I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: another conversation from
last month's international convention in Denver, Colorado, for Teachers
of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
MARTINA MBAYU NANA: "I am Martina Mbayu Nana. I teach English as a foreign language in Lycee Joss, Douala, Cameroon."
"And so you were telling me that you're trying to promote the teaching
of English. Tell me how, what you're doing, what the problem is and
what you're doing about it to promote English."
NANA: "You know, Cameroon has two official languages, English and
French. French dominates English because it has a larger population. So
for the English teachers teaching in the French-speaking zone, they
have to work hard to get the students interested in learning English.
So once a year we in the Littoral Region, we organize a prize award to
deserving students in English language. We have two hundred and fifty
students as laureates. They all come from different areas and they come
AA: "And how old are these students?"
MBAYU NANA: "Between the ages of seven to about eighteen years. Because
we take them from elementary through middle to high school."
AA: "And what kind of English are you teaching -- is it American English or British English?"
MBAYU NANA: "Oh, that's the trick. Cameroon is typically British
English. But the Americans have come in forcefully. So now you find
teachers going towards American English. But originally it was British
English, but now the Americans are fighting to have us go more into the
AA: "That sounds scary, they're fighting to have you -- "
MARTINA MBAYU NANA: "No, it's not like fighting. They're encouraging the use of American English."
AA: "And what kind of resources do you have at your school in terms of technology."
MBAYU NANA: "Well, we are lucky to have computers that were donated by
the government to our school, because it's a public school. But not all
schools -- as English language teachers, we have really limited
resources. Could I say no resource? Yes, if you put it that way. And we
teach very large classes. You have about eighty to one hundred twenty
students in your class. And, for example, you might have in a whole
class of a hundred just one pupil with a book. So you have to
photocopy, divide them up into groups, give the same or different tasks
from that, and the different groups do them."
AA: What about the Internet -- how much connection do you have to the Internet?"
MARTINA MBAYU NANA: "Very limited. Very limited."
AA: "What about, for example, mobile phones or texting, do your students use that a lot?"
MBAYU NANA: "A lot, a lot. That is another technique I use. You know,
it's cheap for us to have mobile phones. So sometimes you make them do
work with their mobile phones."
AA: "For example?"
MBAYU NANA: "You could have them text -- the essence is to make them
write in English, yes, and communicate in English, so they could text a
message to their friend in English. Something, just anything. For
example, Valentine's Day, you might tell your friend a small story: 'I
love you because you're beautiful.' So you make them use adjectives,
all of these, they are using them in the text. It's fun to them."
AA: "Do you ever have students send you texts so you could grade them?"
MBAYU NANA: "Yes, they do, they do. A lot. Because to them it's fun.
But to me it's learning indirectly, and I accept it because my
intention is to make them, encourage them, to use the English language."
"Well, of course now texting has almost like a language of its own --
very casual, informal. Do you enforce standards for standard English
when they're texting, or do you let them use some of the shorthand?"
MBAYU NANA: "I don't allow them [to] use the shorthand because it
defeats my purpose. I tell them there is a shorthand but don't send me
a text in that. I encourage them to write to me as if it were a real
text you were writing with your hands."
AA: Martina Mbayu Nana
teaches English at the Lycee Joss in Douala, Cameroon. And that's
WORDMASTER for this week.We have interviews with other English teachers
-- and much more -- at voanews.com/wordmaster. And you can follow us at
twitter.com/voalearnenglish, all one word. I'm Avi Arditti.