Maybe the box doesn’t exist

I just had another student today who used a common trope that many, many students have used for describing themselves over the years: “I am not the academic type.”

This student had served in the navy for six or seven years before returning to the university. He said that he wanted to get a degree in electrical engineering, but he was worried that he may have lost his academic footing while he was away. A non-native speaker of English, at times it seemed as if he ascribed his anxiety to his language proficiency/identity but he said that he was not worried about his language per se when I asked him. This gentleman was, clearly, academically brilliant in my view. The problem: he somehow didn’t think he was even capable of catching up with the rest of his (regular, younger) peers. read full post…

International Students: Surprising Numbers

It’s not surprising that the US is a leading competitor in international student enrollment, but if you start looking into the figures, some things are quite surprising. Here are some.

In 2010/11, the number of international students in the U.S. reached a record high of 723,277, with a 32% increase since 2000/01. (IIE, Open Doors Report, 2011). In 1955, this number was about 48,000! Currently, the tiny nation of Nepal, which is No. 11 on the world list for international students to the U.S.—plus, okay, my home country—sends about a fourth of that number of students every year; China alone sends almost three times as many students today. read full post…

“Annoying” variations from standard English: Cute examples from Nepal

This is a response to Richa Bhattarai’s post about “annoying” language variations in Nepali English on her blog.

Richa, the examples of Nepalese English variations in your post are typical and funny. What really resonated with me is your framing of the write up in the introduction, because I feel the same way about the often silly language variations we hear/read from our fellow Nepali users of English. My position on the subject is that the standard of any language must be maintained, even enforced, where shared norms of spelling, words, and meaning have value and purpose (for example, you can’t land an airplane in an emergency if the manual is written with these kinds of language variations); however, I also think that language is used in millions of different contexts many of which don’t demand the same standard. So, let me share a more boring but perhaps necessary other perspective: there are sociopolitical, cultural,  and other important issues about the “annoying” variations which are also worth thinking about. read full post…

Choutari Repost–Sounds and Images… Thinking about Teaching

To the diversity of ELT khuraks of this month, let me add a different kind of material, a few inspiring web videos, with some reflections and questions on the issue of education in our time.

As a teacher, I believe that we must not just go to class with a lesson plan but we must have a broader understanding of the goals of education, a sense of how our education relates to the challenges of the larger society as well as our students’ futures, and the willingness to engage our students in thinking about larger issues than the textbooks provide–whenever and wherever possible or appropriate.

Originally published on ELTChoutari. read full post…

The world is one big choutari–but…

The world is one big choutari.

Yesterday I received a few emails from fellow editors and a revised article from a contributor for Choutari July issue, which I am assigned to put together, with support from my colleague Sajan Karn. My bus was leaving for Boston at 4pm, so I replied to the emails and left New York. On my way to Boston–where Ganga Sir is wrapping up his one year visit as a Humphrey scholar and where I am joining him and Hemanta Sir, who happens to be here at this time, for dinner–I was able to return the article with some minor editorial comments with a 24 hour turnaround time. On my way, I was also able to read about the  training in Majuwa, Gulmi (which is my old home town) that Gopal Sir gave and also shared the update with us via Yahoo mailing list. It’s just amazing how much communication technologies have advanced around the world. But–

Originally published on NELTA Choutari here. read full post…

The 27th Letter of the English Alphabet

It was the very first week of my teaching at Pinewood English School in Butwal, about 15 years ago. I had just given classwork to my Nursery class and was going around to see how individual students were doing. One little boy, named Ankit, called me: “Sir, here come na.” (he had been a ‘boarder’ for a year, so he already had an impressive range of pidgin English expressions to communicate with). ‘This what?’ he asked, showing me a strange drawing on his notebook that looked like the letter G with three arms added to the right side! I said, “I don’t know.” He looked in my eyes, smiled, and then said, “Tell na!” With me sitting there realizing the difficulty of the situation, Ankit repeated his question for a while, along with strong gestures and the sweet voice of a four year old, “Umm, tell na, sir”! I finally ventured an answer, “That’s nothing”.

Ankit looked at me, smiled very brightly and with a visible sense of gratitude, and said, “E, nothing”! Then he went on to draw the same shape once again, and showed me: “Look, sir, this nothing”!

To this day, I remember Ankit and the 27th alphabetical letter in English that he invented and forced me to name. That has been the most unforgettable moment of respect for the kind of creativity that kids like Ankit demonstrate, which I am often afraid I have inadvertently stifled for 15 years. ‘Am I banking or am I not?’ is a serious question.

Teacher’s Anecdote (Nelta Choutari Jan 09)