While preparing my talk for our 1st Workshop, I felt I should mainly use material from this blog. I tried to create a summary of all the things I have learnt, used, taught, studied, dealt with and felt while raising my children bilingually and multilingually.
As I had paused the blog for a while in order to prepare for this event, I thought I should remember if I had added something to our daily routine now that Maggie and Nicholas are older. Or notice something in our home that had been changed or added to facilitate us educationally.
I actually did come across two things:
* I remembered that just as we follow a pattern with our daily audiovisual moments, we started off using the same pattern for bedtime books. Before the children go to sleep, depending on which language day it is, I give them a stack of books in that language, either to flip through, or one of us reads to them; or Maggie even reads to Nicholas.
This helps them in all sorts of ways, whether they actually read or are read the book, or neither. If they are read a book, they gather all the pronunciation and vocabulary, phrases and expressions, illustrations and concepts the book (and its language) have to offer! If they flip through the book, even the direct or indirect encounter with the letters of the book and the pictures, offers a lot. In the case that Maggie reads the book to Nicholas, well then what more can you ask for! It’s the full package. And all that in a very pleasant and calm atmosphere. Relaxing before bedtime in one of the best ways!
* The second thing I realized was a mistake! A slip-up! And I mentioned it during my talk. We love having things organized in the house! Especially I do. I personally wish I could have every single detail organized and labelled. Of course, a touch of messiness here and there has its special effect, too – or at least, I have persuaded myself so, in order not to get too obsessed with the issue.
In Maggie’s room, we have several small wooden boxes that hold different items, mainly for crafts or collections. I labelled them, as you probably would expect, but…did so ONLY in English. So I took a photo of this error of mine and brought it up towards the end of my talk. All participants not only realized the mistake immediately but also understood the significance of writing the labels in our family’s other two languages as well.
And that is what I shall do tomorrow. No, no, I am not delaying something that I can do today… I just forgot the labelling machine at the office. It’s on my To-Do list!
Loras Network (L.N.): Dr. Sipra, we really appreciate this interview you are giving us. We are delighted that you will present at our 1st Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism.
Dr. Sipra: Thank you very much for inviting me to this interview. I feel very honoured to be one of the speakers of the Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism.
L.N.: Initially, we would like to ask you what drew you into the field of education.
Dr. Sipra: Frankly speaking, I never thought of joining the field of education or teaching. I joined the teaching profession with the intention that I would quit this job as soon as I get any managerial or administrative position. As the time went by, I worked hard in this profession and gradually started enjoying university teaching. Presently, I can’t think of any other job and teaching is my passion now.
L.N.: One of your main interests is bilingualism. How did you select it as such,and why do you think it is important for language learning?
Dr. Sipra: In my country, we are all not only bilinguals but multilinguals. We have two medium of instruction i.e. Urdu and English. Majority is the product of Grammar Translation Method (GTM). I myself started learning English after primary education I mean I started learning English from Y-6 during school time. We are taught English through GTM in Urdu medium schools. When the same students come to learn English language in language institutions, they expect from their language instructors to explain some difficult concepts in their own language where bilingualism occurs. In fact, the bilingual system in our education and such circumstances faced by the students compelled me to conduct research on this topic.
Now I would like to answer the second part of your question why bilingualism is important in language learning. Bilingualism has a small but very important role in communicating meaning and content especially while teaching integrated skills at beginners’ level. It is used as a teaching technique. It has been endorsed by many teachers during my research on bilingualism that the translation of many words, complex ideas or even the whole passages is a good way to learn a foreign language. Pedagogically speaking, bilingualism in which two languages are at work, are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Moreover, there is no empirical support for the view that bilingualism detracts from development of a foreign language.
L.N.: What are some of the most fascinating aspects of bilingualism for you?
Dr. Sipra: The interesting and fascinating aspect of bilingualism is that it is a teaching aid and a facility for both teachers and students. Simultaneously, it is surprising that some of our colleagues deny the contribution of bilingualism despite the fact that they benefit from it in their classes. The reason behind this is, some misconceptions about bilingualism. I have observed and experienced that it develops association between the teacher and the students. It is less time-consuming while teaching and learning a foreign language.
L.N.: We would like to know more about the program you teach at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. What is the background of your students? What do the courses include?
Dr. Sipra: The English Language Course labelled as Intensive English I & II has been designed to put more emphasis on the basics of English language. The New Interchange Series by Cambridge is used to motivate our students to improve their ability to communicate in English fluently. Additionally, Rosetta Stone Software for English Language Learning is also used in our Language Labs to expedite and consolidate learning process. The students are made to improve their understanding of written texts as well as spoken language. Integration of skills has been made the target to achieve the goals. So, all the skills like Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and, of course, Grammar have been made the focal point of teaching & learning. In my Department, the students join the university for undergraduate courses after completing 12 years of schooling. Since the level of our students is so low, we have to work very hard with them as far as English language is concerned. They don’t study English intensively or extensively at school so they have to face a lot of difficulty in a university. Consequently, we have to start from the scratch and after spending 32 weeks with us, our students may interact in English comfortably to some extent.
L.N.: Your talk for our workshop is under the title of: Contribution of Bilingualism in Language Teaching at Beginners’ Level. Could you give us a brief introduction, and why you chose this topic?
Dr. Sipra: Well, I am going to talk about what bilingualism is and some misconceptions about it. Briefly speaking, my main focus will be on the applied side of bilingualism. I would like to share some data collected from the EFL teachers and the learners of English Language and will explain at what occasions, bilingualism assists teaching and learning.
L.N.: You have also written extensively in the subject, be it articles or books. Is there a topic you have not yet explored through your writing, that you would like to write on?
Dr. Sipra: Bilingualism is a very fast field. There are many aspects of bilingualism which need to be researched and explored. However, I would like to continue with the comparative analysis of Monolingualism and Bilingualism in future.
L.N.: And one more question about your writing. You have written many articles for the Canadian Center of Science and Education. How did that collaboration initiate?
Dr. Sipra: Well, I not only contributed but I am also part of the editorial board of one of their renowned journals in English language teaching which has been indexed and archived in world’s famous databases and libraries. I found this group very committed and well organized. They have maintained quality instead of quantity. Their contribution in the field of applied linguistics and research is highly appreciated. When I sent them my first research article for publication, I came to know that they have zero tolerance for plagiarism. So there I decided to contribute and work with them and our collaboration and mutual cooperation still continues.
L.N.: To close this interview, what advice would you like to give language teachers around the world for their careers?
Dr. Sipra: “To be great is to be a teacher”.
Education is truly an important field. It requires lots of hard-work and commitment from us as teachers. Continuous teacher development is the need of the hour. One has to manage such development oneself. A teacher has to be up-to-date in the present scenario and s/he should be able to understand the psychology of the students. To me, teaching is one of the most beautiful professions of the world.
L.N.: Thank you so much for your insights and time, Dr. Sipra!
Please feel free to explore the following links concerning Dr Aslam Sipra, his work, King Abdulaziz University and our 2013 Loras Network Workshop:
Loras Network (L.N.): Alex, we would like to thank you very much for this interview. We are also very happy that you will be presenting at our 1st Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism.
L.N. : Alex, we first saw you in a BBC video, being presented as the UK’s most multilingual student, with a total of eleven languages. Can you give us some background as to how and why you learned so many languages?
Alex Rawlings (A.R.): Languages started off as a hobby for me and quickly turned into a passion. I speak Greek from childhood and studied French and German at school, but that never felt like enough! There were so many people out there in the world that I wanted to talk to, and I didn’t want to restrict them to those I had a common language with. I picked up some language courses from my local bookshop and library and decided to have a go. Then I caught the bug – I wanted to learn more and more, picking a new one each summer and trying to find out as much about the country and culture as I could, hoping one day to visit them!
L.N. : What one tip would you give a child- language learner? How about a teenage-language learner and then an adult-language learner, as you have experienced all these stages now?
A.R. : Don’t let your limits be set by other people – set them yourself. Actually, I don’t think anyone really has limits, if you want something and you put your mind to it, you’ll always succeed. I think that advice applies to everyone!
I’m skeptical about there being an “ideal age” to learn languages. The way I’ve learnt languages has constantly changed and developed with the different ages I’m at. I used to hate flashcards and vocabulary lists when I was younger, but now I can appreciate their efficiency and I use them myself. Equally, I used to not have to spend much time on pronunciation, but now I have to concentrate on it a bit more. Not that any of these things become impossible as you get older (or younger!), it’s just that you have to change the way you go about them.
L.N. : What one tip would you give the parents of a child language learner? And then the parents of a teenage language learner?
A.R. : Encourage them! Like with everything, there’s nothing a child wants more than supportive parents who think they’re great no matter what, even if they don’t always say so! But don’t be pushy with them – nobody can develop a passion for something when their parents are just forcing them to do it. We’re all individuals with our own interests, and for some languages aren’t that exciting. Don’t despair though, it’s very likely that they’ll go back to it in later life when they realise just how valuable languages are!
L.N. :We are sure many people are wondering, as we are as well – which is going to be your next language and why?
A.R. : The problem is there are so many languages I’d like to learn! It really depends on where I am when I finish my degree. If I’m still involved with Eastern Europe I think I have to learn Polish to find out more about the region. Otherwise I like the challenge of Arabic, and Turkish has always seemed interesting. But at the same time, I’d like to get better in the languages I do have!
L.N. : Do you know all languages you have acquired both in written and spoken form? Would you ever learn a language in only one form?
A.R. : Yes of course, and no never!
L. N. : Thank you so much, Alex! We are truly looking forward to meeting you in person.
Please feel free to explore the links to the 1st International Loras Network Workshop and Alex Rawlings’ blog: