Life after CELTA | An interview with Dr Deepesh C.

Deepesh C

Academic qualifications do not place as much importance on critical feedback during teaching practice, as is available on the CELTA, and for me, that is reason enough to take the course.

This is part of a series of interviews I’m doing with CELTA trainees in India to explore their professional journeys after they complete the course.

It’s not uncommon to have trainees on CELTA courses in India who are highly qualified … not just in some random field but in education, linguistics and English language teaching. I’m always curious about why someone with that sort of background would want to do an initial teacher-training qualification. So I thought it would be interesting to catch up with Deepesh, who has a PhD in English language education, to explore his reasons for doing the course and his experience on it.

I met Deepesh when he was heading the CLIL@India project. I had some fascinating conversations with him about CLIL, pedagogy and research. He did the CELTA at the British Council in Chennai a couple of months ago.


What is your academic/professional background? 

Having an MA (linguistics) from JNU, New Delhi and an MA (English) from Madras University, I taught English in CBSE schools in Delhi and Doha-Qatar for over 11 years. I then pursued a full-time PhD in English Language Education from the EFL-U, Hyderabad and the degree was awarded to me in December 2016. Subsequently, I taught English courses in an engineering college in Chennai for about three years and then took on the Executive Director’s role in the CLIL@India project (The EU’s Erasmus project on piloting and adapting Content and Language Integrated Learning through four major universities in India). I have also led hundreds of workshops for school and college teachers in several parts of India for the past seven years.

What motivated you to do the course? 

I had been looking to bolster my professional development path using credentials that would help me not only in taking a relook at theoretical aspects of ELT research but also have me sharpen the practical skills involved in teaching adults learning English. After much thought, I decided to do the CELTA, even though I knew that most people consider it to be an initial teacher-education course.

What did you expect from the CELTA and did it live up to these expectations? 

I signed up for the CELTA to update my knowledge of theory (ELT) and to have the real-time evaluation of my practical teaching skills in the classroom. While I have been open to the idea, I haven’t had the opportunity to have my classes evaluated neutrally by a non-student. Students and junior colleagues (who have sat in) have always given me positive feedback and this hadn’t been very useful for me to improve myself in any way.

The CELTA experience provided me, for the first time, honest and critical feedback from three different experienced teachers (and trainers), as well as from younger and a few experienced peers, along fixed criteria. This was priceless as it gave me insights that I had missed all through my teaching and training career.

A lot of ELT professionals are perplexed when they hear that CELTA trainees have post-graduate degrees in language education. This is often the case on courses in the global south whereas courses with trainees who are for example predominantly from the UK may not even have an initial degree. Now that you’ve experienced the course, do you feel it genuinely addresses a gap in the existing academic trajectories in India? 

Different individuals have different expectations from the CELTA and therefore they take away different things from the experience. While I observed both groups of trainees we had in the course – fresh graduates with no teaching experience and those with teaching degrees as well as experience – I found out that what the CELTA experience does to an individual depends much on how willing the person is to receive fresh perspectives and to change one’s established ideas and practices. I would definitely recommend the CELTA to everyone who wishes to start/continue teaching English. This is because I am aware of the shortcomings in the teaching degrees we have in India. Academic qualifications do not place as much importance on critical feedback during teaching practice, as is available on the CELTA, and for me, that is reason enough to take the course. With a teaching degree (BAEd), NET qualification (for teaching in college/university levels in India) in two subjects (Linguistics and English), and a PhD in English Language Education, and with about 15 years of experience teaching young learners and young adults, I say without hesitation that the CELTA taught me a lot.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the course? 

Strengths: Opportunity to immediately put into practice the theoretical inputs learnt in class; critical feedback from experienced teachers along set criteria and the opportunity to improve one’s practices based on this ongoing feedback; excellent templates for teaching skills (especially receptive skills – listening and reading) and language (especially the meaning-pronunciation-form template for vocabulary and grammar) lessons; internationally-recognised certification and rigor; fair and transparent assessment methods along declared criteria

Weaknesses (in my perception): Fixed templates with little room for classroom-based manoeuvre; assessment along set criteria with little credit for improvisation; insistence on using the British English pronunciation with little tolerance for General Indian English, especially in the drill stage of a language lesson

Where are you currently working and what sort of work does it involve?

I don’t work full-time currently, and all I am doing is an occasional teacher-training session for school and college teachers of English.

Have you been able to use what you learnt on the CELTA?

I haven’t been able to use what I learnt on the CELTA as yet, but being a conscientious practitioner, I have resolved to use two of the biggest learning from the course in my practice, wherever and whenever I teach – to reduce Teacher Talk-Time (TTT) and increase Student Talk-Time (STT), and to use the CELTA lesson templates for the skills and language lessons and improvise based on the class contours.

What sort of impact has the course had on you professionally and/or personally?

Apart from what I have mentioned in my responses to the earlier questions, there are a few other effects this course has had on me: I have begun to connect with ELT professionals across geographical boundaries on Twitter and engage in meaningful discussions about ELT theory and practices, and also do this through emails. I have realised the importance of CPD in a much bigger way and I seek to do it in multiple ways now (unlike earlier, when this was done mainly through presenting papers at conferences). The CELTA has given me wings to do this.

Where to next?

I am slated to move to Canada for work in a few months and I look forward to an opportunity to use what I learnt on the course in my teaching practices.

What sort of advice would you give to prospective trainees from the global south who like you have some sort of academic background in TESOL/ELT?

Sign up for the CELTA if you want to reinvent yourself as a teaching professional. Read up as much as you can about it before the course and keep an open mind throughout. Adopt whatever is positive about the course and what you can learn from it, and simply play along doing the things that otherwise go against your teaching philosophy or understanding. Remember that knowledge comes from all sides and learning is most effective when you are ready to accept change. It is the most receptive people who benefited most from the course and not those who kept grumbling about one thing or the other. Good luck!

Deepesh’s handle on Twitter is @deepeshc1975

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Feb & Mar 2019

ELT webinars

I’m a bit late this year with my list of webinars but there are lots of extremely interesting webinars to keep you occupied till IATEFL. An asterisk (*) means you’ll need to register. Let me know if I’ve missed any.

Assessment

Business English

EAP

ELT management 

English as a medium of instruction 

ESL

Games

Inclusion 

Storytelling 

Teacher training

Technology

21st century skills

Vocabulary 

Young learners

Miscellaneous 

Conferences

Translingual exit tickets | A translanguaging task

translingual exit ticket.png

Here’s my last offering from this series on translanguaging. It’s adapted from an activity called Head Sentences from Deller and Rinvolucri’s Using the Mother Tongue (2007). It’s a great way to end a lesson. The example I’ve included is meant for teacher training but it could be adapted to any sort of teaching or training context.

For more information on translanguaging, read the first post in this series.

————————————————

Objectives

  • Reflect on learning from a lesson/session
  • Do some informal action planning
  • Maximise communicative potential through translanguaging.

Materials

  • Prepare some sentence stems on a slide or write them up on the board. Alternatively, you could give out slips of paper with the stems.

Procedure

  • Ask participants to complete these sentence stems in L1 by reflecting on what they’d learnt in the session and what they’d like to apply with their own learners. They shouldn’t try to change these stems into L1 and the sentences they come up with should be in a mix of English and L1.

I found … useful because …

I’m not sure about …

I will try …

I hope …

  • Get participants to share in groups and report back on common points or interesting ideas. Depending on your participant profile, you could do this in L1, English or both.
  • For further language work, get participants to write a common reflection item on the board in a mix of English and L1 and help them convert the sentence into a wholly English sentence.

Reflections

Here are mine:

I found translanguaging useful because it reflects natural language use across communities in India and may help build a stronger affective connection with the language being taught.

I’m not sure about its effectiveness and I will need to apply it over a sustained period of time to explore its impact and limitations. 

I will try to incorporate more translingual reflective activities like this one to make reflection more meaningful particularly for students and teachers with a lower proficiency in English. 

I hope to share more translingual activities and perhaps compile them into an ebook. 

I hope you enjoyed this series of activities. If you come across any examples of translingual texts or come up with your own translanguaging activities, do share them with me.

References

  • Deller, S. & Rinvolucri, M. (2007) Using the Mother Tongue. Viva.

Image attribution: ‘< exit’ by seb joguet | Flickr |CC BY-NC 2.0

Reading race | A translingual task

Translanguaging reading race.png

This task is inspired by Listen and Find, an activity from Deller and Rinvolucri’s Using the Mother Tongue (2007). A lot of Indian teachers like many of their peers around the world are constrained in terms of what they can do in the classroom because they need to follow textbooks. This simple task offers a translingual tweak to exploring vocabulary within existing textbook passages. I’ve used an online text on Internet safety for kids as an example but you could use any level-appropriate text.

For more information on translanguaging, read the first post in this series.


Objectives

  • Introduce or review vocabulary within a text
  • Encourage learners to use their home language to understand lexis in English
  • Maximise communicative potential through translanguaging.

Materials 

  • Select an English text that the learners can access either as a print-out or in their textbooks. With older learners, try Whatsapping short texts or infographics and having them do the activity using their phones.
  • Choose lexical items from this text and and come up with a list of translations in the learners’ home languages. Put these on a slide as animated bullets or on stick-ups or by writing them on the board before the lesson and hiding them with a flipchart.

Warm-up

  • Start with an appropriate discussion question to lead into the topic of the text. This can be done in the learners’ home language and using a combination of languages based on their level.

Translanguaging task 

  • Ask learners to keep the text open in front of them and have a pencil handy.
  • Display the first word in the learners’ home languages. Ask them to find the word in the text as quickly as possible and underline it.
  • When they’ve finished underlining the word, they must say ‘bingo’ and raise their hand.
  • Explore meaning, pronunciation and/or form before proceeding to the next lexical item.

An example

I ran this activity recently with this text with words in Kannada, Hindi and Marathi.

Translanguaging text.jpg
Source: http://www.internetchildsafeguard.com/

Words for the reading race (Kannada / Hindi / Marathi)

A. ಪೋಷಕರು / माता-पिता / पालक

B. ಅಡ್ಡಹೆಸರು / उपनाम / टोपणनाव

C. ನಯವಾದ  / भद्र / विनम्र

D. ಮಾಹಿತಿ / जानकारी / माहिती

Answers

A. Parents

B. Nickname

C. Polite

D. Information

You can then focus on meaning by contrasting similarities or differences. For example, in Kannada, ಪೋಷಕರು means parents but it also means guardians whereas the word guardian implies something different in English.

Extension task

  • Give the learners an interesting question to discuss based on the text. Ask them to talk in their home language but using the English words they found and explored in the reading race.

References

  • Deller, S. & Rinvolucri, M. (2007) Using the Mother Tongue. Viva.

Parallel stories | A translanguaging task

Translanguaging Pratham books.png

Here’s the next activity in my translanguaging series. It’s designed to be used with a multilingual group of learners but you could also adapt it for a monolingual group. The task uses extracts in different languages from a story calledI am not afraid’ by Mini Shrinivasan from Pratham Books’ Storyweaver collection. I’ve included a selection of eight languages from Southern and Western India. However, the Storyweaver site has this particular story in 42 languages including a number of European and Asian languages so you should be able to easily adapt it for your context.

On the face of it, this is an activity for younger learners who are beginning to learn English but I think it could be used with older beginners as well.

For more information on translanguaging, read the first post in this series.


Objectives

  • Explore story-specific vocabulary and structures based on learner needs
  • Develop learners’ storytelling abilities in both their home language and English
  • Maximise communicative potential through translanguaging.

Materials 

  • I ran this task off slides using a projector but you could also distribute printouts in  classic information-gap style. The handout includes the following languages: Gujarati (p.1), Hindi (p.2), Kannada (p.3), Konkani (p.4), Marathi (p.5), Tamil (p.6), Telugu (p.7), Urdu (p.8), English (p.9).
  • Download the English version of the book from this link. On this site, you’ll also see a hyperlink that says ’51 versions available in 42 languages’ which can be used to download translations.

Warm-up

  • If you’re working with young learners, you could ask if they are afraid of the dark and why.
  • If you’re working with relatively older learners, get them to brainstorm things they’ll see at night when it’s dark.

Translanguaging task

  • Group learners so you have students with different home languages seated together.
  • Ask learners to tell you what their home languages are by getting them to raise their hands. Do this step only if you want to make sure everyone knows what language they are going to be focusing on in this task.
  • Ask everyone put their heads on the table or turn away from the screen.
  • Bring up the extracts from ‘I am not afraid’, one language at a time asking learners to raise their heads and silently read what’s written. For example, “Kannada speakers, please look at the screen and read. Now put your head down. Konkani speakers etc.” Don’t let them write anything.
  • When you’ve displayed all the extracts, ask learners to raise their heads and work together to figure out what was written under the picture. Ask them to give you a sentence or a couple of sentences in English.
  • Take whole class feedback by writing each group’s sentences on the board.
  • Prompt error correction right away or after displaying Mini Shrinivasan’s original English version (page 9 of the handout) and getting everyone to compare the learner generated sentences to the original text.
  • You may want to explore a range of language areas based on errors learners are making: vocabulary (adjectives, intensifiers, indefinite pronouns) | grammar: simple questions, ‘there is/are’, ‘it is’.
  • Now ask learners to discuss what happens next in the story in their home languages.
  • After learners have decided on a sentence or a couple of sentences that describe what happens next, get them to convert all the nouns to English ones. Then encourage them to replace the function words and change the word order where necessary.
  • Take whole class feedback by writing each group’s sentences on the board.
  • Display page 10 of the handout and ask learners to see how similar or different their sentences were and provide further language feedback.

Extension task 

  • Ask learners to work in pairs or groups to co-create and narrate a story using these two pages from “I’m not afraid” as a story starter. They can use their home languages to discuss the story but must try to make sure that most of the nouns are in English when they report back to the whole class. You can use the following questions as prompts:
    • Who is this girl?
    • Where is she?
    • Where is she going?
    • How does she feel?
    • What happens next?
    • What happens at the end of the story?

Task frame

  • This task type can be replicated with any story on Storyweaver and with any language that’s available on that platform:
    • Choose an interesting page from one of the Storyweaver books. It should be one that makes learners curious.
    • Find the translations of the story that you’d like your students to work with. These are always listed on the book’s ‘homepage’.
    • Prepare printouts or put these on slides. Don’t forget to acknowledge Pratham Books which licences all the stories and illustrations under Creative Commons. Also credit authors, illustrators and translators.
    • Run the activity as an information gap.
    • Allow students to use multiple languages to communicate.
    • Focus on errors, emerging language needs, vocabulary or contrastive analysis.
    • End with some translingual storytelling.

Here’s the whole book in English with Rayika Sen’s gorgeous illustrations.

https://storyweaver.org.in/stories/show-in-iframe/959-i-am-not-afraid?iframe=true

The Storyweaver site is ostensibly for children and grades stories according to their language level – ‘I am not afraid’ is level 1. I’m not completely sure how this level system works. There are books with more difficult lexis (level 3) and I’ve used some of these very successfully with adult learners although those activities didn’t involve translanguaging. I’ll share one soon.

Image attribution for the image used at the beginning of this post: Pratham Books CC BY 4.0 |  Illustrator: Rayika Sen 

Save your ಮಕ್ಕಳು 🧒👦🏽👧 | A translanguaging task

Translanguaging kannada.png

I’ve only road-tested this activity once with a group of teachers I recently trained but I think it will work well with learners as well. Strictly speaking, the text I’ve used for this task doesn’t really mix languages. But I think interactions within the task offer lots of opportunities for translanguaging. What I like about this text is its versatility. It can be used with a range of Indian learners as well as multilingual groups – particularly in Southern India. The sign repeats similar (but not the same!) messages in Kannada, English, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu and Telugu. At a recent workshop I conducted for teachers, I did this as a Kannada-English translanguaging task.

For more information on translanguaging, read the first post in this series.


Objectives

  • Introduce and practise the chunk “keep your (noun) + (adjective)”
  • Encourage students to explore meaning more deeply in English and their home language
  • Maximise communicative potential through translanguaging.

Materials 

  • Display the Instagram post or get learners to access it on their own devices.

Warm-up

  • Show learners the picture and ask them to discuss the following questions:
    1. Where is this sign? (NB: It’s on a shopfront on Commercial Street in Bangalore)
    2. Who is the sign meant for? Why is it in so many languages?
    3. Who has put up the sign?
    4. Why have they put it up? What do you think has happened on Commercial Street?

These questions are adapted from ones suggested by Helen Carnello from St. Mary Kanarpady at the workshop. 

Translanguaging task 

  • Ask learners to look at the English sign “Safe your children” and find any mistakes. They’re likely to tell you that there’s a spelling mistake. Write the corrected sentence on the board “Save your children.”
  • Now get learners to focus on the Kannada sign “ಮಕ್ಕಳನ್ನು ಉಳಿಸಿ” (makkaḷannu uḷisi) and ask them if they think there’s a difference between the English and Kannada signs. Elicit that the Kannada sign actually says “Save children or Save the children”. Get learners to discuss the difference in meaning in English between “save your children” and “save the children” and whether this difference is important in Kannada – would they want to start the sentence with ನಿಮ್ಮ (nimma)? For beginners, it might be useful to explore the position of the verb in Kannada (last) vs. English (first). 
  • Link back to what learners shared about why the sign has been put up in this busy street in Bangalore. Ask them if “ಮಕ್ಕಳನ್ನು ಉಳಿಸಿ” (makkaḷannu uḷisi) makes sense in this context. Elicit that “ಉಳಿಸಿ” (uḷisi) means helping someone who is in immediate danger and may not be correct in this context. Ask learners to help you with a verb in Kannada that conveys the meaning better (perhaps ರಕ್ಷಿಸಿ or ಕಾಪಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಿ).*
  • Have learners revisit the English sign. Suggest that “save” and “ಉಳಿಸಿ” (uḷisi) have a similar meaning and don’t make sense in this context. Get them to notice the sentence at the bottom in English “As a parent, safeguard your children”. Elicit that this sounds very formal and somewhat unnatural.  Get learners to use ಕಾಪಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಿ (kāpāḍikoḷḷi) or similar to rephrase the English sign. Remind learners that the verb in English doesn’t come last unlike Kannada and elicit “Keep your children safe”.
  • Write this sentence on the board and highlight this lexical chunk: keep your + noun + adjective
  • Get learners to work in groups to create a mindmap with “keep your” at the centre and ask them to brainstorm other combinations such keep your classroom clean etc. Get learners to do a gallery walk and collect useful phrases from other groups.
  • Ask learners to practise saying the phrases to each other prefixing them with ‘please’.

*Many thanks to Archana Sanvi from Silas Int. School for giving us a great explanation of the meaning of the Kannada text at the workshop.

Extension task 

  • Get learners to create a bilingual Kannada-English poster for their school/city/community that provides some advice or warnings.
  • Alternatively, ask them to work in pairs to come up with backstories for one of the phrases they brainstormed. For example, “keep your classroom clean” – why did the teacher have to say this to his/her students? What had happened? Students can do some translanguaging using Kannada, English or any other home language. Encourage them to use content words in English – you can support them by putting up content words in English on the board

Task frame

  • Marek left a comment on one of my other translanguaging posts that he could probably adapt some of the ideas for his teaching context in Flanders where there’s a lot of translanguaging. I realised then that it might worthwhile including a note on the structure of the task so it can be repurposed for other texts, contexts and languages. At the moment, it all looks very Indian.
  • Here’s the frame or structure of this task.
    • Find a bilingual or multilingual authentic text where there are some differences in meaning between ostensibly similar messages in different languages.
    • Get learners to understand the L2 text.
    • Have them explore the meaning of the L1 text.
    • Contrast the meaning of the two texts and make changes to the L2/L1 message where appropriate.
    • Draw out any useful vocabulary, structures or chunks from the L2 text and have students explore this.
    • Get learners to do a productive follow-up activity that allows them to use both L1 and L2 flexibly.

Translanguaging and the teacher

I think teachers are sometimes apprehensive about multilingual approaches when they can’t speak their students’ home languages. I don’t speak Kannada but when I ran this activity last week, participants spoke in Kannada for at least 50% of the time and the task focused on exploring meaning and form in Kannada and I wasn’t at sea. The goal here is to facilitate translanguaging and home language use as a way of enabling students to learn English but that doesn’t necessarily mean that teacher needs to speak in L1 or understand its grammar and rules.

Image attribution

  1. Brigade Road by Charles Haynes | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
  2. The Instagram image was posted by @mumbaipaused on May 26, 2018: https://www.instagram.com/p/BjOXUnAlG9S/

Chicken Vada-Pav | A translanguaging task

Translanguaging Marathi.png

Here’s another translanguaging task based on a translingual text from a poster advertising the ubiquitous vada-pav or Bombay burger. Vada-pavs generally have a fried potato filling but this one unusually has chicken. The text says “Garam-Spicy Chicken Vada-Pav” in the Devanagari script and then repeats the words Chicken Vada-Pav in the Roman script. The Indian words are presumably in Marathi but are intelligible to Hindi speakers.

For more information on translanguaging, read the first post in this series.


View this post on Instagram

We need more of these and Goan sausage pav.

A post shared by Mumbai Paused (@mumbaipaused) on

Objectives

  • Review and recycle adjectives related to food
  • Raise awareness of the phonemic variation between /v/, /w/ and /ʋ/
  • Maximise communicative potential through translanguaging.

Materials 

  • Display the Instagram post or get learners to access it on their own devices.

Warm-up

  • Ask learners to talk about their favourite street food with their partners.
  • Display the Instagram post and ask learners to discuss if there’s anything unusual about this street food. Would they want to try it?

Translanguaging task

  • Get learners to identify all the English words (spicy and chicken).
  • Ask them to translate the other words into English so the text becomes wholly English (Elicit “Hot and spicy chicken burger/sandwich”).
  • Ask them to discuss the following questions in their home language and/or English:
  1. In the original Marathi text, there’s no ‘and’ between the adjectives, why did we add ‘and’ in English?
  2. Why didn’t we do a literal translation of vada-pav (fritter-bread/roll)? Why is burger/sandwich a better way of describing the dish in English?
  • Get learners to work with गरम-Spicy and come up with alternatives to ‘spicy’ for different translingual combinations.
  • Have them now convert these into wholly English combinations inserting an ‘and’ between the adjectives (hot and delicious, hot and sour etc..
  • Now focus on ‘chicken’ and ask learners to brainstorm other adjectives that could modify vada-pav/burger (vegetable, potato, lentil etc.).
  • Lastly, get them to notice the spelling of pav (paw) in the Roman script at the bottom of the poster. Ask them to consider how the word is spelled phonetically in Marathi and how best to write this in English (vada or wada | pav, paw or pao)? There may be some variations here in how they say this in their home language. It might also be useful to point out the mouth positioning for /v/, /w/ and the Marathi phoneme /ʋ/ in vada-pav vs. wada-pao. Interestingly, the word ‘pav’ has come to Marathi from the Portuguese ‘pão’ via Konkani.

Extension task 

  • Get learners to work in groups to make posters advertising their own favourite street food. They can use a combination of scripts and languages.

 

I tried this activity with some teachers recently. It was fairly quick and they had a lot of fun with it.

Image attribution: 

  1. The vada pav image is sourced from Garrett Ziegler | Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
  2. The Instagram image was posted by @mumbaipaused on Oct 2, 2018: https://www.instagram.com/p/BobrJlNFTZ2/?