The Report of the National Workshop on the theme of The Changing Face of Language. It was organized by The English Language Teacher’s Association of India (ELT@I), Shimla Chapter, at Government College Thoeg, on 14th December, 2018.
The day began when the President of ELTA@I, Shimla chapter, Dr. Anita Sharma, welcomed the distinguished guests, the participants and briefly introduced its theme – The Changing Face of Language. Then the chief guest, Dr. John Varghese, Principal, St. Stephens, and Dr. Sharvan Kumar, Faculty, Amity University, Noida and the Joint Secretary of ELTA@I, central body, released the logo of the ELTA@I. With this release began the Shimla chapter of ELTA@I.
After these initial formalities Dr Sharvan Kumar introduced in details the ELTA@I to the house, like, its history, the concept, its organization methods through workshops, seminars etc., how to become its members and participate in its various literary activities and its aim. He also apprised about its reputed three journals, which have a high impact factor.
In the first phase of the workshop there was a panel discussion on the theme. Three resource persons deliberated their views on it and the mediator for it was Dr, Meenakshi F. Paul, the Principal, Evening College, H.P. University, Shimla. She initiated the discussion with reference to the book, P is for Teradectyle and how it figures the changes that occur in a live language.
Dr. Praveen Malik, Principal, government college Sarahan, was the first speaker. The focus of his paper was on the pedantic theory of language. Accordingly, language has to be logical and scientific as if it were some kind of a natural phenomenon, like, the process of precipitation, which doesn’t allow arbitration. But the problem is that English is a world language and the number of non-natives who use it is three times more than the native speakers. These non -natives tend to modify or corrupt the purity of English. But it is not immorality or sin because the nuances, the spirit of their mother tongue influences their learning and usage process, and English gets modified. Language has to change and grow because it is a personal thing. He quoted many examples to prove this natural and arbitrary growth or use of English, referring to writers, editors and even the queen. The conclusion was that in this continuous tug of war, one group or the other wins but the fact remains that a Frankenstein situation appears to have been created when English is spoken at the global level. Nevertheless, its purity is to be maintained at the right place, at the right time and by the right person.
Dr. Vikas Dogra, Associate Professor, Journalism at HP University, referred to the book English for Journalists, which accounts for the usage of English by the native writers of English. Even they have to update themselves because it keeps on changing. The English students have genuine problems in writing an essay and even a simple letter or a job application. All this is natural because the non-native speakers have their own mother tongues. One should not be restless about how English is used by them.
Dr. Anuja Sharma, Associate Professor of English, St. Beads, focused more on how the teachers of English should deal with it. One should never be casual with language, but can there be a holistic answer. The basic fact is that language is programmed in our DNA and we also adapt easily to the external circumstances. Any language tends to change when it is used at a personal level, but its basic structure does not change and the trajectory is bound to make a turn. The social media is a perfect example of this personal use as it has created many abbreviations and short cuts of words and sentences. Such usage mars the Standard English and should not be used formally. Liberty is a gift for the learned and its sanctity for the teacher and the student damages the language as well as their creativity. So the rote learning of spellings, grammatical rules, and descriptive grammar has to be taught by the English teacher and learnt by the student word for word. Such an approach calls for a hard work at both the levels. Only then the student will be inspired to use it like their first language and also tackle the tough syllabus in colleges.
In the post-lunch session a workshop was conducted by Dr. Varghese. In a very calm and controlled style, he asserted that the burden of making the student skillful in English falls on the shoulders of the English teacher. Then, he unlocked the key of becoming an ideal teacher. Anyone can become so provided there is willingness, courage and the hard work required to “Kiss the Frog”.
He used the metaphor of frog to point out the many problems of becoming an ideal teacher of English, like, of confidence in facing the class, of clarity of concepts, of commanding the class with an ease of the master, of a dignified style, of sensitivity to any violation or digression of manners, behavior and speech, of having a perfect communication skill, both in speech as well as writing, etc. There can be a deliverance from these problems provided any English teacher is ready to do the disgusting task of kissing the frog. In this process, the frogs will gradually disappear one by one, transforming the teacher into an ideal state. Then, there can be tackling of any number of frogs at the level of the student of English.
This insightful lecture was followed by a practice session. He organized the participants into three groups, handed over to each an English text-book of HP University undergraduate course and asked them to select the toughest text, prepare it and make it interesting and inviting for a disinterested class. One member of each group was to make this presentation. That was the time for kissing the frog. Eventually the exercise went off as planned.
In the Valedictory address, Professor Girja Sharma appraised the house whether English is now our language or it still belongs to our erstwhile colonizers. Though it belongs to them but the English that we use today is not the way they use it. Over the years, we have nurtured it with our emotions, ideas and culture. As a result, a new branch is created which is rightfully called the Indian English. She was confident of its stay here with us as it is ours also.
The workshop ended with observations from Dr. Varghese himself, Dr. Harsh Vardhan Khimta, who was the convener of the event, a few words were also spoken by the principal of Theog college, Dr. Anupama Garg and the formal vote-of-thanks was delivered by Dr. Sunela, the secretary of ELTA@I, Shimla chapter.