27th August 2000

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  • English teachers form national body
  • Taste of tradition in heart of city
  • Sounds of music for a cause

    English teachers form national body

    By Madhubhashini Ratnayake

    The first national or- ganization of English language teachers will be formed in Sri Lanka on September 1 when the British Council, the National Institute of Education, universities, teachers and the Regional English Support Centres come together to form SLELTA - Sri Lanka English Language Teachers Association. The formation coincides with an international English language teaching conference to be held at Hotel Galadari from September 1-3.

    The initial and informal committee that was formed to bring the organization into being, has representatives from all sectors that the SLELTA would eventually include. It includes Susan Maingay, Director of the British Council; Professor Thiru Kandiah representing the tertiary level; Charlie Walker, manager of the British Council Language Centre; David Hayes and Cyril Edirisinghe, Project Manager and Co-Project Coordinator respectively, of the Primary English Language Project, and others who are also involved with the Regional English Support Centres; Nirmali Hettiarachchi, representing the private and commercial sector language teaching and Mina Patel, representing language teachers. They are all volunteers who have come together to bring the exciting concept of a national organization of language teachers into fruition.

    "The most vital concept of the times is networking," says Susan Maingay. "We in Sri Lanka have to be a part of the global network of English teachers. Perhaps, for example, the SLELTA would become a branch member of the IATEFL - the International Association of Teaching English as a Foreign Language. There is so much to be gained both ways, by being part of an international networking."

    Professor Thiru Kandiah feels that being exposed to what is happening outside is always beneficial. "I do not mean that we should uncritically follow others or take the methods of teaching as they are. We have to get actively involved and use what we become aware of in an adaptive way, which turns it into account within our realities."

    Professor Kandiah sees the formation of SLELTA as a two way equal partnership between the international language teaching community and the English teachers of Sri Lanka. "I feel that English language teaching has somewhat lost the original innovative edge that it had at the beginning. There are many dedicated and innovative English language teachers in Sri Lanka. But their methods of teaching often seem to me, more a case of coming up with ad hoc responses to ad hoc situations as they arise, rather than through any form of conceptualization. Conceptualization is vital for any kind of definitive action which will take us purposively forward. One way of finding it, and regaining the innovative and creative edge of language teaching is to be open to all the things that are going on around us, both in our immediate environment and in the larger global structures we belong within. We have to be autonomous and at the same time function in the larger world as well, " he says.

    The international conference on English language teaching is the first step SLELTA has taken, to be exposed to what is going on in this field. While having Sri Lankan experts in the field like Manique Gunesekera, Ryhana Raheem and Hemamala Ratwatte, it will bring in others from the region, like Naraporn Chanocha (Thailand), Farzana Quader (India), Rehana Alam Khan (Bangladesh) who are engaged in language teaching situations similar to ours, and those from the 'Centres' like Peter Medgyes, Christopher Tribble, Tony O'Brien and others.

    It will be a conference that will focus on the various aspects of language teaching, including publishing. "SLELTA is for everyone, the primary, secondary and tertiary level teachers as well as governmental, private and commercial enterprises," Susan Maingay emphasizes. "It is open to all those who teach the English language, no matter where."

    "If a tuition master can wield a microphone and command the attention of 500 students at one time, and if the parents of those students have invested good money on getting their children into that tuition class, I don't think that is an issue we can ignore or sidestep," says Nirmalie Hettiarachchi. "The SLELTA needs to have people from the commercial sector included as well. Private enterprise is positive, the students who come to classes in such sectors are motivated and enthusiastic. For teachers in private sectors to be a part of SLELTA will be beneficial to all concerned."

    The benefits of SLELTA are many and will be worked on as the organization moves forward. The backing of the British Council ensures that many resources will be made available to it, and future ideas include teacher training, conducting of workshops, opening branches of the SLELTA in different regions of Sri Lanka.

    "The whole idea of the organization is that of sharing," says Mina Patel. "A sharing of ideas and experience, of learning from each other. All the native speaker teachers involved in SLELTA are doing so voluntarily because they know how much it will enrich their experience. It is also a way to reach out to a broader group of people."

    Taste of tradition in heart of city

    By Kesara Ratnatunga

    The atmosphere was of relaxed rustic charm. The firelight from the burning coals and lanterns painting the area in soft colours, mouth-watering aromas floating around and the nasal notes of a snake charmer's flute piercing the cheerful banter.It was a treat for the senses and you could hardly imagine all this was in the heart of Colombo.

    It was the 'Ancient Cooking of Sri Lanka' promotion at the Hilton's Curry Leaf Garden Restaurant. Intended to introduce to its guests the traditional foods and forms of cooking, the management and more so the chefs seemed to have spared no expense or effort in making the experience as real as possible. Traditional meals such as Kehel Bada Curry, Olu Rice made from the seeds of lotus blossoms and a selection of delicious yams were just some of the dishes not usually seen on menus in the city. Many of these being brought down from Hanwella especially for the event. A barbecue of duck, chicken , wild fowl and fish was also on the buffet.

    A small cadjan hut was set up in which hoppers and the deft hands of the village folk were busily preparing various sweetmeats themselves. The taste, aroma and finesse hinted at the experience of generations, which they held.

    The chefs - who had researched into the dishes they had prepared- were quick to explain how they were made and the medicinal properties which some of them, were famous for.

    Entertainment in the form of dances, live traditional music and snake charming added that extra touch of surrealism and mystique to the experience.

    Sounds of music for a cause

    Some of Sri Lanka's best-known singers will come together in a programme of Gospel music for a worthy cause on September 9 at the Bishop's College auditorium.

    'On Eagles Wings' will have over 30 of Sri Lanka's best singers and groups including the Merry-An Singers, the Lylie Godridge Choir, Noeline Honter, Shyami Ratnam, Anil Bharathi, Rohan de Lanerolle, Neesha Rockwood, Serela Athulat-hmudali, Druvi de Silva, Surekha Amarasinghe, Soundari David and Dinesh Bulathsinghala, to name a few.

    The programme includes country and folk songs, Negro spirituals and lively Gospel music.

    The Merry-An Singers will conduct half the programme with a special sing-along segment. On September 8, the final rehearsal, all retired military personnel and disabled soldiers have been invited to see the show free of charge.

    This fund-raiser is for the Mercy Ministry project of the Church of Living Waters, Wattala, a branch of the Church of the Four Square Gospel, who are working towards having their own church premises and building a half-way home for the homeless.

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