EATE Estonian Association of Teachers of English
The EATE Journal Issue No. 56 October 2019 THE ESTONIAN ASSOCIATION OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHERS CELEBRATES ITS 10TH ANNIVERSARY: LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD Ene Peterson
APPROACHES, METHODS AND TECHNIQUES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING: A BRIEF HISTORY Andre Boyer
EAT – SLEEP – TEACH – REPEAT Carol Kahar
WRITING AS A PROCESS OR THE REDISCOVERY OF CLASSROOM WRITING ACTIVITIES Cristiana Osan
LISTEN, PODCAST! Kärt Roomäe
SCANDALOUS EXPERIMENTAL PHONETICIAN Ilmar Anvelt
LATE NEWS Robert Buckmaster
INDO-EUROPEAN CONNECTIONS AND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN ASIA. PART II. BRITAIN’S PEARL OF THE EAST Jari Lutta
ABOUT HOPE: THE QUEST FOR ASYLUM, 2019 Julia Hirsch
MAGNIFICENT ENGLISH GARDENS Erika Jeret
Experienced Educator WONDERFUL SPEECHES OF OUR PARTICIPANTS ARE VERY INSPIRING An interview with Zinaida Jevgrafova
Reading Recommendation MARGARET ATWOOD 80 Erika Puusemp
Come and Share INTERPRETATION IN THE CLASSROOM Erika Jeret
EATE SUMMER SEMINAR
Photos by Reet Noorlaid
Pärnu, 22-23 August 2019
Kristi Jalukse (right) handing out seminar materials
Voting for the EATE Committee
Grace Benatti spoke about teaching reading to young learners and communicative competence
Studium booksellers’ team: Tiina Helekivi, Ülle Kurm, Aavo Kennik
Tiiu Vitsut with American presenters Kelli Odhuu and David Herman
David Herman’s presentation was about free online resources
Estonian Association of Teachers of English www.eate.ee Chair Erika Puusemp email@example.com
Editor of OPEN! Ilmar Anvelt firstname.lastname@example.org
Current account EE331010152001597007 in SEB
THE ESTONIAN ASSOCIATION OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHERS CELEBRATES ITS 10TH ANNIVERSARY: LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD Ene Peterson Chair of the Board of the Estonian Association of Foreign Language Teachers
The Estonian Association of Foreign Language Teachers (EAFLT) celebrates its 10th anniversary on 22 and 23 November 2019 in Tartu at Dorpat Convention Centre. Why in Tartu? First and foremost, our foundation meeting took place in Tartu on 5 December 2009. The founders were the Association of Teachers of Estonian as a Second Language, the Association of Teachers of German and the Association of Teachers of Finnish. During the last five years three more language associations have joined our umbrella organization: the Association of Teachers of Russian, the Estonian Association of Teachers of English and the Estonian Association of Teachers of Swedish. Looking Back A decisive step toward the foundation of the umbrella organisation was taken at the conference “Languages Open the Doors” held on 29 October 2008 in Tartu. The purpose of the conference was to initiate cooperation between foreign language teachers. We received encouragement and advice from the former Lithuanian Foreign Language Teachers’ Association (LKPA) President Egle Šleinotienė and the former FIPLV (Fédération Internationale des Professeurs de Langues Vivantes) Secretary General Denis Cunningham. Estonian Foreign Languages Strategy 2009–2015 (launched on 19 March 2009) is a strategic document that forms the springboard for the foundation of the EAFLT. According to the strategy, “an umbrella organisation uniting foreign language teachers shall be created with the support of the state and shall maintain active operations. The organisation shall plan in-service training, provide advisory services, provide information on opportunities for international cooperation and training abroad and share experience and best practice.” The EAFLT is a strategic partner of the Ministry of Education and Science, and the activities of our organisation have been supported by the Ministry since the foundation. The association promotes cooperation between our members and works jointly with Estonian and international networks of language teachers. Ten years has been the period of many expectations and challenges, but it is true to say that we did not fail to live up to those expectations – see the final report of the Estonian Foreign Languages Strategy 2009–2017 (Eesti võõrkeelte strateegia 2009–2015/2017 täitmise lõpparuanne, pp. 4, 14, 15,16). During ten years we have organised teacher training courses to introduce the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, the European Language Portfolio, round tables, regional seminars, extended annual and board meetings (with an open access to all members), four autumn conferences. In 2012 the EAFLT joined FIPLV regional organisation Nordic-Baltic Region (NBR), a year later our association became a member of the world organization FIPLV (Fédération Internationale des Professeurs de Langues Vivantes). It was great honour for our association to be the host of the NBR 2016 conference “The Language Teacher and Teaching at Crossroads”.
We encourage teachers to share their achievements and best practices in Estonia (regional seminars “From the teacher to teacher”, annual autumn conferences since 2015) as well as abroad (our members have participated as speakers in LKPA international conferences 2008, 2010, 2014; BETA conference in 2016; NBR 2018 conference; FIPLV World Congresses in 2012, 2015; Communication Skills Workshops; ECML workshops in Graz). Contact point for the ECML is our board member Kati Bakradze who disseminates information and documentation on the Centre’s work on the national level.
The Board 2016–2019. From the left: Karola Velberg (the Estonian Association of Teachers of Finnish), Ene Peterson (the Association of Teachers of Estonian as a Second Language), Irina Ševtšenko (the Estonian Association of Teachers of German), Tiiu Müür (the representative of individual members), Inna Adamson (the Association of Teachers of Russian), Kati Bakradze ( the Estonian Association of Teachers of English). We create opportunities for our members to participate in European cooperation programmes and projects. We were involved in the European Social Fund project “Language Teaching and Language Teachers in a New Curriculum” from 2012 to 2013. We received support for the implementation of the ESF project “An International Examination” during the period from 1 October 2017 to 30 September 2020. Estonia joined the CertiLingua programme in 2014. The programme recognises the achievements of students who obtain level B2 or higher in two foreign languages and demonstrate good skills of international communication. Schools that take students to the required language levels, offer enough CLIL studies and involve students in international projects can apply to become CertiLingua schools. There are four CertiLingua schools in Estonia now: Tartu Annelinna Gymnasium, Tartu Kristjan Jaak Peterson Gymnasium, Viljandi Gymnasium, Tallinn German Gymnasium. In 2017 the EAFLT organised the CertiLingua 2017 annual conference in Tallinn. The tradition of autumn conferences started in 2015. From 2015 to 2018 the topics of the conferences included the challenges of the schools in the digital age, the 21st century skills for teachers and students, non-traditional methods that motivate students. Building the future: moving forward at full speed The year 2019 has been full of events devoted to the anniversary, but there are worries as well. What are we worried about is that only 10–20% of all foreign languages teachers in Estonia have joined 2
one of the foreign language teachers associations (Haridussilm statistics, https:// www.haridussilm.ee/). In order to reach as many foreign teachers as possible, we organised two round tables to discuss the sustainability of foreign language teachers’ associations. Moreover, on 25 May when we organised an annual meeting and a language fair, we prepared a video clip to address non-members to encourage them to join one of our member organisations or become a single member if there is no association for them. Watch the video clip EVÕLi pöördumine võõvõõrkeeleõpetajate poole (subtitles in English), https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=UzuJeGj8PNM&feature=youtu.be
Language Fair. Pärnu, 25 May 2019
The culmination of our anniversary celebrations arrives on 22–23 November when we organise a two-day conference “EAFLT 10: Forward at Full Speed” at Dorpat Convention Centre in Tartu. Tartu is called the city of good thoughts. Our conference will be filled not only with good thoughts but with enthusiasm and positive feelings. During the first day of the conference language policy and language education policy, sustainability of language teachers’ networks, and the issues related to the preparation of foreign language teachers will be in the spotlight. The Ministry of Education and Research declared 2019 the year of Estonian language to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Estonian as the official state language. The conference programme includes a presentation with the aim of drawing attention to the fact that the Estonian language should not be taken for granted, it should be actively used with careful skill, and its status and development should be researched and supported. The cultural programme includes guided tours at the Finno-Ugric exhibition in Estonian, Russian and English and a reception at the Estonian National Museum. The second day of the conference is for sharing the best practices during five parallel sessions on the following topics: programmes and projects that support the professional development of foreign language teachers; innovative and effective language learning materials, tools and methods; CLIL: challenges and possibilities at different levels of education; teaching in a different way: using inclusive practices; the development of creativity and critical thinking in a language classroom and outside the classroom. There will be a lot more to discover at the conference. Every time we would like to surprise our participants as well. This time the participants will be able to experience the role of the learner attending a lesson of Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Latvian or Swedish. The conference enables you to meet old and new colleagues, share experiences. Meeting colleagues, making friends and the family feeling are great! We look forward to meeting you at the conference.
APPROACHES, METHODS, AND TECHNIQUES IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING: A BRIEF HISTORY Andre Boyer Defense Language Institution, English Language Center, San Antonio, Texas
The purpose of is this article is to provide a brief history of the approaches, methods, and techniques in English Language Teaching (ELT) which comes from my doctoral dissertation research and literature review. First, I provide an introduction and discuss an overarching view of approaches, methods, and techniques. Next, I explain their categorization in the literature. Third comes a brief description of two methods, approaches, and techniques. Fourth, I supply reasons to study teaching approaches, methods, and techniques. A comparison of three methods and approaches comes fifth with an inclusion of teacher recommendations and an example from my lived experience. Finally, the conclusion contains thoughts for the future of the teaching profession. The introduction and overarching view follow.
INTRODUCTION AND OVERARCHING VIEW OF APPROACHES, METHODS, AND TECHNIQUES Since the 1880s, language-teaching professionals have sought ways or “methods” to teach students a foreign language successfully. In this search, terms such as “approach,” method,” and “techniques” have been used to describe the generalized ways in which to teach (Brown, 2001). Anthony (1963/1972) provided a hierarchical definition of “approach,” “method,” and “techniques” that formed the basis of language teaching principles. At the top was “approach,” which he described as a set of assumptions dealing with the nature of language, learning, and teaching. Next was “method,” which was an overall plan for systematic presentation of language, based upon a selected “approach.” At the bottom was “techniques,” which included the classroom activities that were consistent with “method” and “approach.” Anthony’s definition of “approach,” “method,” and “techniques” is the starting point in the literature for any discussion on the concept of methods in language teaching (see Figure 1). Figure 1. Hierarchical pyramid of approaches, methods, and techniques in second language acquisition
However, during the 1980s, Richards and Rodgers (1982, 1986) reformulated Anthony’s definitions and renamed them “approach,” “design,” and “procedure,” with the super-ordinate term “method” that described the three-step process (Brown, 2001, p. 14 as written in Boyer, 2004). According to Richards and Rodgers (1982), a method is an umbrella term for the specification and interrelation of theory and practice. An “approach” defines assumptions, beliefs, and theories about the nature of language and language learning. “Designs” specify the relationship of those theories to classroom materials and activities. “Procedures” are the techniques and practices that are derived from one’s approach and design (p. 154 as cited in Boyer, 2004). Richards and Rodgers’ reformation made the following principal contributions to understanding the concept “method”: They specified the necessary elements of language-teaching designs that had heretofore been left somewhat vague. Their schematic representation of method described six important features of designs: objectives, syllabus (criteria for selection and organization of linguistic and subject matter content), activities, learners’ roles, teacher’s roles, and the role of instructional materials. The latter three features have occupied a significant proportion of our collective attention in the profession for the last decade or so. They nudged us into at last relinquishing the notion that separate, definable, discrete methods are the essential building blocks of methodology (as cited in Brown, 2001, pp.14-15, as written in Boyer, 2004). Moreover, Richards and Rodgers’ (1982, 1986 as cited in Boyer, 2004) renaming of these concepts made reference to “methodology” as the super-ordinate umbrella term while reserving the term method for specific, identifiable clusters of theoretically compatible classroom techniques (see Figure 2). Figure 2. Elements and sub-elements of method (Richards & Rodgers 1986)
CATEGORIES OF APPROACHES, METHODS AND TECHNIQUES I have presented a conceptualization of approaches, methods, and techniques and some ideas about them; next, more specifics are given. The literature provides a plethora of “approaches” and “methods” in language teaching based on theories of language and learning. Moreover, they are categorized into three sections: (a) historical, (b) current, and (c) alternative. Additionally, some “alternative” “approaches” and “methods” have a “communicative” foundation, but are listed as “alternative,” just as they are written in the literature. Following is a brief summarized overview of each category (Brown, 2001, pp. 8–38; Krashen, 1982, 1997; Larsen-Freeman, 2000; Richards and Rodgers, 2001; Vygotsky, 1978 as cited in Boyer, 2004). HISTORICAL CATEGORY Under the historical category are Grammar Translation (GT), the Direct Method, the Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching (SLT), Audio-Lingual Method (ALM), and Cognitive Code Learning (Richards and Rodgers, 2001; Vygotsky, 1978 as written in Boyer, 2004, see Figure 3). I will not discuss each one in detail; however, I will provide additional information about GT. Figure 3. Historical approaches and methods Grammar Translation (GT) Direct Method or Berlitz Method Oral Approach and Situational Language Teaching (SLT) Audio-Lingual Method (ALM) Cognitive Code Learning GRAMMAR TRANSLATION (GT) The GT, also known as the Classical and the Prussian Method, is the oldest method still used today, and it has eight major characteristics: (1) classes are taught in the mother tongue with little active use of the target language; (2) much vocabulary is taught in the form of lists of isolated words; (3) long, elaborate explanations of the intricacies of grammar are given; (4) grammar provides the rules for putting words together, and instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of words; (5) reading of difficult classical texts is begun early; (6) little attention is paid to the content of texts, which are treated as exercises in grammatical analysis; (7) often the only drills are exercises in translating disconnected sentences from the target language into the mother tongue; (8) little or no attention is given to pronunciation. Moreover, although this method does not have a theoretical background (its limitation) to improve students’ communicative ability, it does provide teachers with an easy way to develop and score grammar tests (Boyer, 2004, see Figure 4). From my experience in teaching in Japan, China, Georgia, and Estonia, this method is employed more often in the classroom. The next category includes approaches, methods, and techniques that I have used more often in my teaching for it was popular in my educational studies. Figure 4. Grammar Translation (GT) 8 characteristics 1. Mother tongue
2. Vocabulary lists
3. Grammar explained
4. Form and inflection of words
5. Reading classical texts
6. Grammatical analysis
7. Translation drills
8. No attention to pronunciation
Easy to develop / score grammar tests
CURRENT CATEGORY Under the current category are approaches and methods such as Communicative Language Teaching CLT), Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), Whole Language, Competency Based Teaching (CBT) and the Common European Framework for Reference (CEFR), Taskbased Language Teaching (TBLT), Textâ€“based Instruction (TBI), The Lexical Approach, Multiple Intelligences, and Cooperative Language Learning (CBL) (Richards & Rodgers, 2014) (see Figure 5). As with the historical category, detailed information is provided for one approach: CLT. Figure 5. Current approaches and methods Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) Whole Language Competency Based Teaching (CBT) and the Common European Framework for Reference (CEFR) Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT) Text-based Instruction (TBI) The Lexical Approach Multiple Intelligences Cooperative Language Learning (CBL) COMMUNICATIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING The Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is a recognized, accepted, and catchall term used in the field today. However, not all agree on its definition, for there is a weak (learning to use English) and strong (using English to learn it) version. The weak version stresses the importance of providing learners with opportunities to use their English for communicative purposes. The strong version, on the other hand, advances the claim that language is acquired through communication, so that it is not merely a question of activating an existing but inert knowledge of the language, but of stimulating the development of the language system itself (Boyer, 2004). CLT offers six interconnected characteristics that experts in the field agree are tenets of the nature of language and of language learning and teaching: (1) Classroom goals are focused on all the components (grammatical discourse, functional, sociolinguistic, and strategic) of communicative competence. Goals therefore must intertwine the organizational aspects of language with the pragmatic. (2) Language techniques are designed to engage learners in pragmatic, authentic, functional use of language for meaningful purposes. Organizational language forms are not the central focus, but rather aspects of language that enables the learner to accomplish those purposes. (3) Fluency and accuracy are seen as complementary principles underlying communicative techniques. At times fluency may have to take on more importance than accuracy in order to keep learners meaningfully engaged in language use. (4) Students in a communicative class ultimately have to use the language, productively and receptively, in unrehearsed contexts outside the classroom. Classroom tasks must therefore equip students with the skills necessary for communication in those contexts. (5) Students are given opportunities to focus on their own styles of learning and through the development of appropriate strategies for autonomous learning. (6) The role of the teacher is that of facilitator and guide, not all-knowing bestower of knowledge. Students are therefore encouraged to construct meaning through genuine linguistic interaction with others (see Figure 6). In addition, CLT is best considered an approach rather than a method that has a diverse set of principles that can be used to support a wide variety of classroom procedures. These principles include: (1) learners learn a language to communicate, (2) authentic and meaningful communication should be the goal of classroom activities, (3) fluency is an important dimension of communication, (4) communication 7
involves the integration of different language skills, and (5) learning is a process of creative construction and involves trial and error (Boyer, 2004, see Figure 6). The last category contains techniques and methods that I have used in my teaching toolbox. Figure 6. Communicative Language Teaching (CLT): six characteristics and five principles Six characteristics
1. Communicative competence
1. Learn a language to communicate
2. Meaningful purpose
2. Goals for classroom activities
3. Fluency and accuracy complementary
3. Fluency is important for authentic and meaningful communication
4. Students use the language
4. Integration of language skills
5. Trial and error
6. Teacher is facilitator
ALTERNATIVE CATEGORY The Natural Approach, Total Physical Response (TPR), The Silent Way, Community Language Learning or CLL, and Suggestopedia are under the alternative category and can be called techniques and methods (Richards & Rodgers, 2014, see Figure 7). I covered the categories and a discussion of the reason for studying methods, approaches, and techniques follow. Figure 7. Alternative 20th Century Approaches and Methods Alternative 20th century approaches and methods The Natural Approach Total Physical Response (TPR) The Silent Way Community Language Learning Suggestopedia WHY STUDY METHODS, APPROACHES, AND TECHNIQUES? What is the importance of studying methods, approaches and techniques? According to LarsenFreeman (2000), a study of methods helps teachers articulate, transform and improve their understanding of the teaching/learning process and serves as the model to integrate theory (principles) and practice (techniques). Larsen-Freeman posits, the “study of methods is invaluable in teacher education” (p xi) and provides five ways to substantiate this value. First, methods act as a foil for reflection that teachers can use to become aware of their own fundamental assumptions, values, and beliefs about their actions. Second, as teachers become clear on their own ideas, they can choose to teach in a way that is consistent or inconsistent with how they learned to teach. She asserts that teachers can choose to teach differently from the way the way they were taught. They are able to see why they are attracted to certain methods and repelled by others. They are able to make choices that are informed, not conditioned (p xi). Moreover, they can resist or argue against a particular method and provide alternatives to what they think and do in the classroom. Third, “knowledge of 8
methods is part of the knowledge base of teaching” (p xi), and teachers are part of a professional discourse community of practice. Fourth, as a professional community, teachers can challenge their conceptions of how teaching leads to learning, and this interaction of conceptions keeps teachers’ teaching alive. Fifth, “A knowledge of methods helps expand a teacher’s repertoire of techniques” (p. x), which provides an avenue for professional growth. “Moreover, effective teachers who are more experienced and expert have a large, diverse repertoire of best practices, which presumably helps them deal more effectively with the unique qualities and idiosyncrasies of their students” (Arends, 1998, as cited in Larsen-Freemen, 2000, p x). In addition, Richards and Rodgers (2014) in their third edition of Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching added a comparison of the approaches and methods in their appendix that reviews the approaches, methods and techniques based on key characteristics, their influence on current language teaching, the roles of the teacher and student, and common classroom activities. I am not going to go over the information and would suggest a review of the book to gain more information. I have listed three methods from the book, Chapter 5, Communicative Language Teaching; Chapter 6, CBI and CLIL; Chapter 14, The Natural Approach. In Figure 8, I have provided some of the key characteristics, influences, the roles of the teacher and student, and some classroom activities. From my analysis, each has similar characteristics such as focus on meaning for functional communication in authentic settings so learners can achieve personal and/or professional goals in daily living and in the work environment. The roles of teacher and learner are to work in partnership and use performance-based activities to achieve them (see Figure 8). As I reviewed them, I found some commonalties in that all three are ways to get students to use the language in a real setting, teachers and students are active co-participants in the learning process, and the teachers’ role is to set the environment for it to happen. I use all aspects of them in my classroom and incorporate GT with drill and practice for fluency and accuracy and TPR as a means to demonstrate mastery of content and linguistic features. I have compared three techniques and provided some suggestions on their use, and next is an example from my lived experience and then the conclusion. Figure 8. A Comparison of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), Content Based Instruction (CBI) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), and the Natural Approach Chapter and method
Influence on current language teaching
Common classroom activities
5. Communicative Language Teaching
Focus on meaning, functional aspect of language
Active communicative participant
Collaborative learning, group/pair work, and high tolerance for errors
6. CBI and CLIL
Language and content
Awareness of students’ real-life purpose
Collaborator with subject teachers, LearnerCentered
Performance oriented activities
14. The Natural Approach
Focus on meaning
Source of comprehensible input
Acquisition activities focused on meaningful information
LIVED EXPERIENCE AND ADAPTATION OF THE METHODS Prior to my selection as an English Language Fellow at Narva College of the University of Tartu in Estonia, I was a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Tbilisi, Georgia, teaching at Tiblisi State University and working with the English Teachers’ Association of Georgia for six months and before that a Peace Corps Volunteer Secondary Education Teacher/Trainer at Southwest Petroleum University in Sichuan, China, for two years. From my experience of teaching and living in these three countries, I incorporated the use of GT tasks and drills in my teaching toolbox more than I have ever done in my previous teaching assignments. During my studies in the 1990s, the Communicative Language Teaching Approach was stressed to be used because of its key characteristics in getting learners to use the language to accomplish communicative goals. However, as I learned about the educational requirements within these institutions, I quickly learned that the assessment to demonstrate mastery of the target language called for an eclectic approach. While the Communicative Approach is effective, I needed to prepare my students to meet the testing standards for the university exams, and standardized testing within these countries caused me to augment my lessons to include GT. For example, not only did I facilitate the students learning of the meaning of causative verbs to have (hire or instruct), make (require or force), and get (persuade) someone to do something, but I also had them fill in a paradigm and drill and practice the grammatical sentence structure. During our lessons, we would practice a role play using the verbs in a dialogue (a communicative activity) (see Figure 9) – they would fill out a paradigm from the dialogue which illustrates its grammatical features (GT) and memorize the structure (see Chart 1). Students would first practice the dialog in pairs, fill in the blanks from it, and then we would practice stating the parts of speech and sentences. Figure 9. Active Causative Verbs: have, make, and get. Role Play Dialogue
Bob: Hi Alicia, I haven’t seen you in a while. What have you been doing? Alicia: I’m having Keith Zar build a new pool for me in my backyard. It’s not finished yet. Bob: That’s cool! How is it going? Alicia: I spend much time double checking their work. I already made the landscaper change the trees. They’d planted the wrong ones. And I’m going to make the builder replace the side steps because they are already cracked. Bob: That’s terrible! You should get the company to be more careful. Alicia: You are right! I might not pay them unless they fix all the problems! Perhaps that could persuade them to be more careful. *Adapted and changed from Defense Language Institute American Language Course, 2nd Edition, Book 19 Chart 1. Active Causative Verbs: have, make and get. Grammatical example paradigm Fill in the blanks from the dialog Subject
Rest of sentence a pool.
the builder Get
the trees. the side steps.
To-infinitive to be
Answer Key Subject
Rest of sentence
am going to make
the side steps.
*Adapted and changed from Defense Language Institute American Language Course, 2nd Edition, Book 19 My learned knowledge of “approaches”, “methods” and “techniques” combined with my lived experience expanded my classroom presentation, facilitation, and teaching. I was able to use my knowledge about the countries’ educational pedagogy, teacher training, and facilitation proficiency to design, teach, guide, and help students meet their learning goals. Conclusion The definition and historical view of “approaches” and “methods” combined with the “techniques” in teaching provide principled and various ways that teachers can use to assist learners to acquire languages; however, each “approach,” “method,” and “technique” has its own limitations and does not fit all language learners. Thus, as ESL/EFL facilitators learn how to teach, they need a repertoire of tools to fit the dynamic process of language learning. Richards and Rodgers (2001) agree: “The study of past and present teaching methods continues to form a significant component of teacher preparation programs” (p 16). Furthermore, an understanding of teaching methods provides teachers with a view on the changes in the field, and a historical study of the methods and approaches is not a prescription on how to teach, but a source of well-used practices that teachers can adapt to meet their needs (Richards & Rodgers). Also, experience in using different teaching approaches and methods can provide teachers with basic teaching skills that they can add to or supplement as they develop teaching experience (Richards & Rodgers, p 16). REFERENCES Boyer, A.L. 2004. The Effects of Japanese Cultural Norms, Values, and Traits, on Japanese Adults’ Preferences for Listening and Speaking Methods and Techniques and Perceived Learning Outcomes in the Japanese Adults’ Acquisition of English. San Diego, CA. Larsen-Freeman, D. 2000. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press Richards, J., & Rodgers, T. 2001. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Richards, J., & Rodgers, T. 2014. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Third Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
EAT – SLEEP – TEACH – REPEAT Carol Kahar Vineland, Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada
The first primer in the Estonian language was published in 1575 in Tallinn. In 1686 the Swedish King Carl XI ordered that schools be opened in every Estonian and Livonian parish. Estonians are proud of this history of literacy and continue to advance the quality of their educational system. I’m personally proud to have been involved in the renaissance of the Estonian education system, albeit at the postsecondary level. In 1995 and 1996, I was invited to join a team of Canadian and Estonian instructors. Our task was to introduce teaching methodology from the Canadian province of Ontario to select groups of Estonian English-language teachers. At the time, I was impressed by the quality of English of the participants, especially considering their over 50-year isolation from the western world. Their dedication and enthusiasm have continued unabated since the return to their home schools. I am fortunate in having formed lasting friendships with a number of the Pärnu participants. In 1997 and 1998, my husband and I lived in Tallinn and taught at Riigikaitse Akadeemia (since renamed Sisekaitseakadeemia). We taught students at the five component colleges and were tasked with an even more important assignment: devising English-language testing harmonized with the NATO STANAG-6 level, as Estonia prepared for entry to NATO and the EU. By 2004, this undertaking proved successful and Estonia proudly ascended to membership in both NATO and the EU. My husband and I have fond memories of the small role we played at this crucial time. To this day, Estonia continues in its quest for educational excellence and performs outstandingly in current European and international assessments. However, this achievement has necessitated countless hours of disciplined and demanding dedication for teachers at all levels. Teaching continues to be a challenging profession, and one that makes great demands on teachers at all levels. Teachers are keenly aware of the daily challenge of making scores of decisions and all done with very little downtime. There are socio-emotional demands to consider: the individual needs of their students, many of whom experience family and societal predicaments. The very busy physical nature of the job adds greatly to the teachers’ stress. Considerable emphasis is placed on the problems burdening children in today’s society. And rightly so. Teachers are then left to determine how to best cope with these matters in the classroom and do so on a daily basis. This is done but at considerable cost. And what is the price paid? How often do you feel rushed off your feet? Hard-pressed for time? Overloaded with assignments and duties? Exhausted? You might feel guilty, but not sure about what? Do not know how you will get through the day? And the list goes on. It seems as if all we do is eat, sleep, teach – and repeat. This proves to be a daily exercise in frustration. 12
One continually feels physically, mentally, and emotionally compromised. We know that ongoing stress not only undermines teacher health and well-being but can lead to burnout. It is time to get off this treadmill but how best to change this draining scenario? Can this situation be turned around? Thankfully, the answer is: YES! The intent of this article is to encourage a rethinking of one’s approach to life, not just to teaching. A considerable undertaking indeed but worth a try. Reasons for stress are universal. Teachers everywhere can relate regardless of age, gender, teaching assignment, location, or venue. Reasons include: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Increasingly larger class sizes Low teacher salaries Lack of respect for the profession Lack of resources, equipment (photocopiers, etc.) Insufficient prep time for lesson planning Budget cuts to classroom Mediating bullying in the classroom Problems with class discipline and behaviour management Demanding parents with unrealistic expectations Teachers feel undervalued by society Teachers forced to teach outside of area of expertise Time management is a constant challenge Expected to take on extra-curricular activities with no compensation Increased marking workload Excessive work hours Too many meetings, trainings, and other demands on the teacher Lack of training for new initiatives and technology Adjustment to changing technology and curricula Lack of autonomy and input in school decision-making Over-emphasis on standardized testing Frequent changes in classroom curricula and education policy Insufficient administration support or classroom observation Chronic fatigue, insomnia, or exhaustion Brain fog
Coping responses are essential, but vary greatly, depending on the individual teacher’s circumstance, situation, and placement. Some of the following proposals may be of interest, provide food for thought, and perhaps offer alternative paths. Self-Care Although we might realize that there is a need to think about self-care, we have not made it a priority. Too many other considerations in life prevail. There is a need to create habits that we can adopt and stick to long-term. However, there are serious obstacles that teachers face: lack of time and energy, and maintaining a work-life balance. Daily Categories of Self-care Morning rituals An amended morning ritual would include getting up 10-15 minutes earlier to provide time for yourself. This would give you a moment for a cup of coffee, to mentally prepare for the day, or to just read. Midday breaks Think about a midday break during the school day so that you don’t feel that you’re going non-stop 13
from morning to night. This break time could include relaxation exercises, listening to music or having a cup of cappuccino. None of these break-time activities take much time, but they can re-energize you for hours. Or you could… ● Do a few yoga poses or stretches to get your blood moving ● Get out of the building for some fresh air and a change of scenery ● Take a mindful moment to pay attention to breathing, to centre yourself Nightly rituals Create a nightly ritual to arrange your tasks so that you can take a hot bath, head to bed earlier or have 30 minutes to do as you wish without cutting into bedtime. And, aim for 7 hours nightly sleep. Mental decompression After a tough day, try to clear your mind and unwind. Get creative: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Take the scenic route home Record something positive in your journal Knit Quilt Draw Enjoy nature Bake cookies Sing Watch a mindless TV show Take a hot bath Read Listen to music Meditate Eat chocolate Spend time with loved ones
Physical self-care, creative outlets & hobbies Get your body moving: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●
Run Dance Yoga Training/gym Go for a walk Spend time with animals Explore nature for one hour a week Nordic pole walking Consider a new hobby like yoga, dance, or tennis Give back to your community by volunteering
NB: Just five minutes of exercise has a positive mood-enhancing effect. Exercising outdoors will boost your mood even more. It is recommended you get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Do what you can for a start, and then work your way up. Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give your students: ● Make a list of what you like to do, activities that feed your heart, body, mind, and soul. 14
● ● ● ●
Get out your calendar and make time for yourself every day. Give up feelings of guilt about taking time for yourself. Take time to be with people who boost your energy and your joy. Ask for help when you need it. After all, you aren’t asking for anything you would not be happy to give. Allow others the blessing of giving to you. ● Laugh and learn from your mistakes — a great gift to yourself and others. Decisions in self-care will all be a little different, as there’s no single way to take good care of yourself. Try different strategies: something that energizes you, something that helps you unwind, something that helps you manage when you’re having a hard time. Self-care helps us sustain as teachers and as individuals. Which self-care habit will YOU choose? Minimalism in the Classroom Minimalism is not just about the furnishing of the classroom, but about our mindset too. This mindset influences the efficiency of our school day, physically, mentally, for ourselves and our students as well. What is minimalism? Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfilment, and freedom. I think we can agree that this is a goal worth pursuing: to declutter, de-stress and reach happiness. Applying minimalism to our classrooms and teaching lives can impact us in positive ways. What does it mean to be a minimalist teacher? A minimalist teacher utilizes the basic principles of minimalism to help “declutter” the classroom, the mind and teaching method, in order to better focus on what matters most. The classroom is a teacher’s forum; it presents powerful messages to the young people in it. The organization of the classroom will partly determine the students’ engagement with our subjects and their responses to our teaching. Classroom Minimalist Principles Principle #1 Rid Your Classroom of Excess Stuff This is easier said than done. The intention is to pare down and to make space. ● Start with a filing cabinet, a closet, or a bookshelf. Begin by deciding whether you will use the accumulated material again. Making room in the closet or the filing cabinet will create space for the future. ● Photocopies? Will you make use of these copies again? Decide what is important, digitize it, and then file in folders using an easy-to-access app or program. It will be time-consuming but then everything will be easy to access online. ● Perhaps paperwork isn’t your cluttering problem. It may be that there is stuff hiding in the nooks and crannies of your classroom. Then it’s time to decide what can be pitched, donated or given a new home. This includes items on shelves and even old books. Nothing should be kept “just in case”. 15
â—? The goal is to ensure that all objects will have a purpose and a place in the classroom. It will take time and effort, but you will feel relieved and energized, perhaps motivated to minimize even more. Principle #2 Add Systems of Efficiency Google Classroom is a free resource for teachers. Google Classroom makes teaching more productive and meaningful by streamlining assignments, promoting cooperation, and bettering communication between teacher and student. Teachers can create classes, distribute homework assignments and send feedback â€“ all online. Everything is simplified and in one place. Google Classroom also seamlessly integrates with other Google tools like Google Docs and Drive. Fortunately, schools can acquire Google Classroom as a free core service. Individuals with a personal Google Account can also use Google Classroom at no cost. Naturally there is a brief learning curve but worthwhile. Think of the time you will save. This is well worth checking out: https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6020279?hl=enhttps://support.google.com/edu/ classroom/answer/6020279?hl=en ) Principle #3 Evaluate How You Spend Your Time By decluttering and initiating more efficient practices in your classroom, many of your tasks will become more automated, simpler and claim less of your time. Can you use this free time and be more productive during the school day? If so, you will have the good fortune to complete your schoolwork at school and enjoy the remainder of each day guilt-free. By applying principles of minimalism, your classroom will be less cluttered and more attractive. In the process you will have created more room in your life for what matters most to you. Practising minimalism can be beneficial: stress is lessened, and there is a greater sense of well-being at school and in your life. Mindfulness (Not for everyone, but something to think about.) Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you are feeling and are engaged fully in the present moment, without assessment or judgment. Practising mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided meditation, and other techniques to relax the body and mind. This practice can help reduce stress and improve overall health and well-being. To further explain mindfulness, consider the following questions: Can you sit for one minute and completely quiet your mind? Can you do this without the feeling that your mind is wandering? We soon discover that this exercise is not at all easy. It is challenging, but worth trying, to simply calm our minds. We live in a demanding high-speed and digitized world where it is almost impossible to slow down, to connect with ourselves â€” or to just be. Mindfulness has been described as paying attention to the present moment as if your life depended on it. The present is the only real time we have. And, in fact, our life could indeed depend on it. Among its many benefits, mindfulness has been proven to improve concentration and reduce the high levels of stress so widespread today. Mindfulness is an incredible tool to help us better understand, tolerate and deal with emotions in healthy ways. When we are mindful, we experience our life as we live it. We experience each day directly through our five senses, to taste the food we are eating, and to recognize the thoughts we are having. We begin to learn how our minds work and are then better able to label our thoughts and 16
feelings, instead of allowing them to overpower and control our behaviour. Examples of mindfulness exercises: ● Pay attention – Try to take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses — touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. When you eat a favourite food, take the time to smell, taste and truly enjoy it. ● Live in the moment – Bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures. ● Accept yourself – Treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend. ● Focus on your breathing – When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Even a minute can help. ● Sitting meditation – Sit comfortably with your back straight, feet flat on the floor and hands in your lap. Breathe through your nose, focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. If thoughts interrupt the meditation, note the experience and then return focus to your breath. ● Walking meditation – Find a quiet place and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, be aware of the sensation of standing and the subtle movements that keep your balance. Continue walking and maintain awareness of your sensations and your immediate surroundings. Teachers are generally empathetic and compassionate toward their students. However, these qualities can get lost during stressful moments in the classroom. During stressful moments, what suffers most will be that essential bond between teacher and student. Mindfulness techniques encourage focusing on the moment and promoting kindness toward others. A teacher confronted with a misbehaving student might ask the question, “What happened to you?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?” A more compassionate response will strengthen the teacherstudent relationship Closing thoughts My proposals are meant to stimulate your thinking, encourage reflection and possibly eventuate change. Only you can determine what works best for you. “Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.” Anon. This quotation is a reminder of the importance of the teaching profession. With that recognition comes considerable responsibility. By practising self-care, it will be possible to do more than simply survive (‘grin and bear it’) but rather fully enjoy the many benefits of this profession. Inspiring quotations to ponder: “Teaching is the highest form of understanding.” Aristotle “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Robert Frost “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.” Maria Montessori “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats
“Real understanding does not come from what we learn in books; it comes from what we learn from love of nature, of music, of man. For only what is learned in that way is truly understood.” Pablo Casals “The greatest discovery of the 21st century will be the discovery that Man was not meant to live at the speed of light.” Marshall McLuhan “If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.” Bill Gates “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” C. S. Lewis “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein Carol Kahar is a retired computer coordinator and teacher with fond memories of all grades from kindergarten to university. She has lived and taught in several cities in Ontario (Canada) and in Estonia.
WRITING AS A PROCESS OR THE REDISCOVERY OF CLASSROOM WRITING ACTIVITIES Cristiana Osan
Freelance trainer, UK
Going back to the same place for the same event may create a feeling of familiarity. It is not the case when the place is Pärnu and the event is the EATE Summer Seminar. I was there two years ago, but this year the event organised for the Estonian teachers by their own association managed to double the familiarity with something new. I was once again pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of the teachers. I was glad to see again some teachers with whom we have already worked in British Council projects and to meet new teachers. The EATE Summer Seminar was best summarised by one of the teachers I recognised from two years ago during a coffee break: ‘I came here because I need some inspiration before the school year starts.’ This inquisitive spirit of the Estonian teachers was more evident to me this year. I had more questions during and after my workshops and people lingered on during breaks to chat and to look for and to share inspiration. During the ‘Engaging with assessment for learning’ workshop, I mentioned writing as a process and that triggered off a few questions, but I could not completely change the focus of the workshop, so this article seems the right opportunity to develop this subject more. When I started teaching at the end of the 90s, students had a reluctant attitude towards writing. As my students were at upper-intermediate and advanced levels, their language level was not an obstacle when it came to writing in English, and yet they perceived writing tasks as terrible chores. The lack in writing instruction made students feel not prepared and hesitant when facing a task because they felt alone when writing. 18
Ever since then, I have insisted on making writing a learning process, not an assessment tool. The feeling of isolation can be eliminated by working on the writing task in the classroom and in interactive ways that include the ‘writer’, his peers and the teacher, working together to identify and apply the microskills and strategies that would improve the text. More specifically, students benefit from looking at their texts through somebody else’s eyes or their own eyes but with analytical glasses on. While it is true that feedback as a tool in the writing process can be ‘either underused or misunderstood’ (Gabrielatos, 2002: 10), when used properly it can make learners aware of the areas in their writing that are effective or in need of improvement, and it can show them the reasons of their shortcomings and how these can be diminished or eliminated. Some teachers may think that this approach to writing refers strictly to advanced learners, but this is completely erroneous. Implementing these strategies at elementary level creates the premises for a further development of writing microskills and for making full use of writing in the learning process. Writing is a lot more than just writing words on paper. It is ‘a thinking process in its own right’ (White and Arndt, 1994: 7), an intellectual and emotional effort which takes time and energy. It is interesting to notice that the process of writing is similar, if not identical, in terms of stages and writing features used both in L1 and L2. Although some of the terminology used differs, authors agree that writers go through all or some of the following stages and sub-stages: 1. Prewriting can take more or less time, depending on how the writer approaches the task and if they follow all these steps or skip some: • Reading and understanding the task and thinking of the topic/theme, the purpose of writing and the identity of the reader • Generating ideas through brainstorming and reading on or discussing the topic • Structuring or planning in a more or less structured way through a visual organiser or taking notes 2. Writing is based on the ideas that came out of the prewriting stage. The writer puts these ideas down on paper through: • Drafting, creating a rough version of their text. This may proceed quickly if there are sufficient ideas generated in the previous stage • Also called composing, this stage may incorporate more sub-stages: writing, pausing, rescanning and revising. 3. Rewriting may consist of different sub-stages named differently by some authors: • Rereading and revising (Skibniewski and Skibniewska, 1986: 151) • Focusing, reviewing, evaluating (White and Arndt, 1994) • Responding, revising and editing (Seow, 2002: 318–319) These stages do not follow each other in a linear manner, they can merge in an organic process that is adapted by the writer to their needs and approach to writing. Unskilled writers write faster because they skip some of the stages, especially the last one, rewriting. This is why we have to make learners aware of the importance of this last stage and to help them acquire the correct strategies connected to it: reviewing and proofreading. I choose to use these terms because they seem to describe better what happens in the writers’ minds in the stage of rewriting. Students are generally used to considering the first draft as the final version of their text, the one that is submitted to the teacher for assessment. If we train learners to look at writing as a process, the first draft is exactly that: a draft that can be improved by paying attention to both the form and the content. Revision and editing are vital to the process of learning how to write while feedback plays a central part in making learners aware of what good writing is and of how they can become trained, skilled writers. Learners also need to see the writing process as a collaborative effort in which they work with their peers and their teacher in order to improve their writing microskills. It may seem that working on these 19
microskills in the classroom takes too long. When first implementing this approach, it may indeed seem that way. But after going through the stages a few times in the classroom, some stages can be done at home and the others take less time in the classroom. It also saves time for the teacher as the process of marking and giving feedback is reduced by the fact that the final product is considerably better. Overall, applying a strategic and process-oriented approach when teaching writing leads to a shift in the roles of the teachers and the learners: the teacher is no longer a mere linguistic judge but becomes a reader while the learners themselves are also writers and readers. This double role of the learners creates opportunities for them to reflect on and to practise the microskills that can help them improve their writing in and outside the classroom. REFERENCES Gabrielatos, C. 2002. EFL Writing: Product and Process, ERIC, ED476839. Seow, A. 2002. The Writing Process and Process Writing. In: Methodology in Language Teaching. CUP. Skibniewski, L., and Skibniewska, M. 1986. Experimental study: The writing process of intermediate/ advanced foreign language learners in their foreign and native languages. White, R. and Arndt, V. 1994. Process Writing. Longman.
LISTEN, PODCAST! Kärt Roomäe
MA student, University of Tartu
This article is based on my bachelor’s thesis, “The Analysis of Canonical and Non-canonical Questions in an English Language Podcast”, which I defended at the Department of English Studies at the University of Tartu last spring. My goal here is to present my work on podcasts from the angle of teaching English as a foreign language. I will show how these digital audio recordings can be used for learning English, turning this often-challenging process into a fun and thought-provoking experience, for both the instructor and the student. A New Source Providing Linguistic Data This article is concerned with podcasts. These fall under broadcast media, which has been defined by Chandler and Munday (2016) as “radio, television, direct-broadcast satellite broadcasting, and webcasting.” Building on this definition, television shows — late-night talk shows, debates, and broadcast news interviews, among others — can provide enough dialogue and communication between people, leading to recent attention in scholarly articles and books. This phenomenon became clear in the process of choosing the source material for my BA thesis, which focused on direct questions, their formulation and usage by different speakers. While not all of the studies concentrated on the English-language programs, several detailed ones have been carried out on the topic of questions, such as the book chapter, “The Role of Questions in Talk Shows” by Schirm (2009), and “Interviewers’ challenging questions in British debate interviews” (Emmertsen 2006). Despite this scholarship, podcasts have not yet received this kind of attention in linguistic research. 20
I found no evidence of studies concentrating on questions in podcasts in available sources. My thesis therefore made a small-scale contribution concerning a recent form of entertainment. Podcast as a term dates back to the early 2000s. It was first used in Hammersley’s (2004) article “Audible revolution” in The Guardian. The word has syllables from two words, iPod and broadcast, so it belongs to blends when talking about word-formation. According to Chandler and Munday (2016), it is “a digital audio recording stored online but (unlike broadcasts) designed for offline use on the user’s computer or mobile device, being either downloaded as a series through an RSS feed or streamed to a media player when needed.” A podcast sometimes includes video material as well and is usually based on a specific theme (Stanbrough n.d.: para. 1). Podcasts are very accessible, since they can be obtained from websites as well as through apps on our smart devices. This means that carrying on with everyday tasks while listening to a podcast is possible. Most of the episodes are normally free, but some episodes can also require a paid subscription. Podcasts are quite intimate, too, considering that you will be hearing someone’s voice. In addition to this, there are many different topics featured in podcasts, some of which will be introduced below. Bearing in mind the factors mentioned above, it is no wonder why this form of entertainment, having formerly been just “a low-concept cottage industry” (Woods 2018: para. 5), is favored by so many today. In the UK, 6.0 million adults listen to podcasts each week (RAJAR Midas 2018: slide 3). They are also available in many languages and are gaining ground in Estonia as well. The popularity of podcasts served as one of the reasons why I chose them as the focus of my BA thesis. Choosing the Right Episode on the Example of the BA Thesis There was a practically unlimited number of podcasts to choose from for this thesis. I did not actually expect to see that many different categories. To illustrate this claim, one of the websites offering a hosting service for podcasters, Castos (2019), listed the 13 genres currently available on iTunes, which include anything from food to investing, standup, language learning, history, books and more. Everyone curious about a podcast will definitely find one with a theme suitable for him/her. As for my BA thesis, most of the genres listed above were quickly eliminated after exploring the topics with which they were concerned. However, three topics – art, culture, and language – formed the group from where I made my final choice, considering my personal interests. The language used in the podcast episode was of greatest significance, since I am an English philologist and work with materials in the language of my field of study. Thus, native speakers of English hosting the episode was a key requirement, which narrowed the search considerably. The next step addressed selecting eight shows with one of the topics from the aforementioned shortlist as a theme. From art-themed podcasts, I delved into the Allusionist and Art Detective; from the category of culture, I chose Mostly Lit (the first three found from Smith Galer 2017) and Pop Culture Happy Hour (PCHH) (Herman 2015); lastly, I took a closer look at The Word Nerds, A Way with Words, The World in Words, and Talk the Talk (the last four featured in Hayward and Stimola n.d.) from podcasts having language as their main topic. Due to a personal interest in linguistics, I ultimately came to the conclusion that one of the last four shows would be selected as the source material for my BA thesis. The fact that students have different interests and hobbies makes using podcasts for assignments even more effective since they can have more say in what they would be using. The instructor could even provide some podcast suggestions, but the final decision would still be up to the student. The four shows shortlisted for my BA thesis, for example, were thematically related, but examined more carefully before deciding on one, since I was unfamiliar with them. Therefore, the titles of the episodes were browsed, and some extracts were played. At last, my final choice was the Perthbased linguistics podcast Talk the Talk (Ainslie et al. 2018). It entertains the readers, simultaneously providing intellectually stimulating content. In this show, the host(s) review contemporary topics in linguistics; there are also episodes that deal with feedback from listeners, their comments and questions. In each episode, they welcome any feedback from the audience. Talk the Talk has over 350 audio recordings available and new ones are in the process of being created. 21
There are three main hosts: the American linguist Daniel Midgley; Ben Ainslie who teaches media studies, and a skeptic, Kylie Sturgess, who used to teach philosophy and religious education. Both Ainslie and Sturgess are speakers of the Australian variety of English. From time to time, there is also a Swedish host Hedvig Skirgård, who is a PhD student at the Australian National University at the moment. In some of the episodes, only one of the hosts is present, and in others, guest speakers have been involved too. The three episodes in the final list for the thesis were co-hosted, a necessary condition for the analysis of questions in verbal communication, since two or more speakers is a requirement for natural-sounding interpersonal communication. Two episodes were hosted by the main trio, while the third included Skirgård as well as a guest speaker, Prof. Nick Enfield, a linguistic anthropologist who works at the University of Sydney. Ultimately, episode 315: “Grammar Day” was chosen to be analyzed in my thesis, after I had looked through the themes once again. This episode debunks several common grammar-related myths, addresses the often-confusing terminology, and brings amusing, yet educational examples of rules we subconsciously adhere to, all this in a goodhumored setting. What is more, the hosts exchange views about some of the comments sent in by listeners over the weeks preceding the time when the episode aired. In doing so, the audience is involved and acts almost like a contributor, a trend used often when it comes to media today. Creating Listening Comprehension Exercises in the 21st Century When speaking, people have less time to think about what they are saying, consider their wording, and concentrate on producing grammatically correct, eloquent sentences. Thus, the following will shed light on the features of what can be called natural discourse. It is a register somewhat different from the one encountered in textbooks, usually less restrained and more casual. When learning a foreign language, be it one’s second, third, or fourth, both formal and informal language should be taken into consideration. While the latter forms a considerable part of the language used in real-life situations, it should not be forgotten that grammar and phonetics play an essential role in language learning, too, especially in the early stages. Podcasts provide the instructors with an invaluable opportunity, taking often-appalling listening exercises to a whole new level and helping students to be comfortable in different situations. However, this applies mainly, though not in all cases, to more advanced learners of EFL, given that hosts tend to express themselves quite freely in the episodes: a feature which might make listening them talk too daunting for those with less experience. Choices for them will be introduced below. Students who have learned a language for longer, however, can learn about a variety of topics without being constrained to exercises in their textbooks, which can sometimes seem much less interesting. Additionally, there are often several varieties of English mixed in one podcast episode, an aspect which is often difficult to teach in a classroom setting, because the time is limited, and not all textbooks available contain detailed information about them. There are several websites offering lists of podcasts for the instructors, allowing the instructor to make suggestions, depending on the students’ level, and create a task suitable for them. Some of the episodes even have transcripts, which can be consulted either during or after listening. As a way of checking one’s understanding of the words uttered, this can be very useful. The large variety of podcasts available online was introduced already in the previous section, but the goal then was not of finding podcasts suitable for language learners but excluding those not related to the topics of interest to me, personally. Nonetheless, lists focusing on improving listening skills exist as well (see, for example, Speak Confident English 2016, Park and Paul n.d., Lagos 2017). Podcasts are gaining popularity as a medium as time goes by. They can be obtained in various places and on numerous occasions, making them accessible in today’s hectic lifestyle. In addition to considering podcasts as entertainment, they can also be used in English classes. Instructors have an excellent opportunity for changing the source material used for listening exercises, which may sometimes seem old-fashioned and not very appealing, especially for more advanced students. The potential in using podcasts in class is clear and relevant in the changing field of language education.
Sample Exercises based on the podcast episode “A Family Divided by English” EXERCISE 1 Listen to the episode (available via https://player.fm/series/the-world-in-words-74528/a-familydivided-by-english) and answer the questions. What is the topic of this episode? How many people are talking? Which variety of English are they speaking? Who was the easiest/hardest to listen to? Give your reasons. Do the song extracts featured in the episode fit the topic? Give your reasons. EXERCISE 2 Listen to the episode (available via https://player.fm/series/the-world-in-words-74528/a-familydivided-by-english) and answer the questions. Who does Lynne Murphy work as? Which word(s) do they comment on when discussing “verbal differences”? What problems have pronunciation differences caused to the family in their everyday lives? Is American English taking over British English? What argument does Murphy have to support those who believe so? What about dialects? What is the main reason? What is the daughter’s opinion on Americans asking her to say certain words? What word do they use when describing Arden’s accent? Does Patrick Cox sound American after having lived in the U.S. for several decades? What could be the reason? Is Arden speaking American or British English? Why? What is the title of Murphy’s book? EXERCISE 3 Listen to the episode (available via https://player.fm/series/the-world-in-words-74528/a-familydivided-by-english) and write down key words (no more than 10) that best characterize the content in your opinion. Then summarize the podcast episode “A Family Divided by English” in 8-10 sentences based on these key words. REFERENCES Ainslie, Ben, Daniel Midgley, and Kylie Sturgess (hosts). 2018. Grammar Day. Talk the Talk. [Audio podcast]. Available at https://talkthetalkpodcast.com/315-grammar-day/, accessed Sept 20, 2019. Castos. 2019. iTunes Podcast Category List. Available at https://castos.com/itunes-podcast-categorylist/, accessed Sept 20, 2019. Chandler, Daniel and Rod Munday (eds). 2016. A Dictionary of Media and Communication. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press. Available at http://www.oxfordreference.com.ezproxy. utlib.ut.ee/view/10.1093/acref/97801918 00986.001.0001/acref-9780191800986-e3088?rskey=0Gbbvp&result=2, accessed Feb 20, 2019. Cox, Patrick (host). 2018. A Family Divided by English. The World in Words [Audio podcast]. Available at https://player.fm/series/the-world-in-words-74528/a-family-divided-by-english, accessed Sept 20, 2019. Emmertsen, Sophie. 2007. Interviewers’ challenging questions in British debate interviews. Journal of Pragmatics, 39: 3, 570–591. Hammersley, Ben. 2004. Audible revolution. The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/ media/2004/feb/12/broadcasting.digitalmedia, accessed Sept 10, 2019. Hayward, Brittany and Maureen Stimola. n.d. The top 15 language learning podcasts for curious multilingual minds. Available at https://www.fluentu.com/blog/language-podcasts/, accessed Sept 21, 2019. 23
Herman, Alison. 2015. The 20 best culture podcasts. Available at https://flavorwire.com/539890/the20-best-culture-podcasts, accessed Sept 21, 2019. Lagos, Brenda. 2017. 7 Podcasts to Improve Your Listening. Available at https://oxfordhousebcn.com/ en/improve-your-listening/, accessed Sept 9, 2019. Park, Alan and Paul. (n.d.). 11 English Podcasts Every English Learner Should Listen To. Available at https://www.fluentu.com/blog/english/esl-english-podcasts/, accessed Sept 8, 2019. RAJAR Midas Audio Survey. 2018. Available at https://www.rajar.co.uk/docs/news/MIDAS_ Spring_2018.pdf, accessed Sept 21, 2019. Schirm, Anita. 2009. The Role of Questions in Talk Shows. In Dynel, Marta (ed). Advances in Discourse Approaches, 147–173. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Smith Galer, Sophia. 2017. The 25 culture podcasts that will blow your mind. Available at http://www. bbc.com/culture/story/20170804-the-25-culture-podcasts-that-will-blow-your-mind, accessed Sept 21, 2019. Speak Confident English. 2016. The 11 Best Podcasts to Improve English Listening Skills. Available at https://www.speakconfidentenglish.com/podcasts-improve-listening/, accessed Sept 8, 2019. Stanbrough, Amy. (n.d.). Difference between Webcast & Podcast. Small Business - Chron.com. Available at http://smallbusiness.chron.com/difference-between-webcast-podcast-69397.html, accessed Sept 10, 2019. Woods, Bob. 2018. The podcasting revenue boom has started. Available at https://www.strategybusiness.com/article/The-Podcasting-Revenue-Boom-Has-Started?gko=d3034, accessed Sept 21, 2019.
SCANDALOUS EXPERIMENTAL PHONETICIAN Ilmar Anvelt
Editor of OPEN!
During the period between the two world wars, the number of staff members engaged in teaching English at the University of Tartu was extremely small – only a professor and a lecturer. The third post was created in the late 1920s when Ants Oras, who later also became a professor, was employed (EAA 2100.2.97). The professorship of English was established in 1920, and the first Professor of English was Heinrich Mutschmann from Germany (EAA 2100.2.677). As mentioned in the previous issue of OPEN! (Anvelt 2019: 30–34), Jenny Leidig, the first English lecturer at the national university of the Republic of Estonia, considered her job temporary and was ready to quit when “someone else was coming from England” (EAA 2100.2.522). In 1922, the University of Tartu employed John Earnshaw, who had just obtained a bachelor’s degree from Victoria University in Manchester, as the new lecturer. Having to face enormous crowds of students whose “queue extended into the corridor” (EAA 2100.5.263), and many of whom did not understand any English at all, the inexperienced young man held out for one academic year only and returned to England in summer 1923 (EAA.2100.2.97). After John Earnshaw’s departure, the lecturer’s post was given to the confrontational experimental phonetician Willy Ernst Peters. Born in Australia to a German family in 1886 and educated in Germany and Britain, Peters had 24
worked in Germany during World War I and taken the German citizenship for pragmatic reasons, which, as it turned out later, did not hinder him from condemning Germany in front of his students. When the war ended, he did not find employment in Britain and continued as a lecturer at Leipzig University, but because of students’ complaints about his disparaging attitude towards them as well as the whole German nation, he was eventually forced to leave. His superior, Professor Max Förster, commented later, in 1931, “We all breathed a sigh of relief when he was happily gone” (EAA 2100.2.832). Having come to Estonia, W. E. Peters simultaneously applied for jobs at Rakvere Teacher Training Seminar and the University of Tartu. On 1 August 1923, he started working in Rakvere as a teacher of English (ERA 1108.4.418). Atso Matkur, who studied at Rakvere Teacher Training Seminar then, has pleasant memories of W. E. Peters whom he calls a Scotsman with a wide chin beard. “He always started the lesson with a batch of picture magazines from Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland. He used them skilfully to give interesting overviews of the life, customs and culture of these countries. He was an interesting man, and I remember his rolling “r” when he read “Rround and rround it goes, turrning all the day…”.” (Matkur 1982: 89) Although Peters was not a Scot, he had worked in Glasgow and Aberdeen.
On 20 September 1923, the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Tartu had elected Harold Cheshire to the post of the English lecturer, but he failed to turn up in Tartu (EAA 2100.2.84). As there was no other choice, the Faculty of Philosophy finally, on 6 December 1923, elected W. E. Peters (EAA 2100.2.832). As Peters had published articles in Vox, an international journal of experimental phonetics, and worked in the world-famous laboratory of phonetics in Hamburg, he was expected to help the poorly equipped phonetics laboratory with both technology and knowhow. W. E. Peters really brought along his own apparatuses to the new workplace, which later caused trouble to him. In the spring semester of 1924, he was asked to deliver a course of experimental phonetics, initially in German, and to teach English to as many as 222 students. Like the earlier lecturers, he asks to divide the students into smaller groups; in this, he is supported by Prof. Mutschmann (EAA 2100.5.263). The programme for the second semester of this year is more detailed already: a beginners’ course of English, courses for less advanced and advanced students, for economists, business correspondence, and a course of experimental phonetics (for the students of the Faculty of Philosophy). The course of phonetics was taught at the laboratory at 36 Lai Street (Eesti Vabariigi Tartu Ülikooli loengute ja praktiliste tööde kava). From the second semester of 1927, the wording of the English courses at the Faculty of Philosophy changed – general reading course, written exercises and grammar, reading course for advanced students. As many students’ command of English was very poor, W. E. Peters argued constantly with the university administration over increasing the number of classes of both English and phonetics, but this was hindered by lack of finances (EAA 2100.2.832). As one of the courses taught by W. E. Peters was English for economists, he compiled a textbook for them. The Loodus publishing house issued it in 1927 under the title English Reader for Students of Economics and Pupils of Commercial Schools (in two parts). The textbook received destructive criticism from Prof. H. Mutschmann because of numerous mistakes and outdated texts (EAA 2100.5.263). For example, in one of the texts, Ireland was still referred to as part of the UK, although the Irish Free State had been created in 1922. Mutschmann was particularly angry about the text 25
about an upper-class English family that had an enormous number of servants; he did not consider it suitable for Estonian students. In Mutschmann’s opinion, the textbook “violated all the rules of language pedagogy to the greatest extent” and he threatened that if Lecturer Peters remained in his job for a longer time, Mutschmann could not take responsibility for teaching of English at the university. The textbook really seems a rather random collection of texts, and it has no exercises that nowadays would be an inseparable part of a business English textbook. What might be interesting for the present-day reader are British journalists’ reports from Estonia of the 1920s. W. E. Peters seems to have been more successful at phonetic research. He published papers on phonetics in both Estonian and German. In 1926/1927, the journal Eesti Keel (Estonian Language) published his article “Esimene katse eesti keele kõnemeloodia võrdlevas uurimises” (The first attempt of comparative study of the Estonian speech melody). In 1927, it also came out as a separate book published by the Academic Mother Tongue Society. The book shows that, by 1926, W. Peters knew Estonian well enough to deliver lectures on experimental phonetics in Estonian. He seems to have been an authority in his speciality, as the experiment subjects who read the texts included such well-known Estonian linguists as Professor of Estonian Andrus Saareste and Lecturers Johannes Aavik and Johannes Voldemar Veski. In 1927, W. E. Peters also published two books on the Estonian speech melody in German, and, in 1929, the Academic Mother Tongue Society issued his Eksperimentaalfoneetika alged (Foundations of Experimental Phonetics) in Estonian. During vacations, W. E. Peters took several research trips abroad (to Finland, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Britain, France, Austria, Poland, Switzerland) (Hone 1990: 10). In 1930, he participated in a congress of experimental phoneticians in Bonn, Germany, where he made a presentation on Estonian speech melody and established contacts with foreign institutions from which he expected to be of great use for his laboratory of phonetics (EAA 2100.2.832). This, however, did not materialise. Like in
Students' letter of complaint Students' signature 26
Leipzig, Estonian students also rebelled against him. On 28 January 1931, 47 students submitted a complaint to Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy where they wrote: “The undersigned students of the University of Tartu of the Republic of Estonia find that the attitude of the English lecturer W. E. Peters to the Estonian nation, the Estonian university and students and his expressions about them are impermissible and offensive to both persons and national feelings.” The students gave examples of his insulting expressions and asked the university administration to make an end to such conduct by the lecturer (EAA 2100.2.833). In addition, the students demonstratively boycotted his lecture on 29 January (Aktsioon lektor… 1931: 15). Through the article “Ülikooli lektori lubamatu ülalpidamine. Üliõpilaste protest” (University lecturer’s impermissible conduct. Students’ protest) published in the newspaper Vaba Maa, the news also reached the Ministry of Education, which asked to investigate the matter. The investigation took place from 31 January 1931 in the Rector’s office and was conducted by Rector Johan Kõpp, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy Pärtel Haliste and Dean of the Faculty of Law Jüri Uluots in the presence of Lecturer W. E. Peters. Interrogations of students lasted until 3 February; W. E. Peters was questioned on 5 February (EAA 2100.2.833). The interrogation minutes (41 pages in total) (EAA 2100.2.833) show that the students complained that Lecturer W. E. Peters compared the students who could not correctly pronounce the conjunction ‘as’ to asses, mocked the bad pronunciation of Estonian teachers of English (even Prof. Mutschmann could not escape criticism); he recommended that English visitors to Estonia should treat Estonians as idiotic babies, compared the Estonian language to children’s babble and Estonians to Africans who, after primary school, shed the civilised clothes and start flirting. In his opinion, Estonian women were no good (“you are not girls, you are not women, you are even worse“) and did not need university education, which, however, did not hinder him from indecently harassing them. He was quoted to have said, “You hate me and I hate you too.“ He was reproached with giving private lessons to students whose poor English skills did not enable them to pass the exam. He was reported to have said that Estonians are too poor to take lessons from good teachers, “but I don’t want your cheap knowledge.” W. E. Peters tried to fend off the accusations in front of the interrogation committee and in the press (Kas arusaamatus… 1931), claiming that he was not understood correctly because of the students’ poor command of English. He wrote, “It is complete untruth that, during my lectures and exercises, I have said anything that could be offensive or damaging to the Estonian nation, the Estonian institutions or to the reputation of Estonia.” The economic matters of the phonetics laboratory also caused suspicion. The inventory logbooks were incomplete; no clear difference could be made between the equipment of the laboratory and Peters’ personal belongings. He was reproached with having wasted money on buying things that were not related to teaching of experimental phonetics, e.g. gramophone records. At that, the records had not been entered into the book by their titles but simply as gramophone records. When W. E. Peters took his personal apparatuses with him after dismissal, it was impossible to continue work at the laboratory (EAA 2100.2.832). The later inventory logbooks (1932–1940, EAA 2100.11.91, EAA 2100.11.92, EAA 2100.11.93) reflect the property of the laboratory with extreme precision to smallest items like scissors and knives. The gramophone records (323 in total) have also been precisely entered. Although most of them are not directly related to teaching of experimental phonetics, they made up a valuable collection – there were teaching materials in English and several other languages (Russian, Italian, Spanish), political speeches (by Winston Churchill, King George V, Woodrow Wilson, Benito Mussolini), scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, readings by famous Estonian actors (Paul Pinna, Hugo Laur, Ants Lauter), music by Estonian and foreign composers. The relations became so tense that the British embassy and the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs interfered (EAA 2100.2.834). 27
The University Council discussed the matter at its meeting on 10 March 1931. Professor Julius Mark, the earlier Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, said that students had asked for advice what to do if Lecturer Peters treated them unfairly a few years before already, and he had recommended writing an official complaint. Rector Johan Kõpp concluded the discussion by saying, “Peters told me to my face that you have been slaves for a long time, and, therefore, you are used to suffering. Although we have endured Peters for a long time, this does not diminish the significance of the current action. Things cannot go on like that; we will humiliate ourselves into a too low situation” (EAA 2100.2.834). The whole crisis ended with the dismissal of W. E. Peters by the decision of the Estonian government on 25 March 1931 (EAA 2100.2.832). Paul Ariste, who continued working on Estonian phonetics after Peters’ departure, says in his memories that W. E. Peters “was a clever but strange man. He was pathological, assaulted women students violently. [---] Willy Peters was still a good phonetician. From him, I received the foundations of experimental phonetics and interest in phonetics. What Peters wrote on Estonian pronunciation, particularly the speech melody, is valid even now. What he achieved on the kymograph has not been refuted by modern equipment and methods” (Ariste 2008: 136). In conclusion, Willy Peters seems to have been a controversial and conflicting person. It is notable that he was interested in the Estonian language and its experimental phonetic research. Obviously, however, he had difficulties in communication with students and finding teaching methods appropriate for their level, although the organisation of studies by the university also left much to be desired. In large groups and with a small number of classes, it was very difficult for students to reach the level required at the exam. He also seems to have been careless about formalities, as the confusion about the laboratory equipment shows. After W. Peters’ departure, the university employed the best-known Estonian lexicographer Johannes Silvet for a short time as an acting lecturer. He worked at the university for half of the spring semester 1931 and the whole academic year 1931/1932, being simultaneously a full-time teacher at Hugo Treffner Gymnasium. It is not known why J. Silvet did not stay at the university longer and did not apply for a permanent job. He returned to the university in 1940 after the communist coup and worked initially as a teacher of Russian, later of English (EAA 2100.2.1095). On 25 May 1932, Henry Charles Cecil Harris was elected to the post English lecturer for the next five years. H. Harris had received his bachelor’s degree at Madras University in India and held several jobs in India, Burma, China and Russia. Having come to Estonia in 1930, he had given private lessons and worked as an English lecturer at military school at Tondi in Tallinn (EAA.2100.2.185). REFERENCES Aktsioon lektor W. E. Petersi vastu. 1931. Üliõpilasleht, nr 1, lk 15. Anvelt, Ilmar. 2019. A remarkable woman. Jenny Leidig, the first English lecturer at the Estonian national university. Open! The EATE Journal. 55, 30–34. Ariste, Paul. 2008. Mälestusi. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts. EAA, ERA – Eesti Rahvusarhiiv (National Archives of Estonia). Matkur, Atso. 1982. Mälestuskilde Rakvere Õpetajate Seminarist. Bülletään. Eesti Õpetajate Keskliidu häälekandja, nr 30. Stockholm. Peters, Willy Ernst. 1927. English reader for students of economics and pupils of commercial schools. Tartu: Loodus. Peters, Willy Ernst. 1927. Esimene katse eesti kõnemeloodia võrdlevas uurimises. Tartu: Akadeemiline Emakeele Selts. Peters, Willy Ernst. 1929. Eksperimentaalfoneetika alged. Tartu: Akadeemiline Emakeele Selts. Ülikooli lektori lubamatu ülalpidamine. Üliõpilaste protest. 1931. Vaba Maa, 29. jaanuar.
LATE NEWS Robert Buckmaster
Vice President of LATE
The Latvian Association of Teachers of English has been representing and helping English language teachers in Latvia for 27 years now. After a recent dip in active members and activities, the Association is undergoing a renaissance with more activities and events for members, and more teachers are joining the Association. Last year (the 2018/19 academic year), LATE had two webinars: James Egerton gave a webinar on Media Literacies and Sally MacAndrew, Assistant Director of Studies gave a webinar on the 24th March 2019 on Projects for Young Learners. You can view these from our webinars page on LATE’s website: http://www.late.lv/webinars.htm. This year we hope to do two more webinars as part of our membership offer. For the last two years we have had a January Training Day just after the New Year. This is a free one-day training event for LATE members. In 2018, Džefrijs Grinvalds spoke on Public Speaking – Training Your Students and Yourself to be a Persuasive Public Speaker; Tatjana Kunda spoke on Assessment as Learning; M. Lee Alexander spoke on Rhyme and Reason: Using Poetry to Teach Expository Writing and Speaking Skills; and Robert Buckmaster spoke on Speaking and Speaking Skills, and Listening Skills. We are planning to have the third January Training Day on 3 January 2020. The other main event our calendar is the August Annual Conference, which this year was attended by 150 participants. It was held on 22–23 August at Riga Teika Secondary School. The conference was entitled Competence Based Teaching and Learning: Challenges and Opportunities. It was an event in our series Educating Today’s Learners for the 21st Century World: Competence-based Teaching and Learning. You can read more about the conference here: http://www.late.lv/conference.htm. LATE is also involved in other events throughout the year such as the Spelling Bee competition for secondary school students and the Express Drama Festival for students of all ages, both held in spring. LATE is keen to develop opportunities for teachers in Latvia’s regions and regions with neighbouring countries, and Ina Andina, LATE Vidzeme region coordinator, in co-operation with Pearson and colleagues in Estonia, organized a Latvia and Estonia joint seminar in Valka/Valga on 2 November 2018, in Valka Janis Cimze Gymnasium. A similar event will be held in November of this year. Ilona Ustinova, LATE’s Latgale co-ordinator, organized the 18th Latgale English Teachers’ Methodology Conference Competence-based Teaching and Learning – Gateway to Learner’s Success in Daugavpils, on the 23 October 2018. The 19th Conference will be held on 22 October this year. LATE and Pearson organized a Pearson-LATE Professional Development Course in Liepaja, A Competence Based Approach to Teaching and Learning English, at Liepaja State Gymnasium No. 1 on 24–25 October 2018. LATE will be returning to Liepaja on the 23 October 2019 for a Regional Conference. 2018 also saw our second recent British Council/LATE Summer School for Teachers of English en29
titled Coping with Competences held from 15–18 August 2018 in Priekuļi. Fifty-five teachers took part in the three-day event held at Priekuļi Technical School. The event was funded by the British Council and organised by LATE. You can read more about the summer school here: http://www.late. lv/BCSummerSchool2018.htm. We are in the early planning stage for another summer school which might happen in 2020. LATE is very keen to co-operate with EATE and other Associations in the region. EATE members are welcome to take part in any of our events and you can keep track of what we plan and what we do on the LATE website: http://www.late.lv. We hope to welcome you to a LATE event soon.
INDO-EUROPEAN CONNECTIONS AND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN INDIA Jari Lutta
Language school InterLink, Narva, Estonia PART II. BRITAIN’S PEARL OF THE EAST Calcutta as the former capital of British India
Then shall fair Freedom bless the happy land, And Science flourish ‘neath her genial hand, Peace knows no foe, the Arts meet no control, But British knowledge warm the Indian soul. Sir John Horsford
In the first part of the article printed in the previous issue, the relationship of the English language and the Indo-European family of languages was outlined. A due tribute was paid to Sir William Jones and other British scholars who had done tremendous work in India researching the origins of their language. In this part, I’d like to write about the glorious city of Calcutta, which has strong ties with Great Britain, perhaps more than any other city in India. In my younger days, I lived in several countries including India, and the area of Calcutta was the place I spent the most time while in Indostan. Calcutta is a huge megapolis with rich history and the limits of this article do not allow me to describe in detail even all the major places and peculiarities Calcutta is famed for. Indeed, it’s a multilayered city, caught between its own contradictions due to the fact of having been founded on the historical crossroads. What had been a place of hamlets with isolated hovels surrounded by rice-fields and jungles, became ‘the City of Palaces’ when Englishmen decided to settle there and started building their magnificent houses and introducing their culture. The history of meeting of two great civilizations, Indian and British, in the Age of Conquest is tremendously interesting and has been profoundly studied by researchers. Calcutta is the place where this meeting was the most replete. Once, this city was Britain’s ‘Pearl of the East’. And it still is, though a bit covered with dust and forgotten. When an average tourist is planning to visit India, perhaps Calcutta is not in the list of the places he’d like to see first, is it?
Speakers of Bengali, the region’s native language, have always called this city Kolkata, though its official name was Calcutta, according to its original English spelling. In 2001, following similar moves elsewhere in the country (i.e. in Madras and Bombay), the government of the Indian state of West Bengal officially changed the previous name Calcutta to Kolkata, though the British appellation is still often used in the rest of the world. Nowadays, the spelling Calcutta might be objectionable to some Indians, but in my article, with no intention to hurt anyone’s feelings, I’d prefer using this spelling because Calcutta was built and raised to its glory by the British and no one else.
A part of the map of Calcutta published in 1842 by the ‘Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge’, London.
A British engraving for ‘The Universal Magazine’, 1754: ‘A perspective view of Fort William in the Kingdom of Bengal; belonging to the East India Company of England.’ It is the city of intellectuals. You will see elderly gentlemen in every para or neighbourhood gathering outdoors in the evenings to drink tea and discuss idealism, poetry, history and politics. Calcuttans and other Indians still have this habit of drinking hot black tea with milk, as if following the British tradition established here in the days of yore. The English language is widely spoken in Calcutta and from its citizens it sounds very natural, despite their strong accent. In the streets of Calcutta, you can easily start conversation in English, be it about the history of the city, literature, philosophy, or stars in the sky. Calcuttans are keen on reading books and ‘going deep into things’. The National Library of India is located nowhere else than in Calcutta, being one of the biggest public libraries in the world. It was started in 1836 as ‘Calcutta Public Library’ with the help of Prince Dwarkanath Tagore (from 31
the illustrious Tagore dynasty), and soon the Governor General, Lord Charles Metcalfe, transferred several thousands of books from the College of Fort William to this public library. Today, the shelf space of the National Library extends to over 45 kilometres. Calcutta is India’s first ‘global city’, where you might meet descendants of Anglo-Indians, Baghdadi Jews, Persian Zoroastrians, Chinese work migrants, Armenian merchants, and Tibetan Buddhists. There are also many Indian Christians (usually with adopted English surnames), the descendants of Bengali compradors, albeit the majority of people are, naturally, Bengali Hindus of multifarious trends. Indeed, exporing Calcutta is a journey through the thick layers of time, cultures and ideas. Add to this a constant flow of tourists and researchers from other countries, and, thus, planned or unexpected encounters with all kinds of people in Calcutta will be like meeting the whole world at one place. This city is located in Eastern India and is nowadays the capital of the state called West Bengal; the population of the city with suburbs is around 15 million. Calcutta is probably one of the most ‘culturepacked’ in India, and for that reason it is called ‘the Cultural Capital of India’. Evidently, there are many ancient cities of old traditional Indian culture, but, from the 18th century, Calcutta has been known as the centre of European education and culture, hence it’s got such a position. Delhi, Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras), Hyderabad, Bangalore have their own grandeur and significance each, and still Calcutta can be called a special place with a soul, quite different from the rest of India. It is known primarily for its achievements in education, for spreading the English language, for its old school of teaching classical Indian music and singing (not less than that of Jaipur or South India), for its genius Rabindranath Tagore and other Bengali poets and writers, for its British colonial history seen in so many buildings of that era, for its illustrious British educators like David Lester Richardson, for its university, colleges, schools and libraries, for its educated and ‘sweet’ people… and for its yellow taxicabs, ‘running’ (hand-pulled) rikshaws, perky coolies carrying heavy loads on their heads, variegated delicious food, colourful flower markets, jolly and noisy festivals, massive crowds of people, the enormous Howrah Bridge, ferries across the wide river Ganges (Hooghly), street art and artistic atmosphere almost everywhere, be it on the walls or in people’s manners. Day and night the city bustles with life and attracts visitors from all over the world. Calcutta has got a nickname ‘the City of Joy’ for its embodiment of culture, love, mystery, respect, delight and dignity. This city is oldfashioned and modern at the same time. But let us see how this city was founded. The British conquest of India started with the trading activities of the ‘Honourable East India Company’ (EIC), sometimes called the ‘John Company’. The EIC received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I at the end of 1600. Very soon, an initial bastion was established in the town of Surat, an important seaport in the westcoast of India, and the first British trading factory was opened there (long before the foundation of Calcutta). A monopolistic trading body, the EIC became involved in politics and acted as an agent of British political influence in India. The Company settled down in India to trade in silk, cotton, indigo, salt, tea, spices, saltpetre (used for gunpowder), etc. With the help of clever politics and its mighty weapons, the influential British trade company eventually gained victory over the rivals from Europe (Portuguese, Dutch and French), as well as over Mughals, who had been the rulers of the area before the British. Before establishing Calcutta, the EIC tried out other possible places. In the year of 1644, the first British fortress in India (Fort St. George) was built in Madras, a seaport on the southeast coast. For different reasons, Madras didn’t become the capital of British India. Eventually, the land of Bengal happened to be more suitable for the British. Calcutta had an advantage over many other places in terms of safety and trade, as it was close to the sea (the Bengal Gulf of the Indian Ocean). The eastern ports helped the EIC to trade with other lands in Eastern Asia. Bengal was situated near the sea and relatively not so far from China and Burma, which could promote a ‘triangular trade’ with the help of the advanced British navy. The EIC entered Bengal in the late 19th century and acquired full control of this rich land in 1757.
On 24th August 1690, Job Charnock, an English gentleman from London, known for his tough character, was the first to come with his crew sailing on the river Ganges (Hooghly) to the village of weavers called Sutanuti which was near the village Kalikut. For this reason, he is believed to be the founder of Calcutta. Charnock was entrusted by the EIC to establish a ‘trading factory’ and the headquarters in the area. He had been serving in India (in Bihar and Madras) for the EIC since the 1650s and made a vigorous career. Being described as a ‘silent morose’ man, not very popular among his contemporaries, he was known as ‘always a faithful man to the Company’, which rated his services very highly (Hedges, 1694). Charnock’s sailing crue consisted of ‘Englishmen, servants of Honourable Company of East India merchants, sailors and ‘the country people’ (Blechynded, 1905). Sutanuti and two other neighbouring villages (Khalkata/Kalikata/Kalikut and Gobindpur) were purchased by the EIC from a local landlord. A cruel Mughal emperor called Aurangzeb ruling from Delhi/Agra granted the EIC freedom of trade in return for some yearly payment. When the British came, the capital city of Bengal was Murshidabad, about 60 miles north of the place where Calcutta was founded. The original name of the village Khalkata/Kalikata has a number of interpretations – khal (‘a creek, a canal’) + kata (‘cut’/‘dug’), ‘a canal which has been dug’; another version is Kalighat, the name of the place where an old temple of goddess Kali was located. The name ‘Calcutta’ appeared as an anglicized version of the Bengali word ‘kalikata’. One of the conjectures why the river Ganges flowing through this area has the name Hooghly is that many hogla plants or bulrush (typha elephantina) grow along the shores. By the end of the 18th century, the British government, seeing the growing influence of the EIC in the East Indies, started to regulate its political activities and made it accountable to the Parliament. Gradually, the company lost both commercial and political control; its monopoly was broken in 1813, and from 1834 it had been merely a managing agency for the British government of India. The EIC was deprived even of that role after the Indian Mutiny (1857) and ceased to exist as a legal entity in 1873 when the British Rule (Ingrej Raj) in India officially commenced. The selection of Calcutta as the capital of British India was largely the result of Charnock’s persistence, but in 2003 the High Court of Kolkata decided that because settlement on the site long predated Charnock’s arrival, his role in establishing the city was not sufficient for him to be recognized as such. According to the judges, Calcutta had grown up from rural settlements, a process that began before Charnock set up camp on the swampy banks of the Hooghly river. ‘Calcutta does not have a birthday,’ the court announced. The ruling was a victory for those who wanted to eradicate the last vestiges of British Imperial rule in India. The High Court ruling was prompted by a case filed by descendants of a Bengali landlord, S.R. Choudhury, who sold three villages to Job Charnock in the late 17th century. They filed the case after they had found documents from various sources that ‘Kolkata’ had existed before Charnock came to the city. Well, clearly it was just a small village and it became a large beautiful city entirely due to the efforts of Britons with Charnock as the pioneer. Lord Curzon, whose viceroyalty between 1899 and 1905 marked the high point of the British imperial system, said of Calcutta: ‘A glance at the buildings in the town, at the river and the roar and the smoke, is sufficient to show that Calcutta is a European city set down upon Asiatic soil and that it is a monument to the energy and achievement of our race’ (Orr, 2003). Charnock died in 1693, quite soon after he came to the area, and his white mausoleum was later erected by his successor and son-in-law, Sir Charles Eyre, in the graveyard of St. John’s Church in Calcutta, with the inscription in Latin: ‘Jobus Charnock, Armiger Anglus et nup. in hoc regno Bengalensi dignissimum Anglorum Agens…’ (Job Charnock, English knight and recently the most worthy agent of the English in this Kingdom of Bengal…). His eldest daughter married the founder and the first president of Fort William, Sir Charles Eyre. For a better understanding of what British India was, particularly in Calcutta and Bengal, I’d recommend two old books worth of reading: Calcutta: Past and Present by Kathleen Blechynden (1905) and Sketches of Some Distinguished Anglo-Indians by W.F.B. Laurie (1887). While reading 33
these two books, it would be also interesting to compare the descriptions of the British in India by a lady and a gentleman, respectively. Both lived in India for a long time. The British entered an unknown land of completely different culture and were destined to stay there for a long period, meeting their joys and sorrows. They were moved by the spirit of adventure and rivalry; they were exploring new lands and getting new opportunities for the Empire. As Caroll’s Alice said, ‘This is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here’ (Caroll, 1865). In her book about Calcutta, Kathleen Blechynden used the word ‘exile’ while speaking about the stay of the British government officers, teachers and army men in India. She was born in Bengal in 1856 and lived in Calcutta for many years, which enabled her to have ‘an intimate knowledge of the city and construct A British water-colour drawing: Indian priests garlanding the flags of the a mental picture of old Calcutta – so 35th Bengal Light Infantry, c.1847 vivid as to leave an impression of having really borne a part in it’ herself (Blechynden, 1905). Her book starts with the emerging of Job Charnock in the area of ‘three villages’, which grew into the city of Calcutta later, and goes through the main historical events related to Calcutta, with various details about the servitors of the British Crown. And Colonel W. Laurie writes: ‘The Iron Duke [Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who served in India and later won a notable victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo] says in his Despatches that the affairs of America “will always hang upon the skirts of Great Britain.” So will those of India, as a matter of course; but, in the latter case, more must be effected. They must not only hang on the skirts of Britannia, but be woven into her dress, becoming, as it were, a part and parcel of herself, by a process which Manchester ingenuity may yet devise!’ (Laurie, 1887) These words clearly show to which extent India was important to Great Britain. At the height of its glory, the British Empire encompassed nearly a quarter of the earth’s land mass and a quarter of its population. Of all its possessions, none was more precious than India, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Queen Victoria’s Empire. Other possessions may have been larger or even more profitable, but with none of them was there the same deep relationship as that which existed between Britain and India, a relationship whose 34
The Standard of the British Viceroy and the Governor-General of India. Union Jack with the Order of the Star of India surmounted with the Tudor Crown. The inscription on the Order: Heaven’s Light Our Guide’
essence was so perfectly captured by James Morris: ‘India was different in kind from the rest of the Empire – British for so long that it had become part of the national consciousness, so immense that it really formed, with Britain itself, the second focus of a dual power. If much of the Empire was a blank in British minds, India meant something to everybody, from the Queen herself with her Hindu menservants to the humblest family whose ne’er-do-well brother, long before, had sailed away to lose himself in the barracks of Cawnpore. India was the brightest gem, the Raj, part of the order of things: to a people of the drizzly north, the possession of such a country was like some marvel in the house, a caged phoenix perhaps, or the portrait of some fabulously endowed if distant relative. India appealed to the British love of pageantry and fairy-tale, and to most people the destinies of the two countries seemed not merely intertwined, but indissoluble.’ (Morris, 1979) Being the hub of the British activities in India, Calcutta witnessed a lot: war and peace, rebellion and obedience, struggle with outdated prejudices (or compromise with them) and spread of modern education, usage of local facilities and introduction of up-to-date technologies. And if we speak about ‘human dimension’, Calcutta has seen colonial cruelty and abundant mercy, fierce hate and sublime love. For so long time period, it had been the stronghold of Britons in Indostan, but it happened that Calcutta didn’t remain the British capital of India for the whole historical period of the British Indian Empire. During his visit to India in 1911, King George V had to announce that the capital would be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. (It was the first time when a British monarch visited this important part of the Empire.) There were several reasons why the capital of British India was transferred to Delhi. The then Viceroy of India sent a letter to the Secretary of State for India, saying that Calcutta being the capital was an anomaly as it was situated on the eastern extremity. It would be logistically easier to administer India from Delhi, which was in the centre of northern India. Furthermore, Calcutta had become inundated with the nationalist movements since the late 19th century, and the government had to deal with it by inventing a new plan. Old Delhi had served as the political and financial centre of several empires of ancient India, later of Delhi Sultanate rule (13th–16th centuries), and then of the Mughal Empire (17th–19th centuries). The British government moved to Delhi with the idea to influence all Indians (and not only the people of Bengal and neighbouring lands) to accept them as their legitimate rulers. There were also geopolitical reasons for the transfer of the capital, relating to the threats to Britain’s interests from rival powers in South Asia. After two World Wars and the Indian Independence (1947), Calcutta became plagued by new problems: poverty, power outages (remaining till now), labour unrest, disappearing industry, and since the 1970s it has been troubled by violence from the radical ‘naxalite’ (communist-maoist) group. In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi referred to Calcutta as a ‘dying city’ because of the social and political traumas. The city’s economic recovery gathered momentum after economic reforms in India introduced by the central government in the mid-1990s. Since 2000, IT services revitalized the city’s stagnant economy. The city has also experienced a growth in the manufacturing sector. Calcutta is an ever-growing city, expanding each year in size and population. Inhabitants of other places in West Bengal state are ready to travel for 3–4 hours in extremely crowded local trains to their workplaces in Calcutta, which is especially tough in the hot season. People with higher education often cannot find decent jobs in their small towns or villages and have to either open a small grocery stall or pursue their fortune in the ‘city of opportunities’. Many get tired of daily commuting trips and decide to move to Calcutta if they get a chance. This makes Calcutta expand more and more. There’s no wonder why Calcutta is a terribly congested city, with about 25,000 people per square kilometre, making it one of the world’s highest densities. People are just everywhere – thousands and hundreds, or at least a few indispensable onlookers hanging around even when you are trying to hide yourself from crowds and get some peace and quiet. The remedy is just to stop thinking about distractions and do what you need to do, otherwise you may lose your balance and rush to the airport with the only desire to escape from this intolerable mess. Most probably, no average European would like to live permanently in such cities like Calcutta, especially if one is not of a young adventurous age or doesn’t have to be there for his/her work or studies. But, definitely, Calcutta is worth visiting or even 35
staying there for some time. Not only tourists, ‘yoga people’ and backpackers (who prefer staying, for example, on notorious Sudder Street) but various kinds of foreign researchers, photographers and bloggers roam around this city. For some Calcutta is just a transit point on the way to Eastern Himalayas (Darjeeling), Varanasi, Gaya or South India (starting with the nearby state of Orissa), and for others it’s an alluring place in itself. An average Indian town is usually a clutter of cars, buses, motorbikes, ‘three-wheelers’ (autorikshaws), cows, pedestrians, cycle-rikshaws, dogs, bicycles, and carts loaded with goods. Perhaps, in Calcutta the street traffic is a bit more organized, which makes it easier to move around. In this city, side by side, you can see poverty and luxury, squalor and magnificence, noisy fluster and heavenly serenity. Shouting hawkers with their various goods and foods are everywhere, especially on buses and trains. The streets are filled with students and loafers, shopping housewives and various traders, sadhus (wandering religious ascetics, real or false) and ordinary employees, absolutely honest people always ready to help you, and all kinds of tricksters. Visiting India is not like a normal holiday trip but rather a sort of ‘quest’ game where your nerves are being tickled almost at every step. Moments of joy and moments of disgust are replacing each other quickly and you almost never know what will happen next in this place of ‘another dimension’ (which can be said about India on the whole). Now, let’s walk around Calcutta and witness the British legacy in the architecture and historical sights. Fort William is the spot where Calcutta was ‘born’. The fort was named after King William III in 1700. Actually, there are two Forts of William. The original one was built in 1696 by the EIC to protect the interests of the Company in the area. Sir Charles Eyre and Sir John Goldsborough were those who built the first fort. In 1756, the nawab (muslim ruler) of Bengal attacked and destroyed the fort, temporarily The site of Fort William where Calcutta was founded in the late 17th century conquered the town and even changed its name to Alinagar. Later, the British captured the place again and built a new Fort William in the Maidan area. The magnificent structure was spread over 70 acres and was embellished with hundreds of arched windows. Meticulous stonework adorned the surface of the building and it took as long as ten years to complete the contruction. However, it was soon realized that the building had some deficiencies, and a new octagonal building was constructed, whose foundation was laid by the Commander-in-Chief of British India, Sir Robert Clive (1725–1774), who firmly established the military and political supremacy of the EIC in Bengal. Nowadays, the site of Fort William is used by the Indian Army, and for this reason entry is restricted to civilians and foreigners. Outside the fort area you can walk around the large area of Maidan. Dalhousie Square (BBD Bagh) is the very centre of Calcutta and this area was named after Lord Dalhousie (1812–1860), who was also known as James Andrew Broun Ramsay. He originated from a poor noble family owning Dalhousie Castle in Scotland and became one of the most efficient Governor-Generals in British India. Lord Dalhousie was successful in modernization of India in the mid-19th century, and, by his policies both the map of modern India and the centralized Indian 36
state were created. This part of the city was called ‘White Town’ (the seat of British business and government). Dalhousie Square is considered to be ‘the heart of Calcutta’. It has been the commercial and political centre of the capital and all of East India. BBD Bagh is one of the best-preserved places of British colonial architecture in the world. Victoria Memorial is the most impressive place reminding us of the British legacy in Calcutta. Its design is based on what is known as the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style that uses a blend of architecture styles with Egyptian, Mughal, British, Deccani, Islamic and Venetian elements. This magnificent building was commissioned by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, in memory of Queen Victoria, following Her Majesty’s demise in 1901. The construction was finished in 1921. Interesting enough, during her long-time reign Queen Victoria never visited India. The first British Royal to visit India was her son, Edward, Prince of Wales, who visited India in 1875, long before he was crowned Edward VI after Victoria’s death. The first reigning British monarch to visit India was George V, shortly after ascending to the throne. Planned by the British architect William Emerson, Victoria Memorial was constructed of white marble sourced from Rajasthan. With its great dome, Victoria Memorial is an architectural landmark in the city. It has a lush green garden designed by David Prain and Lord Redesdale that covers an area of 64 acres land and is visited by thousands. The green lawns around Victoria Memorial Victoria Memorial dome are a perfect place for visitors to walk or sit down and relax. This part of Maidan is called ‘Queens Way’. On the marble pedestal at the entrance of the memorial is a bronze statue of Queen Victoria seated on a bronze throne wearing robes of the Star of India. Other statues around the building include, among others, those of Edward VII, Curzon, Dalhousie and Hastings. Another attraction of the memorial is the Angel of Victory, a black bronze figure placed atop its dome. Fixed to its pedestal with ball bearings, the Angel of Victory with a bugle in his hand rotates as wind blows strongly. Several allegorical sculptures like Justice, Motherhood, Architecture, Learning and Prudence in and around the dome enhance the British aura of the place. Inside the memorial, there are 25 galleries with remarkable collections of paintings, artefacts, weapons, and so forth. Maidan (from Arabic/Persian maidan, ‘an open place in or near the town’) is the largest urban park in central Calcutta, previously known as Brigade Parade Ground. Being one of the greenest open areas in the city, Maidan has been referred to as the ‘lungs of Calcutta’. This ground of leisure and entertainment of Calcuttans has a number of statues in the memory of great Indian personalities. Victoria Memorial, King Edward VII Arch, Fort William, Raj Bhawan, Eden Gardens (with a famous cricketing and horse race ground) and Birla Planetarium are located in the wide area of Maidan. Writers’ Building (or simply Writers’) is located in the area of BBD Bagh and is the secretariat building of the West Bengal state government. Designed by Thomas Lyon in 1777, it originally served as the principal administrative office for ‘writers’ (junior clerks) of the British East India Company. High Court building is also in BBD Bagh. It was designed by the then government architect Walter Granville in neo-Gothic style and opened in 1872. The building is carved out of beautifully sculptured Caen stone. The oldest High Court of India remains one of the most architecturally attractive buildings in the City of Joy (see the photo in the previous issue). General Post Office (GPO) is another remarkable sight in BBD Bagh. The postal system was 37
introduced in Calcutta in 1774 by Warren Hastings (1732–1818), the first Governor-General of India, and the first Post Office of Calcutta was situated on Old Post Office Street. Designed by Walter Granville, the imposing building of the GPO remains a glowing colonial structure. The outstanding architectural feature of the GPO is its lofty dome, rising over 220 ft on the southeast corner, which forms one of the most conspicuous landmarks of Calcutta. The dome is supported by aesthetically arranged Corinthian columns, and the multi-dialed illuminated clock is a notable feature too. Postal Museum in the same building was opened in 1884 and it displays an excellent collection of artefacts and stamps of the old times. Lal Dighi (‘Red pond’) is just next to GPO. St. Paul’s Cathedral is a breathtaking Gothic beauty of pristine-white colour in the middle of Calcutta on Cathedral Road, not far from Victoria Memorial. Built in 1847, it is said to be the largest cathedral in Calcutta and the first cathedral of the British Empire in the overseas territories. It was built to tend to Calcutta’s growing Briton community. Before this, Anglicans depended on the much smaller St. John’s Cathedral. Designed by the famous English architect, Major W.N. Forbes, this church is a beautiful piece of art with slender vertical piers and pointed arches. Indian Museum is located on Chowringhee Road in central Calcutta. It was founded in 1814 as ‘Indian Imperial Museum’. The building was designed by Walter Granville and completed in 1875. It’s the oldest Indian museum holding a large collection of traditional ornaments, antiques, armour, fossils, and a lot of fine Mughal paintings on silk. Presidency College is situated on Cornwallis Street. It was founded by philanthropists in 1817 as a center for the teaching of European thought. In Calcutta there are plenty of other educational institutions founded by the British. Esplanade is an area in central Calcutta, nearby the river Ganges. Old Court House Street connects Esplanade Row with BBD Bagh. The name ‘Esplanade’ was given to the northern portion of the jungle, which later formed the Maidan. In the days of Warren Hastings, it formed a favourite promenade for ‘elegant walking parties’. A photographic studio, Bourne & Shepherd, was established here as early as in 1867 by the British photographers Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd. Nowadays, Esplanade is the busiest bus terminus of the city with many shops and offices around.
A British engraving by Frith and Dawson, c. 1860. View of Calcutta from the Esplanade. Howrah Station (Howrah Junction) is the main railway station of Calcutta and one of the seven biggest railway stations in the world. It’s the oldest and largest railway complex in India with dozens of platforms and an incessant flow of people moving around quite chaotically in all directions – more than a million passengers every day! Truly, it’s a spectacular sight by itself. The station has received 38
its name because of the Howrah district adjacent to Calcutta city on the other side of the Ganges (haor means ‘a fluvial swampy lake’ in Bengali). The Howrah district was called ‘Sheffield of the East’ because of its massive engineering industry. To reach Howrah Station you have to take a ferry or cross the river via Howrah Bridge. In 1851, George Turnbull, the chief engineer of the East Indian Railway Company, submitted plans for a railway station in Howrah, and a temporary building was constructed; the first locomotive left Howrah in June of 1853 for a route of 37 miles to the town of Pandua. Later, the British architect Halsey Ricardo designed the new station, which was opened in 1905 and has been functioning till now. Once waiting for my train (the delays of Indian trains are often terrible!), I found an interesting place, the Railway Museum, located just near the Howrah Station. It’s got a lot of artefacts related to the history of railways in the British era. It’s also worth seeing, or at least it can be visited as a quiet place just near the noisy and congested Howrah Station. Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu) is the world’s fourth busiest cantilever bridge, which is situated on the river Ganges (Hooghly) connecting the western bank of Calcutta to the eastern bank of Howrah district. Being the main bridge of Calcutta for vehicles and pedestrians, it acts as the ‘lifeline’ of Calcutta and offers the best view from the middle of the river. Howrah Bridge is similar to other cantilever bridges like Forth Bridge in Scotland and Quebec Bridge in Canada. In 1965, it was renamed ‘Rabindra Setu’ after the great poet of Calcutta, Rabindranath Tagore. The project was started in 1862 by George Turnbull, a British engineer, and initially a pontoon bridge was constructed. The impressive gigantic bridge that we can see today was opened in 1943. The design of the Howrah Bridge was made by Mr. Walton of Rendel, Palmer and Tritton Co. and the construction was done by Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co. It’s definitely worth seeing both in the daytime and at night when the bridge is beautifully lit. Vidyasagar Setu, the second biggest bridge in Calcutta, looks light and airy in comparison to sledgehammer style Howrah Bridge. Vidyasagar Bridge was finished in 1992 and named after the 19th-century Bengali educationist Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. There are several other bridges connecting Calcutta with Howrah district, and among them is Nivedita Setu, a bridge opened in 2007 and named after Sister Nivedita (Margaret Elizabeth Noble, 1867–1911), an Irish teacher, author, social activist and school founder very much respected by the locals. James Prinsep Ghat is located by the Ganges, just next to the beautiful Vidyasagar Bridge. This white Palladian porch with columns built in 1843 is a splendid place to relax and reflect. Ghat means a flight of steps leading down to a river, and this particular ghat is dedicated to James Prinsep, who was born in Essex, England in 1799 and died in 1840. Distinguished orientalist, antiquary, and administrator in British India, he became the first European scholar to decipher the edicts of the ancient Indian emperor Ashoka, as well as Kharishthi and Brahmi scripts of ancient India. Prinsep was appointed to the Calcutta mint in 1819 and then to the Benares (Varanasi) mint. He returned to the Calcutta mint as an assay master in 1832. As the secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal he developed the study of the largest collection of Indian coins then existing. Trained as an architect, Prinsep assumed responsibility for architectural projects in Calcutta. He also introduced a uniform coinage and reformed the Indian system of weights and measures. Prinsep’s life was short, but he did a lot of good things for Calcutta and its inhabitants, so it’s written on the porch: ‘Erected James Prinsep Ghat and Vidyasagar Bridge 39
in honour of James Prinsep by his fellow citizens.’ Sure enough, this notable scholar deserved great love and respect from them. College Street near Calcutta University is the place where you can get all sorts of books, even some old British editions (please see the previous issue of this journal, where I described this remarkable street charged with learning spirit). Calcuttans joke: if you can’t find a book on College Street, perhaps you won’t find it anywhere else. Botanical Garden is located in Shibpur, Howrah, near Calcutta. It’s a pleasant abode of nearly 300 acres to walk around. Botanical Garden is said to house about 12,000 perennial trees and plants of exotic species from five continents. The major attraction is the ‘Great Banyan Tree’. The original Royal Botanical Gardens were founded here in 1786 by Colonel Robert Kyd.
Young James Prinsep drawn by his sister Emily, the early 19th century
Lake Town Clock Tower is a replica of the iconic Big Ben Tower of Westminster, London. It’s one of the newest buildings related to the British culture in Calcutta. The local municipal body of South Dumdum area designed this 135-feet tower as a part of the drive from the Calcutta airport to beautify the city. The original tower is about three times taller, but like the Big Ben, the Calcutta Clock Tower has four giant clocks facing four directions. The idea of building this tower belonged to M. Banerjee, the West Bengal state Chief Minister, and Calcuttans sometimes jokingly call this new structure ‘Big-Ben-erjee’. Chandni Chowk market in central Calcutta is one of the busiest and colourful markets in the city. Do not forget to bargain in any Indian markets! If you do not bargain, expect to be overpriced as an inevitably ‘rich foreigner’. Chinatown in East Calcutta is another famous area for markets and dining. Working migrants from China appeared here in the late 18th century. Eventually, the neighbourhood saw a few more waves of migration from China, also when some Chinese were escaping from the communist regime. Central Park in Salt Lake City area is a very popular hangout spot with the afterwork crowd and college students. The park boasts of a large pond and an island with a pagoda in the middle of it. There is also a rose garden (best enjoyed during winter) and a butterfly garden in Central Park. It’s not possible to even mention all interesting places in Calcutta (apart from those connected with Britain), but here are some more: the colourful Mallick Ghat flower market is located just near the famous Howrah Bridge. It is open from very early morning until late at night. Full of bright yellow, red and orange Indian flowers and long garlands made of them, it’s a truly unique experience. Quest Mall (Park Circus, Ballygunge) and Acropolis Mall (East Calcutta Township) are great places to shop, eat, and get entertained. Kumortuli Street is a place of artists and clay sculptors working right there for visitors to see. Gariahat Market (Rash Behari Avenue) is a famous street market where you can feel the vibration of the city. Other places in Calcutta worth mentioning: Academy of Fine Arts, Standard Chartered Bank building, Raj Bhawan (Government House of the British period), Science City, Calcutta University, Calcutta Town Hall, Calcutta Zoo, Nicco Park, Belvedere Estate, Metcalfe Hall, Ellenborough’s Folly, James Hickey Sarani (Dacres Lane), Chowringhee. The streets of Calcutta related to the British era, starting with famous Park Street, will be described in the next part of the article. Among the temples of Calcutta, the following are the biggest ones: Jain temple, Birla temple, Kalighat temple, Belur math, Dakshineshwar temple. There are hundreds of smaller temples scattered all around the city and suburbs.
Certainly, I had my own dearest places in Calcutta: Park Street, College Street, a ferry from Howrah Station to Dalhousie Square across the Ganges, lawns around Victoria Memorial, High Court area, Esplanade, and St. Paul’s Cathedral area. When Calcuttans speak about their favourite places, some indicate the parts of the city reminding them of London, some mention the places which are ‘very Indian’, and others love the places connected to other cultures. Everyone has his own Calcutta, that’s for sure. When you’re on ferry from Howrah Station sailing across the great river to the other side (Dalhousie Square or BBD Bagh), the river waters, the embankment, the towers and other buildings might remind you in some way of the Thames and London. Sometimes Calcutta is also called ‘St. Petersburg of the East’. The Ganges in Calcutta is about 500m wide and its colour may change from dark yellow to dark green or even blue depending on the weather. Perhaps, no other part of India can be compared with Calcutta in cuisine – it is so variegated and rich with tastes. If you are fond of good food, it’s the right place. But you have to carefully decide where to eat – choose only decent places; food should be eaten ‘right from fire’, i.e. not stale, and it’s advised to always drink only ‘authorized’ bottled water purchased from the shops, not just from anywhere. When you order your food to be cooked, ask them twice to avoid adding plenty of red chili pepper in your dish (unless you are a lover of a very hot taste or if you don’t care about the safety of your digestive system). In a diner or restaurant, even if you ask not to add too much chili, in most cases they’ll still bring you very hot spicy food – for Indians it’s ‘nothing, just a little chili’, as they simply cannot imagine food without this hot spice. Foreigners solve this problem by cooking themselves to their liking in rooms they rent, but this needs some arrangement, too. Bengali sweets are popular all over India, and they do not contain hot chilli pepper, of course. The staple food for Bengalis is rice and they eat lots of it (at least for lunch and dinner daily without fail) with some lentil soup poured on it, plus a bit of cooked spinach and one or two spicy vegetable dishes, in much less quantity than rice, on a big round metal plate called thali. Those who are not strict vegetarians (the majority of Indians) also eat fish and chicken dishes. In many neighbourhoods of Calcutta, no evidence of planning can be seen, and some streets (not in the centre) are so narrow that only rickshaw pullers can go through. The streets and houses are not marked in a way you might expect in a large city. Often, there are simply no visible marks. You may find the right street somehow, but you have to know the name of the building you are looking for and some nearby recognized places. ‘Para’ means neighbourhood in Bengali. Often the address is ‘such and such para’ and the name of the house. In India, with no exception for Calcutta, you have to ask for directions from 4–5 different people because they might direct you wrongly. Of course, nowadays online navigation can help, but that also might not work accurately in India. ‘Wooden’ trams. Calcutta is the only Indian city to have a tram network. I consider these lovely trams of Calcutta with old-type wooden interior the best type of transport. You get a special feel when you travel by tram around this city, observing the life of Calcutta through an open tram window, getting off anywhere you like and then walking around the vast squares or congested neighbourhoods. Initially, trams in Calcutta were drawn by horses (started in 1873) and the first electric tram appeared in 1902. Noisy Calcutta buses of blue and red colour (also with wooden interior) are another type of popular transport in this city, but they go really fast, which is so frightening to foreigners; they stop very abruptly at crossroads or for taking on passengers, so one has to hold on tight to handrails in order not to fall down. Pulled rickshaws. Normally, rickshaws in India are ‘cycle rikshaws’, but in Calcutta rickshaw drivers run and pull a two-wheeled wooden carriage with 1–2 passengers. This type of transportation was invented in Japan in the mid-19th century and soon became popular across Asia. It appeared in India around 1880 and by now it has remained mainly in Calcutta, not in other places of India. In the 2000s, the government of the West Bengal state tried to ban pulled rickshaws in this city, but it resulted in protests and strikes of the pullers themselves; so even today they remain an exotic feature of the locality. Once I tried a ride with a pulled rickshaw for a short distance somewhere in Calcutta, because Calcuttans use it without being even slightly embarrassed, but I definitely got a bad feeling sitting up there and looking at a poor barefoot man running in front and pulling the carriage. 41
After that, I decided not to use this type of transport anymore. Three-wheelers, trams or taxis are faster anyway. It seems that, in the close future. pulled rickshaws of Calcutta are going to become extinct. Yellow taxi cars are retro-looking ‘ambassadors’ produced in India. They are always visible, and they look very cute. It’s quite a convenient and cheap way to move around Calcutta. Just don’t forget to ask a driver to switch the meter on, or agree upon payment before you start the taxi ride, as the general rule in India is to agree upon the price first and then accept the service you’re asking for – otherwise you might hear any unexpected price at the end of your trip and will have to get into argument with a driver. And, sure enough, the traffic in Calcutta (and in all India) is ‘left side duty’. Almost all vehicles have steering wheels on the right side – it has been unchanged from the British time. Policemen regulating the traffic at the crossroads wear white helmets and old-type British uniforms, as if they had jumped out straight from 1920s or earlier. Yellow taxi and pulled rikshaw in Calcutta. Calcutta Metro is a very modern, cheap and Photo: gettyimages.com convenient way to move around this huge megapolis. Opened for public service in 1984 with only one line from Tollygunge to Esplanade, it became the first metro railway in India. Today, there are 24 metro stations in the network effectively connecting distant areas. Some metro stations are simply delightful, for example ‘Rabindra Sadan’ is one of my favourites. While waiting for the next train, you can listen to Rabindranath Tagore’s music and poetry and look at his drawings reproduced on the walls of the station. In India, extreme poverty and unimaginable luxury can be seen side by side. On the outskirts of the city, rich Indians build their white marble palaces with hign walls around them, and large numbers of poor people have to live in slums, taking shelter in decrepit huts made of broken bamboo sticks and plastic. Calcutta is home for many homeless and hungry people. Though the government and charity organisations make efforts to give education and food to the masses, there are plenty of illiterate and destitute people, mostly of lower castes. In the streets of Calcutta you may see fashionclad, well-to-do young men and girls going about their work or studies, in pursuit of modern professions and good money, and alongside you may observe mad wanderers in dirty rags, disadvantaged vagabonds or dirty beggars squatting on pavements and begging in hope to get a few rupees for food. This city often captures you between extremes like striking beauty and frightful ugliness. One of the strong memories for me is blind vagrants of Calcutta, when you see them passing by or going somewhere on local trains – they seemed to be the best singers I had ever heard, at least in terms of sincerity of singing. Such persons, without any hope for improving their lives, just roam around, sing and do not even ask anything from anyone. There was always something beautiful, dramatic and soul-touching in their voices. Well, Calcutta… A paradoxically prosperous and impoverished city. A place of heat and humidity, congested areas, noise, dust, tropical air often hard to breathe… You encounter kind and soft people and sometimes just the opposite – stunning indifference or roughness just behind the next corner. In Calcutta do not get into heated arguments with people, though in some situations you might lose your temper and wish to do so, and do not walk alone at night in some unknown neighbourhoods; it can be really dangerous! It’s not a ‘resort’ place, and if you’ve dared to get there somehow, be very cautious about your safety and health, inner peace and outer dangers. Ah, those remarkable Indian extremes! 42
Ending my overview of Calcutta, I’d like to refer to one of the European sympathisers of this city, though he wasn’t from Britain. Günter Grass, a German writer, peace movement activist and a Nobel Prize laureate, concurrently hated and loved Calcutta. He lived there for some time and hated it for being so congested and difficult to live in, but still loved it because of its citizens: ‘People in Calcutta don’t complain from morning to evening about their misery; they are alive. The logo of © Britannia Industries Ltd (established by British And if you look at the faces of rich people in businessmen in 1892), an Indian corporation headquartered in Germany – and we are still rich there – you Calcutta and selling biscuits, breads and dairy products. don’t find many people laughing in the street. They are very serious and very eager to go about [their business]. This I didn’t see in Calcutta’ (Taberner, 2009). While exploring ‘the City of Joy’, a foreigner may get astonished at almost every step. The most striking is that you can really see happy, smiling faces around, despite the obvious poverty of many people. It can be compared to the phenomenon of Scandinavian stamina (e.g. Finnish sisu), but with a never-ceasing feel of happiness and harmony. In spite of its contradictions, Calcutta has become a place of historical harmony of the British and Indian civilizations, but that will be the topic for the next part of this article. REFERENCES Blechynden, K. 1905. Calcutta: Past and Present. London: W. Thacker & Co. Caroll, L. 1865. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London: Macmillan & Co. Datta-Ray, S.K., Hazra, I. 2018. Calcutta Then, Kolkata Now. Roli Books. Dutta K. 2009. Calcutta: A Cultural History. UK: Signal Book Ltd. Encyclopædia Britannica, www.britannica.com, 2019. Ginsberg, A. 2010. Collected Poems 1947–1997. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. Hedges, W. 1694. Diary of William Hedges. 2.293, 3 January. Humphrey, K. 2009. Walking Calcutta. UK: Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd. Laurie, W. 1887. Sketches of Some Distinguished Anglo-Indians. London: W.H. Allen & Co. Mitra, R. 2011. Calcutta: Then and Now. Ananda Publishers Pvt Ltd. Morris, James. 1979. Pax Britannica. London: Penguin, Orr, David. 2003. “Calcutta was not founded by Briton, court rules”. 18 May. www.telegraph.co.uk Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. Taberner, S., ed. 2009. The Cambridge Companion to Günter Grass. Cambridge University Press.
Do you know the colonial buildings of Calcutta? (photos on p. 56) 1. Victoria Memorial. Photo: unsplash.com 2. General Post Office (GPO) 3. St. Paul’s Cathedral. Photo: Ankitesh Jha 4. Lake Town Clock Tower. Photo: expedition2india.com 5. Writers’ Building 6. Rabindra Setu (Howrah) Bridge. Photo: Manoj Menon For the descriptions of these places, please see the preceding article by Jari Lutta.
ABOUT HOPE: THE QUEST FOR ASYLUM, 2019 Julia Hirsch
Professor Emerita Brooklyn College (City University of New York)
Three days ago, I went to Court. I sat on a bench next to my Friend and waited for the Judge to appear. I knew I had not committed any crime, but my Friend, an asylum seeker, is considered to have broken the law by virtue of his very presence. My Friend is a friend like no other. I know his name and his birth date, have spoken to his wife who is about 6000 miles away back in my Friend’s West African homeland, have seen photographs of his mother and two of his five children and learned about his career as teacher and field inspector for elementary education in his native country. I know of his dedication to human rights, and I know that he is a well-educated man. I don’t know whether he has any hobbies, what he does in the little spare time he has or exactly what he dreams of when he thinks of tomorrow or the day after. But he has endured death threats at home because of his political activities, and he sends home what little money he has so that his family can celebrate his mother’s return from the Hajj in style: a couple of bullocks are to be slaughtered for a feast to which the entire community is invited. Our connection is not enlivened by evenings at the opera or walks in the country. It was born of a shared hope, a shared conviction, perhaps, about the human right to freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. My Friend, who came to the United States a year ago on a visitor’s visa, is seeking asylum on the grounds of his opposition to the oppressive government of his homeland — and I have been a volunteer for the past two years in an organization, one of many, that tries to help asylum seekers achieve their dreams of finding a permanent home, and security in the United States. Most of the people who come to seek our help are from Central New York City Immigration Court America. But some, like my Friend, come from Africa while a few come from China, India, the former USSR, Brazil, Venezuela and the Caribbean. Entire families are among them, as well as individuals. Some have come to the United States with valid visas, and for them the challenge, as it was for my Friend, is to apply for asylum within a calendar year of their entry into the country. Others have come only with a passport and fear in their hearts. They may have undertaken their journey a month or thirty years ago. They may be sleeping on a cousin’s spare mattress in a crowded apartment somewhere in the city, or they may be living in the house they bought years ago out of the money they made in a business they set up which enabled them to send their children, American citizens, to college and make their way into the working world. The people who come to us hear about us from a social service organization, a lawyer whose fees the asylum seeker cannot afford, from another person who has come to us for help, or from a church they attend. We have a Facebook presence but do not advertise in any other way. There is a constant, silent 44
fear that our proceedings will be infiltrated by government agents ready to gather up undocumented migrants. I do not know if this has actually ever happened but for this reason I have not named the organization nor provided many details about it. We have a small office in a well-known interfaith church in New York with a long history of social activism. We meet our Friends, as we call them, in lecture halls offered us at a nearby university. When these aren’t available because of university needs, we meet at the headquarters of a religious organization. And when these aren’t available we meet in the basement of the church building. We learn to be adaptable. We learn to put our own personalities, our own preferences, opinions and judgement aside. “Do not judge” and “do no harm” are among our foundational principles. We are led by a small team of professionals, most of whom have come through the immigration process themselves and are sensitive to all the complexities of current conditions and the anguish our Friends go through. We practice solidarity and cooperation with each other. As community we are almost as diverse as the Friends we serve. A number of us are retired professionals who once were doctors, teachers, and social workers. Many volunteers are artists and students. A few lawyers and one former immigration judge offer their skills in a purely advisory capacity: they do not take on our Friends as clients, only give advice. Our Friends know that given the complexities of immigration law, they will sooner or later have to hire a lawyer. Our main task it to help our Friends with the first step of the immigration process. This means completing the basic and quite lengthy government application form. The first questions call for such basic information as name, date and place of birth, current address and phone number. Far more difficult questions follow. The Friend has to state the reason for leaving his or her country, and the experiences that led to that decision. Trauma is always involved, and it is both difficult to solicit information and for the asylum seeker to share it. Often horrendous events have to be uncovered — the murder of a relative, physical attacks, rapes, kidnapping, torture — and processing trauma through the prism of bureaucratic criteria can be invasive and cruel. But it is essential to the quest for asylum which, according to the official guidelines, must be based on life-threatening conditions brought about by political affiliation, ethnicity, race, gender, religion or group affiliation. (This last condition is subject to a lot of interpretation.) The application often asks for documentation (such as police reports or photographs) to support the narrative of trauma, and these are often impossible for the applicant to provide, because they don’t exist or they can no longer access them. All of this adds to the complexities of the asylum process. At our organizations, volunteers like myself work in teams. One person is expected to have a computer on which they begin filling out the asylum application which is available on line. Another person speaks the Friend’s native language (which may be Spanish, Haitian Creole, French, Russian, Mandarin, or Urdu.) and translates our English questions for them as most of our Friends have little or no English at all. My team has consisted of one other woman and two men. The woman has travelled far and wide, spent some time in central Africa, and for some time in her younger years was a street performer in Paris. One of the men is working on his doctoral thesis at a major university and while not a native speaker, speaks the most exquisite French worthy of a Sartre or de Beauvoir, two writers he greatly admires. The other man is a recent graduate of an eminent university. We each have different skills, and over time achieved an astonishing level of cooperation. Our Friend’s court appearance a few days ago marked the end of what we can do for him. In three years he will have to go to court again for a final determination of his status. At that appearance he will be represented by an attorney who specializes in immigration law. Witnesses will be called who can attest to the conditions of his homeland which brought about his need for asylum. That court appearance will determine whether or not he has a future in this country and can eventually become a citizen. If all goes badly, his future will be grim. He may well face deportation. Our organization meets a number of times a week, under different auspices. Daily, we accompany our Friends to court as I did a few days ago. In court, we are not allowed to speak, demonstrate, or even in many instances (when the court room is too full) enter the room where the proceedings take place. But our silent presence often makes a difference: when the Judge sees that the “Criminal” before him is backed by a large number of people, the outcome of the hearing is often more lenient. The court rooms where these hearings are held are located in an enormous building near the southern end of Manhattan, a neighborhood persons familiar with New York will know as the area around City Hall, not far from the entrance to the walkway across the Brooklyn Bridge. Every Thursday volunteers assembly outside the Court house and march around its block length perimeter in silent protest: a leader of the 45
organization invented this ritual and calls it the Jericho Walk. Tuesday evenings are when Friends, new and old, meet to work on asylum applications. Since many Friends have to bring their young children (because they have no one at home who can stay with them), some volunteers take care of them in a room at the Church office which is nicely stocked with toys and books. Some children are still in diapers while others are school age and speak English. A number of organizations supply Friends and volunteers with food as our gathering starts at 6pm and often goes on until ten. No one need go home hungry, even if they go home sleepy. On Wednesdays, the activities of the previous evening are entered on a data base. We note what task we undertook, what progress was made, what needs to happen next. Perhaps a change of address was noted, or some new information was entered on the asylum application. A small group of computerskilled volunteers come in just to do this task. Some time I join them. “Data base” is a good way to learn about our Friends whose ranks continue to grow. On Thursday evening an informal gathering of volunteers and Friends meets at a church hall in Manhattan to share stories, songs and experiences. Friends bring their children and volunteers play games with them while their parents socialize. The purpose of this gathering is to provide moral support. Our Friends often feel isolated and cut off from the city around them. These gatherings show them they are not alone. Now that my Friend will no longer be coming back to us, I feel a sense of loss. We’ve come to the end of something and do not know what the future will bring, what new opportunities Statue of Liberty will arise for him. He is a man in his mid-40s who has had to leave his entire life behind him. The road is long and full of obstacles but he is hopeful and optimistic and I try to take my lead from him. Right now I’m still in mourning for that span of six months when we were working as a team to complete his application and when the work we did filled us with a sense of purpose — and hope. That moment is over. Now our Friend has to wait. But I’ve volunteered to help him with English conversation to supplement the daily classes he takes at a local college. He is making excellent progress. Soon my own sense of purpose will be restored, and I will show up again to be part of a new Team.
MAGNIFICENT ENGLISH GARDENS Erika Jeret
“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.” Rudyard Kipling Green-fingered gardening enthusiasts of Estonia, beginners and seasoned horticulturalists alike, often set English garden as a model and benchmark. It is the English lawn which is the best (well, after all, it is believed to have been cultivated for hundreds of years), and garden design is the best (in terms of English landscape garden as opposed to French strictly geometrical and complicated parterres), English borders are the best (in the sense of a long flower bed running alongside a wall or footpath), and the English have lots of topiary trees. Topiary in its simplest form is a trimmed hedge, e.g. spiraea or European spruce. A more complex topiary approach may include animals or geometric shapes, such as balls, cones and pyramids. Thus, hundreds of Estonian gardeners join specialised tours to British gardens or create their personal routes of discovery every year. News of Chelsea Flower Show is covered and articles on outstanding British gardens are published in dedicated home and garden magazines in Estonia. In July 2019 I had an opportunity to have my very own “Grand Tour” of the gardens in the south and south-west of England. It was certainly a gargantuan task to put the route together as there is so much to choose from, so we first had to decide which type of gardens to visit, and then factor in how many gardens one can realistically visit per day as well as driving distances and overnights. One also needs to consider what is of particular interest in a given garden at the time of the visit because some can be more interesting in spring, some have fabulous autumn colours, others are famed for their rhododendrons or magnolias and so on. The route had at least half a dozen versions from its inception and was slightly modified during the tour itself due to road and traffic conditions (every country seems to have roadworks scheduled for summer tourist season) and travellers’ ability to engage with nature. The weather was fabulous throughout, with the only rainy day when we stayed in Oxford and had a garden-visit-free day. Gardens have a long history and have been evolving and developing over millennia. As a construct, garden is manmade and artificial, however ‘natural’ we might want to call it or how naturalistic picture we paint. Therefore what we admire in a garden is, in no particular order, features such as owners’ taste, hard and soft landscaping, selection of plants, collections of plants, rare and unusual plants, vistas and borrowed views, garden furniture, peace and quiet, architectural features, big trees, glasshouses, water features, interpretation and information, and so on.
Burma rope bridge. Lost gardens of Heligan
Quite often a British garden, especially in a terraced house, comprises a tiny front garden and a somewhat larger back garden, both of which are carefully looked after (with exceptions of course) by their owners. This is probably an image perpetuated by British films and TV series. There are 47
many competitions for the best garden design in the UK, in several categories in terms of size or location and the small garden category covers the 30 square metre gardens too. Gardens open to the public are remarkably larger and may span across several hundred acres/hectares. There are also private gardens which open to the general public a few times a year or receive visitors in groups by pre-booking. If entrance is charged, charges range from a couple of pounds to about 20 pounds per person, making a longer garden tour a rather expensive affair. My list of visited gardens eventually included: Great Comp Garden, Great Dixter, Nymans Garden, RHS Wisley, Mottisfont, Hestercombe Gardens, Lost Gardens of Heligan, RHS Rosemoor, Walled Gardens of Cannington, Painswick Rococo Garden, and Waddesdon Manor. In addition, we also went to see Thomas Hardy’s birthplace, Hardy’s Cottage, and the Eden project, which is of a completely different scope and scale. For the latter I’d recommend allocating an entire day if one is keen to learn a lot and to bear in mind that the place is enormous. Your car park may be a 15-minute walk from the main entrance and even though the main food areas are large, and food is offered in multiple places, everything takes time with so many people milling around. The RHS – Royal Horticultural Society currently runs four gardens, these are Wisley, Rosemoor, Harlow Carr, and Hyde Hall, with number five – Bridgewater – opening in 2020 in Greater Manchester. These are all large affairs with a variety of features and gardens each. For example, Wisley is considered the flagship garden of the RHS and, according to the RHS, is home to some of the largest plant collections anywhere in the world. The new Welcome building at Wisley opened in June 2019 and comprises a large and airy arrivals hall, restaurant, café, plant centre and shop.
Jungle Lost gardens of Heligan
Nymans Garden with an iconic Edwin Lutyens bench
Some of the gardens listed above also have a house which is open to visitors, but our travel schedule being fairly tight, we focused on gardens, in most cases only some parts of the garden, and skipped house visits with the exception of Waddesdon Manor. As it points out on their website: “Where else can you find a French Renaissance château, inspired by those in the Loire valley, built by a Rothschild in the 19th century, and filled with royal treasures and many objects with an exceptional story to tell?” The art collections and interiors of the house are truly exquisite, and parterres in front of the house excellent. The grounds are extensive, and a walk from the car park where you buy tickets to the house (if you can’t be bothered to wait for a free shuttle bus) takes 20 minutes, and it is slightly uphill nearly all the way. Many gardens feature walled gardens, glasshouses and woodlands, the latter further broken down into various walks, avenues, groves and meadows. I was particularly 48
Summer bedding at the parterr at Waddesdon Manor
interested in borders but also wanted to see herb gardens and potagers aka kitchen gardens for their designs and plants.
The Exedra in the Painswick Rococo Garden
On two occasions I was able to join a guided tour in a garden, led either by locally trained volunteers or a garden manager. These provided good insights in design principles and the work that lies behind a wonderful-looking garden. Many plants were familiar and are commonplace in Estonia, e.g. summer projects, such as marigold, cosmos, poppies, sunflower, phlox, penstemon, coleus, verbena, gaura, or nemesia. Lots of salvias were used and not so much the ones common in Estonia (scarlet sage or Salvia splendens) but rather more graceful looking cultivars, hybrids and species (the genus Salvia contains a staggering 900 species, anyway) from the New World. They featured highly varied colour combinations and are truly garden worthy. In July, agapanthuses were blossoming with tall spikes sporting incredibly blue flowers, and blue hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) were at their best displaying an amazing blue palette. Crocosmias were in full bloom and far taller than the ones I have seen or grown at home. Bearâ€™s breeches (Acanthus spinosus) are herbaceous perennials which we frequently sighted in home gardens as well, in some plants the flower spike was well over 2 m long. The species can be grown in Estonia, but since it does not stand wet ground in winter, growing it may be problematic in places.
Large gardens with teams of about a dozen gardeners and an army of volunteers usually change beddings twice a year: they put in spring bedding, that means mostly bulbs in the autumn and in May or so it is time to begin planting summer bedding. At Waddesdon Manor there is The Hot Garden at RHS Rosemoor a floral bedding mosaic, which is actually designed on a computer, this yearâ€™s design used Eliot Hodgkinâ€™s painting Auriculas (his art is exhibited in the Coach House Gallery). Then the required plants are planted in boxes according to the design, boxes are numbered and ready for delivery. Transplanting them in their growing site on the parterre only takes a day while planting long borders with summer bedding plants may take two months. Some gardens also double up as exhibition spaces, e.g. Painswick Rococo Garden teamed up with Art Unbound, a curated (renowned curator Anna Greenacre) exhibition of contemporary sculpture which brought together 18 sculptors working in a variety of media. At Nymans we saw an exhibition of watercolours by Mariusz Kaldowski, A Different View, where scenes were composed on classic views of the garden. All in all, there is a lot to see, experience and soak up when visiting British gardens, be it unusual plants, new cultivars and hybrids, innovative designs, carefully considered interpretation and display, extensive restoration projects (Lost Gardens of Heligan is a marvellous example), great hospitality and friendly comments and explanations from paid staff and volunteers.
Experienced Educator WONDERFUL SPEECHES OF OUR PARTICIPANTS ARE VERY INSPIRING AN INTERVIEW WITH ZINAIDA JEVGRAFOVA
How did you discover the English language for yourself? When leaving secondary school, did you consider any other specialities? My sister studied it at school. I’ve always been keen on learning languages and something interesting. It’s a wonderful feeling having obtained some new knowledge or skill, I believe. No, I didn’t, though I wanted to teach German because I studied it at school. Where and when did you start your teaching career? School 58 or Mahtra Gymnasium, Tallinn in 1993. Which English-speaking countries have you visited? Have you taken any studies abroad? The UK only, luckily some other parts of the country apart from London. It was a fantastic experience to see and explore the places I’d read about in numerous books of British classics as well as the textbooks. Well, I’d love to, but it wasn’t possible when I was younger. I studied in Moscow, which is now abroad, and at Tallinn University to get my second diploma. I attended a few summer courses for English teachers in the UK. How did you start organising speech competitions, and does this have any effect on how you teach your students? In 2008 I was elected a Board member of the English-Speaking Union (ESU) Estonia and learnt about the International Public Speaking Competition. I liked the idea at once. I thought that it might be useful and interesting for our students as well, because it gives young people an opportunity to practice different skills outside the classroom. As no other Board members were enthusiastic about organising the National Round, I tried to do it myself asking other people to help too. I’m glad our young people find it worth participating. Pity, only one speaker can represent Estonia at the International Round. I’d be happy to give this chance to, at least, all the six finalists. Yes, I try to encourage them to have more speaking practice whenever we can, even short activities using ‘Would you rather...’ questions, for example, is one of their favourites. We do some debates on a regular basis and invite native speakers, this is the usual stuff we all do. 50
Which topics for speeches are the ones that have always inspired students? The topics suggested by the ESU are always very popular. Now that we offer more topics to choose from, the ones from the Embassies and former winners are of high interest as well. They are: relationships, technology, future of mankind, generation values, etc. What role do the embassies (British, American) have in speech contests? They suggest topics, provide judges and some presents for the best speakers and teachers. The British Council and Canadian Embassy are very supportive too. I’ve got to know a lot of nice people while organising the Competition and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who helps to run the National Round or make it possible for our winner to participate in the International Final. It’s really inspiring. Is there anything you believe every teacher should teach their students? I think we all do our best to help them to learn what we know. Maybe some practical things as well: do not give up, keep working hard and enjoy your life, you’ve got only one to live. You teach at Tallinn Jewish School. How does the curriculum of that school differ from others? Our school is municipal, which means we follow the same curriculum as other schools do. In addition to that our students study Hebrew, Jewish History and Traditions. Jewish Music and Literature are integrated into corresponding subjects. Where do your school-leavers continue their studies? Have any of them followed your path? Some of them stay in Estonia, some go abroad, mainly to the UK. Yes, some have, though very few of them teach at school. Where and how do you find inspiration? From my children and grandchildren, from my students and colleagues, from bright participants and their wonderful speeches, from all the people who need my help or who have ever helped me, I suppose. What do you read? I enjoy reading a lot. One of my first vivid childhood memories is of me reading a book to my little cousins. I read everywhere and everything I could get. Nowadays it’s mostly ‘chick reads’, I’m afraid. Some of my recent favourites are books by Marian Keyes, Philippa Gregory, Alexander McCall Smith, Tracy Chevalier, Nick Hornby, David Nicholls, Alison Weir, Lisa Jewell. Zinaida Jevgrafova was interviewed by EATE Committee members.
Reading Recommendations MARGARET ATWOOD 80 Erika Puusemp
Miina Härma Gymnasium, Tartu
On 18 November 2019, Margaret Eleanor Atwood, the well-known Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, and environmental activist, will turn 80. Atwood has been productive for decades and is still very much active in all her favourite fields, being the author of more than 50 books of fiction, poetry and critical essays, raising awareness of environmental issues, and teaching creative writing. Amongst the variety of themes Atwood writes on, her dystopian novels deal with issues extremely relevant today, especially her MaddAddam trilogy, and The Handmaid’s Tale (first published in 1985), and these are the ones for which she has been dubbed “the patron saint of feminist dystopian fiction” by fans. The year 2019 has brought two welcome additions to the libraries of those who love The Handmaid’s Tale, or Atwood’s work in general, or dystopian literature, or Canadian literature as such – Atwood has published a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale – The Testaments, and The Handmaid’s Tale has been turned into a graphic novel (art and adaptation by Renee Nault). The graphic novel is a beautifully-crafted artistic rendition of the original novel. Some choice bits can be seen online at: https://lithub.com/read-from-the-graphic-novelization-of-the-handmaids-tale/ The Testaments tells the story of Gilead 15 years after the final scene in The Handmaid’s Tale through three distinctive female voices: Aunt Lydia, a key figure in the 1985 novel, and two younger ones, one being prepared for her role as a Commander’s wife in Gilead, the other living in Canada, horrified of what is happening in Gilead. All are worth a read or a re-read, so let’s celebrate Atwood’s 80th birthday by getting lost in one of the worlds she has created (and being happy that, no matter how bad it is in our world, it’s not that kind of bad, at least).
For more details, see Margaret Atwood’s homepage: http://margaretatwood.ca/ 52
Come and Share INTERPRETATION IN THE CLASSROOM Erika Jeret
Interpretation is by definition the action of explaining the meaning of something, an explanation or a stylistic representation of a creative work or dramatic role. A person who interprets is (among other meanings) defined as one who translates orally for parties conversing in different languages. People who work as interpreters prefer not to be called translators as the latter work with written texts. In common parlance lay people use the word ‘translate’ for both modes whereas professionals tend to use ‘interpret’ for oral translation, and ‘translate’ for written one. Translation as a means of learning a foreign language has been used for a long time, and is still recommended in addition to the more recent communicative approach and modern digital learning devices which enable and facilitate learning. To use translation at higher language skills levels is certainly a useful activity in the sense that it makes the learner interpret the message between the sender and recipient (as by the definition above – explain the meaning of something) and, if literal, word-for-word translation is aimed (which may yield a desired result under circumstances) at, it might swiftly expose deficiencies in interpretation. When looking around the websites of Estonian tourism entrepreneurs, some rather literal and clumsy translations jump out at the reader. This reveals a lack of consideration about the recipient’s needs, their prior knowledge, cultural background and so on. In my long experience in teaching ESP at the university level, far too many students do not bother to stop and think why they say something when they compose their written papers. There is a certain lack of understanding that a piece of homework written as a task set in an English class is not a text written in English for Estonian readers but a text that a person not speaking Estonian should be able to comprehend. Often enough it is like reading an Estonian text, just words in Estonian have been replaced by English words, even the grammar is still Estonian. The same unfortunately pertains to some tourism website texts. You can only understand the message in English if you speak Estonian and are able to follow the language logic. What can we do? Perhaps, learn and teach to think critically, analyse, above all, keep in mind the reader/recipient. In principle, the above applies to oral translation, i.e. interpretation as well. Yet in this case, the message is conveyed far faster from the sender to the recipient and without an opportunity of going back and reading again (and again) until the message is revealed. The message is what you hear, and it may be clear or, sometimes, incomprehensible. In verbal communication we also use a sentence structure which differs from the written one. An almost classic example of translation gone wrong is the name of a restaurant in Tallinn where the Estonian ‘Kaval-Ants’ turned into ‘Smart Ants’ in English. As for oral interpretation a recent example comes from a presentation at the 2019 EATE Summer Seminar, when the audience witnessed two occasions where stories (the task was to listen to a story from a person sitting nearby and then retell this story in public) which were retold and used Estonian place names and street names in Estonian made a perfect sense for the Estonian members of the audience but did not mean much to nonEstonians (wonderful examples for the presenter’s collection however). Let us now look at some task ideas which could be used in a classroom on the use of interpretation. 53
Obviously, it depends on the learners’ language level, but with lower levels one can use shorter and simpler tasks. In these examples, Estonian is viewed as a mother tongue and English is a foreign language, but in class these may be replaced with any other language relevant in the situation. Example 1. Give me. Use objects or pictures of objects (e.g. stationery, toys). Play in teams of three. Student 1 asks Student 2 in Estonian to give him/her an object. Student 2 interprets the request into English for Student 3, who then picks the requested item and hands to Student 1. Student 3 is only allowed to take the item requested in English. The task also encourages the use of correct phrases of being polite, such as ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Here you are’. The phrases for requesting can be changed in accordance with the level or topic. For example, ‘Give me an apple please’ can at a higher level be replaced by ‘Can/Could I have an apple please?’ or ‘Could you give me an apple please?’ or ‘Pass me the apple and two ripe pears please’. At lower levels you can also practise colours, e.g. a red apple, a green pencil, a brown bear, etc. Example 2. Help my Granny. Play in teams of 3. Student 1 is Granny (Aunt, Friend etc) who can only speak Estonian, Student 2 is a Grandchild who speaks English and no Estonian, and Student 3, who speaks both Estonian and English, is a go-between. Set a situation for the role play, e.g. at the market or in a shop; or create a shopping list for a party and discuss it; speak about hobbies etc. For teenagers or (young) adults use other real life situations and roles, such as a foreign tourist, pop-up café owner on a farm and a friendly customer as a helper. Some ideas for situations might include: a motorist asking for help to find a tourist farm; a foreigner in a DIY shop looking to buy a particular item; a farmer receives a group of visitors as part of their longer, multi-stop tour; a handicraft workshop as part of a conference or training seminar. Example 3. Rephrasing or retelling. Version 1. Pair work. Student 1 tells a story in English, Student 2 retells the story in English to the class or group, Student 1 gives feedback on whether the story retold was correct, carried the intended message etc. Alteration: Student 1 reads out a passage which Student 2 then retells. This activity should show the differences between a written text structure and an oral production well. Good memory is an advantage but listening skills and analysis become essential here. Version 2. Pair work. Student 1 tells a story in Estonian, Student 2 retells it in English, Student 1 gives feedback as in Version 1. Version 3. Teams of 3. Student 1 is a storyteller, Student 2 is an interpreter and Student 3 is the recipient who must not hear the story from Student 1 (premises allowing, leaves the classroom when Student 1 is telling their story). As before, Student 1 tells the story in Estonian, Student 2 joins Student 3 and retells what he/she heard in English. Both return to Student 1 and Student 3 now retells the story in English/Estonian. This may be reminiscent of Chinese whispers, but again, it draws attention to the importance of listening and interpreting as the latter has been defined at the beginning. In conclusion, using interpretation activities in class should not only be aimed at training certain vocabulary, phrases and structures (being polite in English is a valuable by-product though) but also aimed at awareness of listening skills, critical thinking and analysis which are all required in contemporary survival and life skills sets.
Many happy returns of the day to Ilmar Anvelt who turned 70 on 30 August 2019. Ilmar Anvelt worked as Lecturer at the Department of English, University of Tartu until 2016. Along with his work at the university, he has also been active as a translator and lexicographer. His latest major translation into English is a book by the famous Estonian mycologist Kuulo Kalamees Eesti heinikud / The genus Tricholoma in Estonia. His recent translations into Estonian include Maailm ja meie, a collection of speeches by Estonian foreign ministers, where the speeches made in English (about a third of the book) had to be translated into Estonian, and Imetore õueskäik, a book of children’s outdoor activities by Josie Jeffery. He has been the author or editor of several dictionaries. Ilmar Anvelt has been an EATE Committee member for a number of years, being the editor of the EATE journal OPEN! We wish Ilmar many more happy and productive years in all his favourite fields.
Do you know the colonial buildings of Calcutta? (answers on p. 43)
EATE SUMMER SEMINAR, Pärnu, 22-23 August 2019
Sharing memories from the time of studies at the University of Tartu
Learning Scottish folkdances
Tasty selection of food at lunchtime
Kristi Vahenurm spoke about e-schoolbag
Photos by Reet Noorlaid
Our catering team – kitchen staff of Pärnu College
Committee members Kati Bakradze and Irina Matviitšuk
Erika Puusemp (left) handing over lottery prizes