What does it mean?

A friend of mine forwarded this image to me. It’s an interesting piece of material for a creative writing exercise. Can you write a couple of lines on what the sculptor might have tried to convey?

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Make a Career As a DJ in India

A Disc jockey, also known as DJ, is a profession that is talked about a lot in today’s youth. But where did the word DJ or disc jockey come from?  Well, in the early 1980s gramophone records were called discs, hence the word disc jockey. Who is a DJ? What does s/he do? Simply put, a DJ is a person who has a really good understanding of all kinds of music, and has immense passion for it. A DJ plays music whilst adding their own groove and twist to it.

Being a DJ is considered to be a really cool thing in today’s young generation, since a DJ is the person who brings any party to life. And also the current generation is really keen on dancing. However, tempting it may sound, djing is not easy. It is indeed a really hard job. It involves going to parties at sometimes odd hours and playing music for a long time.

Truly, it is not actually a walk in the park. It’s not child’s play. Being a DJ requires a lot of skills, understanding of almost all kinds of music, a tuned ear to mix tracks, being able to blend in with people easily, reading and understanding what kind of music will do its magic on a particular crowd. The list can go on and on.  I sympathise with people who say “it’s easy to be a DJ” and “Even a child can play music, what’s the big deal?”  They live in cloud cuckoo land. Being a DJ is as hard as any other profession.

That all being said, the next question that arises is “what is the scope for a DJ in today’s world?” Well, the djing industry is quite new in India and it is growing faster day by day. Considering the growing obsession for organizing huge lavish social gatherings, parties and other community events, there will be a huge demand for good DJs. Given the fact that the present generation is all insanely interested in dance and music, DJ is seems a cool profession one can opt for. With a huge demand for music-filled evenings often accompanied with dancing, the demand for proficient DJs is bound to be on the rise. Also the rewards in terms of money isn’t bad. Earning while having fun!

scope for Djing in India

Now, what qualifications do you need to become a good DJ? The first and most important part is to be well versed in all kinds of music and knowing what kind of songs will pump the crowd up. The second most important thing in my opinion is a tuned ear; while mixing two songs you must be able to tell even the slightest difference in the beat of a song. Without this ability, it is almost impossible to become a successful DJ. The next thing is an outgoing personality and the ability to blend in with new people easily. As a DJ, it is of utmost importance to be able to gel well with new people so as to entertain them. If they are satisfied, they can fetch more work in the future.

So now you may be thinking “oh! This is very interesting. I can get paid to play music and go to parties and there will be no stress in my life!”  This a grave mistake. If you want to become a DJ just because it is a cool thing to do, you are in for a world of trouble. Being a DJ just because you want the glamorous life is ludicrous. The fun and glamour is just a small part of a disquieting and stressful job. Yes, you read that right. Being a DJ can be a really exasperating job. There are innumerable things that can make being a DJ a bothersome task.

skills required to become a Disc jockey

“What could be so stressful about playing music”, you may ask. Well, first and foremost, there will be a lot of sleepless nights. There will be times when you will have to go to bed at 5 in the morning and get up before 12 noon. Sometimes the crowd just won’t dance, no matter how prolific and exciting your music is. Situations like these can be really stressful for a DJ. You need to locate new music off the cuff; you have to update your music library every day. And let me tell you, performing in front of a crowd of a couple of hundred people isn’t everyone’s cup of tea! All of these hurdles and more can only be tackled if a person has unmatched passion and thorough dedication towards music.

All in all, what I’m implying is that if you want to become a DJ just because of the glamour, fame and a lavish lifestyle, you are making a big mistake. Make sure that the choice you make is out of your passion and not greed.

The last question that I get a lot is “What inspired me to become a DJ?” To be honest, I’ve been a music nerd ever since I started listening to music, but I didn’t really know that I wanted to make a career out of it. Then one day I went to a club where a DJ was playing some really good music. I don’t know how but at that moment a thought sprang in my mind “I want to do this, this is what I want to do!” I chased that thought.

A truly great DJ, just in a few moments can turn a room in heaven. Because Djing is not about choosing a few tunes. It is about generating shared feelings, emotions and moods. It’s about understanding the feelings of a group of people and directing them to a better place. Songs can create a spiritual union and that can be the most powerful experience in people’s lives. When the crowd loves your music when they react to what you are playing, you feel inspired to do more.

Music connecting people

Let me end with one of my favourite quotes: Music is in the soul and can be heard by the universe. – Hardwell

– Mann Dhanik

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H. M. Patel Memorial Lecture

H. M. Patel Memorial Lecture on 27 August 2018
by
Dr Dharmendra Sheth
Founder, Fluentlingua, Surat
on
Becoming an effective English Language Teaching (ELT) Professional in Gujarat.

If one keeps the international scene in mind, the knowledge of English is inevitable for intellectual growth and technological development. Along with the increasing use of regional language, a sound study of English needs to be encouraged as an instrument of acquiring knowledge.

 

 —Dr. H. M. Patel

I feel privileged to have been asked to deliver the H. M. Patel Memorial Lecture. For this honour, I must thank the organisers of this event in general and the Principal of H. M. Patel Institute of English Training & Research, Dr. N. V. Bose, in particular. I consider it my privilege and duty to invoke the name of Dr. H. M. Patel, a senior ICS officer, whose visionary guidance led to the inception of this Institute 53 years ago in 1965, three years before I was born.

H.M. Patel lecture by Dr. Dharmendra Seth

Well, I have fond memories of this Institute and of working in close association with ELT stalwarts like the late Dr Subhash Jain, and my well-wisher Dr Jadeja, the previous Director of this institute. I have had excellent discussions with them about the stimulating intricacies of the English language and the overwhelming complexities of English Language Teaching in Gujarat. Let me also put on record the guidance and support that I have got from my mentors Dr Sudhakar Marathé and Mrs Meera Marathé.

By the way, let me clarify at the outset that I make no claim to be an ELT expert. I am just a teacher of English with perhaps a slightly better-than-average ability to do a “sensitivity analysis”, if I may use a technical term from my engineering background: a sensitivity analysis determines how different values of an independent variable affect a particular dependent variable under a given set of assumptions. Nor is my lecture today for the experts sitting on and off the dais. My target audience today is the young ELT soldiers in the audience, the would-be teachers of English. I intend to shed light on salient features of the current state of affairs in ELT and suggest a road ahead.

And I must also make an important proviso at the outset: given that we have a limited amount of time at our disposal to deal with a subject that genuinely deserves a whole long series of lectures, my lecture today will naturally present a brief description of the reality of ELT in our State.

Now, first things first. What is the current state of affairs in terms of ELT in Gujarat? Let us face it, something is “rotten in the state of Denmark”—at least in ELT and in Gujarat. How can you say something is “rotten” in our ELT?

  • Well, first of all, I have more than two and a half decades of classroom teaching experience—from the elementary to the tertiary level. So I can say that I know the field a little.
  • Second, during my six-year stint as a National Vice President of the English Language Teachers’ Association of India (ELT@I), I had opportunities to visit the length and breadth of our country, not just our State, and discuss ELT situations with teachers across the board.
  • Third, my personal contact with ELT so-called as well as genuine experts in India and abroad has put me in a position to analyse our situation reasonably objectively.
Best Spoken English Class in Surat

Now, sadly, my analysis does not allow me to say, as the poet Robert Browning did in his characteristic ironical fashion, “All’s right with the world!” We’ve got to face facts here—we cannot just bury our heads in the sand. We must admit that there is a malaise or disease in ELT in Gujarat.

Now, to cure a disease, one must first diagnose it. So let us begin with the erroneous and injudicious interpretation of the Indian government’s “Minimum Levels of Learning (MLL) Strategy”. The MLL emerged from the basic concern that irrespective of caste, creed, location or gender, every child must be given access to education. Alas, this noble attempt resulted, by and large, in inferior quality of study material and teaching practice and in lowering or weakening of standards in various areas of education—the situation of ELT in Gujarat is no exception. “Teach the minimum… expect the minimum…” became the unwritten mantra. Status quo or “I’m Ok, You’re Ok”. But believe me, virtually nothing is “okay” in our domain. 

To give you a reasonably clear picture of the current ELT situation in Gujarat, please allow me to discuss the three M’s in this situation—the Material, the Method and the Man, the three pillars of any academic enterprise.

The Material.

Let us begin with the first item in the list the Material. Under the term “the Material”, we will restrict our discussion to the English language textbooks currently in use in Gujarat. I am sure you will agree with me that textbooks play a pivotal role in the grand scheme of things. Teachers who are supposed to use the material are expected to follow the instructions contained in their prescribed textbooks. Students are supposed to learn as much language content as possible from them. Everything revolves around textbooks—be it classroom teaching, homework and projects, internal assessment and periodic and end-of-the-year examinations. Now, given that textbooks are the core factor in ELT, textbooks are important in our system—there can be no two opinions about it. But, alas and alack, any teacher worth his or her salt will agree with me that most textbooks are not only unimaginative and boring, but also contain unforgivable errors of every kind imaginable—spelling errors, improper use of punctuation marks, un-English expressions, grammatically questionable sentences, unattractive layout, inconsistent use of capitalisation, notable lack of internal logic and consistency, and so on.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to conduct a teacher training programme for a group of about fifty teachers of English. I chose two pages of their book at random and showed them more than twenty serious language problems in that small quantity of material. Honestly, we simply cannot sweep these facts under the carpet.

I can say a great deal more about other substandard or questionable “material” that teachers use. For instance,  local grammar books, reference works, exercise books, additional materials teachers take into class, material the teacher creates or gathers to bolster the lesson and testing material. The list is endless.

I am presenting these basic and crucial facts before you:

  • because I want you to feel the pain that I, and many others like me, feel.
  • because I want you to look closely at the language of any material that you come across, and not take any material as gospel.
  • because I want you to check it out, when in doubt. However, make sure that you use standard reference material produced by internationally reputed publishers.
  • because you, dear young ELT soldiers, are our hope!
  • And most importantly… because you and I are now here at an institute which has the power and prestige as well as responsibility to bring about a significant and real improvement in the ELT situation in Gujarat.
English teacher in Surat

The Method

Let us turn now to the second “M”, i.e., the “Method”. By the way, I have used the word method in the title in the loose sense of the term. I will explain the term in a little more detail by and by.

Let me present here part of a conversation which I once had with a “veteran” teacher of English.

Me:    What do you teach?

Him:   I teach English since decades. (Two serious problems with this short glib sentence that is actually gibberish: the teacher said “teach” in place of “have been teaching”, and he says “since” in place of “for”. Besides, in uttering the word “English”, he used the sound “s” that we are expected to use in the word “same”, and not “sh” as in the word “shame”. We shall consider this problem again later.)

Me:    What approach do you follow? What method do you use? (He looked at me as if I was an alien creature from outer space.)

Him:   I… hmmm… English. Pair work and group work.

Me:    How do you prepare for your work? What material do you use?

Him:   Textbooks. I am having lot of experience… you see! (Two serious problems again—the teacher said “am having” in place of “have”, and “lot of” in place of “a lot of” or “lots of”. He perhaps wanted to convey that since he has a lot of experience, he doesn’t need to prepare.)

Me:    How do you ensure that your students learn what you teach?

Him:   We are having three unit tests a year. (The same problem as discussed above: “are having”. And what he said didn’t really answer my question.)

In fact, I asked a few more questions about the goals, the model, the views about language and language learning, the syllabus design, etc. He did not have satisfactory answers to most. This suggests that many teachers of English in Gujarat are not sure of what they are doing. They do not possess enough content knowledge and pedagogical skills. Obviously, they will not be in a position to identify what needs to be taught and the best way to do so.

It is important for teachers to be familiar with the approaches, methods and techniques in ELT. What do these terms refer to? Well, in simple words, an approach is a set of theories about the nature of language and language learning; a method is an overall plan for what is to be taught and in what order; a technique is what actually happens in a classroom. In this oft-quoted hierarchical arrangement, proposed by the American applied linguist Edward Anthony in 1963, method and techniques are based on the approach chosen at the outset.

Now I believe you know that in Gujarat, textbooks suggest a modified communicative approach or a functional approach. In other words, the goal of our teaching of English is to improve our students’ “communicative competence” (the tacit knowledge of a language and the ability to use it effectively), and not just their “linguistic competence” (the knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, phonology, etc.). Now, that’s a demanding task, is a pretty tall order, I must say.

Why?

Because you as a teacher of English are supposed to teach your students how to:

  • use English for a range of purposes and functions,
  • understand and use formality associated with various words and structures,
  • modify the language according to participants, context, purpose, i.e., who is communicating with whom, where, when and why.
  • deal with different types of texts
  • develop cross cultural communication
  • acquire ESL strategies so as to initiate, terminate, maintain, repair, and redirect communication
  • negotiate meaning
  • work collaboratively for successful communication
  • learn from feedback, overt and tacit
  • experiment  different ways of saying

In a nutshell, students need to acquire natural, versatile and rich use of language that is appropriate to particular situations and audiences.

The socio-linguist Dell Hymes (1973) has succinctly presented his views on communicative competence. Taking a cue from that, we need to enable our students to know what in the target language is:

  1. possible (X Me is teacher),
  2. feasible (X I bought a dictionary from a shop that is run by a man whose son is a clerk in a factory whose owner is married to a person who cannot speak English.)
  3. appropriate (X calling your principal “Hi” or “Hello Darling”), and,
  4. “in use” (X Chips and fish).

What should ideally happen? First of all, you should carry out a thorough needs analysis, and then design syllabuses around functions and notions rather than grammatical structures. In place of memorisation, drills, and individualistic activities, you should plan role plays, pair work, group work, etc. You should focus on fluency activities rather than accuracy activities. You should keep in mind that your role is that of a facilitator. It is important that you and your students work “in” the target language and not just “on” it. You should develop activities such as problem solving, information gap/sharing, and task-based so as to generate meaningful interaction among you and your students. You need to encourage your students to apply newly acquired knowledge and skills to real-life situations. You should insist on using authentic texts for classroom study and self study.

Participants listening to Dr. Dharmendra Sheth

The Man

Let’s move on to the third “M”, i.e., the “Man”, the teacher. We must accept the fact that even in this age of technological advancement and the Internet, the teacher’s role hasn’t changed much; be it in Gujarat or elsewhere. Everything that the teacher does or says in the classroom has a significant and measurable impact on the student. The teacher is supposed to provide the student with the most important “input” for language development. Students often copy whatever their teacher says or does, right or wrong. Therefore, “teacher talk” is at times far more important than anything else in language learning. It’s obvious that if you want to become an effective ELT professional, you ought to have a rich, flexible and varied command of English. Any survey, even an informal one, will suffice to prove that, in Gujarat, most teachers’ command of English isn’t up to the mark. It leaves a lot to be desired.

Now if you have decided to become a teacher or an effective ELT professional, what should you do first?

Stop listening to people who say:

  • Grammar is not important
  • Pronunciation is not important.
  • Just a few hundred words are enough to communicate in English.
  • Focus on fluency only and not on accuracy.
  • Everything is fine as long as your message is conveyed.

Well, ignore them. They know not what they say.

You must make an effort to acquire an impressively good command of English. Become a spontaneous, fluent, and effective communicator in English. Your goal should be impeccable English. I know it seems like an unachievable  goal or an unending journey, but it’s worth taking up. You might say: Fine, but what should I actually do?

First of all, decide what kind of English you want to acquire, i.e., the type of English pronunciation you (and your students) should aim for. Language is primarily speech! To my mind, it is useful to adopt one of the two easily accessible varieties of English—one, Received Pronunciation, RP, the kind of English generally used by the educated elite in the southern part of England. It is loosely termed King’s English or Queen’s English or old BBC English. It is the accent used as a recommended pronunciation in dictionaries, and as a model for teaching English as a foreign language in many parts of the world. And, two, General American, GA or Gen Am, which is spoken by a majority of Americans and which lacks any clearly noticeable regional or social characteristics.

Why not Indian English? You might ask. Unfortunately, in spite of India being the world’s second largest English-speaking country after the United States, we don’t have a standard or neutral variety of Indian English that can be adopted as a model for Indian learners of English. We have many varieties of Indian English each with distinct regional influence. Sometimes parts of two varieties of Indian English are mutually incomprehensible. Another point worth noting is that whatever you say in favour of local varieties of English, when it comes to job interviews or promotion, a person speaking English close to one of the two standard varieties I mentioned above (RP and GA) has greater chances of success. 

Now once you have decided the kind of English you want to acquire, the next step is to find relevant material and opportunities work on your English. Remember, we can’t neglect any aspect of English; work on all the seven areas language experts suggest—Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, Vocabulary, Grammar and Pronunciation. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can master English by talking with people around you and reading locally produced books. You might reinforce common errors in English prevalent in the region.

First of all, you need to become a better learner of English. “How?” you might ask.

Well, you become a better learner by

  1. exposing yourself to good English on a regular basis. Enjoy and pursue vigorously, substantially, every day for as long as possible, the activity of reading excellent English of a great variety. Remember, no one can learn a language without meeting it, without being exposed to it. The most fruitful way to expose oneself to good and authentic language is to read it and to listen to it. The more you do this, the better, richer, more versatile your language will be. Fail in this one regard, fail to read and listen to good language as often as you can, and your opportunities to learn more language or consolidate what you know will practically vanish!
  2. becoming a reflective learner. You need to spend time at regular intervals and frequently evaluating your own language development. Which exercises or activities have you done recently and how have you done them and what have you achieved? 
  3. exploring the nuances of the English language. A nuance is a small but sometimes significant difference in sound, spelling or meaning , especially in meaning. It is important to realize that, like all languages, English too gives innumerable opportunities because of its apparent illogicality and idiosyncrasies. For instance, as an example of a small difference in sound, the words “same” and “shame” are not the same; “fit” and “feet” are different; “appropriate” and “inappropriate” are actually antonyms, but the senses of “flammable” and “inflammable” are the same; the word “`subject” is a noun if stressed on the first syllable, and a verb if stressed on the second syllable, as “sub`ject”; “practise” (v) and “practice” (n) are spoken in the same way but spelt differently, but “advise” (verb) and “advice” (noun) contain different sounds in the second syllable.
  4. developing powers of observation. For instance, a learner with good powers of observation may “see” different kinds of clouds and find out words for each kind: a) cirrus, a type of light, feathery cloud that is seen high in the sky, b) cumulus, a type of tall, white cloud with a wide, flat base and rounded shape, c) nimbus, dark grey cloud that often produces rain or snow.
  5. becoming an alert listener and reader. For instance, when you read or listen to an advertisement, a hoarding, an announcement, a news item, or anything for that matter, keenly notice the language. Is there anything unusual, unfamiliar, odd or strange? Is it acceptable in standard English? Is it a slip or a deliberate mistake or even a useful new expression?
  6. honing and augmenting your repertoire of study patterns and techniques. For instance, if you do not record your progress, start doing so. If you regularly record your speech, try to find ways to do it more effectively, or better. If you maintain a vocabulary diary, think about how you can make it more fruitful. 
  7. becoming careful in the use of apt words. For instance, a person who reads a lot is a “voracious” reader and a person who writes a lot is a “prolific” writer. If you want to describe someone’s extremely poor condition in life, you might say that they live in “great” or “abject” poverty.
  8. learning to make informed decisions. For instance, if someone asks you right now: what is the best way for you to remember words? Now, most people would guess at it. A better alternative would be to carry out small-scale projects on ways of learning and organising vocabulary and then make informed decisions based on the results.
  9. acquiring reference skills. For instance, how to use a dictionary is still a very serious challenge for many. In fact, I remember once Mrs. Meera Marathé, an ELT expert of repute from IIIT, Hyderabad, conducted a two-hour workshop on how to use a dictionary. It was an eye-opener for even senior teachers of English. As a language learner, you will need to know what material or helpful source of information to look for and how to use it. I sympathise with those who think that Google has all the answers. Yet that is as silly as hoping to learn grammar using the MS Word software.
  10. developing a culture of learning. Just as every country, every community, every recognisable group of people has a culture, every individual also has a culture of learning. Here what I mean by culture is the sum total of one’s assumptions, opinions, ideas, patterns of behaviour, study patterns, etc. Learn to study your own culture of learning critically.
  11. enjoying the idiomatic richness or riches of the English language. Idiom is language in crystallised form—that is to say, words often linked or used together to convey something. Idioms, which means idiomatic expressions, not only those listed in a dictionary of idioms, are one of the most interesting parts of a language. However, it is often difficult to guess at their meaning from the constituent words. For instance, “full of beans” means “lively and energetic”, and “be on cloud nine” means “be extremely happy and excited”. Almost always the context in which they are used holds clues to their sense. That is why you need to study them carefully and use or employ them systematically. Here are a few other examples of idiomatic usage: ”Would you like some tea?” “Not really, thank you”, “No, thank you very much”, “Yes, just a little, please”, and so on.
  12. asking genuine questions that occur to you. They often turn out to be interesting and rewarding. For instance, it is not always possible or even useful to ask someone for the spelling, meaning or pronunciation of a word. These are things you can find out on your own from authentic study material. And, believe me, most people, including teachers, are never really sure about such things. You can try asking them the pronunciation of “bury”, “police”, or “dais”. Or the spelling of “vacuum”, “foolscap” or “tuition”. Or the meaning of “simpleton’ or “inflammable” or “precocious”.)
  13. keeping abreast of the latest developments in your field. It is vitally important to maintain your professional credentials. Attend seminars, conferences, workshops, or explore other such learning opportunities. Read professional journals and magazines. Be in touch with like-minded learners and professionals.
  14. learning from mistakes, one’s own and others’. That means noticing, identifying, understanding and correcting mistakes one comes across. Here is an instance. A Spanish photographer who took portraits of 118 African refugees on a rescue ship on the Mediterranean, was asked if he had found any of them later. “Yes,” he said, “I have localised a few.” His sense is clear, his language is not. What exactly is his “error”? He meant to say “located”. This is a rich method of learning and improving one’s language, my “mentor” Professor Sudhakar Marathé reminds me. Errors are a Gold Mine!
  15. Setting oneself little language tasks. It makes a refreshing change to set oneself tasks containing language items—arising from reading, errors heard or seen, oddities encountered and even very good expressions encountered—to understand them, to correct them, to acquire them, to learn how to say them correctly, appropriately, and how to make them part of one’s own language richness.
  16. Trying to find alternative ways of saying the same thing. My mentor Dr Marathé suggests an extraordinarily useful exercise, especially when done with short sentences (say half a line to one and a half line long) that one meets. To try to reorder their sequence of words, with a small change or two, to arrive at alternative ways of saying (more or less) the same thing.
  17. relishing or enjoying learning. The result of your effort is directly proportional to the amount of joy you get out of it. Celebrate every small success. Enjoy every failure or puzzlement (what my most respected mentor Professor Sudhakar Marathé calls “two-minute puzzles”.) Form a group of learners or be a part of a learners’ community. Help each other, motivate each other by sharing discoveries with each other. Enjoy the progress.
English In Surat

In addition to an excellent command of English, you must do your best to acquire “pedagogical competence”, the ability to manage learning, which includes planning, implementing, assessing, evaluating, giving feedback, managing classroom, and motivating learners. With a good command of the English language and excellent pedagogical competence, you are ready to embark on a glittering career as an ELT professional in Gujarat.

I wish you every success in the future.

Happy Learning, Happy Teaching, Happy Living!

27 August 2018

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Duties of a Listener

Why? Why are you reading this? Because you find the topic interesting, or perhaps you are curious to know why someone writes on such an obvious topic. Or perhaps you know meand you believe that I usually talk and write sensibly. In any case, there’s a purpose behind everything you do. Similarly, when you attend a talk or a lecture, you must have a clear purpose in mind. And that purpose, to my mind, should be to a) learn how the speaker or presenter has understood and presented the main subject, topic or ideas, and b) form, confirm or modify your thoughts and opinions about the topic.

Now that the purpose is clear, the second step is preparation. It is advisable to prepare well for the topic (as if you are going to be the speaker). Why? So that you get maximum out of your listening experience. However, while preparing, do not form rigid ideas about the topic. Any preconceived notions about the topic will hinder your ability to take in and process the speaker’s views. Remember, your mind, like a parachute, works best when it is open.

Best English Language training in Surat

Remember your role as a listener throughout the speech. You might have a strong inner urge to chip in with your comments; you might feel that you have a better idea and you must guide the speaker or the audience; you might consider it your duty to help the world around you with your knowledge… but, hang on a minute. Resist the temptation. There are bound to be many like you in the audience. Imagine what will happen if everyone started throwing in their two cents’ worth!  

Moreover, accept whole-heartedly that the speaker is almost always likely to have looked at the subject from all angles; s/he is likely to be more prepared than you for that topic; and that’s why s/he is invited to speak and you are in the audience.

Last but not least, when you get a chance to make a comment or to ask a question, speak to the point—don’t start a mini-lecture. Nothing is worse for the audience to listen to a lengthy speech by a member of the audience irrespective of the quality of the content. If you like, you can interact with the speaker after the programme if s/he permits; and also, of course, if the organisers allow). The best is to communicate with the speaker via electronic means after a day or two when you have actually digested everything that you have heard, referred to the reference material and solidified your own position.

To sum up, when you are a listener, do please *listen*.

Happy Listening, Happy Learning!

–Dharmendra Sheth

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Forgive yourself!

We all know how difficult it is to forgive.

During our interaction with our friends, family, colleagues, boss, subordinates, organisations we often perceive wrong done towards us. This wrong can be on mental, physical, emotional, material level. Yet, we have been told that it’s best to forgive and move on. Not for them but for our own peace and benefit.

Let’s face it, forgiving someone makes us feel better- about ourselves. We find ourselves in a position of power and generosity. It generates a feel good factor. Especially, when we are able to tell that other person that we are forgiving him or her. But we use this power of forgiveness as a favour. We judge the other person, observe him or her, decide if their conduct is worthy of forgiveness or not and then only hand them forgiveness. So often, we are also concerned that he or she may repeat the same mistake over and over again. We wonder if he or she repeats the same mistake, where will that leave our forgiveness? Are we supposed to forgive endlessly? We are afraid of being judged by others as foolish and too soft. These are some of the thought processes that go through a person’s mind before forgiving someone.

Now, consider our own mistakes. We are often ashamed of some actions that we had performed in the past. The guilt carries lifelong. This is especially true if that person whom we have wronged is a close person and we can see them still suffering from our actions. It could be your spouse, parent, child, subordinate, servant whom you have wrongly treated in the past. It is far more difficult to forgive ourselves in such cases. We carry this pain inside us to the grave. It affects us psychologically and physically and manifests outwardly even in the form of diseases. WE MUST LET GO OF THE PAST. It is absolutely imperative if we want to regain our mental peace and harmony.

This letting go  can happen only if we realise that we are together in this lifetime for some mutual learning.

We are all teachers to each other. Even our children have been born to us to give us life lessons and insights.

In the course of teaching, our near and dear ones may take up the role of aggrieved while we are thrust into the role of aggressor or vice-versa. Whatever happened in the past was in all probability part of our soul contract with them- a contract we entered with them before coming down in this lifetime to this planet. Recall my previous article on karma and destiny. Remember that while we may have made a mistake and harmed them bodily, on soul level we are still unharmed and pure. Since we have realised the mistake and repent for it genuinely, we have learned the lesson. We can now let go our grief and self flagellation. Therefore, after taking due cognizance of our actions, we MUST move on and forgive ourselves our past misconduct and action. By doing so, we open up doors of self-love and harmony and peace in life.

Remember those incidents and Repeat to yourself-  I HAVE LEARNED THE LESSON. I CHOOSE TO FORGIVE MYSELF. LET PEACE AND HARMONY PREVAIL.

Liberate yourself from the yoke of self-recriminations and soar in your life.

PS. My friend Sandeep Dangi has given permission to publish this article on our website. His own blog happynezz.com is worth visiting.

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Why conferences or seminars!

Every once in a while, conscientious professionals check whether what they are doing is up to the mark and worthwhile. This forms a vital component of continuing professional development (CPD).
After a conference a few months ago, some colleagues gave vent to their frustration in a violent outburst. They grumbled to me about some of the most obvious pitfalls in our field—the poor quality of presentations, lack of sincerity, widespread apathy among the new generation of teachers, abysmally poor command of the English language and so on. They were of the opinion that we should do away with professional events such as seminars and conferences. To my mind, seminars and conferences are crucial to professional development. Let me share with you just a few of the reasons why we need conferences.Indeed, first of all, every conference is a success. For conferences provide opportunities for networking, sharing experiences, raising issues, resolving issues and, and, most importantly, for professional development. I am sure that during every conference, some idea, some activity, some expression sticks in your mind, and that makes a difference in your teaching, in your students’ communication skills, in your students’ lives. Ultimately, we are teachers, and teachers are transformative intellectuals, agents for change, aren’t we?The second important reason why we must organize and attend conferences is that they foster a sense of belonging and empowerment. You know that, as teachers of English, we sometimes feel powerless and dissociated from society. Not infrequently we have to teach what we do not like or agree with. We do not or cannot teach what we want our learners to master, or do not or cannot test what we believe we have taught. Some people in some committee somewhere provide a framework for syllabuses that we sometimes find trivial, unjustified or unacceptable in other ways; some other committee somewhere prepares textbooks for us to teach, and some people somewhere else evaluate our performance through our students’ performance. Conferences give you opportunities to vent your feelings about these and other problems, to seek clarifications, and to understand other perspectives regarding these issues. And when we gather together in conferences, we stand a chance of becoming capable of influencing the whole range of activities in ELT about which we experience problems.

English Language Trainer in Surat

The third important reason is, perhaps, very personal. Think about your own situation. If you are presenting a paper or doing a workshop at a conference or a seminar, I am sure you start thinking about ELT since the day you come to know about the conference. Knowingly or unknowingly ever since then, your mind gets preoccupied with thoughts of ELT. You may read a few books in preparation for writing your paper, talk to a few colleagues and perhaps even conduct an experiment or two to test the idea you propose to present in your paper. There can be little doubt that such thinking makes you a better and happier teacher. I am sure that you will agree with my reasons for justifying English Teachers’ conferences.Well, finally, allow me to add one more justification for holding conferences: they help us examine where we stand in our profession and change or confirm the chief objectives of our work. If we do not know where to go from the position at which we find ourselves, we can never find or make the path that leads to our destination.If this small article motivates a few teachers to attend or organise ELT events such as seminars or conferences, it will have achieved its purpose.Happy learning and teaching.

Dharmendra Sheth

PS. Watch a video about an international conference.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRiO6mVPGi4

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Please stop glorifying failure!

Please stop glorifying failure!
These days, quite a few so called academicians, motivational speakers, and materially successful people directly or indirectly glorify failure. To my mind, it has a devastating effect on young minds.
“He failed in grade 5, left study and became a business tycoon”, “I never attended college, and now I run five educational institutes”, “I don’t mind if my children never get top scores in this or that”, “Do what your heart says”, “Remember those three idiots”, “Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Asia, had to quit school at 15”, “Steve Jobs this and Dhirubhai Ambani that”, and so on and so forth. All this is fine for a tiny TINY “tiny” (bold, capital, italic) group of students who really have massive talents, but are somehow not able to shine at school or college. However, for majority of students, such glorification of failure might be dangerous. Instead of motivating them to work harder, such glorification can make them find ways, read excuses, to justify their failure.
Learning to accept failure is fine, but that has to be after one has tried one’s best. That should be the message. Majority, yes majority, of successful people in any society such as bright scientists, technocrats and doctors have worked hard despite their dislike for certain areas of study. You can’t always do what you like. For a real success that leads to genuine happiness, one has to learn to Accept, Adapt and Act. No excuses. Period.
To sum up, if you are a student, work hard, put in your best, and be ready to accept any result. Celebrate your effort.–Dharmendra Sheth

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Towards a better society

Hello All,

I’m Anupama. I’m a proud Gujarati. I’m from Surat and I’m proud of that, too. I believe nobody can beat our Surti food and Surti spirit. I’ve heard that even during the floods, people ate Ganthiya, Khaman, and Locho! They’re real Surti Lalas. And of course, we can’t forget generosity of the people of Surat.

I earned my first university degree from Ahmedabad. My father and uncles studied there, too. My mother is also from the same city. So I got to hear and learn a lot about Ahmedabad. Because of my 5-year stint with the city, I am lucky to have firsthand experience of the city. I must praise Amdavadi culture. There, even during a street fight, they’ll address each other with respect – “Shun bhai tame pan, jara juvo to khara! Tamari bhul chhe toye pachha mane kahesho!” Well, this was a scenario a long time ago – almost 17-18 years back. I hope this culture is still intact.

Now, I’m in the southern part of India – Bangalore. This city too has a charm of its own. Apart from pleasant weather, we must appreciate people’s accommodativeness.

So, basically whether it’s a place or people, we all have our own positive aspects. But in today’s time, I feel, we’re not ready to make enough efforts to expand those positive factors. We’re not ready to learn something good from others. Rather than converting that good into better, we’re making bad worse.

Why can’t we become better if we are good, and strive to be the best if we are better? Here’s the catch. When it comes to becoming ‘the best’, the competition factor pitches in. I feel we take ourselves too seriously. “I want to have the best – the costliest car in the family”, “I want to have the best house in my friend circle”, and the list goes on! Why can’t we have that same craving for “the best” for the whole society?

I feel there is always something good in most people, and also there is always a scope for improvement in most of us. Can’t we learn something good from each other to better ourselves without that competition bug in our mind? And if we start doing it, then definitely we can have a happy, healthy, nurturing, and positive environment for us, and also for future generations.

It seems very idealistic but if we together start working on ourselves, then we can make it a reality.

Written by – Anupama Desai, Content Writer from Bangalore

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Listening to Podcasts

Dear English language learner,

Many English language learners study hard, but do not get desired results. One of the problems could be lack of exposure to authentic English. That’s why I keep telling them to listen to good quality English on a regular basis, and for an extended period of time. To my mind, listening plays a crucial role in one’s language learning and development.

It is possible to acquire a good command of spoken English by listening to lots of English and taking part in meaningful interaction in real-life situations. The first is possible in the comfort of your own home, with absolutely no help from anyone. Well, you might ask: where can I get the right material from? Here’s the answer.

English Language Teaching in Surat

Do you know “podcasts”? A podcast is basically an audio file, and is usually free. The dictionary definition of a podcast is: a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. Moreover, you can choose a topic from practically hundreds and thousands.

The following are just a few of the links you might like to try.

  1.  https://audioboom.com/
  2.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts
  3.  If you are interested in podcasts especially created for language learners, then you can try these: http://learningenglish.voanews.com/podcast/0.html (for American English) and http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish (for British English).
  4.  And here’s a list of top 10 podcasts by the Guardian, UK to help you learn a language: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/feb/09/top-podcasts-learning-language-german-japanese

So, friends, do start listening to podcasts and share your experiences with me.

Happy learning, happy sharing!

–Dharmendra Sheth

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