Teaching Tibetans

In the fascinating town of McLeod Ganj, India, my fifth week will soon be over. The Dalai Lama has been teaching this week so English classes were cancelled for three days.  Unfortunately, as soon as I started teaching I managed to catch a cold and coughed my way through most classes, so the break has been most welcome. Combining three hours a day coordinating volunteers with two hours teaching has been fairly demanding but I am better now and life is settling down again.

Tibetan monks - Sunday activities

Tibetan monks – Sunday is laundry day at the waterfall.

I am slowly getting to know my students. They are nearly all Tibetans although for the last three weeks we were joined by a lovely young Japanese woman who was visiting the area. About half the class are monks from different parts of India and even from Bhutan.  They have come here to study and I think it must be hard for them living in freezing guesthouses with few belongings and very little money.

They are here because they have a strong will to learn and the class is delightful to teach. It is great to have an advanced class and the challenge of guiding them though some of the complexities of English is enjoyable. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are more comfortable when I use more traditional approaches to grammar teaching, but despite that, they they are experiencing a variety of approaches. I still think back to the expression “an eclectic range of approaches” from lectures at the University of Canberra and that’s the way I have been teaching all year.

Over the next few weeks, I want to see them writing more. This skill seems to be a bit neglected by some teachers here. Maybe it is regarded as too hard or unimportant, but I disagree.  English is widely used here and being unable to write in English has the potential at times to leave many Tibetan refugees in a relatively powerless position. It is also the language mostly used in countries that they (remember that we are talking about refugees) often want to emigrate to, such as the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA.

On a side note, the issue of official and national languages of India is a volatile political minefield, but for now, English and Hindi are the (main) official languages of India.  Even though the Constitution states that English is to be phased out in favour of Hindi, Hindi is not universally popular, while English is widely used and sometimes is referred to as the national language. 

McLeod Ganj is a good place to live for a while.  Sometimes it is heart rending to think about the difficult position of the refugees here, always waiting and hoping for world support and a chance to return to their country.  Their spirit is amazing though and their Buddhist traditions help keep them strong.  This is a place no visitor could forget.

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4 thoughts on “Teaching Tibetans

  1. I think you must be a little more isolated than previous positions because I have not heard much from you. Glad you are still on planet Earth. What a wonderful enriching experience. Do you go to the Dalai lama talks? One exam to go for the semester next Wednesday evening. Hope you are over the cold now and stay well – but chilly where you are I imagine. 35 here today. Air conditioner on – my new toy. FaceTime soon

    Love

    Mary x

  2. Hi Mary, Will call you on the weekend. I didn’t go to the talks because I needed a break. He is teaching again before I leave so there will be another chance.
    I am loving the cool weather. It sounds like I am coming back to a hot summer in Canberra.

    • Hi Pratima,

      Thanks for your kind comments. I often think of you in Bhutan and I hope you are going well and that you are enjoying post MATESOL life there. When do you have breaks from work next year, particularly between the beginning of July to Christmas? I expect to return here and could come for visit on the way, or in the middle, or at the end. I am very keen to see you and your country and meet your children.

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