically gauge your progress and recognize changes in the professional landscape

d) Prepare for the challenges that are ahead

The presentation was both academic and practical and participants enjoyed it thoroughly. The uptake of the presentation was that the best way to keep abreast with the new trends and development in the professional field that one is engaged is through continuous professional development.

Ganga Ram Gautam
Reader in English Education,
Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tahachal, Tribhuvan University
Executive Member (Immediate Past President), Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA)


An Access Teacher’s Reflection on ELT Training

February 1, 2014

Mandira Adhikari

I have attended a number of training sessions on English language teaching facilitated by both national and international trainers. And I have conducted some training sessions myself. Whenever I attend or conduct such sessions, I ask this question about their significance: Will I be able to translate (transfer) the ideas into my classroom? If such session doesn’t seem relevant to my classroom setting, I return with a sad face, thinking that the time, money and resources invested in that session went in vain. However, I returned home with a happy face from a recent training organized by NELTA in Kathmandu on 20th and 21st December, 2013. Access teachers from the different parts of Nepal participated in the two-day English teachers’ training. I found it very effective for my classroom and I learned several new ideas and concepts to implement in my classroom. In this blog entry, I am going to reflect on my experiences.

FIRST DAY

Following the introduction of the participants, the first day of the training began with ‘Gallery Walk’ and concluded with two different sessions ‘Songs in Access Classroom’ and ‘Co-Teaching’.

Gallery Walk

Through a gallery walk, we reflected on our success stories from Access Program being implemented at different district branches of NELTA. I found the activities of the Access Centers unique, fascinating and different from one another.

Let me begin with GorakhaCenter. The teachers had their students engage into convening an educational fair and they learnt that the students could learn different things when they are engaged in organizing such programs. Similarly, they had organized a literacy campaign targeting the illiterate people of their community with a view to raise awareness, motivate, and encourage them to be literate by joining literacy classes.

Kathmandu Centers had done something remarkable. They had taken the Access Students to the US Embassy, Kathmandu, where the participant students observed various equipments operated with the help of solar power. And the painting titled ‘Wall of Hopes’ highlighted violence against women. On the International Human Rights Day, they showed a movie related to human rights. They also made their students participate in ‘English by Radio‘ program, which is aired through radio stations in partnership of NELTA and the US Embassy.

Unlike Gorkha and KathmanduCenters, PokharaCenter had facilitated their students to prepare and perform a ‘Drama’ on the occasion of ‘Thanks Giving Day’. I like the concept of students’ engagement in the drama as it helps them to be confident, creative and to improve their speaking skills.

BirgunjCenter had their own uniqueness, in celebrating ‘Raksha Bandhan’—a popular Hindu festival of the love between brothers and sisters celebrated in Terai, southern part of Nepal and also in many parts of India and Mauritius. In this festival, sisters tie the thread and attractive rakhi (simple, woven and colorful thread or may be intricate with amulets and decoration on top of it) on wrist of their brothers for their long life, welfare and protection. Other remarkable activities in Birgunj —Traffic Week and Ocean Day—impressed me. Students’ engagement in traffic management over a week has not only helped traffic police but also they have learnt traffic rules. Considering busy traffic in Kathmandu and need of traffic knowledge in our students, I wish I could replicate such activity for LalitpurCenter where I am an Access teacher. I think that the celebration of Ocean Day could be adapted in the context of our Access Centers too.

I was fascinated by the special idea of developing reading skills among our students from KanchanpurCenter. They have formed a readers’ group and a book reviewers’ group. We had conducted classes on ‘Book Review’, students, however, have not been confident enough to write the book reviews. I think the idea of forming of groups of readers and reviewers would help me further building on their confidence.

Songs in Access Classroom

Following Gallery Walk Session, Suman Laudari, former Access teacher facilitated a session on ‘Songs in Access Classroom’. Based on his own experience as an Access teacher, he highlighted on the effectiveness of the use of songs for language learning. Songs are the great exposure to our students and using songs is one of the best ways to teach pronunciation with a fun. We can also develop classroom test activities such as gap filling, match the words with their meaning, and put the shuffled stanzas of the song in order. Through this way, language learning can be a fun making for them.  On the other side, while using songs in the classroom, some possible challenges such as offensive words and deviated forms were explored in our discussions. However, the learners should be pre informed not to use offensive words and consider deviated forms because they are more often used in songs.

Co-teaching

Access Program has a salient feature of co-teaching at its Centers. As an assessment for such a feature, Ganga Ram Gautam and Miriam Corneli jointly facilitated co-teaching. During the facilitation, they introduced ‘Tree Metaphor’, as a tool for effectively analysing our co-teaching. Using tree metaphor, the assessment and analysis of co-teaching was carried out by participants from different Centers in terms of fruits, shoots, seeds and roots. We found our analysis of co-teaching almost similar. For instance, when I and my co-teacher analyzed our co-teaching classes, the fruits of our co–teaching –making   classroom a fun zone, our shoots –utilizing our experience to make our classes effective by discussing with each other, the seeds—about five hours’ discussion to prepare a lesson plan and though we haven’t been successful in executing it yet to and the roots—we both are from education background and quite familiar with different methodologies. We both are co-operative and flexible. As a result, our co-teaching has always been successful.

The co-teachers at Access Centers are co-operative and they have been successful in making their classes effective, applying a variety of teaching methods. Before both the facilitators concluded the session, they provided us the effective model of co-teaching, which further helped us to improve our co-teaching further. Our co-teaching would have been more successful and we would not have faced challenges in managing the roles while implying this concept if the training on ‘co-teaching’ was provided before the Access classes started.

SECOND DAY

The second day of training consisted of four different sessions; ABCD model of lesson planning, public speaking, group discussions and American culture.

ABCD Model of Lesson Planning

Upon the presentations of the lesson plans made by respective Centers, Hemant Raj Dahal, president of NELTA made comments on them. Based on his observation and experience, he shared that most of the teachers usually miss the important parts ‘context’ and ‘expectation’ of our learners while planning their lessons. The discussion became livelier when Access teachers shared their challenges for preparing an effective lesson plan. To address those challenges, facilitator Dahal concluded the session with the introduction and use ABCD model of lesson planning for preparing effective lesson plans.

Public Speaking

The second session ‘Public Speaking’ facilitated by Motikala Subba Dewan was worth effective as it provided us the ideas of public speaking in various contexts. During the session, we were divided into different groups and each group was assigned a topic to prepare a speech. After the group leaders delivered their respective speeches, they were analyzed in terms of both strong areas and the areas to improve. I found the session constructive for not only for speaking in public but also for facilitating students to present their ideas in our regular classroom instruction.

Group Discussions

In the third session, Sara Denne Boltan facilitated us how to conduct group works effectively in our classrooms. She presented to the idea of evaluating the involvement of group members with the help of questionnaire.  It can be an effective tool to actively involve all our students in a group work. The handouts and materials provided by her were helpful for our Access classes while organizing group discussions. She also facilitated us with how to play ‘Dice Game’, which can act as an important catalyst to energize our students for developing speaking skills.

U.S. Values and Culture

Besides improving English language skills, Access Program aims to impart the knowledge of the U.S. values and culture to the participant students and sensitize them about cultural differences. The session facilitated by Sara helped us better understand the American culture that students are expected to learn. Her presentation included contextual conversational patterns, different meaning of facial expressions, and notion of leadership, concept of ‘self’ and other different American cultures.  She further clarified that Access students are expected to learn visible parts of American culture such as the food Americans eat in different festivals, their language and music.

Acknowledgements:

As an Access teacher, I got this wonderful opportunity to attend the training I have reflected above. For this, I am grateful to ‘English Access Microscholarship Program (Access Program)’ implemented by Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA) with sponsorship and support of the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu/the US Department of State.

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Mandira

Mandira Adhikari is currently working as a teacher for the Access Program in Lalitpur. She has completed her M.Ed in ELT from Kathmandu University. She is also a life member of NELTA.


More Than Status Updates: Choutari Chat with Some ELT Professionals

January 1, 2014

We log on to Facebook–or at least many of us do–when we want to find out what member of our social network are doing. But how do we learn about what the most experienced Nepali scholars and emerging professionals in our field at home and abroad are doing? One of the things we’ve always tried to do in Choutari is to invite experienced colleagues to stop by in order to share their stories and tell us about their current engagements. Especially in the special anniversary issues, we also ask veterans of our field–or our “agrajs” as we call them around here–to share their time with us. We believe that even simply listening to their stories of struggle/success and learning what they are currently doing can have tremendous impact on younger members of the community. In this post, we have tried to present golden nuggets from their experience with the help of three simple questions. We are grateful to our guests for stopping by at the Choutari as they went about their very busy work and lives!

Without further ado, then– we present the voices of six personalities:

Choutari: What is the current project or responsibility that you are engaged with in the field of ELT? As an ELT scholar, our audience would be inspired to learn about it.

JaiRajAwasthi

Dr. Jai Raj Awasthi, the Vice Chancellor at the Far-Western University and Former President of NELTA

After teaching English for over thirty-six years at Tribhuvan University (TU), the government of Nepal gave me a responsibility of starting a new university at Mahendranagar … since 2011. As a Vice Chancellor, I had to start everything from a scratch. … For the first time in my life I felt alone and  helpless. However, my colleagues from TU helped me out to design new syllabi and we started the ELT courses at the undergraduate level from December 2012 along with other 13 undergraduate courses. For the first time in the history of Nepalese education, we made all our undergraduate programs of four years duration in line with the international parameters. This year we have launched the M Ed TESOL program for the first time in Nepal. While designing the courses, we  have kept the international standard in mind.  Since we have started a four- year undergraduate and two year graduate courses under the semester system, we have from the inception of the university proved that we can follow the calendar operation and run classes uninterruptedly. Our aim is to go for M Phil leading to Ph D in TESOL soon.

AnjanaBhattarai

Dr. Anjana Bhattarai, Reader at Tribhuvan University, Nepal


Currently from the year 2070 B.S, Tribhuvan University decided to implement the semester system at the University Campuses. The big challenge for us is the preparation of courses for the new program. Not only me but also all the teachers are busy in rounds of meeting for devising new courses so that the new system will be delivered through two different modes: face-to-face and online. Online delivery will start from 2015 AD but the preparation has already on the way.

Gautam-Ganga

Mr. Ganga Ram Gautam, Associate Professor at TU and Former President of NELTA

 

Besides my regular service at TU, I’m contributing to government established Far-western University and Mid-western University in the year 2011. I feel fortunate that I have been currently involved in developing the ELT/TESOL/EFL curricula of the undergraduate and graduate programs of these two universities. With the support of the colleagues and the experts involved in this field, we have been able to introduce some of the new courses for the first time in Nepal. Such courses include Nepalese English and Nepalese ELT, Critical Discourse Analysis, Bilingualism and Multilingualism, World Englishes, EFL Seminars, etc.

LaxmanGnwali

Mr. Laxman Gnawali, Associate Professor at Kathmandu University and Former Senior Vice President of NELTA

I have my hands on several ELT initiatives at the moment but I would like to mention the English grammar series writing project which is in progress. Why I picked this project to share is that the team is working with the principle of the Presentation-Practice-Production (PPP) model in actual sense. When we surveyed the grammar books produced and/or being used in Nepal, we saw that they include only the first two components and fail to continue with the third. If the learners have no opportunity to produce language chunks with the grammatical items they just learnt, the retention is very low, let alone the proper contextualization. The series in progress follows the inductive approach and the PPP model which I believe will not only be meaningful for the learners but also a principled resource for the teachers in the classroom.

Kashiraj

Mr. Kashi Raj Pandey, Assistant Professor at KU & Member of NELTA

 

 

I am planning to publish a book on creative writing; a collection of my poems and stories that links with the narratives of journey of language learning.

 

 

 

Prithvi-Shrestha

Dr Prithvi N. Shrestha, Lecturer in ELT, Department of Languages, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, The Open University and Chief-Editor, Journal of NELTA

 

As a Lecturer in English Language Teaching at the Department of Languages, The Open University, UK where I have been working since January 2006, I am currently involved in a number of ELT projects both in the UK and abroad. My projects have two broad strands which include research as well: UK-based and international development. In terms of the UK projects, I chair an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) module which has about 1,400 students. I oversee 42 tutors tutoring on this module. In addition, I supervise two PhD students (one Greek and one Indian). I have just completed a UK Higher Education Academy funded project which investigated formative writing assessment at the Open University. In terms of my international development projects, until recently I worked as an English language specialist for the £50-million project (UKAid funded) called English in Action in Bangladesh for over five years. It involved both designing mobile technology enhanced teacher professional development materials and research on their use. Since November 2012, I have been working as the academic lead for the mother tongue education strand of the Teacher Education through School-based Support project (£15 million, UKAid funded)) in India (TESS-India). I have been working very closely with Indian colleagues to produce open educational resources (OERs) for elementary mother tongue teachers in seven states of India (Assam, Bihar, Karnatak, Madhya Pradesh, Paschhim Bangal, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh). In addition, I currently lead, as the principal investigator on an IELTS research project funded by the British Council (BC). The project runs in Bangladesh and Nepal, examining the impact of the use of IELTS test in these two countries. Another BC project that I work on is INSPIRE in Bangladesh in which we explore the use of ICT with ELT in government secondary schools.

Choutari: Please consider sharing about any challenges and/or opportunities that you see for ELT in Nepal? It could be about present or future.

Dr. Awasthi:
Teaching of the English language is both a challenge and opportunity in Nepal. We can easily see the increasing craze of the people toward  the English language.  A recent study reveals the fact that many more people are attracted toward it and they are ready to sacrifice the MLE at the cost of  it, though I don’t think it’s a positive sign for the initial literacy years. The challenges we face here  are both methods and materials suitable to our children and the teachers who can handle them efficiently to yield the desired  results. The studies carried out in the past have shown  a very gloomy picture of the achievement in English at all levels of examinations, claiming a big loss of  the stakeholders. On the one hand, the status of  teaching English in Nepal is changing drastically and heading toward a second language and on the  other we are not yet prepared to take this challenge. We have to address  different EL related issues in time to facilitate its teaching so that we can minimize the loss.

Dr. Bhattarai:
English Language Teaching, a global profession, opens many doors to the opportunities. Take for example, being a translator we can contribute to the exchange of ideas, opinions, views and also earn our livelihoods. Similarly, a lexicographer can contribute to the preparation of bilingual dictionaries for the users of different languages. Most importantly, we are teachers dedicated in producing the new generation that can use English as a second language for multiple purposes. I take it as one of the most challenging fields, for we, teachers, must change the attitudes of our students. We should encourage them to review themselves and their views critically, to exchange those views among themselves by creating blogs, to read online books and articles. Moreover, the major challenge is making our students aware of online resources so that they can be intrinsically motivated.

Mr. Gautam:
The key issue that remains at the forefront regarding the role and position of the English language in the forthcoming new constitution of Nepal. It is urgent that discussion should be initiated in this regard and we need to redefine the role of the English language in the country. In case of teaching and learning, English is still taught in the formal education merely as a content area subject, not as a language. Systemic interventions and collaborative approach is needed to make English teaching an experiential experience for its learners.

Mr. Gnawali:
The biggest challenge in the Nepalese ELT has been, is and is perhaps going to be, the English language proficiency of the teachers. Most English teachers lack the basic of the English language teaching: the proficiency to communicate in English, written and oral. Without the command over the language one is supposed to teach, one cannot do justice with the other nuances of the teaching of this foreign language. I believe this problem is going to stay for quite some time as the problem persists not just in the lower level but in the teacher educators’ level. Unless the English teacher education programmes stress on the language development component, the learners will be exposed to English that will not provide adequate exposure to the target language that they are supposed to learn, if not acquire. When the teachers have the “what”, the “how” will be less worrying.

Mr. Pandey:
Students from Government schools still feel that they are poor in English compared to other “smart” students in the classroom. Why is this? However, I see a great opportunity in language learning all around, even outside the classroom. If one has passion, No one is poor in the beginning, nor are we born with perfection in mastering the fluency of any language. It’s all about the part of our determination to learn a new language. So modern technology has made English a fun, convenient and practical part of your daily life, may it be through mobile phones, TV or other social media, students can connect their learning to the things they enjoy, and English learning becomes a real life experience. This may demand a lot of patience, but it gets easier and easier as our students advance and get engaged.

Dr. Shrestha:
As a professional who has been away for many years from the reality of the ELT situation in Nepal, I can only say what I have observed from a distance and what I have read. To me, with regard to opportunities, ELT would highly benefit from exploiting already existing technologies used by learners and English teachers. As far as I know, mobile devices such as mobile phones are ubiquitous in Nepal and they are not exploited enough. NELTA can surely push government agencies and its own members towards this direction. In terms of challenges, I want to mention only two things though there are many: a clear national policy on language education and strategies of its implementation, and making improvements to English language assessment both in schools and higher education. To me, English language education in higher education seems to be an area that has not received much attention. Therefore, NELTA in collaboration with universities and international bodies such as the British Council could help to ameliorate the existing situation.

Choutari: Please consider sharing an incident/story from your early years (or even recent past) as an ELT scholar and leading figure. We’re trying to add something light and fun but thought-provoking for our readers.

Dr. Awasthi:
If I flash back my memory of learning English and the journey that I took to become an ELT lover, I  cannot believe myself. I studied English in Hindi from the Gurus who came to teach us from the neighboring country. I even studied Nepali in Hindi. When I started teaching it, I did not have a pedagogical degree. I learned to pronounce English sounds while I was doing my Master’s degree at TU. It was only then I came to know that English has 20 vowel sounds. I still remember my teacher, Ms Susan Fortescue at the master’s level, who made me pronounce the word ‘vocabulary’ 15 times in the classroom because I could not pronounce it the way the British people pronounced it. I did not feel otherwise. Since then I have developed a feeling that every moment is a learning moment for us and learning does not have an end in itself. It is a lifelong process. If we work hard we can achieve our goals.

Dr. Bhattarai:
I completed my education up to B Ed in a small town of the Eastern Nepal, Dhankuta. After completing IA in political science I did B Ed in English. I was the only female student in the class. You can imagine the situation! With the limited exposure to English, my B ED degree came to completion. Then I decided to do MA in English at Kirtipur. The challenge was immense. After completing MA in 2042 BS, I decided to go for M Ed in 2047. The completion of M Ed paved the way for M Phil and PhD which I completed in 2058. English language learners in education think that completing Master’s degree is enough. Contrary to this, I think that it works only as a foundation. They need to construct the whole building of their career by doing many other supporting courses. At present, many online courses available have made it easier.

Mr. Gautam:
I finished my high school from Baglung and joined Butwal Campus for further study. When I attended the English class, I realized that I had very little English. I could not speak English at all and writing in English was even more difficult. I could hardly write a paragraph. When my English teacher asked me a very simple question in English and I could not respond to it, there was a big laughter in my class. Feeling a bit frustrated and embarrassed, I decided to choose English as my major and worked extremely hard since then. When I found myself as one of the top ten candidates to pass the English subject in the annual exam, I learned that it is never too late to learn anything. It is the dedication and commitment that takes you to your destination.

Mr. Gnawali:
Let me share an incident that took place in 2001. I was doing my Masters course at the College of St Mark and St John (www.marjon.ac.uk) in Plymouth, England. On a sunny Sunday in June, the college organised a bus trip to Bath for international students. We left early. We had a beautiful view of the English countryside on the way. Next to me was sitting an officer of the college chapel. We were talking about the weather and the scenery. I wanted to talk to her about something related to the Bible.

I started, “Jenny, I have a question related to the Bible. Can I ask?”

“Go ahead,” she said.

I asked elaborately, “According to the Bible, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He punished them by expelling them from the paradise. They were thrown down to the earth. Can you tell which country they came down to?”

She said she had never thought about it.

I said I knew the answer. I drew my answer from the story “The Apple” by H G Wells.

“Which country?” she was curious.

I said, “Armenia”

She said, “Which country?”

“Armenia.”

“Say that again!”

“Armenia.”

“Can you spell that to me?”

I spelt it, “A-R-M-E-N-I-A”

“Oh, Armenia.” She was putting stress on the second syllable. I heard that very clearly. I had put it on the first syllable. I saw the value of the word stress for the first time. I tried to pronounce it the way she had, but it was difficult. I knew the stress shift made a difference in meaning, but only theoretically. I had never had an experience of mis-communication just due to the stress shift even when the correct phonemes were uttered.

I asked her what she had heard when I said “Armenia.”
She said “Harmony.”

After that, I always tried to imitate the stress pattern when I talked to the local people at the college. When I left England, I felt that I was less misunderstood than when I travelled to Bath.

Mr. Pandey:
Those were the days (a part of my upcoming autoethnographic research textbook, in print): Our class teacher at Niranjana High School, “Y sir” was a kind of strict man, yet nice to good students like “me”, of course a hard master for others. Go – went – gone = “Janu” – “gayo” – “gayako” a method of direct meaning making was his approach, or recite the whole text in whatever way it was given in the classroom, were several of the approaches we practiced during the initial years of my learning English. Teachers would come to the classrooms and ask us to read the text, making sure we were able to re-tell it — the complete literal comprehension approach.

The success was even measured how we all could write the answers in final exams at the end of every academic year. All we did was prepare ourselves overnight for the tests and write it as a summary, not bothering much on the question pattern. If something was already asked in the previous years, the students would simply escape from it thinking that was dim-witted idea to prepare for what would not come as a question that year.

Dr. Shrestha:
I remember one incident which I can never forget. It was in the summer of 2004 when I was appointed as a pre-sessional EAP tutor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. A pre-sessional EAP course is offered to international students (below IELTS band 5.5) who are offered a place at a UK university provisionally. It was my first pre-sessional EAP job in the UK and so I was very much looking forward to it. On the day of our induction, there were about 15 tutors including myself. Except the line manager, I had not met anyone else before. After we had our first few induction sessions, we were at a lunch break. I was sitting next to a female tutor (short, brunette hair). She looked towards me and said, ‘So you are from Nepal! And you teach English here?’ I had already heard some rumours that some people were making fuss about me being from Nepal.
The lady’s comment confirmed what I had heard. I said, ‘Yes, indeed. I am from Nepal. And I have been teaching English here for a year now.’ The lady realized that she asked the wrong question or made inappropriate comments and said, ‘I was just curious, but don’t take me wrong!’. I said, ‘No, worries at all. I can understand!’. This incident keeps reminding me of the professional journey I have travelled, and linked with this thought in my mind is my current line manager’s touching comment referring to Braj Kachru’s three circles of countries where English is used ‘you came from an outer circle country (Nepal) to the inner circle country (UK). It is such an achievement.’ So all I can say to all readers of this forum is: however challenging your situation may be, you can do it if I can!


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