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Joy Kirt Sidhu

Himalaya College of Education, Ranwar, Karnal


Teaching of a language is an art, a skill and a science. Teaching and learning by its very
nature is an interactive process which involves active participation of the college student
in the actual process as opposed to the conventional passive lecture method.

There are certain common problems in both teaching and learning of English language
which act as a barrier in colleges. The students come from diverse backgrounds and the
college teaching has to be similarly modulated and adjusted to be able to cater to the
needs of the college level learner. Different boards of senior secondary school education
have a well structured syllabus for English language teaching but actual teaching
practices being followed vary vastly at school levels depending on region to region and
family to family same as in colleges. The main difference being that at the school level
standardization is the main purpose of the board examination whereas at the college
level there is a fundamental paradigm shift in the expectations from both the teacher and
the taught.

Career and communication skills are directly interlinked and the onus falls inevitably on
the shoulders of the English language teachers particularly in the present global
scenario when the brand name of the college is a hallmark of competence. The students
have to be prepared from many points of view. Interviews and group discussions are an
integral part of the selection process for all competitive examinations for which the
syllabus at the college level does not cater to. Quality conscious institutions pay close
attention to youth development through well integrated activities drawn from many
sources since the syllabus has its typical limitations handed over by the British as a
legacy to cater to the human resource crunch in the lower level bureaucratic ladder.

Effective teaching of English language depends on a fair command on all the four
fundamental factors of language learning like listening, speaking, reading and writing. It
also depends on the fundamental principles of communication which is the basis of the
teaching-learning process. Effective English teaching also depends on sound classroom
management skills, knowledge of the subject area, the ability to explain well, an
enthusiasm for the subject and an understanding of the students. Teaching and learning
the language should empower and not weaken the spirit of the learner. It should inspire
and awaken in the learner the desire to make language learning a lifelong process. The
role of the teacher has to be redefined as that of a facilitator, a coordinator and an
organizer who is both creative and sensitive to the needs of the diverse learners.

Effectiveness of language teaching and learning has to be interpreted and evaluated

according to many perspectives which need to be our area of focus in designing and
interpreting the needs of the college level learner.

“To teach is to love.” Love for the subject, love for teaching and love for the learner, all
three combined together result in effective teaching-learning at all levels. “Thinking back
about my favorite, most inspiring, teachers, I have found that they are the ones who not
only have classroom management skills, know the subject area, and can explain well, but
those who have an enthusiasm for the subject and an enthusiasm for their students.”
(Davis, 2009).
Why Teach English Language in Colleges?
English has emerged as a universal language since it is used in almost all parts of the
globe, thanks to the British colonial past by virtue of which they ruled the empire where
the ‘sun never set’ thereby establishing a base for the language. A language with this
applicability and outreach definitely brings together the divergent regions. The example
of the North-South divide in India is a strong case in justification of English and the need
for learning and teaching it.
India and as to that matter the entire world is broken up in tiny fragments of narrow
regions and barriers. There are so many divisive forces at work that to have something
like a language to bring people closer is a great idea to aspire to and work for. English
language has also established itself as a language of technology, science and research. No
regional language has so successfully established itself as a language most suitable for
scientific reporting and publishing. English language has broken down barriers of culture
and art as well and the evolution of English music and literature has definitely played a
big role in bringing cultures and peoples together. English has by its adaptable nature
acquired the stature of an international medium of communication and commerce.
The computer systems and the entire IT industry owe a debt of gratitude to the English
language for its widespread applicability and usability. It has emerged as a language for
the global citizens of the new age. The new age heralds an era of open communication
channels and delimitation of narrow spaces.
The most important reason and need of all is our survival in the modern scenario. We
need to master this language among other skills to be able to command the attention of
the world and aspire to be the world leaders we have every right to work and dream for.
Mastery over the English language has definitely added value to our global presence and
we have to continuously monitor the latest changes and incorporate them in our
educational institutions for implementation so that we remain ahead of the game to
recapture our place among the world leadership.

Purpose and Aim of Education

According to Swami Vivekananda, the aim and purpose of education should be to “create
in the learner the desire and the ability to serve mankind.” Every achievement and
attainment has to have a purpose to make it fit as an object for attainment. “Gyan”,
“Moksha” and “Nirwana” have long been the aims of education in the past. Every Karma
has been directed towards sublimation of self with the divinity,”Atma” with
“Paramatma”, the divine cord which runs through us all and binds us in the bond of
common brotherhood. The procedure to follow this is called “Dharma”. Indian thought
and philosophy is very comfortable with the concept of brotherhood of man since ages.
To fulfill and meet the edicts of education it becomes imperative that the learner on one
hand is trained and made capable to serve humanity and on the other to have the desire to
do so. Therefore education will have to do something to change the very behaviour of the
learner. To make the learner a productive and useful member of the society he inhabits is
then the aim of education.
Language learning is needed to bring us all closer to each other and to have the ability to
communicate with each other. The idea of brotherhood makes sense only when we begin
to communicate with fellow beings. “Man is a social animal”, and has to abide by the
rules laid down by the society he lives in. To be able to understand the laid down rules
and laws man has to have the ability to understand and comprehend what transpires
around him.

Problems in both teaching and learning of English language which act as a barrier
in colleges
There are certain common problems in both teaching and learning of English language
which act as a barrier in colleges. The students come from diverse backgrounds and the
college teaching has to be similarly modulated and adjusted to be able to cater to the
needs of the college level learner. They have to be prepared from many points of view.
Effectiveness of language teaching and learning has to be interpreted and evaluated
according to many perspectives.
Career and communication skills
Career and communication skills are directly interlinked and the onus falls inevitably on
the shoulders of the English language teachers. Interviews and group discussions are an
integral part of the selection process for all competitive examinations for which the
syllabus at the college level does not cater to.
Students in colleges come from different backgrounds due to the fact that higher
education is open and within reach without discrimination. The students come from a
mixed background. Some are from the rural areas and the others from the cities and yet
others from the sub-urban areas. They all have studied from different categories of
schools ranging from the government schools to the government aided schools to the
urban private schools and elite public schools under different boards of education. The
college students come from different economic backgrounds and that too has a direct
bearing on the extent of English language acquisition of the learners from different
economic backgrounds.
Geographic regions also have a direct bearing on the quality of English language known
to the learners at the time of starting college education. The geographically remote
regions have lesser access and exposure to the language variations as opposed to the
plains which are better populated and relatively more exposed to outer influences. On the
other hand some remote hilly areas are tourist spots and are richer in terms of linguistic
influences because of the tourists from different parts of India and abroad. An Indian has
a vocabulary of at least two hundred English words. How many other so called Indian
languages can we proudly claim to know as well? Manipuri, Tamil or Maithili? How
exactly would we have communicated with a south Indian or someone from the north-
east if it had not been for English?
Parents and family have a strong influence in learning a language at the college level
because the environment in the family determines the level of exposure and practice a
learner gets outside the classroom. Learning is a continuous process which does not
remain limited to classroom only. We learn all the time. The same can be said of the
environment at the college. If the teachers and the other people around the learner
communicate comfortably in English then the learning goes on outside the classroom as
well and the learner gets practice.
Our syllabus is still under the influence of our British colonial past. It still has not been
able to evolve into being suitable for the modern Indian college student who is neither a
slave nor an aspiring brown sahib. The modern Indian college student is getting ready to
join the global milieu as an equal and as a leader. The educational needs of a world leader
have to be designed to cater to the future needs of a global citizen. Unfortunately the
curriculum, the examination system and the activities do not match the profile
requirements. They need to be redefined so as to be relevant now and today for tomorrow.
The main problem and barrier in effective teaching of English in colleges is the lack of
good communication between the teacher and the taught. The syllabus does not provide
for communication and interaction. The teachers are in a hurry to ‘finish’ the syllabus.
English is taught at times without using English as a medium of instruction. Facts are
transferred but love for the language is not. Communication occurs between two people
and it is a living 2-way process.
A communication is said to be made when a message is sent by a sender to a receiver.
The receiver then decodes the message, processes it and sends back a feedback. The
feedback is then decoded by the receiver and a modified message is re-sent to the
receiver. This to and fro movement of a communication in a series is communication.
Unfortunately in the present day college teaching communication is incomplete because
inputs move only from one side and there is no provision of getting feedbacks or
processing them. Therefore the communication process is incomplete and we keep on
wondering why English is not being learnt despite our best efforts. It’s like expecting our
learner to learn swimming by watching us swim while he sits outside and ‘learns’.
The first language teacher is our mother or the maternal influence. The rest of the family
follows suit. The mother communicates with the baby using every form of
communication. She sings to the baby and talks to it knowing fully well the baby does
not comprehend a single syllable she utters but she does it with a smile, automatically,
constantly. The baby coos and gurgles out some responses and the mother replies. The
baby watches the mother and the family and learns to communicate before it learns to
talk. Even mute and dumb babies communicate. The mother has no syllabus or time
constraint but her teaching encompasses the entire value system an individual inherits for
a lifetime. The family is the next teacher and then the school where the child is taught the
principles of English language formally. The exposure the child gets is directly
proportional to the level of language acquired.
Teaching is an act of love, it’s a creative process in which the teacher reaches out to the
learner and draws out from within the inherent knowledge with skillful interaction.
Teaching is nothing else but a planned and a systematic sequence of learning experiences
provided by the teacher to the learner. The teacher works on the feedback received from
the learner and then modifies the next input accordingly.

Teaching of a language is an art, a skill and a science

Teaching of a language is an art, a skill and a science. It’s an interactive process which
involves active participation of the college student as opposed to the conventional passive
lecture method. The study by the Ford Foundation on learning has found the following
interesting facts: “ I remember 3% of what I hear, 20% of what I hear and see and 80% of
what I hear, see and do.” This helps in arriving at the conclusion that as a method of
teaching the lecture method is least effective as opposed to the practical approach. “Chalk
and Talk” are not the best methods of teaching a language.
Teaching-learning is possible when all the senses get adequate stimulus and the learner
gets the opportunity for self-expression. It is the teacher who has to provide the right
avenues and opportunities to the learner for self-expression fearlessly. The learner is often
ashamed and embarrassed when a weakness is exposed publicly and this causes a severe
setback in learning the language as well as damaging the self-esteem. This can be
disheartening for the teacher too. Courage and patience are the keys to success.
A creative teacher recognizes creativity in the learner and if that gets rewarded learning
the language becomes faster. If creativity and ingenuity are recognized, appreciated and
rewarded teaching English becomes most effective.
Language learning is a skill. It is a skill like learning how to make chapattis, riding a
bicycle or playing a musical instrument. All it needs is constant practice in all situations
and circumstances. To master a language one needs to constantly practice and master the
four skills of LSRW. Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.

Listening is what we are born doing. We start listening right from the womb and the
moment we learn to talk we stop listening. The moment we stop listening we stop
learning the new language. We learn our mother tongue simply because we listen so
intently because we do not know how to speak or formulate words out of the sounds we
make. We move our lips and slowly start attempting to make the corresponding sounds.
The mother picks the baby up at every attempt be it a failure or a success and rewards the
baby. Learning becomes a game and a pleasure.

The best way to learn English is to listen to English songs, poetry and jokes. Listening to
conversations, arguments or a dialogue between two or more people silently helps in
watching the lip movement, the gestures and the style. Attending telephones is a good
training in practical listening. Attending discourses, speeches or discussions helps in
understanding the norms of behaviour and right address. Listening to stories is a dying
art. Very few people tell stories in an interesting way. No opportunity should be missed to
listen to a story being told as it is a great experience in sound play and effective use of
silences and voice modulations.
Listening to radio and television programmes is a practice in contemporary listening. It
helps in increasing knowledge as well as vocabulary building. Films and theatre are a
complete art. Some films could be filmed for the benefit of the students and the teachers
can have these in their personal collections. ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘My Fair Lady’,
‘Pretty woman’, ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’, ‘Annie’, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’
are some examples to name just a few. Book adaptations are also available and they can
be used for teaching the language effectively. The use of music and sounds to denote
different emotions and create and atmosphere without actually changing anything gives a
great opportunity to venture in a new world of imagination. There are some interesting
games to sharpen our listening skills. The Chinese Whisper is one which is often played
by children where children form a circle and sit down. The first person whispers
something into the ears of the next person without repeating it or saying it out aloud. This
continues till the last person is reached who then says the whispered word aloud for all to
hear which most often is nothing remotely similar to what was said originally.

We begin speaking long before we learn to read or write. It is the second skill we acquire
while learning a language. Conversations and dialogues are the basic skills to master
which if truth be told not many people master in a lifetime. Most of us damn ourselves
the moment we open our mouths to speak. It takes a lot of courage to speak and to that
too, to speak sense continuously without hurting yourself or paining others. English
language can be learnt effectively through this skill. Answering questions gives us a
directional basis for speaking. Poetry recitations help us to master the important aspects
of RSVP i.e. Rhythm, speed, volume and pitch which makes speaking a pleasure. Correct
diction and pronunciation is the key area to master here which the teacher can sensitize
the students to through the use of tape-recorders so that the students can play back the
piece and learn from it.
Public speaking, debates, declamations, welcome addresses, vote of thanks and delivering
speeches builds confidence as well as critical thinking and an analytical mind. Brevity is
the soul of wit. A speech it is said should be like a lady’s dress, short enough to remain
interesting and long enough to cover the vital points. The teachers can plan events where
the students get to make announcements, anchor shows and hold quiz or question answer
sessions on a given topic or event.
Group discussions on topics, presenting papers and delivering them at seminars are a very
effective way to get the students to use the language. Presence of mind and eloquence
need constant practice which is amply acquired through regular group discussions. The
gift of narration can be mastered through narrating incidents, episodes, story building and
story telling. Theatre is a great teacher and a complete art form which is most suitable for
effective teaching of English. Teachers can also resort to using games for building up this
skill. JAM, just a minute is a game in which the speaker picks up a topic from the bowl
and speaks on it for a minute, without a pause.

Reading and comprehension go hand in hand. Reading is a skill which has to be taught
and the teachers have a tough time getting the students to read the newspapers and
journals. Reading is a complete topic in itself. The teachers’ cup of woes also contains the
sad fact that the students are no longer as interested in reading as they used to be in the
past. Each teacher is battling with this burning question right from the schools till the
colleges. The learners no longer wish to read. They would rather browse the internet or
watch television. The college student is no different. They read only what is relevant and
that too if they have no other option or choice. All they seek are ready made guides and
solutions to learn for the examinations. The only way to get the students to practice this
skill is by making them do it in the class. The students need to learn to read silently
without moving the lips or the fingers along the line or to read aloud with correct
pronunciation. The rules and underlying principle are the same for loud reading and
speaking. The only difference is that reading is done with a book or some written material
while speaking is done almost without any such medium.
The main focus has to be on divining the meaning of the piece as a whole and not getting
lost into the intricacies of grammar, syntax and usage. The ability to work out the
meaning from the indicators given in the passage is the skill which needs to be practiced.
Unseen passages in prose and poetry lend themselves for this purpose. The second faculty
is the ability to pick up relevant information from the given passage and make notes.
Making notes is a skill which needs to special attention especially in higher education.
The ability to make sound and meaningful notes will help the students to make abstracts
and summarize the pieces. Comprehension of unseen passages and abstracts from
different literary sources is given to the students for sharpening their reading and
comprehension skills.
The teacher has to lay stress on punctuation marks and paragraphs so that the learner
understands the meaning of each symbol used in the written piece. Interest in reading can
be built up by the teacher by narrating interesting incidents from books or reading out
portions from lives of great people the learners identify with i.e. Shaheed Bhagat Singh or
Kalpana Chawla etc.

Writing is the most often used skill by the teachers in teaching English at all levels of
education. Professor Higgins in “My Fair lady says that “the English speak good English,
the Indians write good English and the Americans spoil good English”. The reason is
again our colonial past in which the main focus was to train the Brown Sahibs so that the
clerical work of the British Empire could run smoothly. This legacy of the past has stood
us well but now we have to change the strategy for teaching-learning of writing skills to
meet the needs of present day communication. ELT, English Language Teaching has
undergone a transition in the present usage and it now being perceived as CLT,
Communicative Language Teaching from the junior most level of learning.
Comprehension of unseen passages and the focus on critical and analytical thinking is the
main thrust area in English language learning. The writing skills include compositions
like writing reports, designing posters and invitations, drafting business letters and letters
to the editors.
Visual and verbal clues can be given to the students as inputs without any additional
inputs from the teachers and the students can be asked to form stories, narratives,
conclusions, reports and criticisms. The teachers can plan events and special days to
spread awareness for a social issue or against a social evil or disease and get the students
to design the campaign in the form of letters to the editors, posters, brochures, handbills,
websites, magazine articles, poetic jingles and reviews. The students can be asked to
write articles and criticisms.

Effective teaching of English language

Effective teaching of English language depends on all the factors on which effective
teaching of all the languages depends. It depends on the fundamental principles of the
communication process which is the basis of the teaching-learning process. Effective
English teaching depends on sound classroom management skills, knowledge of the
subject area, the ability to explain well, and an enthusiasm for the subject and an
understanding of the students. Teaching and learning the language should empower and
not weaken the spirit of the learner. It should inspire and awaken in the learner the desire
to make language learning a lifelong process. We, the teachers of English need to form a
partnership with the student so that we can form a winning team to play a winning match.
Win the trust of your student and make him realize that we are a team together and
playing on the same side and not in the opposite teams. Make the student have faith in
your capability to help and support in his quest for learning. Preparation time is never
ones best time. A building under construction is hardly a beauty and the same
awkwardness is there in the students too which needs patient handling.
The college level learner will learn better with a little creative effort by the colleges and
the teachers of English. It would be good to have a college magazine for which the
students could be encouraged to write different pieces. Wall magazines at different focal
points in the college would be an effective tool to encourage students to be creative and
express an opinion on issues relevant to them. Forming discussion forums related to
different subjects would be an effective way to have discussions on different subjects in
English. Visits and planned field trips are an effective tool to get the students to widen
their perceptions and get them to vocalize them in narratives and travelogues. Hiking and
biking are great tools too along with mountain climbing and adventure sports which gives
the students the spirit to venture and dare and to master the language of that specific
sport. All the teacher has to do is to open up the horizons and provide vistas for inner
growth and strength. Campus radio is another way for keeping the breaks interesting and
creative where birthday announcements and event details can be handled by the students.
Theatre and plays allow the students to use the language effectively to denote varied
emotions. Simple one act plays and skits could be attempted by a group of students on
any issue of contemporary relevance and then the enactment before the larger group. It
would add tons of confidence to the learner.
Letters to editors is one of the most powerful tools of a democracy and with the diversity
of issues and the national stature of dailies in English the teacher has this hitherto
unexplored territory to get the students to venture into without fear. Success and reward
depend on being accepted and what an achievement for the teacher to get her students
letter accepted for publication. This technique gets the students to read the newspapers
regularly and also critically search for news which merit a response.
Organizing events right from its inception to its execution under the guidance of the
teacher would not only get the students to come out with creative ideas but also make
them read, write and compose speeches, articles and reports in English. They would learn
the skills of planning and management along with gaining confidence in their own
abilities. As it is we teachers have to depend on our students to help us organize events so
why not do it purposefully and meaningfully. The students can be trained to handle the
announcements, design invitations and posters and deliver welcome addresses and
propose vote of thanks. At college level the student is an adult and such training is needed
for all the students and not just the select few. Participation in competitions held at
different levels is another positive way of getting the students to gain confidence and
learn from their mistakes. Teachers take on the job themselves because the effort of
training the students is too much but trust me it would be a one time effort if you tried.
The best unexplored territory could be to get the college students enrolled into youth
exchange programmes and travel to different parts of this world. This hitherto rarely used
technique has lots to recommend. It is inexpensive but most effective in making the
students well rounded personalities with a good command over their communication
skills. The ability to adjust to new situations and adapt to new environment takes away
the fear of failure or ridicule which is the fundamental fear of every aspiring student of
Effective teaching of any subject should promote knowledge, understanding, analytical
and critical abilities of that subject and also promote love for learning as a lifelong
process. The teacher has to keep the spark alive by nurturing the spark and by giving fuel
to the spark. Always have goals in teaching-learning because human nature strives for
improvement so as to be able to achieve its full potential. There is ceaseless striving for
the next level. Perfection is not the aim but regular, balanced, gradual striving for it.
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free,
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls,
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection,
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sands of dead habit,
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action,
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father let my country awake.”
Rabindra Nath Tagore

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