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Teachers’ association takes initiative to enhance English literacy in rural areas

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Earnest attempt: Professor K. Elango and V. Saraswathi of ELTAI in Chennai on Wednesday.
Earnest attempt: Professor K. Elango and V. Saraswathi of ELTAI in Chennai on Wednesday.

Meera Srinivasan

ELTAI is considering setting up a chapter in every district of Tamil Nadu

CHENNAI: Senior English teachers feel that the practice of using Tamil or other regional languages, prevalent particularly in rural areas, is a major hurdle to the process of teaching and learning English language.

Professors K. Elango and V. Saraswathi of the English Language Teachers’ Association of India (ELTAI) say its members are keen on changing this and enhancing English literacy in rural areas.

To start with, the association, which has several chapters across the country, is considering setting up a chapter in every district of Tamil Nadu.

“We would like to work with English teachers in smaller towns and villages. Our members can help hold camps and workshops for teachers there, stressing on the importance of imparting functional, conversational, English,” says Prof. Elango, secretary of the association.

Members of the association say they hope to make Tamil Nadu a prototype that could later be followed in other States.

“Anybody who teaches English could become a member in our association. Our association is unique in that sense. We have primary school teachers, high school teachers and university professors as members,” Prof. Saraswathi, also the editor of the association’s bi-monthly journal, adds.

The association, which has been organising workshops and international conferences in cities, has over 3,000 members.

“Even though we have a very resource-rich environment, most of our graduates are still unemployable. Their language skills are not good enough,” explains Prof. Elango.

Addressing this, they say, would require a change in the manner English is taught in high schools. “The Wren and Martin-isation of the language and the totally grammar-centric approach is probably making it a very challenging task. Imparting conversational, functional, English with sufficient emphasis on grammar is what we need at this point,” he says, adding, “There is a tendency to promote the grammar of the language more than the language itself.”

“We discourage member-teachers from imparting English using Tamil. In our workshops for teachers, we include several grammar games and activities to make learning and teaching of the language simpler and more effective,” Prof. Saraswathi adds. While a lot of emphasis is given to the reading, writing and listening skills in English language learning, the speaking competence is largely neglected, they note.

ELTAI, a not-for-profit organisation, is one of the oldest national organisations for all English teachers, which was founded in 1965. For further details about the association, call: 2621 2789.

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