Professor Geetha Durairajan at Ram Lal Anand College

Ram Lal Anand College, Delhi University, in collaboration with Forum for Teachers of English Language and Literature (FORTELL) hosted a talk by Professor Geetha Durairajan on 18 August 2015 in the seminar hall of the college. Professor Geetha Durairajan is a Professor at the Evaluation Department of the prestigious English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad. She spoke on the topic “Language Teaching in Multilingual Contexts: Using the First/More Enabled Language as a Positive Resource in the English Classroom”.

The talk was presided over by Professor Rama Mathew, former Head of Department of Central Institute of Education, Delhi University. The hall was packed with an eager audience of FORTELL members including the president of FORTELL Dr. Vijay Kumar Sharma, who is also the principal of Ram Lal Anand College, faculty members of the English and other departments of the college as well as several students. After the welcome remarks by the Principal of the college, Professor Rama Mathew introduced the speaker.

Professor Durairajan’s lecture, even though entitled “Language Teaching in Multilingual Contexts”, included experiences of both teachers and students hence expanding the scope of her theoretical formulations. She focused on the benefits of the use of the first or what she called the more enabled language in an English classroom. She first introduced the theory of language use, followed by an explanation of the language formula as devised by her and finally explored a couple of examples to illustrate her argument. Instead of relying on a power point presentation, Professor Durairajan distributed a handout of her illustrations, giving the presentation a real time experience and enhancing the engagement of the audience. Her theoretical premise was that the more enabled language is our closest ally when it comes to a person’s thoughts, mental calculations and engagement with the self, and therefore it should be identified as an asset rather than as a liability. She suggested that the teacher’s perspective/attitude towards a student’s language proficiency can make or break the confidence and learning ability of a student and therefore it is more beneficial to use the student’s already well-equipped grasp of one language to teach a new one, in this case English.

Professor Durairajan’s lecture was applauded by the audience for its complex suggestions made in crisp but simple language. Professor Durairajan was overwhelmed by the audience’s positive response to her arguments. Most people agreed that the cooperative instruments she had spoken about have already been informally used in the teaching-learning processes even though they may not have been acknowledged formally. The students left the lecture hall with the confidence that they could take charge of their own learning and become independent learners. The program ended with a vote of thanks.

Deepti Bhardwaj teaches English at Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi