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English Teachers in Madagascar Give New Meaning to 'Going Green'

AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: the first in a series of interviews from this year's convention of the group known as TESOL -- Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages -- held last week in Denver, Colorado.

There were teachers from many countries, including an island nation in the midst of a political crisis. Madagascar had a change of leadership earlier this month that many nations saw as a coup -- something the transitional government denies. The teachers I met, though, were far removed from the situation back home.

LAINGO: "My name is Laingo I'm from Madagascar. I teach at the English teaching program of Antananarivo, Madagascar. We teach English to adult learners from different walks of life."

AA: "Now I'm curious, how have the recent political events, obviously, in Madagascar, the change of president, how has that affected your students or [life] for you as a teacher?"

LAINGO: "You know, this happened when we got here in the United States, so we missed some part of the event. But ... "

AA: "Have you been in touch with your family or friends back home?"

LAINGO: "Oh yeah, yeah. Every day we keep in touch through e-mails. Of course, we get news about Madagascar, we get news, updated news, every day."

AA: "And you were saying you've been in touch with your students by e-mail. Do you find that they're using their English in their correspondence with you? Are you writing back and forth in English to them, or ... "

LAINGO: "Yeah, they are trying to write in English, to e-mail in English, and I think it's a good way to practice."

AA: "So, now tell me your name and where you teach."

VOLAMENA: "Volamena. I am teaching at the English teaching program in Antananarivo, in Madagascar."

AA: "Also the American Cultural Center, or not?"

VOLAMENA: "Yes. It's part of the American Cultural Center."

AA: "How many years have you taught English?"

VOLAMENA: "About nine years."

AA: "In the nine years you've taught, I'm curious, what have been the biggest developments you've seen that have helped you as an English teacher, made your job easier?"

VOLAMENA: "Well, you know, I have -- I mean, I started very young and I have had some experiences, but the biggest thing I have ever accomplished, I think, I have not accomplished this yet because the presentation for us is tomorrow, OK? (Laughs)"

AA: "What are you going to be presenting about here at the TESOL convention?"

VOLAMENA: "We are going to talk about taking students outside the classroom setting, which means taking them to the nature and using Mother Nature as resources for teachers to get inspiration for materials, for lesson plans and everything."

AA: "So give me an example, when you talk about taking your students out to Mother Nature, what do you mean?"

VOLAMENA: "OK, first, last year we had a symposium, English national symposium for English teachers all Madagascar over, and I participated as a presenter there, and I talked about teaching grammar using [the] communicative approach. It was very nice, but at the end of my presentation some of the attendees said that it might be a little bit difficult to carry out the same things in their places because the rooms are too small. So the idea came to us, let's go green! Why don't you go out and take your students.

"So part of the class is done in the classroom. For example, you present some grammar points, some lessons. And then you take your students outside, and then you use everything you see to practice the language point you learned in class."

AA: "When you're outside of the classroom, when you're out in nature, what are your students doing -- are they taking notes or are you doing lessons outside?"

VOLAMENA: "Most of the time, when it comes to practice, there is no way they can take notes. But they just do games, for example. They can afford the space to shout and to make as much noise as they can, and they don't feel inhibited and things like that, so they produce better and more."

AA: Those were Volamena and Laingo, two English teachers from Madagascar at last week's TESOL convention in Denver, Colorado. We'll introduce you to more teachers from other countries in the weeks to come. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. Archives are at I'm Avi Arditti.