Some pertinent thoughts regarding teaching English on Facebook06 November 2022
Masum Billah :
On opening facebook page I see some teachers or student like teachers teach spoken English to the students and the same picture comes before my sight on YouTube as well. What strikes me most include a series of grammatical rules are being taught with explanation absolutely in Bengali and the participants comment that this is their golden opportunity to learn English in their lives which they missed in their student life. Basically, no difference appears on facebook teachers than the strategy our English teachers used to do and are still doing in their classroom to teach English. Particular items of grammatical rules such as voice, narration, structural division of sentences, parts of speech etc. some participants are seen praising those teachers highly in their comments and some are requesting to send them or upload those videos regularly on facebook that again makes me astonished.
In this age, ELT people have been striving to enable the learners to acquire English very practically and by 'learning by doing approach'. In the midst of this situation, some young, energetic teachers try to teach English following one of the oldest methods that compels me to write this article.
I saw a teacher teaching the learners I means `ami', is means `hoi', to be means `hote' etc. In another class he was teaching 'this is active voice, this is passive voice, this is the structure of active voice, and this is the structure of the passive voice.' He was explaining everything without asking any questions to the students that in no way talks about language teaching strategy. He seems to be awfully busy and I saw he was almost sweating. However, things should have been reversed. The teacher talking time should be lesser than student talking time as students will learn the language engaging them. What he followed is ` grammar translation method' that hardly promises to develop the communicative skills of the learners even though they become familiar with some grammar rules.
Personal engagement is one the significant characteristics of Communicative Language Teaching and teachers need to engage the learners in different language activities without explaining the grammar rules in Bengali and uttering the Bengali meaning of each and every word that I see the teachers appearing on facebook are frequently doing. Grammar should be taught contextually, practically and communicatively that will help the learners to write and speak English correctly and I am absolutely sure these teachers or instructors don't have any language training or orientation or latest idea to teach this language. The learners would have been given scope to engage, to talk, to explain, and to brainstorm. Teacher himself was talking continuously instead. None of this is happening in this sort of classes that is principally very much traditional. However, the way they are dealing with language teaching raises many questions in mind. When teachers will use English in the classroom, students will be encouraged to do that and they learn listening to the teachers as it is contagious. It will spread among more and more students and thus they can acquire a language. I see the teachers teaching English and upload the videos on facebook utterly ignore this philosophy of teaching language.
Most of the time or maybe always we make students familiar with subjects of sentences using 'Rahim' and ' Karim' but in practical English students face subjects as an abstract thing, a portion of a sentence, a phrase. When they see these kinds of subjects or when they have to write in their own English, they get confused and cannot transfer their ideas immediately. The same thing is happening in the English classes uploaded on facebooks. So, learners should be very much careful about embroiling themselves in such kind of effort to learn English.
We have definitely noticed that the children of our country can easily understand Hindi and many can speak also even though they have no familiarity with Hindi alphabets or any class they have done in the educational institutions or in the coaching centre for learning Hindi. They have acquired this skills just watching television. They did not sit for any examination in Hindi, no homework they did, still they understand easily and can speak comfortably in Hindi. This is the natural way of learning a language. They are ignorant about Hindi grammar. However, they can use this language almost perfectly.
While we speak Bengali, do we think of which parts of speech we are using, which tense or where subject or object we are using? Definitely not. We just speak without giving any thoughts on these points and language comes to our tongue spontaneously and that is the natural way of using a language and the similar thing will happen while we are learning a language beyond our mother tongue.
Finally students should have motivation to learn English. Things must be clear before them why they should acquire English. What they now do is just to pass in the examination. So, why will they be interested enough to acquire English? Things are not clear to them that it will widen the opportunities before them. Here they need real motivation to learn English. Those who did not give importance to learn English or followed traditional classes just to pass in the examination and now they have got the point that they should acquire this language for their practical benefit, they resort to acquire English from various sources which don't prove suitable.
(The writer is President, English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh).