Thursday, 31 December 2015


Wish you ALL a healthy, wealthy and happy 2016!

Let tomorrow's sunrise herald a new beginning in everyone's life!

Monday, 28 December 2015

To be or not to be?

2b or not 2b?
Despite doom-laden prophecies, texting has not been the disaster for language many feared, argues linguistics professor David Crystal. On the contrary, it improves children's writing and spelling

Last year, in a newspaper article headed "I h8 txt msgs: How texting is wrecking our language", John Humphrys argued that texters are "vandals who are doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours 800 years ago. They are destroying it: pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary. And they must be stopped."

As a new variety of language, texting has been condemned as "textese", "slanguage", a "digital virus". According to John Sutherland of University College London, writing in this paper in 2002, it is "bleak, bald, sad shorthand. Drab shrinktalk ... Linguistically it's all pig's ear ... it masks dyslexia, poor spelling and mental laziness. Texting is penmanship for illiterates."

Ever since the arrival of printing - thought to be the invention of the devil because it would put false opinions into people's minds - people have been arguing that new technology would have disastrous consequences for language. Scares accompanied the introduction of the telegraph, telephone, and broadcasting. But has there ever been a linguistic phenomenon that has aroused such curiosity, suspicion, fear, confusion, antagonism, fascination, excitement and enthusiasm all at once as texting? 

And in such a short space of time. Less than a decade ago, hardly anyone had heard of it.
The idea of a point-to-point short message service (or SMS) began to be discussed as part of the development of the Global System for Mobile Communications network in the mid-1980s, but it wasn't until the early 90s that phone companies started to develop its commercial possibilities. Text communicated by pagers were replaced by text messages, at first only 20 characters in length. It took five years or more before numbers of users started to build up. The average number of texts per GSM customer in 1995 was 0.4 per month; by the end of 2000 it was still only 35.

The slow start, it seems, was because the companies had trouble working out reliable ways of charging for the new service. But once procedures were in place, texting rocketed. In the UK, in 2001, 12.2bn text messages were sent. This had doubled by 2004, and was forecast to be 45bn in 2007. On Christmas Day alone in 2006, over 205m texts went out. World figures went from 17bn in 2000 to 250bn in 2001. They passed a trillion in 2005. Text messaging generated around $70bn in 2005. That's more than three times as much as all Hollywood box office returns that year.
People think that the written language seen on mobile phone screens is new and alien, but all the popular beliefs about texting are wrong. Its graphic distinctiveness is not a new phenomenon, nor is its use restricted to the young. There is increasing evidence that it helps rather than hinders literacy. And only a very tiny part of it uses a distinctive orthography. A trillion text messages might seem a lot, but when we set these alongside the multi-trillion instances of standard orthography in everyday life, they appear as no more than a few ripples on the surface of the sea of language. Texting has added a new dimension to language use, but its long-term impact is negligible. It is not a disaster.

Although many texters enjoy breaking linguistic rules, they also know they need to be understood. There is no point in paying to send a message if it breaks so many rules that it ceases to be intelligible. When messages are longer, containing more information, the amount of standard orthography increases. Many texters alter just the grammatical words (such as "you" and "be"). As older and more conservative language users have begun to text, an even more standardised style has appeared. Some texters refuse to depart at all from traditional orthography. And conventional spelling and punctuation is the norm when institutions send out information messages, as in this university text to students: "Weather Alert! No classes today due to snow storm", or in the texts which radio listeners are invited to send in to programmes. These institutional messages now form the majority of texts in cyberspace - and several organisations forbid the use of abbreviations, knowing that many readers will not understand them. Bad textiquette.

Research has made it clear that the early media hysteria about the novelty (and thus the dangers) of text messaging was misplaced. In one American study, less than 20% of the text messages looked at showed abbreviated forms of any kind - about three per message. And in a Norwegian study, the proportion was even lower, with just 6% using abbreviations. In my own text collection, the figure is about 10%.

People seem to have swallowed whole the stories that youngsters use nothing else but abbreviations when they text, such as the reports in 2003 that a teenager had written an essay so full of textspeak that her teacher was unable to understand it. An extract was posted online, and quoted incessantly, but as no one was ever able to track down the entire essay, it was probably a hoax.

There are several distinctive features of the way texts are written that combine to give the impression of novelty, but none of them is, in fact, linguistically novel. Many of them were being used in chatroom interactions that predated the arrival of mobile phones. Some can be found in pre-computer informal writing, dating back a hundred years or more.

The most noticeable feature is the use of single letters, numerals, and symbols to represent words or parts of words, as with b "be" and 2 "to". They are called rebuses, and they go back centuries. Adults who condemn a "c u" in a young person's texting have forgotten that they once did the same thing themselves (though not on a mobile phone). In countless Christmas annuals, they solved puzzles like this one:
("Too wise you are . . .")
Similarly, the use of initial letters for whole words (n for "no", gf for "girlfriend", cmb "call me back") is not at all new. People have been initialising common phrases for ages. IOU is known from 1618. There is no difference, apart from the medium of communication, between a modern kid's "lol" ("laughing out loud") and an earlier generation's "Swalk" ("sealed with a loving kiss").
In texts we find such forms as msg ("message") and xlnt ("excellent"). Almst any wrd cn be abbrvted in ths wy - though there is no consistency between texters. But this isn't new either. Eric Partridge published his Dictionary of Abbreviations in 1942. It contained dozens of SMS-looking examples, such as agn "again", mth "month", and gd "good" - 50 years before texting was born.

English has had abbreviated words ever since it began to be written down. Words such as exam, vet, fridge, cox and bus are so familiar that they have effectively become new words. When some of these abbreviated forms first came into use, they also attracted criticism. In 1711, for example, Joseph Addison complained about the way words were being "miserably curtailed" - he mentioned pos (itive) and incog (nito). And Jonathan Swift thought that abbreviating words was a "barbarous custom".

What novelty there is in texting lies chiefly in the way it takes further some of the processes used in the past. Some of its juxtapositions create forms which have little precedent, apart from in puzzles. All conceivable types of feature can be juxtaposed - sequences of shortened and full words (hldmecls "hold me close"), logograms and shortened words (2bctnd "to be continued"), logograms and nonstandard spellings (cu2nite) and so on. There are no less than four processes combined in iowan2bwu "I only want to be with you" - full word + an initialism + a shortened word + two logograms + an initialism + a logogram. And some messages contain unusual processes: in iohis4u "I only have eyes for you", we see the addition of a plural ending to a logogram. One characteristic runs through all these examples: the letters, symbols and words are run together, without spaces. This is certainly unusual in the history of special writing systems. But few texts string together long sequences of puzzling graphic units.

There are also individual differences in texting, as in any other linguistic domain. In 2002, Stuart Campbell was found guilty of the murder of his 15-year-old niece after his text message alibi was shown to be a forgery. He had claimed that certain texts sent by the girl showed he was innocent. But a detailed comparison of the vocabulary and other stylistic features of his own text messages and those of his niece showed that he had written the messages himself. The forensic possibilities have been further explored by a team at the University of Leicester. The fact that texting is a relatively unstandardised mode of communication, prone to idiosyncrasy, turns out to be an advantage in such a context, as authorship differences are likely to be more easily detectable than in writing using standard English.

Texters use deviant spellings - and they know they are deviant. But they are by no means the first to use such nonstandard forms as cos "because", wot "what", or gissa "give us a". Several of these are so much part of English literary tradition that they have been given entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. "Cos" is there from 1828 and "wot" from 1829. Many can be found in literary dialect representations, such as by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Walter Scott, DH Lawrence, or Alan Bleasdale ("Gissa job!").

Sending a message on a mobile phone is not the most natural of ways to communicate. The keypad isn't linguistically sensible. No one took letter-frequency considerations into account when designing it. For example, key 7 on my mobile contains four symbols, pqrs. It takes four key-presses to access the letter s, and yet s is one of the most frequently occurring letters in English. It is twice as easy to input q, which is one of the least frequently occurring letters. It should be the other way round. So any strategy that reduces the time and awkwardness of inputting graphic symbols is bound to be attractive.

Abbreviations were used as a natural, intuitive response to a technological problem. And they appeared in next to no time. Texters simply transferred (and then embellished) what they had encountered in other settings. We have all left notes in which we have replaced an and by an &, a three by a 3, and so on. Anglo-Saxon scribes used abbreviations of this kind.

But the need to save time and energy is by no means the whole story of texting. When we look at some texts, they are linguistically quite complex. There are an extraordinary number of ways in which people play with language - creating riddles, solving crosswords, playing Scrabble, inventing new words. Professional writers do the same - providing catchy copy for advertising slogans, thinking up puns in newspaper headlines, and writing poems, novels and plays. Children quickly learn that one of the most enjoyable things you can do with language is to play with its sounds, words, grammar - and spelling.

The drive to be playful is there when we text, and it is hugely powerful. Within two or three years of the arrival of texting, it developed a ludic dimension. In short, it's fun.

To celebrate World Poetry day in 2007, T-Mobile tried to find the UK's first "Txt laureate" in a competition for the best romantic poem in SMS. They had 200 entrants, and as with previous competitions the entries were a mixture of unabbreviated and abbreviated texts.
The winner, Ben Ziman-Bright, wrote conventionally:
The wet rustle of rain
can dampen today. Your text
buoys me above oil-rainbow puddles
like a paper boat, so that even
soaked to the skin
I am grinning.
The runner-up did not:
O hart tht sorz
My luv adorz
He mAks me liv
He mAks me giv
Myslf 2 him
As my luv porz
(The author of the latter was, incidentally, in her late 60s.)

The length constraint in text-poetry fosters economy of expression in much the same way as other tightly constrained forms of poetry do, such as the haiku or the Welsh englyn. To say a poem must be written within 160 characters at first seems just as pointless as to say that a poem must be written in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. But put such a discipline into the hands of a master, and the result can be poetic magic. Of course, SMS poetry has some way to go before it can match the haiku tradition; but then, haikus have had a head-start of several hundred years.

There is something about the genre which has no parallel elsewhere. This is nothing to do with the use of texting abbreviations. It is more to do with the way the short lines have an individual force. Reading a text poem, wrote Peter Sansom, who co-judged a Guardian competition in 2002, is "an urgent business ... with a text poem you stay focused as it were in the now of each arriving line." The impact is evident even in one-liners, whose effect relies on the kind of succinctness we find in a maxim or proverb. UA Fanthorpe, Sansom's fellow judge, admired "Basildon: imagine a carpark." And they both liked "They phone you up, your mum and dad."

Several competitions have focussed on reworking famous lines, titles, or quotations:
txt me ishmael
zen & T @ f m2 cycl mn10nc

The brevity of the SMS genre disallows complex formal patterning - of, say, the kind we might find in a sonnet. It isn't so easy to include more than a couple of images, such as similes, simply because there isn't the space. Writers have nonetheless tried to extend the potential of the medium. The SMS novel, for example, operates on a screen-by-screen basis. Each screen is a "chapter" describing an event in the story. Here is an interactive example from 2005, from an Indian website called "Cloakroom":
Chptr 6: While Surching 4 Her Father, Rita Bumps In2 A Chaiwalla & Tea Spills On Her Blouse. She Goes Inside Da Washroom, & Da Train Halts @ A Station.

In Japan, an author known as Yoshi has had a huge success with his text-messaging novel Deep Love. Readers sent feedback as the story unfolded, and some of their ideas were incorporated into it. He went on to make a film of the novel.

A mobile literature channel began in China in 2004. The "m-novel", as it is called, started with a love story, "Distance", by writer and broadcaster Xuan Huang. A young couple get to know each other because of a wrongly sent SMS message. The whole story is 1008 Chinese characters, told in 15 chapters, with one chapter sent each day.

Plainly, there are severe limits to the expressive power of the medium, when it is restricted to a screen in this way. So it is not surprising that, very early on, writers dispensed with the 160-character constraint, and engaged in SMS creative writing of any length using hard copy. Immediately there was a problem. By taking the writing away from the mobile phone screen, how could the distinctiveness of the genre be maintained? So the stylistic character of SMS writing changed, and texting abbreviations, previously optional, became obligatory.

Several SMS poets, such as Norman Silver, go well beyond text-messaging conventions, introducing variations in line-shape, type-size, font, and colour that are reminiscent of the concrete poetry creations of the 1960s. They illustrate the way the genre is being shaped by the more powerful applications available on computers.

In 2007 Finnish writer Hannu Luntiala published The Last Messages, in which the whole 332-page narrative consists of SMS messages. It tells the story of an IT-executive who resigns his job and travels the world, using text messages to keep in touch with everyone. And the growing independence of the genre from its mobile-phone origins is well illustrated by the French novelist Phil Marso, who published a book in 2004 written entirely in French SMS shorthand, Pas Sage a Taba vo SMS - a piece of word-play intended to discourage young people from smoking. The next year he produced L, an SMS retelling of French poetic classics.

An extraordinary number of doom-laden prophecies have been made about the supposed linguistic evils unleashed by texting. Sadly, its creative potential has been virtually ignored. But five years of research has at last begun to dispel the myths. The most important finding is that texting does not erode children's ability to read and write. On the contrary, literacy improves. The latest studies (from a team at Coventry University) have found strong positive links between the use of text language and the skills underlying success in standard English in pre-teenage children. The more abbreviations in their messages, the higher they scored on tests of reading and vocabulary. The children who were better at spelling and writing used the most textisms. And the younger they received their first phone, the higher their scores.

Children could not be good at texting if they had not already developed considerable literacy awareness. Before you can write and play with abbreviated forms, you need to have a sense of how the sounds of your language relate to the letters. You need to know that there are such things as alternative spellings. If you are aware that your texting behaviour is different, you must have already intuited that there is such a thing as a standard. If you are using such abbreviations as lol and brb ("be right back"), you must have developed a sensitivity to the communicative needs of your textees.

Some people dislike texting. Some are bemused by it. But it is merely the latest manifestation of the human ability to be linguistically creative and to adapt language to suit the demands of diverse settings. There is no disaster pending. We will not see a new generation of adults growing up unable to write proper English. The language as a whole will not decline. In texting what we are seeing, in a small way, is language in evolution.
· Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 is published this week by OUP. To order a copy for £9.99 with free UK p&p go to

Ten rules you can forget

10 grammar rules you can forget: how to stop worrying and write proper

Guardian Style Guide author David Marsh set out to master perfect grammatical English – but discovered that 'correct' isn't always best. Here are the 10 grammar laws you no longer need to check
Every situation in which language is used – texting your mates, asking for a pay rise, composing a small ad, making a speech, drafting a will, writing up an experiment, praying, rapping, or any other – has its own conventions. You wouldn't expect a politician being interviewed by Kirsty Wark about the economy to start quoting Ludacris: "I keep my mind on my money, money on my mind; but you're a hell of a distraction when you shake your behind." Although it might make Newsnight more entertaining.

This renders the concept of what is "correct" more than a simple matter of right and wrong. What is correct in a tweet might not be in an essay; no single register of English is right for every occasion. Updating your status on Facebook is instinctive for anyone who can read and write to a basic level; for more formal communication, the conventions are harder to grasp and this is why so many people fret about the "rules" of grammar.

10 things people worry about too much

1 To infinitive and beyond
Geoffrey K Pullum, a scarily erudite linguistics professor – and, unless this is an internet hoax, keyboard player in the 1960s with Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band – calls them "zombie rules: though dead, they shamble mindlessly on … " And none more so than the one that says the particle to and the infinitive form of the verb should not be separated, as in Star Trek's eloquent mission statement "to boldly go where no man has gone before".
Stubbornly to resist splitting infinitives can sound awkward or, worse, ambiguous: "He offered personally to guarantee the loan that the Clintons needed to buy their house" makes it unclear whether the offer, or the guarantee, was personal. Adverbs should go where they sound most natural, often immediately after the to: to boldly go, to personally guarantee. This "rule" is not just half-baked: it's fully baked, with a fried egg and slice of pineapple on top. But remarkably persistent.

2 The things one has to put up with
Prepositions relate one word or phrase to another, typically to express place (to the office, in the net) or time (before the flood, after the goldrush). They are followed by an object: from me to you.
In the 17th century, John Dryden, deciding that ending a sentence with a preposition was "not elegant" because you couldn't do it in Latin, set about ruining some of his best prose by rewriting it so that "the end he aimed at" became "the end at which he aimed", and so on. Like not splitting the infinitive, this became a "rule" when taught by grammarians influenced by Latin.
Ignore it. As HW Fowler observed: "The power of saying 'people worth talking to' instead of 'people with whom it is worth while to talk' is not one to be lightly surrendered."

3 Don't get in a bad mood over the subjunctive
The subjunctive is a verb form (technically, "mood") expressing hypothesis, typically to indicate that something is being demanded, proposed, imagined, or insisted: "he demanded that she resign", and so on. You can spot it in the third person singular of the present tense (resign instead of resigns) and in the forms be and were of the verb to be: if she were [rather than was] honest, she would quit.
The writer Somerset Maugham, who in 1949 announced "the subjunctive mood is in its death throes", might be surprised to see my son Freddie's bookshelf, which contains If I Were a Pig … (Jellycat Books, 2008).

The subjunctive is more common in American than British English, often in formal or poetic contexts – in the song If I Were a Rich Man, for example. It's not true, however, that David and Don Was came under pressure from language purists to change the name of their band to Were (Not Was).
Misusing the subjunctive is worse than not using it at all. Many writers scatter "weres" about as if "was" were – or, indeed, was – going out of fashion. The journalist Simon Heffer is a fan of the subjunctive, recommending such usages as "if I be wrong, I shall be defeated". So be it – if you want to sound like a pirate.

4 Negative, captain
When Mick Jagger first sang "I can't get no satisfaction", it was not uncommon to hear the older generation witter on like this: "He says he can't get no satisfaction, which logically means he can get some satisfaction."

But while a double negative may make a positive when you multiply minus three by minus two, language doesn't work in such a logical way: multiple negatives add emphasis. Literature and music abound with them. Chaucer used a triple – "He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde" – and Ian Dury gave us: "Just 'cos I ain't never 'ad, no, nothing worth having, never ever, never ever."
Not Standard English, it's true, but no native English speaker is likely to misunderstand, any more than when Jane Austen produced the eloquent double negative "there was none too poor or remote not to feel an interest".

5 Between my souvenirs
I was taught that between applies only to two things, and among should be used for more than two – a rare example of Mrs Birtles, my first grammar teacher, getting it wrong. Between is appropriate when the relationship is reciprocal, however many parties are involved: an agreement between the countries of the EU, for example. Among belongs to collective relationships, as in votes shared among political parties, or the items among Paul Whiteman's souvenirs in the 1927 song.

While I am on the subject, it's "between you and me", not "between you and I". It's probably unfair, though quite good fun, to blame the Queen; people have heard "my husband and I" and perhaps assume "and I" is always right. It is when part of the subject ("my husband and I would love to see you at the palace") but not when part of the object ("the Queen offered my husband and me cucumber sandwiches").

6 Bored of Tunbridge Wells
Traditionalists say it should be bored by or bored with, but not bored of, a "rule" cheerfully ignored, I would say, by anyone under about 40. And good luck to them: there is no justification for it. I have, however, managed to come up with a little distinction worth preserving: compare "bored with Tunbridge Wells" (a person who finds Tunbridge Wells boring) with "bored of Tunbridge Wells" (a bored person who happens to live there, perhaps a neighbour of "disgusted of Tunbridge Wells").

7 Don't fear the gerund
Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle's guide to life at St Custard's school, How to Be Topp, features a cartoon in which a gerund attacks some peaceful pronouns, but it is nothing to be afraid of. A gerund is a verb ending in -ing that acts as a noun: I like swimming, smoking is bad for you, and so on.
The tricky bit is when someone tells you about the rule that, as with other nouns, you have to use a possessive pronoun – "she objected to my swimming". Most normal people say "she objected to me swimming" so I wouldn't worry about this. You rarely see the possessive form in newspapers, for example. Announcing "I trust too much in my team's being able to string a few wins together" sounds pompous.

8 And another thing …
Conjunctions, as the name suggests, join things together. This prompted generations of English teachers to drill into their pupils, including me, that to start a sentence with and, but, because or however was wrong. But this is another shibboleth. And I am sure William Blake ("And did those feet in ancient times?") and the Beatles ("Because the world is round it turns me on") would back me on this.

9 None sense
A sure sign of a pedant is that, under the impression that none is an abbreviation of not one, they will insist on saying things like "none of them has turned up". Why, when I set out on the road to grammatical perfection I might even have argued this myself. But the "rule" that none always takes a singular verb is, alas, another myth. Plural is not only acceptable, but often sounds more natural: "None of the current squad are good enough to play in the Championship." Henry Fielding wrote in Tom Jones: "None are more ignorant than those learned Pedants, whose Lives have been entirely consumed in Colleges, and among Books."

10 Try and try again
Try to has traditionally been regarded as more "correct" and try and as a colloquialism or worse. The former is certainly more formal, and far more common in writing, but it's the other way round when it comes to speech. Those who regard try and as an "Americanism" will be disappointed to learn that it is much more widely used in the UK than in the US. Sometimes there is a good case for try and – for example, if you want to avoid repeating the word to in a sentence such as: "We're really going to try and win this one."

As Bart Simpson said: "I can't promise I'll try, but I'll try to try."


Faculty training and motivation—ground realities

I presented this paper at a National Conference on “Technical Education in the New Millenium: Management and Challenges” conducted by Universtiy College of Engineering, Osmania University, Hyderabad between 12-13 March 2000.

Technical education is a global expression covering comprehensively various aspects that are related to it and that influence the quality level of planning, organizing and implementing it. Production of quality engineers and technologists depends on the provision of quality technical education. Such provision is not only desirable but also inevitable for the simple reason that India would otherwise be left far behind in the global market to catch up with the rest.

This paper is related to the implementation stage, to faculty training and motivation. No education is possible, let alone technical education, without students, faculty and infrastructure. However good students may be, they cannot do much without support services like the laboratory, the library and the classroom. They can’t shine either without appropriate guidance from the faculty. If the infrastructure provides the necessary accessories, the faculty provide the vital link between the student and the infrastructure.

Naturally the faculty are needed to
       •     define, shape and give meaning to learning
      •     strengthen the weak learner with compassion
       •     support the average learner with understanding
       •     kindle the exceptional learner with zest.
It may be said that the internet, multimedia and software can and will eliminate the teacher and the infrastructure. But the computer is a nonhuman source and if at all, it can speak only in monotone and will thus totally lack the infinitely communicative nonverbal body language that two bodies and mind can generate and share. It is a cold machine and will thus totally lack the warmth and the bondage that bind forever the disciple to the guru and the guru to the disciple. Such is the fatally vital link. Such is the crucial role of faculty in the life of the learner and thus in the growth of technical education.
Are teachers born? Or are they made? Just as there are three categories of learners, there are also teachers who are exceptional, who are average and who are weak. What do I mean by the three attributive adjectives?
The exceptional come to teaching by choice.
The average are generally motivated but require training. They wish to prove themselves to be good teachers but are disappointed, unlike the exceptional, if they are not appreciated. They are large in number.  
The weak are least motivated and require training and guidance constantly. They do not come to teaching willingly. Therefore they teach with their body and go through the motions. They hop on to lucrative jobs overseas or in private sector. The residue continue to occupy teaching positions. They may not be strong in their disciplines. They may not be inclined to update their knowledge either. As a result, they may not be able to cope with the demands of the thirsting learners and fail to gain respect and admiration. Frustration may set in and they may take it out on the student community. It is not my intention to find fault with this category. I am drawing our attention to existing realities only to focus on the need to motivate and train these weak teachers so that, using their intrinsic potential, they perform with competence, so that they do justice by their students who are placed by the state in their protection. I am confident that once steps are taken to enable them to see meaning in teaching, they will be equal to the task of building their nation as teachers.

Colleges offering technical education employ as faculty postgraduates with or without prior teaching experience. They may even have to appoint graduates as the supply is far less than the demand, and we all know hundreds of colleges in several States offer technical education. They also appoint at senior level experienced executives from public or private sector. All these teachers require training to impart and share their knowledge with their students and to manage them in a humane manner. But the only training they have had is their association with their teachers as they listened to them and observed them as teachers. In today’s context and probably that of the immediate future the bulk of faculty fall into this weak category.

Obviously this situation is far from satisfactory. The need for training and motivating them becomes all the more evident as technical education is going to permeate the next millennium and all human endeavour. Of course, faculty attend winter and summer schools sponsored by AICTE and ISTE and orientation programmes organized by Academic Staff Colleges. But they do not do anything more than indicate the direction teaching should take. They do not bring about permanent changes.

To produce quality engineers and technologists, faculty require to be professionals. To be professionals, faculty need to be excellent repositories and disseminators of knowledge and to maintain motivation at a high level throughout their teaching careers.

Offering training courses through external agencies may not ensure permanent changes in the prospective teachers for three very good reasons. I do no know if postgraduates, graduates or for that matter experienced executives would be attracted to the teaching profession if they have to undergo a one-year training programme, especially in the context of the supply of teachers being far less than the demand, or qualify through a written test that may be planned by AICTE. Two, they would be focusing more on acquiring a training degree rather than using that training to make perceptive changes in their attitude and behaviour. Three, more importantly, their performance would be moulded negatively or positively by the kind of atmosphere that would prevail in the colleges they would be joining as faculty. Therefore training and motivating will become meaningful only if they are part of day-to-day teaching-learning activities, only if they are part of their growth as teachers.
It then becomes incumbent on the part of the Managements of technical education colleges—be they government or self-financing—to provide an atmosphere which will ensure provision of quality technical education. They should weave training and motivating their faculty into the fabric of the teaching-learning process. That is, they should provide a constantly conducive atmosphere.

What does this conducive atmosphere entail? The Managements should
       •     respect and admire the exceptional teachers
       •     praise the average
       •     nurture the weak
       •     pay accepted pay scales
       •     provide excellent service rules
       •     give them additional perks
       •     provide for and encourage research
       •     bear all expenses for national/international conferences
       •     admit their children freely to engineering courses
       •     provide house loan at subsidized rate
       •     appoint exceptional teachers as HODs and professors
       •     get exceptional teachers from other institutions to give demonstration lessons
       •     provide excellent library and laboratory facilities
       •     provide ample audio-visual aids
       •     make arrangements for macro and micro teaching sessions with help from nearest TTTIs
       •     arrange for interactive sessions between faculty and expert professional groups for growth of healthy attitudes and practices.

Heads of Departments and Senior Professors should
       •     have the average and weak faculty sit in their classes to observe them teach
       •     make notes on the responses to their teaching
       •     have post-teaching sessions for free frank exchange of reactions without hierarchical obstructions
       •     praise their strengths and help them get over weaknesses
       •     encourage faculty to publish papers in international journals
       •     strengthen the library with excellent titles and journals for syllabus and reference purposes.

Such conducive atmosphere should enable the average and the weak faculty to
        •    accumulate sufficient discipline knowledge
        •    update this knowledge continuously
     have a good repertoire of reference journals
              instill confidence in the weak learners
              guide the average learners
              kindle the curiosity of the exceptional learners
              not exhibit superior attitude and avoid attendant negative behavior
              show interest in and solve personal problems of students.
n conclusion, I am sure there are colleges of technical education that have realized the significance of smooth relationship between students and faculty and have therefore taken several of these measures I have suggested. I am proud to say that my College is one of them. My College Management is doing its best to promote healthy learning environment. The new millennium demands that technical education colleges brush aside any constraints they may have and send out into the world a horde of expert engineers and technologists in whose hands lies the future of mankind.       

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Getting learners to ‘think in English’

There was this following discussion in EFL group at LinkedIn:

Do you think we should tell students to "think in English"? by Theresa Pole Baker Gouveria. She further stated:
Students are often exhorted to "think in English". I don't think it is necessary to tell them this, because when they build communicative confidence, they do this naturally. What do you think?

Obviously, this question doesn’t arise in the case of native children in England since they were fed English while in the womb and they breathe English at home, in the neighbourhood etc. Nor in the case of English-speaking persons who settled in the States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or other countries.

This question might not arise in the case of children whose ancestors emigrated speaking a language other than English. They learn English as another tongue but their mother tongues may not stop them from thinking in English for they hear it in all the places other than their homes. So thinking in English is likely to be a natural process.

This question definitely arises in the case of children who live in their own countries, who have their own languages to communicate in and who listen to (and speak?) English only in their classrooms. With one exception: children who learn all subjects in English including English and who use English for communication in school and even at home (encouraged by parents).

Teachers (native an locals) may tell and encourage their non-native learners to think in English. And they may employ strategies to make this work. But will their efforts bear fruit?

I present below a few thoughts expressed in the thread:  
Telling won't help. Only sustained desire to learn beating the odds, seeking avenues (reading, watching films) to be in as much touch as possible (and increase its width gradually) with the language because opportunities are hardly available in the environment, practising it with friends and relatives (if educated)--listening and speaking can help learners think in the language they're learning only in the classroom.

English Teacher (TEFL)
Telling does help and it works for me as I am extremely persistent and consistent. It is a slow process because the students spend little time with me each week. Ideally the student needs to be engulfed in the English language as much as possible (24 hours a day would be best) to really begin to consistently think in English. Trying to learn a language for 2 -4 hours a week is makes it difficult. Here is another topic : I tell my students to learn English from documentaries and not to try to learn from regular movies. There are very few regular movies which produce good English nowadays.

Business Development Manager
I concur with JR.    (‘JR’ refers to me)

Co-operative Teacher Mentor/English Language Educator/Project Teacher
I concur with KR and Kim. I work in Taiwan and listen to Chinese 90% of my day, teach English in English for 20 hours a week, and think more in Ukrainian (my mother tongue) than in English.

As an ESL learner, even though I have been speaking English for 50+ years, and teaching English Language, Literature and Composition for more than 30, when I am in a foreign country, surrounded by a foreign environment, I think in Ukrainian a great deal of the time. I don't try, it just happens.

When students in their own country, spend maybe, 4 hours a week learning English and then are surrounded by their mother tongue for the rest of the time, thinking in English is beastly difficult, although they will try. They will succeed now and again. But to expect them to think in English is an unrealistic request. And I think, it is unkind. The persistent expectation that this will improve their English language skills puts a great deal of stress on an already stressful endeavor.

Ukrainian is my 1st language and the language of my heart, my cultural core, my beliefs and my values. Telling me to think in English, no matter how persistent you are, doesn't work, so I sure the heck don't, and never will, tell my students that it is something that they have to do in order to improve their English language skills.

Experienced English teacher (individuals and groups), owner at CHATTERBOX
I concur with KR too. Their exposure to the English language and their involvement will lead to more natural constructions which is often not the case when translating literally. In order to have natural flow and use the right idiom you must listen a lot, read a lot and speak as much as possible. After a period of intensive accumulation you reach a stage at which you juggle with words and do not constantly translate what you want to say. I am three-lingual but I hardly ever use my mother tongue, not even in my dreams. It is true that I do not live in my home land, but you would expect that I resort to my native tongue when I am emotional but I do not do that either. I would like to emphasize that it does not help to tell them that they should think in English but help them reach the stage at which they can play with different entities and spontaneously produce the language that is natural and authentic.

I’m a non-native learner and teacher, and I taught in non-native environments for 43 years. I used the mother tongue or the regional language liberally to help learners see how differently their languages and English structure thoughts. 

a story worth reading

Once upon a time there was a painter who had just completed his course. He took 3 days and painted beautiful scenery. He wanted people's opinion about his caliber and painting skills.

He put his creation at a busy street-crossing. And just down below aboard which read -"I have painted this piece. Since I'm new to this profession I might have committed some mistakes in my strokes etc. Please put a cross wherever you see a mistake."

While he came back in the evening to collect his painting he was completely shattered to see that whole canvass was filled with Xs (crosses) and some people had even written their comments on the painting.

Disheartened and broken completely he ran to his master's place and burst into tears.
This young artist was breathing heavily and master heard him saying "I'm useless and if this is what I have learnt to paint I'm not worth becoming a painter. People have rejected me completely. I feel like dying"

Master smiled and suggested "My Son, I will prove that you are a great artist and have learnt flawless painting. Do as I say without questioning it. It WILL work."

Young artist reluctantly agreed and two days later early morning he presented a replica of his earlier painting to his master. Master took that gracefully and smiled.

"Come with me. " master said.

They reached the same street-square early morning and displayed the same painting exactly at the same place. Now master took out another board which read -"Gentlemen, I have painted this piece. Since I'm new to this profession I might have committed some mistakes in my strokes etc. I have put a box with colors and brushes just below. Please do a favor. If you see a mistake, kindly pick up the brush and correct it."

Master and disciple walked back home.

They both visited the place same evening. Young painter was surprised to see that actually there was not a single correction done so far. Next day again they visited and found painting remained untouched. They say the painting was kept there for a month for no correction came in! 

Moral of the story:
It is easier to criticize, but DIFFICULT TO IMPROVE!

So don't get carried away or judge yourself by someone else’s criticism and feel depressed...


Source: I’d forgotten to copy the source but probably a post in Facebook.

Friday, 25 December 2015


Have you ever thought of a vacation? For yourself? For your family? I wouldn’t wonder if it didn’t occur to you. We Indians are not the vacationing sort. If the thought did occur to you, where’s the time, you might be asking; where’s the money, you might be quizzing; where’s the freedom, you might be complaining. Is the budget in your control? Are you free enough from ‘human bondage’? This is where the question of cultural values comes in. The values that bind you. The values that crush you. The values that elevate you. The values that give bondage its value.

You’re tied down by family. If you’re a bachelor, by obligations to your parents by taking care of them in their old age—their sustenance and health; by educating your brothers and/or marrying your sisters into good families, or by the additional burden of your father’s debts. If you’re married, by obligations to your wife and kids. Today’s demands are so demanding what with providing food that becomes expensively expensive by the hour; the clothing that doesn’t last a season, the crazy cost of the four walls of shelter—rental or otherwise. What with the donations and capitations, the socks that sag the next day and the shoes that give out at the seam tomorrow, mountains of textbooks and exercise books, umpteen pinchings of cash by schools with an endless regularity. What with the gold you have to buy, the dowries you have to pay, the ‘perks’ you have to provide your sons-in-law. To cap it all, there’s this ever-soaring, ever-gravitation-defying price index!

Little wonder if your time, money and freedom are gobbled up or chewed up. I pity us. Or shall I be proud of us?

Sounds Greek and Latin? Little wonder, if it does! For after all, times have changed, values have changed, life style has changed, earnings have multiplied. Only loud thinking from a foreign land? No, what you read just now were facts of life ‘once upon a time, so long ago, nobody knows how long ago’. (The social setup was such in India in the 1950s and tge 1960s)


Checklist to evaluate speech making in class

speech variables
in my
from audience
topic choice                                                                            
  1. interesting                                                                                             
topic organisation
   2. introduction                    
   3. middle
   4. end
   5. logical
   6. clarity
   7. elaboration
   8. examples
topic treatment
   9. sufficient
  10. focused                          
  11. thought provoking
topic communication
  12. audibility
  13. normal speed
  14. clarity
  15. monotone
  16. posture          
  17. eye contact
  18. facial expressions
  19. appropriate word choice
  20. cohesion (linking devices)
  21. coherence (thought)
  22. complex thought structure

on the whole
 performance acceptable

I used this at SVCE where for twenty years I trained students studying for a degree in engineering discipline (including those from regional medium schools) and provided them this checklist for an evaluation of their speech making efforts.
I helped learners understand these criteria—monotone, posture, mannerisms, cohesion, coherence, complex thought structure—so they can apply them along with the others when making a speech or listening to a speech.

Of course, I also commented on their performance: their strengths and weaknesses. They were initially awed by the number of qualifications for a successful speech but recovered sufficiently enough to think of their speeches and their peers’ and did their best to satisfy these parameters.