Loras Network (L.N.): Claudia, thank you so much for giving us this interview. We are so excited that you will have a presentation at our 1st Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism!
Claudia Buzzoni (C. B.): Thank you! I’m really looking forward to speaking at your workshop next month. It’s a topic that’s close to my heart as my oldest daughter is just starting to put together her first sentences in both Swiss German and English.
L.N.: Claudia, we met you as the representative for Macmillan Publications. Can you tell us a few things about yourself and your work?
C. B.: I’ve been with Macmillan Education for the past three and a half years. I work closely with a wide range of private and public school teachers throughout the country, helping them to select and implement different teaching materials. Outside of work, I’m studying linguistics and German and am also a mum to two small girls.
L.N.: You have also taught extensively. What do you enjoy the most about teaching, and what about working in publications?
C. B.: I loved working with students and watching as they absorbed new information and developed their skills. Working with teachers, I still get a huge amount of satisfaction of helping someone find materials that will make their classes easier to teach and a more effective place for learners to learn.
L.N.: Macmillan has a great variety of readers, which in our opinion are an important means of learning in every home and school. How can teachers and parents best exploit your readers?
C. B.: That’s a big question! Giving children access to any kind of reading material has so many knock-on benefits. Modelling is a great way to encourage reading. Offering loads of opportunities to read and exploring different ways to use texts also helps. Sourcing materials that are enjoyable to the children and making sure that activities are suitable for their skills also helps motivate them to read more.
L.N.: We are extremely enthused with your six-series Macmillan English books for our international young learners. This is a series you specifically recommended we use and we thank you. What are the strongest points of your referral?
C. B.: This course makes use of research into how English is learnt as a native language, and how it is taught in English curriculum classrooms. As a result, it combines the best-practice of both learning English as a mother tongue and as a second/foreign language. It’s ideal for international children who come to your classes with varying degrees of English language experience. It also offers early exposure to rich and genuine language – a great basis for studying other subjects in English as well as leading towards native-like fluency in both spoken and written English.
L.N.: What would you advise all the educators out there reading your interview?
C. B.: There is no single ‘right’ way to teach, or to learn, and teachers should also participate in the ‘learning’!
L.N.: Thank you so much, Claudia! We look forward to seeing you in September and attending your presentation.
For more information on Macmillan Education, our 2013 event as well as the interviews of our other distinguished speakers, please feel free to explore the following links:
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: