Viewpiint
Can Writers Be Good ESL Teachers?

English - the lingua franca of the world. A language which is one of the most spoken and most comprehended. It bridges, in the true sense of the word, the gap between many, be they a community of the Trades, or Letters. The teacher of such a language has indeed a position of great importance—not merely from the viewpoint from ESL being his chosen vocation, but the fact that it is English that he has chosen.

 

The Importance of an ESL Teacher

The essential power of this noble language lies in the fact that it is not a difficult language to learn if one is to apply oneself—it has a vast literature in the Muses as well as the Noble Arbours of the Sciences, and something for everybody. On the other hand, the duty vis-à-vis responsibility of the ESL teacher is indeed great, as well as difficult: He is ordained to teach, as a Second Language, a language which stands in primary importance as a mode of communication globally. He is to teach correctly without lending too much credence on its importance, and yet ensure that it is learnt properly. He enacts the linguist role of Derrida and Jakobson as well as the moral role of Radhakrishnan, if we are to think from an Indian viewpoint, when proceeding to teach: A task quite awe inspiringly immense in its degree of difficulty and requiring creativity. This latter quality is especially an essential, the only essential quality of a writer.

Writers as ESL Teachers

A writer sifts through his personal experiences and reference frames, assimilates, and then laces the same with a unique feature of the human psyche: creativity. We are presented not with biographical essays, but with a piece of the author’s personal sky! He has foraged into the vineyard for the best of the season, collected the fresh honey braving the killing stings of the angry bees and we are presented with the finest of Moet Chardon and honest country mead, refined and refreshing!

How is the ESL Teacher similar to the writer?

He is to teach English—the language of the Bard, the language of Commerce, the language of noble expression and that of sophistry—and he is to do it in such a fashion that his students are interested enough to pick up more than the pathetically basic rudiments. Yet, they are to retain interest in whatever the powers-that-be term the First Language—it may be anything from Mandarin to Swahili to Bengali. He therefore utilizes not only his skills as a linguist who is imparting knowledge regarding grammatical structures, but one who has to make the class interesting—yet arresting the interest after a serviceable point. He therefore quotes GBS, thereby emphasizing the importance of the mother tongue. He develops aids, ice-breakers as well as reading materials and other aids, like story telling sessions, debates and so on, where English ceases to be a drab exercise in the learning of the Composite Conditional and the Pluperfect Subjunctive, and becomes a living entity, which is interactive and interesting. He is a professional who has to be steeped in the grammatical structure, as well as be creative to ensure the facilitation of learning in order to be successful.

Secondly, ESL teachers are often people who are called upon to create resource materials for teachers, develop teaching aids, and research into procedures of ELT (English Language Teaching). They have to use all the creativity they have access to so as to ensure that the methodology that they develop - from lowly classroom exercises to TRPs (Teacher Resource Packs) and interactive CBTs (Computer Based Training Modules or Programs) - is foolproof and that they are employing it in furthering the English language. So it does seem entirely feasible that linguists who are familiar with the workings of the finer aspects of this noble language as well as creatures of a creative bend of mind would be equipped to teach ESL. Could Derrida, given time to spare, write a quartet?

 

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