Proficiency in English can make a difference: expert

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"I enjoy my work because I am able to make a difference"

Richard Boyum, the U.S. Embassy's Regional English Language Officer for South Asia, believes that proficiency in English can make a difference to the higher education and employment prospects of students in South Asia. The veteran trainer discusses the schedule ahead and the need for innovative English educators with Kannal Achuthan.

His business is to build resources for teaching English to students for whom it is a second language. This work has taken Richard Boyum to Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Brazil, Thailand and countries in South Asia.

Mr. Boyum was recently in Chennai for a programme to train English teachers.

His long experience in teaching English as a foreign language has only made him keener to offer new resources such as e-learning and interactive workshops.

"I enjoy my work because I am able to make a difference," says Mr. Boyum, who is in charge of the Delhi-based Language Office for India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He believes that English is a critical life skill for students in South Asia for higher education and employment.

One of Mr. Boyum's key assignments is to facilitate the English Language Fellow programme, where American professors specialised in language training are placed for a term in Indian universities. "For instance, we have a professor based in Hyderabad who will travel to universities in the region, including Chennai," Mr. Boyum explains.

Another of his tasks is to identify resource persons who can provide interesting and effective training programmes for teachers. One such workshop brought him to Chennai, where he liases with the English Language Teachers Association of India. "In many schools in India, English is offered for as a subject for a few periods a week. It is difficult for learners to become fluent." He says that teachers need to use new methods to help students take to the language.

He suggests that English trainers and teachers take a look at the online resources offered by the US Embassy at






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