2. The Plate of Mangoes
One evening, the Emperor and the Empress sat on a porch near the River Jumna. They ate mangoes. The Emperor sucked the juice from the mangoes. He put all the skins and the big seeds on a plate. The plate was in front of the Empress. When Birbal came in to talk to the Emperor there were many mango skins and seeds on the plate.
The Emperor felt very naughty and said to Birbal, ‘Look at all the mangoes the Empress has eaten. She is very greedy.’
The Empress felt angry. Before she said anything Birbal said ‘Maybe it is because of the person she is with.’
‘What do you mean?’ asked the Emperor. ‘Are you saying I am greedy? Look the plate is in front of her.’
‘Yes,’ said Birbal. ‘but the Empress has eaten the mango flesh only and you have eaten all the skins and all the seeds too.’
The Empress laughed very hard. The Emperor slapped his leg and smiled. He knew he had been fooled.
My objective was to re-write the text in as simple English a possible, thus my intention was to simplify it to a beginner level. Although beginner and elementary levels, together with pre-intermediate level are incorporated within ‘elementary’ for the purposes of this unit, I feel I was unable to simplify it sufficiently for a beginner, without losing the gist of the story. It is written in simple past but with some present continuous and present perfect tenses also included, thus making the text more appropriate for higher level elementary students.
The age range of such students could be any age as younger students should be able to see the joke, as with older students, so it is appropriate for ages seven to adult.
The most difficult aspect of this exercise was trying to re-write the more complex sentences such as the first two sentences in the original text, into more simplistic sentences without losing the meaning of the story.
Another aspect which posed some thought was determining which vocabulary elementary students would know and which to change to ensure they understood the text. For example, they would be unlikely to know ‘verandah’ but would probably be aware of ‘porch’.
SECTION B – Question 6
A person with the view that within a communicative classroom ‘all they seem to do is talk and play games [which is] …not learning a language.’ Would probably also hold the view that language should be taught within the boundaries of a ‘grammar-translation method’, which is also born out by the further comment ‘I bet they don’t even know what the future perfect is,’ maybe because he/she is a teacher their self, or maybe because this was the way they learnt a language. Such views do not necessarily need to be disproved nor proved but rather, they need to be considered as an integral part of learning a language.
A classroom conducive to language teaching needs to incorporate a variety of language teaching methods and approaches, and to disregard one in place of another is not necessarily the best way to go. An informed and effective teacher would have the knowledge, inclination and ability to pull from a number of methods and approaches that best suit his/her students’ needs.
Although some people are of the view that talking and playing games may appear to be trivial and not illustrating a knowledge of the language, others would say that knowing a language is being able to use it outside of the classroom. In order to do this, students need to be given the opportunity of using the language freely within the classroom. They cannot do this by simply repeating and drilling grammatical rules, wherein, they may be more apt in talking about the language but less able to use the language. On the other hand, if students were merely asked to speak and use language freely without first having been taught it, they would not have the knowledge ot the means to do so.
A more integrated approach however, would allow for a more progressive lesson and allow for the grammatical explanations, the repetition and the drilling, but also provide motivation for student autonomy within each and every lesson. A well structured lesson should progress from teacher input to student controlled practice, to freer practice and finally providing an opportunity for complete free use of the language by students.
There are many experienced and professional teachers out there, who adhere to the views of ‘grammar translation methods.’ This does not make them ‘bad’ teachers. They have successfully taught a language to thousands of students, but perhaps with different and a more communicative approach, there lessons could have been more interesting, inspiring and fun. The most important thing to remember is that no single approach or method is superior but rather we need to adapt and integrate from them all.