Thursday, 28 December 2017

Sherlock Holmes-Not so Loved Detective

If I claim full justice for my art, it is because it is an impersonal thing- a thing beyond myself. Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell. You have degraded what should have been a course of lectures into a series of tales.

 “At the same time, you can hardly be open to a charge of sensationalism, for out of these cases which you have been so kind as to interest yourself in, a fair proportion do not treat of crime, in its legal sense, at all.

Sherlock Holmes to Dr John Watson in “The Adventures of the Copper Beeches”

Isn’t it surprising to note that these thoughts are expressed by one of the most loved fictitious detective in the world? My first encounter with the doctor’s memoir of the sleuth’s detective skills was when I got a copy of the book titled The Adventures of Copper Beeches as a prize in the sixth standard. I hadn’t read any detective novels till then. And after reading this one, I dreamt of bumping into the pair on Baker Street, for a long time. It took me many years to realise that these two were actually fictitious characters. It took me further more years to accept that their creator was a doctor with literary interests.

It was equally surprising to know about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wanted to get rid of this pair of most loved detectives most of his life. Though Sir Arthur had come to dislike the detective he had created, he managed to write stories which pleased millions of readers all over the world are still shared with great enthusiasm even today. The character of Sherlock Holmes, portrayed as a sociopath in Sherlock or as the lead detective of recent tele-series Elementary still remains the most famous detective of all times-in fact or fiction. Then what was it that led the creator of this character hate his own creation?


In the beginning, Sir Arthur found his thoughts turning more and more to the science and literature of detection. And so he decided to create a fictional detective who had an excellent scientific mind. That’s how he wrote about John Watson narrating an incident in A Study in Scarlet about Sherlock Holmes. This book was rejected by various publishers before it was liked by the editor of Lippincott’s Magazine. And then he asked Sir Arthur to write another story about the two. I had never imagined that the bone-chilling Sign of Four was just the second adventurous episode undertaken by the two.

Within a short span of two-three years, a series of six short stories of Sherlock and Watson were published in The Strand Magazine. Soon the sleuth pair was established as the favourites of the British readers. But the author had tired of Holmes and wanted to concentrate on what he thought of as his ‘serious ‘ writing, so he did not want to write any more stories of Sherlock and Watson. Sir Arthur asked for a fee of 50 pounds per story to discourage the editor thinking that he would refuse and that would be the end of Holmes. But that was not to be so- the editor was well-aware of the popularity of the detective with his readers and he willingly paid the fees. As a result, Sherlock featured in six more stories of Dr. Watson.

The love for Sherlock’s art of deduction grew more and the editor demanded a new set of 12 stories. Once again, Sir Arthur raised his price to deter the editor from further demands. But, surprisingly enough, he too accepted the exorbitant fees of 1000 pounds for 12 stories! He did write the 12 stories and at the end he planned the sleuth’s death in the raging waters of the Reichenbach Falls along with his enemy Professor Moriarty.
“Thank God, I’ve killed the brute!” he had said after completing the story. 
I always wondered why any author would decide to end the life of his best-selling detective and then bring him back to life after a short gap? But, he had to succumb to the public demand. The Magazine had managed to create keen and loyal following who were very sad and angry that the classic stories had come to an end. He might have been dead, as far as his creator was concerned, but he refused to lie down. The public demand for more stories continued. Sir Arthur was recovering at Dartmoor after the Boer War. He got greatly interested in the local legends and tales. Although its funny to know that he let go an offer from none other than Rudyard Kipling about writing a story about a ghost in the Savoy Hotel in India. It so happened that although he didn't write about the mysterious death of a British lady in side her locked room, but did mention it to a dear female friend who started her career as a detective story writer with it. Read more about it in my blog titled "The ghost that gave birth to the detective" on vidulaabhyankar.blogspot.com. He decided to write a mystery story about a family living on Dartmoor that was haunted and terrorized by a hound. But he still did not want to bring him back to life again! So he wrote ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ as an early adventure in the life of Sherlock Holmes. 

After the success of this adventure, I can understand how it would be nearly impossible for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to resist the demands of the publishers and readers to resurrect Holmes. Hence, he had
to produce ‘The Empty House’ to explain how Holmes had escaped death in the Falls and had spent some time travelling extensively abroad in the intervening years, before returning to London. Since the author was himself strongly convinced about the death of Holmes, his reasons for not disclosing the facts related to his existence even with his partner in all adventures did not seem very convincing to many for a long time.

This must be the only detective who had his Final Bow appearing after the Final Problem. People say that The Valley of Fear is supposed to be the “swan song in fiction” of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in between the series of some more stories of the detective. What initially started as a work of fiction actually became the most scientific description of the art of deduction. As somebody has rightly said that Truth is more fictitious than Reality, similarly, the fictitious Sherlock and Dr
Watson’s adventures had more life in them as compared to the real life of those times. Or maybe, the crime and criminals of those times were the real inspiration behind these tales? So maybe the British readers could associate with petty criminals portrayed in stories such as the greedy concierge in The Blue Carbuncle, the shrewd father in The Copper Beeches, the ever- scheming the vindictive pirates and gold-diggers of The Resident Patient.

 In addition to this, probably one more reason for Sherlock’s unabated following can be the fact that:
it is frequently in its least important and lowliest manifestations that the keenest pleasure is to be derived.

So although Sherlock kept saying “the criminal man has lost all enterprise and originality”, the readers could associate with the faithful wife in The Dancing Men, the anxious Governesses of The Problem at Thor Bridge, The Copper Beeches, the terrified Greek Interpreter and many more. So even if it was “degenerating for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to young ladies from boarding schools” for Sherlock, Dr Watson’s simple narration made the most mundane items like the lost walking stick in The Hound of Baskervilles or the black hat in The Blue Carbuncle become interesting threads to solve mysteries which normal public would have never noticed.
Read my other blog on to know about my love for Sherlock from childhood in " Detectives Kids Love" on vidulaabhyankar.blogspot.com.

So, even if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not want to actually wish the adventures of Sherlock Holmes to become the reason for making him memorable, I agree with what Dr Watson had to say about his memoirs:

It seems to me that I have done you full justice in the matter.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Bringing Adventure to English Language Classrooms

Using Movies  to improve Language Skills of Young Learners in English

Stories and songs are strong and effective tools in making young learners understand the subtle nuances of spoken aspects of a language. Many complex pronunciations, word stress patterns and tones can be introduced naturally to them through a song or a story. And, if that story happens to be an animated version/ movie of their favourite characters, there will be an effort from the learner to imbibe the correct practices of using the language. This article focuses on simple yet intriguing activities, so that the teachers succeed in bringing adventure to English language classrooms. Also learners acquire the skills required to speak and listen correctly and meaningfully in a second language, just as any child with English as his/her mother tongue would do.

Teachers involved in teaching English as Second language to Indian students need to put in extra efforts to assist them to speak as naturally as native speakers. It is felt that movies can become an appropriate tool for various levels of learners of ESL due to its appealing story, characters and other audio-visual effects. The activities described in this article share the common goal of improving speaking skills of different learners by igniting a spark of excitement in their minds. The teacher will realise that by bringing adventure to English language classrooms through the adventures of lead characters of a movie named MOANA, their language acquisition becomes more natural and unconscious as their mother tongue acquisition.

This article aims at improving the speaking and listening skills of learners belonging to different levels through the adventures of an American Indian tribal girl named Moana who is fascinated by the sea. Children learning English and/or any language as a second language acquire the listening and speaking skills more or less naturally, when the movies used have  a story with human characters in realistic surroundings and situations which they can associate with, for example in this case since the lead character is a young girl just like them who has a bird as a pet, whose grandma tells her stories from the past and whose parents have put some restrictions on her. Doing activities based on the movie with the young students in the English classrooms, concentrating on the Moana's stories, as well as viewing the animation film, will encourage them to develop listening as well as speaking skills by comparing story elements of the movie and their real lives.

Before Movie Show
Activity 1: SOS CALLS
Focus on: Word-building and critical thinking
Preferred age group: 6-8 years of age
Materials required: Flash cards/PPT slides with coded messages and its key

Instructions for teacher: Ask the learners to imagine situations where people need to use a secret language. While they tell about various such situations, draw their attention towards storms in the sea. Tell them that in such situations when no other communication is possible, people use a universally understood code language. let them imagine how adventurous such a situation would be. Tell them to visualise a little girl on such an adventurous voyage ad how she sends a message to her friend. Write the coded message and its key on the green board or show the PPT slides. Ask the learners to decipher the message.
One such example is given below: 
Code : BLF DROO YLZIW Y __ __     __ __ __ __  __ __ __   __ __  NB  YLZG! __ __  __ __ __ __!
Key: Read Z as A

Activity 2: Who's Who?
Focus on: Context-specific Vocabulary, Naming words
Preferred age group: 05-07 years of age
Materials required: Picture cards and naming words cards
Instructions for teacher: Tell the learners that they will be viewing a movie related to the adventures of a tribal girl named Moana, her family, pets and her friends. But before the movie starts, encourage them to play a guessing game about the names of the characters of the movie. There might be some students who have seen the movie, they may be able to recollect and match the naming words with the pictures of the characters correctly. Even if they are not able to, the teacher can tell them to pay attention to the movie and match them correctly while they watch the movie. 

During Movie Show

Activity 3:Words within words
Focus on: Word-Building and Vocabulary
Preferred age group: 5-6 years of age
Materials required: Flash cards with sentences from Gramma Tala's dialogues written on it, such as: THE OCEAN CHOSE YOU FOR A REASON.

Instructions for teacher: Divide the learners in pairs. Give each pair a flashcard and ask them to write minimum 10 words of three or more letters using the letters in the message from Gramma Tala. Assist them with a few hints.

Activity 4:Memory Game
Focus on: Picture Description through one-word answers and question framing
Preferred age group: 8-10 years of age
Materials required: PPT slides of movie shots or photocopies of pictures from the movie. 10 blank slips for both the teams each, flannel board, pin-up board/ green board, double-sided adhesive tape.

Instructions for teacher:Divide the class into two teams. Name them as Sawaal (Question) and Jawaab (Answer). Show both the teams a picture from the movie for a minute without any interruption/ distractions. Then ask Sawaal team to frame some Wh-questions with one-word answers, such as: Which character is shown in this picture? Similarly ask the Jawaab team to decide some words which can probably be the answers to questions asked by the Sawaal team. Tell both the teams to write their questions and answers on the blank strips provided, fold them and submit to the teacher. 

Now call one team member from each team and pick one strip from the opposite box. This means a team member from Sawaal team will pick up a strip with one-word answer on it and vice-versa. Tell them to pin up these strips on the board one by one. Once all the strips are pinned up on the board, ask the learners to match the questions with correct answers.

Note: Teacher may have to revise the method related to framing wh-questions. Learners need to be told that they have to use a question mark at the end of the question. The teacher needs to draw attention towards the position of the action words which is different in questions and in normal sentences. 
  
Post Movie Show
Activity 5: Story teller Tattoos
Focus on: Critical thinking skills and Writing skills
Preferred age group:8-10 years of age
Materials required: Flash-cards with Tattoos on one side and words on other side, PPT slides with Tattoos and words
Instructions for teacher: Distribute the Tattoos cards to each learner. Tell them that just as Maui's tattoos tell stories of his adventures, they can also think of stories revolving around the tattoo and words written on the card given to them. Some tattoos have been shown as examples. Tell them their stories need to use the word written with the tattoo in their story. The story must have: characters, a backdrop, a start and an end.

Activity 6: Songs of Ocean
Focus on: Creative writing skills
Preferred age group: 10-12 years of age
Materials required: Flash cards with pictures and words
Instructions for teacher: Distribute the flash cards with words to the learners and ask them to  create a song or a poem using those words. They need to focus on rhyme and rhythm while they make the poem. Some words that can be used for the poems are: Blue, Tide, Deep, Swim, Chop, Crash,Hook, Waves, Oars and so on.

The movie Moana is an ideal tool to develop language skills for learners of English as a second language. The young girl Moana and her adventures in the sea becomes an interesting tale for the teachers to use for exposing the students of different levels to the target language (English) because of its universal appeal and intrigue. The movie's intriguing and adventurous locale, use of characters known to the real world yet similar improbable reality; makes it such a strong learning aid to make the routine, dull language classroom interesting. The ELT teacher can definitely use it to make long lasting habits related to the language.



Wednesday, 13 December 2017

How to Conduct Telephonic Conversations in an ELT classroom



In today’s blog I am going to focus on how to assist learners in speaking on telephone in a very formal situation. This is what they may have to do at their workplaces and the confidence that they gain through this kind of exposure will make them more comfortable in using English at their workplaces in future. For doing such an exercise with the learners, the teacher will have to first clarify how talking on phone/ social media with their friends and talking on phone at their workplace is different. One cannot speak with the same informality with which one speaks to his/her friends/ family when one speaks to strangers/ colleagues/ customers at a workplace. Hence it is always helpful to know a few easy and short phrases in English, which can be used while talking on a telephone at a workplace.

Lesson: Hello!

Topic: How to speak on telephone at workplace

Activity 1: Mis-Pronounced Words/phrases: Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes:

The teacher will speak loudly and clearly the following words/phrases, one by one. The students will listen. Then, s/he will ask them to repeat after him/her. Special attention is to paid to clear and loud reproduction of pronunciations by the students. 

Hello!                                                          Who’s speaking?
How may I help you?                             May I help you?
Hold on for moment, please!                 Moment, please!
I will call back, later.                              Be online.
Good day/ goodbye.                                Have a nice day!
Let me connect you.                                Let me transfer your call.

Activity 2: Vocabulary: Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes

The teacher will write the following words/phrases on the blackboard and will say the words aloud. The students will repeat after the teacher. The teacher will explain the meaning and their usage in context when speaking on phone. The teacher can make judicious use of mother tongue if students fail to comprehend the meaning of words.
·         afraid: (by definition/ verbal context):  feeling fear about someone/thing, I don’t like to go alone at nights. I am afraid some ghosts will catch me.
·         call back: (by definition/ verbal context): a telephone call you make to somebody who has just called you or given you a missed call. Sudha never returns my calls. But she expects everybody to call her back as soon as she gives a missed call.
·         hang on: (by definition/ verbal context): used to tell somebody on phone to wait. Ramesh called up the Pizza Shop to check whether his favourite pizza was available. The service boy asked him to hang on until he checked it from kitchen.

Activity 3: Role Play 1: Teacher Directed: 10-15 Minutes

This activity will be done in pairs. The teacher will ask the students how they talk on telephones.  S/he will give the following conversation/dialogues to them to enact how a telephonic conversation in a company/ office takes place.
 
Learner 1: First Flight Travel Agency. Mr. Singh speaking. Can I help you?
Learner 2: Good morning, I am Amandeep from Alpha Company. Could I speak to Mr. Gupta?
Learner 1: Yes, of course. Would you hang on a minute? I´ll put you through.
Learner 2: Alright.
Learner 1: I am afraid; he is not in at the moment. Would you like to leave a message?
Learner 2: No, thank you. When could I call him back?
Learner 1: Could you please ring him up tomorrow morning?
Learner 2: Yes, of course. Thank you very much. Goodbye.

Activity 4: Feedback: Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes

Ask a few learners questions about their experience of talking on telephones/ mobiles. Review any common pronunciation problems the learners had.

Activity 5: Classroom Language: Telephone conversation: Group Work: Teacher Directed: 10 Minutes:

This activity will be done in pairs/ groups. The students will be given the following terms/ phrases and a situation for using them. They will enact the situation where they would conduct a Telecon using some/ most of these phrases. They will use all the terms in each given situation.

Terms/ Phrases for Telecon

May I help you?
Have problems with:
Let me connect you to:
One moment please:
What kind of problems are you having?
I am not sure
That will be extra:
Covered by warranty:
Send out a reminder:
Confirm the appointment:
Accept credit card payment
 Thank you for your help
Have a nice day!

Situations

Mobile repair shop
Fridge repair shop
Cycle repair shop
Television repair shop
Computer repair shop
Garments shop
AC repair shop
 Water Cooler repair shop
Microwave repair shop
Water Tank  repair shop
 Washing Machine repair shop
Scooter repair shop
Car repair shop

Activity 6: Variation: Role Play: 5 Minutes

The teacher can now prepare a different conversation for role play where the students can enact as if they are having short telephonic conversations. Divide the learners into pairs and tell them to take turns in knowing each other with the help of the following starting dialogue for telephone conversations.


Conversation 1 G: Hello, this is Nisha.
A: Hi, Nisha. This is Meeta from the Accounting department.
Conversation 2 G: Good morning. How may I help you?
A: Good morning, I have misplaced my hotel room key.
Conversation 3 G: Hi, this is Jennifer.
 A: Hi Jennifer, thank you for returning my call.
Conversation 4 Q: May I speak to John please?
A: One moment. Let me connect you.
Conversation 5 G: I was put on hold for a long time. I am still waiting for John.
A: I am so sorry. Let me connect you to John right now.
Conversation 6 Q: Who is calling, please?
A: This is Ram Niwas.
Conversation 7 G: I need to speak to Rishi Kapoor.
                   A: Let me transfer you. Please hold.
Conversation 8 G: Sorry, Rita is in the field at the moment.
A: Could you take a message? 
Conversation 9 G: Sorry, Seema is not available at the moment.
A: Can I leave a message for Seema then?
Conversation 10 Q: Lohan is still on the other line. Do you still wish to hold?
   A: Yes, I will hold.
Conversation 11 G: Thank you for holding. How may I help you?
   A: I need some information on one of your products.
Conversation 12 Q: For verification, may I have your home address?
    A: Yes please. My address is: House number 1234, Sector 5, Chandigarh.

Adolescent learners studying in government schools in urban and rural India studying in classes X and above are forced to quit formal school education and assist their parents in earning money for their daily livelihood. Many of them look for jobs in retail outlets in malls, shops, restaurants and other service stations. In such cases, they feel their school education especially whatever they were taught in their language classes is not at all useful to them in surviving at their workplaces.

It is at such times that the effectiveness of a language teacher comes into play. Various exercises that a language teacher conducts in a language class revolving around conversations based on real life situations will be most relevant for such learners. That is why it is said that a language teacher must try to go beyond the textbook syllabus while using the same as a launch pad for the students to start expressing themselves in the target language in every form possible such as spoken and written.

This is how a teacher may make the classroom language learning relevant and actually useful for second language learners of English in India.

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