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Two Places, One Pursuit: English Teaching in Nepal and Afghanistan

AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on Wordmaster: interviews with two English teachers, one from Nepal, the other from Afghanistan. I met them recently at the international convention of TESOL. TESOL is the professional organization Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

GOVINDA RAJ BHATTARAI: "I am Govinda from Nepal. We have altogether ninety-four living languages spoken in Nepal. Out of those languages, English has sixty-fourth position. And the native speakers of English, the number of the native speakers of English is something -- two thousand thirty or like that [laughs]."

AA: "Not very many."

GOVINDA RAJ BHATTARAI: "Not many at all. The government is very anxious and very eager to improve the situation of English. There are three [examples of that] -- I think these examples are not found in other parts of the world. Earlier, we had English from grade four to ten, now from grade one. Secondly all textbooks are translated into English from grades one to ten. And thirdly government is trying to give training to the teachers who do not have good proficiency level in English.

"And other organizers like NELTA -- which I represent -- Nepal English Language Teachers Association. We have some four hundred members who are English teachers from primary to university levels in our kingdom. And we hold conferences, publish materials, give workshops and trainings for English language teachers to promote their quality."

YAR MOHAMMAD BAHRAMI: "My name is Yar Mohammad Bahrami and I am from Kabul, Afghanistan."

AA: "How much demand is there in Afghanistan for learning English right now?"

YAR MOHAMMAD BAHRAMI: "Very much, and very much as you know that is clear to everyone that Afghanistan is now changing and is being changed. And we have international community with us, and Afghanistan intends not to be alone, but intends to have relations with the world, international community.

"So very high demand is for English because we have a lot of international staff, both civilians and military in our country, and they need people to speak English, especially those who want to have a high salary and work with them as translators and interpreters. Especially nowadays, people try to English, even aged people are trying to learn English and find good salary in our country."

AA: "At what age do you start teaching English?"

YAR MOHAMMAD BAHRAMI: "Very long ago, English was taught only as a subject in schools from seventh grade. But according to the changes and new connections, the system has been changed and now the English is going to be taught from grade four."

AA: "What are some of the challenges now in implementing these English teaching programs?"

YAR MOHAMMAD BAHRAMI: "The big challenges we have in our country is lack of professionals, because we were not used to or we were not familiar much more with the English long ago, and people were not entrusted to learn English. That's one. Or people were entrusted but they were afraid, especially when our country was invaded by the former Soviet Union and people were afraid to learn English and the Russian language took the place of the English language. And even sometimes people were forced to live and not learn English and instead learn Russian. But the big challenge we have is lack of professionals.

"But I hope it will be solved because the international community and especially the Fulbright programs we have in Afghanistan, the British Chevening scholarships we have. And a good example is that four of my colleagues are now abroad and do their studies and doing M.E.s [earning Masters of Education degrees]. Two of them are in the U.K. and two of them are in the U.S.A. through Chevening scholarships and Fulbright."

AA: "And they'll come home with masters in education."

YAR MOHAMMAD BAHRAMI: "Yeah, yeah, yeah. The good news for us is when I left Kabul a week ago, two of them arrived back to the country with master's degrees, one from the U.S.A. and one from the U.K.

AA: Yar Mohammad Bahrami is a lecturer in the English Department at Kabul University. And earlier you heard Govinda Raj Bhattarai, an English professor and assistant dean of the Faculty of Education at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal.

They were among the visitors to the VOA Special English booth at the 40th annual convention of the group TESOL, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. The convention took place in March in Tampa, Florida.

And that's Wordmaster for this week. Our e-mail address is, and our segments are all posted at I'm Avi Arditti.