Learning while Teaching: Teaching English to Non-Indians!
- January 12, 2021
- Posted by: Administrator
- Category: Blog
By Dr. Nirja Vasavada
I have always been inclined to languages. I find it very interesting to find similarities and differences in different lexicons. And it is this interest that led me to language learning, and eventually language teaching. As a student from Gujarati medium school, I was exposed to Gujarati, Sanskrit, Hindi and English; and it was only these four subjects where I scored! By now, this language learning and teaching both have become passions for me. It amazes me that there is no one method of language learning, and language teaching. What works with one student does not work with another. Translation, for example, is considered as the weakest method of language teaching; and yet, I have experienced that many students find it more effective when a translation method is used. In fact, when it is not used, they translate it in their minds, and gradually start thinking in the language that they learn.
However, language teaching becomes a challenge when you have to teach the students who do not know any languages that the teacher knows, and therefore translation methods cannot be used. I had never had this kind of an experience until very recently, when I started teaching English to a couple of Koreans. There was no point using a translation method, I could not translate in Korean, and they would not understand Hindi or Gujarati. Also, another aspect I had to remind myself of was to make them aware of Indian culture, as they would be dealing with Indians in English. I had to immerse them in the Indian culture in English. So the challenge became even tougher. At this point, visual method – pictorial way of teaching came to my rescue. Through pictures, they would think the words in Korean, but they would also try to understand and learn the same word in English.
Another lesson I learnt was that the listening tapes of Cambridge did not really help them, as learning British accent would not help them in India. For them, I will have to make them listen to Indians speaking English, which would not be broken or incorrect, but not heavily accented either. Different language games have also been a successful method while teaching non-English speakers.
This teaching assignment has certainly proven to be a learning assignment for me!
(Dr. Nirja Vasavada teaches English and Communication at FBA-NRBBA)