Sunday afternoon, yes. Hottest Sunday afternoon of this season so far, isn’t it ?
Just imagine the plight of those who don’t have even a fan ! And the fasting day-labourers, working in the scorching heat !!! These are the really great people among us. Let’s be as kind to them as we can. May ALLAH have MERCY on us all. 4 JUNE 2017
Another Sunday afternoon brings us together. Last Sunday afternoon, I said, was the hottest afternoon of the season.
Mercifully the weather is a bit better today, isn’t it? It’s because of rainfall somewhere around us, you know.
Interestingly, Mianwali has become a sort of toll plaza for the clouds. They come here, stop a moment, and then pass on to rain heavily wherever they like. Not that we aren’t praying for rain. We are, all of us, but perhaps there is something missing in our prayers, Let’s look around to see what it is.11JUNE 2017
Last Sunday afternoon we were all pretty busy watching the Champions Trophy Final, you know. Hence no class. It was a thrilling event indeed, ending in a whopping 180-run defeat for India.
The Indian cities were littered with pieces of smashed TV sets. Pictures of Indian cricket stars were set ablaze across the country..
The situation on our side was just the reverse. Youngsters were seen passionately kissing their TV sets. Singing, dancing and jubilation went on till late into the night, Amid the deafening noise nobody cared for the occasional
اوئے کمینیو، ھن بس وی کرو
from sleepy Babas at home. The night is gone, but the hangover still lingers, doesn’t it ?19 JUNE 2017
Here we are, at last , to resume our business.
I hope most of you had a very happy Eid. I say ‘most of you’, not ‘all of you’, because some of us might have had some cause to be unhappy ; a death, an accident or a loss of some other sort. May ALLAH grant those of us bounteous recompense for what they have suffered.
Before I proceed with my routine of a post a day, I would like to know what you would specially love to read in my posts. Any suggestions or advice ? 30 JUNE 2017
Thanks for your likes and suggestions on my last night’s post. I’ll try to meet the demands some of you have made through your comments.
I started my work at the facebook in 2015 with a daily post in English. The response to those posts was hardly encouraging. My permanent readers in those early days were just 4. They were Prof Abdul Ghaffar Bhatti, Prof Zafar Niazi, Prof Masroor Javaid and Muhammad Fayyaz
For about a month Zafar and I were engaged in a pretty hot debate on my concept of good English. Sometimes Zafar’s blunt comments irritated my readers. Some of them suggested I should unfriend, even block him. But I said Zafar had been my student in MA. How could I unfriend or block one of my students? It was a scholarly debate. Zafar gradually conceded my point and gave way. 1 JULY 2017
My early posts were about learning English. For late arrivals among you I’ll sum up what I said in those posts.
My view about grammar caused quite a loud stir. In answer to some of the comments I had said:
” Grammar CANNOT teach you English or any other language. It is just a tool that helps you to repair the faults of your language. It is like the toolkit of a bike or car. You use it only when something goes wrong with your bike or car.”
Before we proceed further on this issue I would like to hear what you think of this view. 2 JULY 2017
Glad to see that our discussion is catching on. Thanks for the feedback.
I don’t mean to condemn learning of grammar out of hand. I only want to set the priorities right ; to dispel the general perception that English can’t be learnt without first learning its grammar You need a toolkit only when you own a car. Similarly you need the grammar only when you have acquired the language through listening or reading.
If you could learn your mother tongue or Urdu without the help of grammar, why not English ? 3 JULY 2017
In his comment on my last night’s post our friend, Mr NA Malik, hits the nail right on the head. He says we don’t have a direct source of learning English as we have in learning our local languages and Urdu. Direct source of learning a language means people around us speaking that language.
Yes, unfortunately that is the problem in our learning English. In theory the teacher is supposed to be the direct source, but in practice the average teacher rarely speaks English in the class. On the other hand, the teachers in English medium schools do speak English. That is why students of English medium schools can speak and write English fluently.
You are invited to offer your comments and suggestions on this issue – 4 JULY 2017
Now that we are a class of about 60, I would like to launch a full length discussion of the issue. My perspective is based on my lifelong experience as an English teacher at all levels, from Class Six to MA English, Part- ll.
Let us first take a look at the factors which have made a mess of learning English in Pakistan. The factors are:
1. Poorly written / compiled Textbooks
2. Uninterested / incompetent Teachers
3. Faulty Methods of teaching
4. Defective system of examination.
5. Defective system of education
Taking up these factors one by one, here we go, starting with a look at the quality of our textbooks.
Our textbooks for school level are poorly written / compiled. The panel of writers is usually a group of favourites
Tomorrow, InshaALLAH, , I ‘ll elaborate this point furher to give you an idea of the quality of our school textbooks.
5 JULY 2017
When I was a member of the Board of Studies at Federal Board of Education, we were asked to review a newly-introduced Class Nine English textbook. Each of us was to study the book and prepare a report about its quality.
The book was written by a committee of half-a-dozen so-called experts. The language of some of the chapters , though grammatically correct, was purely Pakistani English ; an odd mixture of heavy words and ill-placed phrases.
I prepared a report of many pages, pointing out examples of bad language. I also recommended that three of the chapters should be deleted, as they were absolutely worthless in matter as well as style. The worst among these was a father’s letter to his son. One of the pieces of advice given by the idiot father (read author) to his son was. “Never tyrannize anyone.” How, on earth, can a poor Class Nine kid “tyrannize” anyone unless the kid is an Osama Ben Laden ?
My colleagues, however, refused to agree with me. In their reports they had highly admired the language of the book. When I protested, one of them ( a lady ) said, “Professor Sahib, it seems you don’t know what good English is.”
I had a hard moment swallowing that insult, but I did, because it came from a lady.
Rest of the story tomorrow, InshaALLAH. 6 JULY 2017
Our textbook review committee prepared its final report and submitted it to the Punjab Textbook Board. The report okayed the book as perfect in style and content, most suitable for teaching English. I didn’t sign the report, because I had something else in my mind.
When I came back home in Mianwali, I sent a copy of my own report to the Textbook Board.
A few days later I got a letter from Deputy Director of the Textbook Board, appreciating my effort, and promising to revise the book as suggested by me.
The next edition of the book was a revised edition. The words and phrases suggested by me were included in place of the originals
They, however, didn’t delete the three chapters that I had wished to be deleted, probably to save the face of their writers.
A copy of the letter from Punjab Textbook Board is included in Madam Nusrat Niazi’s book about me. .7 JULY 2017
The quality of a language textbook can best be judged from the exercises given at the end of each chapter. The exercises in a standard textbook ask for analysis of the language of each chapter ; vocabulary and sentence structures.
Unfortunately our textbooks don’t meet that criterion. They primarily focus on comprehension (understanding) of the given matter, without touching the manner (language).
I agree with Zafar that the best textbooks are those published by the Oxford University Press.
Tomorrow, InshaALLAH, I’ll tell you about the best textbook that I have seen in my life. It was also an Oxford University Press publication. 8 JULY 2017
The best English textbook that I have seen in my life was An Approach to English Literature by H B Drake. It was published by the Oxford University Press, and was introduced in Pakistan as English textbook for Intermediate classes in 1957. I was then a First Year student at Gordon College.
Each chapter of the book started with a brief introduction of the writer. Simple English meanings of difficult / unfamiliar words were given as footnotes at the end of each page.
More about this book tomorrow, InshaALLAH.-10 JULY 2017
An Approach to English Literature was a series of 5 books.The books were graded. The chapters offered a rich variety of expression in all the genres of literature.There were short stories, chapters from novels, essays, poems and even some brief articles on science.
Each chapter was followed by an analytical study of the language used in that chapter, in the form of exercises for practice. There were also questions about the matter.
An Approach to English Literature lasted as sole textbook for just a couple of years, It was soon replaced. Shall I tell you the sad reason why it was replaced ? Well, it required the teacher to be proficient in the language.11 JULY 2017
We now take up the second point in our discussion. It is a study of the teacher’s role in learning English. It is a pretty sensitive point, because it will also highlight some of the faults of my own community, including myself.
Let’s first take a look at the qualities that make a good English / language teacher. These are
1. Interest in the language
2. Command of the language
3. Communicative skill
4. Knowledge of the methods of teaching
5. Knowledge of helpful technology.
From tomorrow, InshaALLAH, we’ll discuss these points one by one.-13 JULY 2017
Teacher’s interest in the subject/ language makes learning a pleasure for the students as well as the teacher. A teacher interested in his subject puts his heart and soul into teaching the subject. His teaching involves and motivates the students. The teacher is always trying to increase and update his knowledge.
In case of English, regrettably enough, I have seen very few teachers who are really interested in the language or literature. They teach it just because they are given to do so. For them it is an unpleasant duty.
To give you an idea of my own experience, I would like to quote the last lines of my farewell message for my MA students on the eve of my retirement. It was in the form of a poem in which I said:
Love literature if you love me,
For I have loved it too.
Not just loved it, I lived it.
And now I see
I did not live in vain.-14 JULY 2017
Teacher’s command of the language is our subject of study today. Very sorry to say that majority of our teachers do not come up to the mark. They can neither speak fluently, nor write correctly.
This again is a result of lack of interest in the language. Granted that the teachers working today are deficient in English because they, in their turn, were not taught properly. Still they could make up the deficiency if they honestly tried. When you have to earn your living by teaching English, you ought to be proficient in it. Why not make an honest living ? 15 JULY 2017
Commenting on my last night’s post, Malik Nadeem Abbas suggested I should undertake to hold a language improvement course for English Teachers in Mianwali. A nice suggestion, indeed, but – – – –
Well, I did try once, about 25 years ago. I met the Principal of Central Model High School, Mianwali a few days before the summer vacation, and offered to conduct a free course for English teachers in his school during the summer vacation.
The Principal, my very dear friend, Mr Aslam Niazi, smiled and said,
“Malik Sahib, unfortunately our teachers love to attend only those government managed refresher courses for which they are paid TA/DA. Even if I ask my teachers to attend your course, they won’t be interested”.
I knew he was right, so I gave up the idea.
Tomorrow, InshaALLAH, I’ll tell you why I wanted to teach the teachers,- 16 JULY 2017
Sohail Akhtar Khan, Waheed Khan, Nazik Javaid, Shafi Ullah Khan and Mujeeb Ullah Khan Niazi assure me through their comments that teachers would love to be taught by me. Sohail Khan has even offered me his school as venue for my class. Waheed Khan ensures presence of the teachers in his school to attend the course.
Believe me I love nothing more than teaching a class. It is there that I feel at my best. I would have loved to start today. But some health issues do not allow me to undertake the responsibility immediately. At the end of this month I have to go to Murree for a few days. Thence I’ll go to Lahore for about a month. If my health issues are resolved by that time, I promise to start a class of teachers straightaway. Need your prayers to be able to do that.Thank you all for your encouraging response. –17 JULY 2017
About 20 years ago I was engaged to hold two refresher courses for teachers.
The first was for the teachers of Telecom Foundation Public School (near Central Model High School, Mianwali). It was a paid job. This 3 week course was all about methods of teaching.
The second course was for the teachers of Girls Section at Alian Public School in Mohallah Miana. It was a 4 week course. I refused to accept payment for it. I was asked to teach English grammar. I undertook this assignment on the request of the Principal, Madam Labiba Zaidi.
The participants / students in both cases were lady teachers. It was a delight to teach them, because ladies are generally more serious about learning than we men. We are interested in politics, religion, business or anything else under the sun except learning English. You may differ with me if you like, but I know what I know. 18 JULY 2017
Coming back to our proposed course for English teachers, we still have about a month to plan how to make it possible.We have yet to choose the venue. It has to be a place easily accessible to maximum number of participants
I have already made it clear that I shall not accept any payment. I need prayers more than money.
I would love to seek cooperation from Zafar Niazi and Muhammad Fayyaz. Zafar could be a great help in teaching you the use of technology in teaching English. Fayyaz could chip in with his experience as Master Trainer. I still have to make a formal request to these two gentlemen.
More of this tomorrow, InshaALLAH. 20 JULY 2017
We were discussing the qualities that make a good English / language teacher. Our discussion digressed into the need for a language improvement program for teachers.
Today let’s take up the third quality of a good teacher. It is communicative skill. Apart from his/ her own command of the language. the teacher should be able to communicate his knowledge effectively. I have seen teachers with very good command of the language who couldn’t satisfy their students.
Ability to communicate effectively is basically a talent, a gift from ALLAH. But it can also be acquired through honest effort. If the teacher knows the requirement and capacity of his students, he can adjust his teaching accordingly. .
21 JULY 2017
For those who are really interested in improving English, I would like to recommend one of the best books for this purpose. It is ” LIVING ENGLISH STRUCTURE by W. Stannard Allen.
It was included in the BA course of Peshawar University about 20/30 years ago. I don’t know if it is still a part of the course. But I think it should still be available in KP (Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu etc). It is also available in pdf form for free download. It is not a book of formal grammar. It teaches a variety of sentence structures, and offers well-planned exercises for practice. It is thus a sort of workbook.
I often recommended it to my students in Mianwali who were really interested in learning English. They got it from KP and found it immensely beneficial. Just click in to Google and see the various versions of this book available in the market. 22 JULY 2017
In his comment on my post dated July 22, Mr Rehmat Nashad tells us that the book Living English Structure is still a part of BA course in KP. A pleasant surprise, indeed. It means the book has been in use there for around 30 years.
As I said earlier it is one of the best books for improving proficiency in English.
Don’t wonder why is not included in the BA course in Punjab. I know the reason. It is not made a part of the course because it allows no shortcut to the teacher. It requires the teacher to first learn English and then teach it. 😆😎😎😂. 24 JULY 2017
The next point of our discussion is use of technology in teaching / learning English. As I don’t know much about IT, I would call on our friend Zafar Niazi to help us.
We all agree that in the natural process of language learning , LISTENING comes first. That is how a child learns his mother tongue. He listens to the people around him speaking, and picks up the language
In case of English however , we don’t find the people around us speaking the language. This is where technology comes in to help us. Let us see what Zafar has to tell us in this regard. Read his response / comment carefully.
. 25 JULY 2017
Let’s celebrate the Second Anniversary of our journey on the facebook. It was around this time that I wrote my first English post on this laptop, a gift from my son Prof Muhammad Akram Ali Malik.. Mr Zafar Niazi, Muhammad Fayyaz, Msroor Javaid and Prof Abdul Ghaffar Bhatti were the earliest readers of my English posts. We plunged headlong into a discussion of learning English. Those early posts were very useful for those who wished to learn English. For some time Zafar and I were engaged in a lively debate on the quality of writing English Then we turned to teaching English.
It was from my son, Muhammad Akram Ali and my student Muhammad Ahsan Shah that I learnt Urdu composing , and started writing a daily post in Urdu as well.
More of this tomorrow, InshaALLAH. 26 JULY 2017
After about 3 months of writing posts about teaching / learning English, I struck another note, the autobiographical note, which means writing posts about my own experiences and observations. That worked better than writing about teaching / learning English. The number of readers began to rise. It averaged 50 plus. So I kept writing stories from my personal life.
My purpose was to offer a small dose of good English every night. This type of posts served my purpose very well. People started reading my posts avidly.
Ironically my English posts which get best response are one-liners saying I am busy or ill. The number of likes shoots past 100. Comments come in dozens. I smile when I see the comments which say : Thank you, Sir.
That reflects our general attitude towards English. People love nothing more than missing an English class.😄
27 JULY 2017
Leaving for Murree tomorrow, InshaALLAH. This is one of our usual end-of-July visits. Will see if I can find some time to be with you while in Murree. Otherwise will join you after our return to Lahore a few days later, and resume our discussion. Need your prayers to make it a pleasant journey. 28 JULY 2017