Teaching English – a method (questionable)
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I graduated into a freelancer in 2006 and by 2011, I graduated into something I call – “time-rich cash poor gentleman”, i.e. just enough cash to take care of the essentials but plenty to time for oneself.
I thought of using this surplus time to teach English (Bengali being the native and mother tongue) to my elder son, then 7+ years old. The method followed was this :
- I started reading from the great classics of English language – he did not understand most of Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley and Dickens but something touched him. How did I know ? He had questioned about them.
- Then I had him watch The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in you-tube (Jeremy Brett as Holmes) and that mesmerized him. Some 30 hours of exposure to the videos made English language (and the greatest consulting detective) and its capital city intimate to him. Mr. Holmes became a friend – a curiosity, a neighbour perhaps, mentally speaking.
- Slowly, as we traveled in Calcutta streets, he started uttering sometimes sentences and words like – “Elementary”, “My dear father”, “Singular”, “Moriarty” – I understood that the intoxication is becoming intense.
- In next six months, he started reading the Adventures in English and I could see that he was in a position to discuss the textual deviations in the TV serial because of dramatizations.
- In parallel (just antibiotics are given along with antacid), I prescribed him to read Great Expectations of Dickens which describes London of the same time where Mr. Holmes famously said as a justification for existence – “London air is sweeter because of me.”
- In 2013, in a blessed day, he started writing a detective story in English.
- In 2017 while playing for first class under 13 cricket in Calcutta, he was promised a visit at 221B, Baker Street.
- On interrogated, he confessed – reproduced verbatim in English – “…before I read Holmes and Pip, the English language was very foreign. But Holmes are Pip were not foreign to me – they are like friends and how a friend’s language can be foreign ? There was slight distance but then it all melted away.”
This young man will play in the British soil on 22nd September 2018 – Fructus et Virtus Cricket Tour UK and will also pay his tribute to 221B, Baker Street and will also meet his Great Expectations in the London museum that is honoured to carry the name of the creator of Pip, Oliver Twist, Fagin and so on…. ”
p.s : I may venture to add that this model may work for other languages also. And my definition of classic work of literature in any language – “...these works have poetic dust. Poetic dust is non-material matter that Time cannot completely subdue and lack of qualification cannot completely deny. Poetic Dust is also that glue which can bind any heart with any heart – however divided in space and time.
[I hear with mortification from some quarters that in some of the English speaking world today, one can be a graduate in English language without getting immersed, exposed and drowned in such classic works. Instead, non-subjects like Women Studies, Black Studies, South Asian Writing, Sub-Saharan Writing, Victim of English language studies and so on.
[I can only say, with the same desperate cry like the Roman emperor Augustus in his death-bed to Varus, dead since 30 years – “Varus, Varus, Give my three Legions Back.” ]