Chakrakodi, Ravinaryan. (2016). Learn English teach English: English skills for teachers. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. (144 + viii pages)
In Position Paper National Focus Group on Teaching of English 2006, there is a discussion on the importance of language proficiency for teachers. Another important policy document, National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education 2009 also emphasizes “the teacher’s language proficiency and communication skills” and explains in no ambiguous terms why they are “critical factors in school education” (p. 36). Though these suggestions were made a long time ago, few changes have been made since, in terms of designing textbooks or training materials to cater to the language needs of pre-service English language teachers. Learn English Teach English written by Ravinarayan Chakrakodi, an experienced and well-known teacher educator, can thus be considered as the first such attempt. While this book may be classified along with books such as English for Primary Teachers by Slattery and Willis (2001), Chakrakodi has written the book specifically for English language teachers in India. Another factor that makes this book unique is that the author not only concentrates on developing teachers’ language ability, but also offers guidance on how to teach the major language skills and components. The “Forward” written by Dr. Richard Smith, a Reader in ELT/Applied Linguistics at University of Warwick, very aptly introduces the book to the readers.
The book is divided into six chapters, the first three of which focus on reading, listening and speaking respectively. They are followed by chapters on grammar and vocabulary, and writing, and pronunciation. In addition, there are two sections in the last part of the book: “Answer key” and “Learning with Technology: Resources and Activities”. While the key is meant to facilitate self-learning, the section on technology provides information about word processors, ICT tools, blogging, concordance software and evaluation of materials. Except for the (last) chapter on pronunciation, which seems to be an attempt to introduce teachers to the basics of Phonetics, all the other chapters contain elements of both learning and teaching of the focused skills/components, which include reading, listening, speaking, grammar and writing. The first five chapters also contain a balanced mix of theory and practice. In fact, in the “About the book” section, the writer suggests that the classroom session be divided into four phases: activity phase; analysis, reflection and discussion; theoretical input; and classroom implications. Though it is easy to understand what the author means by these terms, an explanation about the phases could have made it even better.
In the chapters on Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing skills, the major sub-skills are mentioned in explicit terms and exercises have been provided to reinforce teachers’ knowledge about them. Throughout the book, the writer draws the theories inductively from the examples/tasks provided, which can be an effective strategy for enhancing teachers’ ability to use the language. This strategy is adequately supported by some well-designed and interesting tasks. The book could have possibly made more impact had it included exercises based on authentic audio files, especially in the listening and pronunciation chapters. In addition, some suggestions related to the teaching of pronunciation could have helped. It is interesting to note that a good percentage of pages in the book are devoted to grammar and phonetics, which indicates that accuracy is on top of the author’s agenda. Though there has been some debate over the emphasis on accuracy, helping pre-service teachers to become accurate is justifiable.
Quite reasonably priced and thoughtfully written, this book can be used as self-learning material by English language teachers as well as teacher educators in teacher education courses such as D. Ed. and B. Ed. All institutes of teacher education should include this book in their syllabus in order to have more linguistically proficient teachers of English.
NCERT. (2006). Position paper, national focus group on teaching of English. New Delhi: NCERT.
NCTE. (2010). National curriculum framework for teacher education 2009: Towards preparing professional and humane teacher. New Delhi: NCTE.
Slattery, M., & Willis, J. (2001). English for primary teachers: A handbook of activities and classroom language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Santosh Mahapatra teaches at BITS-Pilani, Hyderabad Campus. He has completed his Ph. D. in Language Assessment from University of Hyderabad.