Author Archives: britishcouncilindia

More language, more person

The taxi-less roads did not deter ELT whizzes and exponents in Kolkata, who went on a linguistic, educational and cultural overdrive with a lively debate on ‘English Medium Instruction: Boon or curse? that followed an engaging talk by Prof. Andy Curtis on the subject.

Andy Curtis is Professor in the School of Graduate Education at Anaheim University, California and the president of TESOL International. His talk, on 11 August in Kolkata and 13 August in Patna, took great care to present research related to the two opposing schools of thought, viz. the perceived position of English as the ‘language of inclusion’ vs. the possibility of it being the ‘language of intrusion’.

He elaborated on the historical and political significance of the EMI debate in India, with particular reference to India’s colonial past, while also highlighting how the various Indian Englishes have contributed to keeping the language a ‘living, breathing organism’. Prof. Curtis stressed on the need for a strong debate on EMI in India.

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The panel discussion and the audience response turned out to be a thought-provoking session, with a combination of long-standing views of the Indian education system and progressive comments on the pertinent impact of technology, globalisation and India’s presence as a multi-lingual and multi-cultural expanse with an internationally competitive edge.

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Prof. Anuradha Lohia, Vice-Chancellor, Presidency University, pointed out how several generations of Indian school-going children learnt English ‘by default’ without there being any choice in the matter. She acknowledged that more and more learners of this generation had the option of continuing education in their chosen language, but higher education demands a knowledge of English. She attributed this scenario to the fact that English is the language of research and development, therefore a ‘language of necessity’ for young people who will soon become global citizens. She also put forth an interesting question of whether lack of English could become an impediment for those aspiring for a career in technical fields, or if they could still make it big in the international arena.

The Director of Modern High School for Girls in Kolkata, Ms. Devi Kar, responded to Prof. Curtis and Ms Lohia by raising the question of whether English might also be seen as the ‘language of exclusion’, especially in higher education. From her own experience of teaching and learning, Ms Kar pointed out how pronunciation and accent formed the ‘great divide’ for Indian English speakers, by bringing up the long-ensuing war between substance and language style. The crux of Ms Kar’s response was based on bilingual language teaching and how it was a more organic way of teaching languages in India, especially due to the need for constant code-switching and code-mixing in the diverse linguistic panorama.

Academic Manager of British Council Teaching Centre in Kolkata, Mr Rajeev Bakhshi, took on the debate of the purpose and need for English learning in India, by emphasising that students in the English classroom looked upon English as a means of seeking better jobs or securing a better future for themselves, not only in terms of monetary benefit, but also for more promising careers and a global identity.

The audience posed questions on a number of issues ranging from how English is taught in schools, to which Prof Curtis responded by saying that the current style of grammar-focussed teaching can limit linguistic creativity to a great extent. To another question on how English language is linked to ‘who we are’, Prof Curtis advocated the ideology of plurality while pointing out the fossilisation of language and clear markers of an individual’s identity, influence how we speak.

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The stimulating discussion ended with a consensus that despite the ambivalence towards EMI globally, multilingualism is the way forward. Prof Curtis encapsulated this belief with the comment ‘diversity is strength’ and Sujata Sen rounded off session by saying English language learning is indeed a boon in India and the debate on EMI should continue, in interest of betterment of education in India.

The debate continued in Patna  where a turnout of 86 people on a day it rained very heavily included a mix of senior education policy makers from SCERT (director and his deputy, VC of Patna University), teacher educators from our own BLISS project, Pratham Bihar unit (including their state head), several school principals from our schools network.

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A lively interaction followed the lecture, with questions of linguistic imperialism and dangers of English cropping up (and tackled very well by Andy). The discussion was moderated by Debanjan Chakrabarti.

Both events were covered very well in the mainstream media (the Telegraph, Hindu, Hindustan Times, several agencies).

This was the first in a series of programmes that strategically brings together our work in research and publications, particularly on the (tricky) issue of EMI and related pedagogic approaches, aligned to our state partnership programmes and looking at the medium term milestone of the Language and Development Conference late in 2015.

Post by: Samathmika Balaji

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World Voice Project Workshop for State-level Master Trainers

World Voice

The World Voice Project 2014 kicked off in Delhi with training for state level trainers from five states of India. The workshop was hosted with our partners at the NCERT and was attended by Gill Caldicott (acting Director), Sujata Sen (Director, East India), Vivek Mansukhani (Director Arts) from the British Council, Prof Parvin Sinclair (Director), and Dr Pawan Sudhir (Professor and Head, Department of Education in Arts and Aesthetics (DEAA) and Dr Sharbari Banerjee (Assistant Professor, Musicologist) from the NCERT.

The three-day World Voice Project workshop  (25 – 27 August 2014, DEAA Conference hall, NCERT New Delhi) for Master Trainers brought together 16 participants from each of the WVP partner states: Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Sikkim and New Delhi. Aiming at capacity building, training and skills advancement on Art Integrated Learning (AIL) with music and singing through British Council India’s World Voice Project (WVP), it offered an ideal platform for interaction, an exchange of best-practices, experiences, song repertoires, opportunities and challenges involved in AIL through music.

The interactive training was conducted by the resource person and trainer from United Kingdom, Dr Thomas Ian Young. He shared a range of new warm ups, singing games, use of puppets and actions with songs and encouraged sharing of personal song repertoires from the participants. The participants learnt 12 new songs during the workshop, including songs from the WVP songbooks alongside others from across the world such as, Canoe song (North America), Si-Si (Congo), Scotland and so on. They enjoyed singing and learning the songs, while they also shared their WVP experiences in their respective states through presentations, video and audio clips, as well as, photographs documenting their work. They highlighted how teaching through WVP songs had made classroom learning more enjoyable and interesting!

The participants attending the current workshop had been trained earlier by Master Trainers from New Delhi/ India over the past one year (October 2013 – March 2014) in their respective states. The current training was envisaged to help participants enhance their skills to be able to conduct similar trainings in their educational institutions and states; thus, taking on the role of master trainers in their respective regions.

Further, in an effort to promote AIL through theatre, the British Council India organised short sessions on ‘Theatre in Education’ with the support of 4 short listed participants trained previously during the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) workshop (held in January 2014) alongside this workshop. The hour-long theatre presentations with a focus on Shakespearean texts were scheduled before and after completion of Dr Young’s sessions during the ongoing workshop. The participants enjoyed the fusion of music and theatre sessions for classroom learning. The theatre component will be included in the next phase of the AIL activities in the various WVP partner states.

Participant’s responses

“ I have learnt four WVP songs and WVP introduced me to a new teaching pedagogy. It has helped me establish a good rapport with my students and made learning very enjoyable for everyone! ” – Mr Dary Marbaniang, Meghalaya

“ I have been using the WVP songs and warm ups.. I would like to share that Bebe-Yo is very popular with all the students! “ – Mr Subhash Shanker Suna, Sikkim

“ There are less teachers and massive pressure to ensure the syllabus and curriculum is covered. In the process, we tend to forget that learning must be joyful! After the WVP workshop, I am singing with a better purpose and am able to establish better links with the curriculum. The students in my state find English very difficult. However, I was delighted when they managed to learn and sing an English song, ‘ScarbouroughFair’ ” – Ms Geeta Bhatt, Himachal Pradesh

“I head a pre-school and teach students from the age group 1.5 to 5.5 years. After one week of teaching through WVP pedagogy, they were happier and learnt far better. Although, I was faced with initial resistance from the parents but once they observed the changes that music had brought about, they became more open and encouraging!.- Ms Zainab Ashraf, Jammu and Kashmir

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Swapnokalpa Dasgupta: Dance and Disability

Artists before the show Miracle On Wheels dance performance on Wheel chairs by Ability Unlimited at Tata Theatre,NCPA on 07/06/2013. Photo by : NARENDRA DANGIYASwapnokalpa Dasgupta: ‘My experiences with disabled children completely changed the way I looked at dance.’

As Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, Head of Dance Programming, at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai, prepares to participate in the Unlimited festival at the Southbank Centre (2nd – 7th September), she shares her experience of working with disabled dancers and how perceptions towards disability in India is changing.

Disability and dance: a different mode of expression and appreciation of physicality

My background is in Science and Education and I am also an Indian classical dancer. I did my teaching qualification in India and worked in the UK as a teaching assistant in various schools and Special Education units around London I began to see how I could use dance in an educational setting and the particular impact it had on the disabled children. Dance allowed them a different mode of expression and appreciation of their physicality.

These experiences have stayed with me and I am really excited about the potential of disability arts programmes in India. The dance department at the NCPA started to work with disabled performers last year. The response from the audiences was incredible; we have realised that there really is an appetite for disability arts. We are now aiming to curate a festival for disabled dancers in the near future as we think this would be a great way to showcase their talent and share their experiences with more people.

Changing perceptions

Traditionally, it has been taught that Indian classical dance is the reserve of the able bodied and this was how I was conditioned to think from my classical training. However, my experiences with disabled children completely changed the way I looked at dance. I began to see that dance was not a competitive sport where one should strive for perfection. Nor is dance an end-result; it is the process that is important. I realised how powerful dance was as a medium of expression and thus is a birth right of every individual.

More investment needed

People’s perceptions of disabled dancers are slowly changing in India, as we have seen more disabled performers on our TV screens and in our theatres. However, disabled performers are still held back from achieving their full potential as there is not enough investment or support for their training. Generally in India, when disabled people tend to come from lower socio-economic backgrounds and attain lower educational standards, it is even more important that there is investment in scholarship schemes, for example, in order to address this imbalance.

Read more about disability arts

Find out more about Unlimited

Read an interview with Ruth Gould, artistic director of DaDaFestand chair of the commission panel for the Unlimited festival. She talks about how arts can change perceptions of what D/deaf and disabled people can do.

Post by: Emer Coyle

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Music can make the world go round!

What do you think an annual arts festival in London, and a mythical tradition that amidst other goals focussed on developing an elixir of life to confer youth and longevity, have in common?

Alchemy is London’s Southbank Centre’s annual festival showcasing the best of music, dance, literature, comedy, fashion, art and design from the UK and South Asia. Alchemy is also an influential philosophical tradition whose practitioners have, from antiquity, claimed it to be the precursor to profound powers. We’d like to believe that cultural relations has some of this profound power, with music as a kind of magic that activates it.

On Monday, 19 May 2014, some of this magic was experienced by around 250 festival goers in London at the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre. In a medley of percussion, singing, wind and string instruments and some clog dancing thrown in for good measure, the audiences listened as six musicians from different traditions, styles, and countries strung notes of gold.

The energetic Suhail Yusuf Khan brought his skill with the sarangi, and honeydew voice that perfectly complemented Saurav Moni’s soulful Baul singing, quintessentially accompanied by the ektara. On the melancholic harp was Georgia Ruth Williams from Wales, with Patsy Reid from Scotland on the up-beat fiddle. Also from Scotland was James Mackintosh, a veteran percussionist. Hannah James from England brought sounds of the accordion and that of happy clog dancing to this mix.

While the highlight of the evening was the music, it was peppered with stories and narratives from each one’s country, and tradition. What better way to experience the grace of difference than through folk music and stories.

But what brought this eclectic mix of musicians together to weave with their strands of music, a breath-taking performance?

Over the last two years, our Folk Nations project has brought together artists from across the UK and South Asia to create and exchange contemporary folk music. One such project was a residency in Kolkata in 2013, co-commissioned by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, where these musicians met for the very first time. The music performed at Alchemy was conceived here.

Have a look at images from the performance here.

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Keeping India’s street art alive

Designer and artist Hanif Kureshi, who is preparing to exhibit his work at Alchemy 2014 in London’s Southbank Centre from the 15 to 26 May explains his current project and shares a few insights into his work, which aims to preserve the practice of hand-painted street signs in India and promote the importance of letters.

Why preserve hand-painted type?

India has a long tradition of hand painted type. Hand-painted signs used to be part of the landscape, but with digital printing street signs now all seem to look the same. I don’t think we should lose the unique character of our streets and why I am working to find ways of preserving our street painting tradition. Most of the painters across India have their own unique style and I think it would be such a shame if this wasn’t passed onto the next generation of designers.

Signboard from BikanerDigital printing and contemporary Indian culture

As our world becomes more and more globalised, I am concerned about how this affects our cultural identity. I would argue that our urban landscape plays quite a big part in our cultural identity. There is little point in fighting technological advances, so for me it makes sense to explore how to combine India’s unique cultural identity along with the technology that is contributing to making our world increasingly connected and homogeneous.

AAAAAATypeface in a global context 

Most of the typefaces and fonts that we use have been designed by either professional American British or European type designers; they aim for simplicity and homogeneity. The typefaces you see in my project reflect a very unique Indian aesthetic and the reactions I have received from outside India have been really interesting. The colours and shapes seem to evoke vivid emotions in people who perhaps haven’t been to India before: this is the beauty of the project.

The identity of typeface 

A street painter’s style is interlinked with their individual identity and background. An artist from North India will have a different colour scheme and form than an artist from the South. Each region also has their particular style of painting. Painters are very influenced by the people who taught them and there is a strong tradition of ‘master and disciple’. This tradition enforces a sense of identity and place in their work, which you don’t see with the generic fonts that we use at the minute. 

The power of letters

I come from advertising background where I was taught that the image is worth a thousand words. This may be true for advertising, but for me letters are always more powerful.As I said, they belong to an individual with an identity, sense of place and tradition. I don’t think an image can reflect the same emotion. I feel local script plays a very important role in every culture and we need to keep that sacred as digital can never express the emotion of human handwriting. 

Find out more about hand-painted type

Read more about Alchemy 2014

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James Mackintosh: Language is no barrier for musical collaboration

James Mackintosh BW

Ahead of the Folk Nations gig at Southbank Centre’s Alchemy festival on 19 May, Scottish percussionist James Mackintosh joins the group from the Kolkata Residency to showcase a unique collaborative project.

A veteran of the global folk scene, James shares his thoughts on collaboration and the folk scene in the UK.

The resurgence of folk music

There has been a Renaissance in folk music in the UK over the last two decades at least. From a Scottish perspective this has had a lot to do with a handful of inspired and energetic individuals who realised that to keep our traditions alive there needed to be a better infrastructure for the teaching and sharing of folk music for the younger generation. The “Feis” movement gathered strength very quickly and led to a much greater enthusiasm and pride in our traditional culture. Folk music became “cool” once more as teenagers realised the enjoyment of playing various traditional instruments in sessions and at Ceilidh’s.

The similarities of Indian and British folk music

From my time spent in India, I saw more similarities than differences between British and Indian folk music. I noticed so many connections in the content, mood and emotion of various songs and tunes. Rhythm is hugely important to both cultures and in my own collaborations with Rajasthani musicians, we had much common ground in melodic and rhythmic approaches. The folk music that I heard in India was wonderful, passionate, fun, sophisticated and authentic .Folk music at its best is timeless and can exist in many forms.

Folk music is inherently collaborative

Collaborations in the British Folk scene have certainly produced some exciting combinations of musicians over the years. Folk music is collaborative by nature, so different combinations of voice and instrument are very natural, as are collaborations between musicians all around the world. I have found that language is no barrier to musical collaboration; I think this can be a great example towards cooperation and understanding between different cultures and nations.

Read what Patsy Reid, Georgia Ruth, and Suhail Yusuf Khan have to say.

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Patsy Reid: ‘UK and Indian folk music have different roots yet are permeated by similarities’

patsy reid

Folk musician Patsy Reid took part in a week-long residency in Kolkata as part of the British Council’s three-year Folk Nations project. Patsy is now preparing to perform for a Folk Nations gig at the Southbank Centre in London on 19 May.

Patsy shares her experience of the Folk Nations Kolkata Residency and exploring Indian and UK folk music.

UK and Indian folk music: different roots yet permeated by similarities 

I think that there are similarities and differences between the UK and Indian folk music but my experience of them is really dependant on who I happened to meet and play music with during my three trips to India last year. Suhail Yusuf Khan, for example has so much respect for the tradition and he is known for doing so, but also goes off piste and plays really experimental, cutting-edge music, fusing Indian music with rock and other styles. I know many people like that in the UK. I think what I’m trying to say is that both country’s folk musics are extremely diverse and rich, making them similar contextually. Each is full of musicians working in all areas of the spectrum and although the actual roots seem very different, the nature, respect and geographical implications are exactly the same.  

Exploring the unknown

Before the residency I was a wee bit intimidated by Indian music. Believe me I still am and I have barely scratched the surface during my now 3 trips to India. But I suppose what I did learn is that it’s better to have a go and join in respectfully and informed than to be frightened of it. Often the results would surprise us all and it was exciting to create something new together. Suhail Yusuf Khan was great to work with as he understood all of our reservations and concerns about spoiling such beautiful music and put us at ease.

Recreating the feeling of Kolkata

I don’t think my latest work was consciously influenced by my experience in Kolkata, but there have been lots of reviews saying that it did! Influence is such a difficult thing to measure but I’m sure that my playing in general was inspired by our time in Kolkata. I also made the decision to make the album very soon after the residency and I think that’s because I was on such a high and feeling confident in my abilities as a collaborator. Making the album itself was like the Kolkata residency in that we were all involved in jamming and making the music and I wanted to recreate that relaxed, at home feeling with the musicians. I was just the facilitator.

Musical evolution since the Kolkata residency

We were delighted to be asked to play at Celtic Connections in January 2014 and although we were all part of the original group, there were lots of people, instruments and characters missing and so we really had to treat it as a new band and that was a really lovely opportunity. We were never going to recreate the special time in Kolkata but what we ended up doing was creating a totally different but equally special concert in Glasgow. We worked well as a team creatively and pulled it together in a relatively small amount of rehearsal time.

Advice for young people who want to forge a career in music

I would say, don’t be over or under confident. You have to be humble and open when working with new people yet forthcoming with your own ideas. I think it is important to work out why you are making music together and who it is for. Sometimes the answer is irrelevant and it should be ‘for the love of it’, but unfortunately that cannot always be the case. If the audience is expecting or assuming a certain experience then that needs to be taken into account.

Read more about what the other Folk Nations musicians have to say

Find out more about Folk Nations

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Georgia Ruth Williams: ‘Kindred spirits through collaboration’

georgia ruth

As folk singer Georgia Ruth Williams prepares to perform at a Folk Nations gig at London’s Southbank Centre on 19 May, she shares her thoughts on musical influences, collaborations and her experience at the Folk Nations Kolkata Residency. 

The universality of music

It’s an old cliché, but music really does help to break down linguistic barriers. The bonds the musicians made at the Kolkata residency were often forged on a musical level, and sometimes I think that we would never have been able to express those feelings without the help of the songs. That sort of interaction was at the very heart of what the Folk Nations project hoped to achieve, so we were very lucky.

The evolution of techniques and influences

I’ve been playing the harp for 19 years now, and my technique has definitely morphed and shifted since I first began learning. I started off with a very rigorous classical training (the harp within an orchestral, Western-Classical context as opposed to a folk one) but gradually those restrictions fell away and I began to teach myself to play the sounds I’d heard in other music. When I first played with Indian musicians, I again found myself needing to adapt my technique to the new sounds and structures I was learning. By today, my ‘technique’ is a bit of a mish-mash of everything; my influences change daily. But at the moment, I’m listening to a lot of Dorothy Ashby records. She and Alice Coltrane really pushed the boundaries of how the harp was perceived in the 60s and 70s. They made it a fluid, adaptable thing. They took it from the rigidity of the concert hall and made it a dynamic instrument. ‘Afro Harping’ from 1968 – with its breakbeats and jazz influences – is a prototype of the hip-hop production styles which developed years later.

Kindred spirits through collaboration

The Kolkata Residency was such an intense experience. We all bonded really quickly, and when I left Kolkata I knew that wouldn’t be the end of things. What was fascinating for me was the breadth of different styles and influences – Bangladeshi, Welsh, Indian, Scottish, Pakistani and English music: all at once. We started to collaborate quite tentatively at first; everyone was so new to each other. But what began as a show-and-tell of songs quickly became a noticing of patterns, and a growing excitement as we started to see the similarities in places we’d never expected. I’ve learned to always be open, share everything you have because you might find a kindred spirit (or song) where you didn’t expect to.

UK and Indian folk music: familiarity amongst the differences

It is the idiosyncrasies of each nation’s folk songs that make them unique; there are things which are universally human in the traditions. In the UK, Welsh traditional music differs quite significantly from the English, which differs significantly from the Scottish etc. And that’s before we even begin to think about the Indian classical music.  But I was amazed when I heard Saurav Moni’s Bengali river songs. They reminded me so much of some agricultural songs from Glamorganshire in Wales (songs about driving cattle forward across fields, along rivers) and it was so incredibly moving to hear him sing his songs – they felt so familiar.

Advice for young people who want to forge a career in music

Don’t hesitate, ever! You will thank yourself. Collaborations are the best way to know yourself as a musician, because you are constantly having to re-evaluate things you’d taken for granted.

Read more about what the other Folk Nations musicians have to say

Find out more about Folk Nations

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What is it like to work in the arts in India?

“It is a very exciting time to be an arts professional in India. There is a sense of community and sharing as well as a sense of investment in growing something together”.

Latika Gupta is an art-historian and critic based in Delhi. Latika has worked on documentary films and photography projects tracing the history of Indian art and as a curator at the National Gallery of Modern Art and at KHOJ International Artists’ Association. Latika is currently studying towards a PhD in material culture and rituals in the Himalayas.

Latika tells us what it is like to work as an arts professional in India.

I think the opportunities for arts professionals, though having increased in the last few years, are still few and far between. Most work is on commission from private galleries and the opportunities to work with public spaces and museums are negligible. Additionally, professional opportunities are primarily in the contemporary arts sphere. There also continues to be the perception that if you work in the arts, it is akin to philanthropy, so in terms of remuneration, it is somewhat difficult for arts professionals to have a sustainable practice, especially as freelancers.

On the flipside however, given that the arts scene is still growing, it is a very exciting time to be an arts professional in India. There is a sense of community and sharing as well as a sense of investment in growing something together.

With this context in mind, the benefits of finding international opportunities which you can then bring back to your work are very valuable. I was commissioned to curate an exhibition from the permanent collection of the British Council in 2011. ‘Homelands’ toured Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Lahore, Karachi and Colombo between January 2013 and February 2014.  For this project, I worked with technical advisors as well as a fantastic team of arts professionals here in India- all of whom I learned a great deal from in terms of ‘best practices’. I also received a three-months research fellowship from CWIT for a project on Himalayan art. It was extremely valuable in terms of the resources I was able to use as well as the academics I worked with. This has informed my current research work as a Phd scholar at the Jawharlal Nehru University, where I am working on material culture and rituals in the Himalayas.

Are you an arts professional in India? What has your experience been like? 

Post by: Emer Coyle

 

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The Politics of Pronunciation

Accent is our identity, an oral fingerprint containing all sorts of information about our life.

Do you have an accent?

Helen Ashton began her talk with this question to the audience – very few said yes.

Collins in collaboration with English Partnerships department organised a talk on ‘The Politics of Pronunciation’ by dialect coach, Helen Ashton at the British Council in New Delhi on Wednesday 2 April 2014. The event was live streamed; and audiences in our other offices in Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Bengaluru watched the proceedings.

In her welcome address to the audience and viewers of the live webcast, Alison Barrett, Director English for Education Systems, British Council South Asia spoke about British Council and Collins’ shared vision to support teachers in their development.

Dr Elaine Higgleton, International Publisher, Collins Learning talked about the role of Collins in the field of education. Since 200 years Collins has been publishing dictionaries, atlases, school course books and has worked extensively with partners across the world. Through this talk Collins wanted to discuss a key issue faced by teachers: What pronunciation should we be teaching our students?

Also present at the event were senior management officials from Collins; Mr. Colin Hughes, Managing Director, Collins Learning, Mr. Krishna Naroor, Managing Director, Collins India and Mr. P.M. Sukumar, Chief Executive Officer, HarperCollins Publishers India.

Helen believes that accents reflect our identities, and no one way of speaking is inherently better than another. However, this doesn’t mean that pronunciation teaching should be abandoned altogether, rather it should be flexible. Voice is physical and is a result of the muscle habits that we develop over a course of time. Helen made the audience breathe, yawn, play with their tongue, do an Elvis lip and blurt out a trill, to name a few – all part of muscular exercises important in pronunciation teaching.

She mainly discussed Received Pronunciation (RP) which is said to be the ‘standard’ in spoken English. Pronunciation is one of the major aspects of language and with the language constantly evolving, RP is changing too. For instance, a study has revealed that even the Queen’s accent has changed over the years.

In English curriculum, pronunciation plays a key role and majority of the teachers have always hesitated to teach their students as they themselves aren’t aware of the correct pronunciation. To overcome this barrier, Helen presented key concepts and techniques that are useful for teaching various pronunciation models and can be tailored to students’ individual goals.

As she progressed through the talk she used different accents: Scottish, British and American to name a few.

To sum up the session, ‘Accent is how we pronounce words when we speak so EVERYBODY has an accent’. She concluded the event with the same question she had asked in the beginning Do you have an accent?

A resounding yes!

The audiences across our four offices comprised teachers, professors, principals, students, publishers, teacher educators and representatives for other educational institutions.

The Q&A session was opened out to all cities via Twitter. The talk helped the audience understand how they could incorporate these easy-to-use techniques into their teaching of pronunciation in a way that was practical and effective and created a huge impact on teaching and learning. The success of this event has prompted the roll out of similar talks for the English teaching and education sector.

More photographs of the event can be viewed here.

Helen Ashton trained at The Central School of Speech and Drama, graduating with Distinction from the MA in Voice. She specialises in speech and accent work, which she teaches at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), in London. She has coached actors in many different accents for Stage and Screen appearances.

Helen is co-author of the pronunciation guide Collins’ Work On Your Accent which was published in 2012, and teaches English pronunciation to speakers of all languages. Helen also holds an MA with First Class Honours in History from The University of Edinburgh.

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