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April 13, 2005 - Meet Two Young English Teachers - 2005-04-12

AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster: meet two young English teachers. One is from the United States, the other from Uzbekistan.

RS: The American is a native English speaker who also speaks Arabic. He teaches a conversational English class. But right now he's focused on finishing a graduate degree.

RS: Only it has nothing to do with English teaching.

SAM AHMAD: "My name is Sam Ahmad. I'm a law student at Louisiana State University, graduating hopefully in a month or so and will starting a new career in teaching English as a foreign language."

AA: "Then why did you go to law school?"

SAM AHMAD: "You know, my parents ask me that question quite often. But I figured it's better to get that advanced degree now than later, when I might not get a chance to. Teaching is always something that I knew I would end up doing, and teaching English as a foreign language is great because it gives me the opportunity to travel as well as learn other languages."

AA: "Has your interest in English teaching helped you in legal writing?"

SAM AHMAD: "I think that my legal background has helped me to teach better, because I'm better able to organize and prepare for my class in the same way I would organize and prepare an argument before a judge, as well as the structure of my class is tailored in a conversation debate format, where I bring up issues that have two sides and get the students to engage in a structured debate using their English language skills in a conversational, debate-style format."

AA: "What's a typical lesson in your class, what do you do?"

SAM AHMAD: "Well, the structure, for the most part, it starts off by having three or four New York Times articles assigned to the students, that they will read on their own. And then, the following class, we will discuss those articles, relatively about 15 minutes per article I'll set aside and I'll organize the class into two sides, one for and one against a particular issue, and have them each take turns arguing their position. And I think that using current events is the best way to learn conversational English, because that's what conversations are all about."

AA: Sam Ahmad plans to visit Spain and Argentina later this year for training to become certified as an English teacher.

RS: Now meet Niso Mamatkulova from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She's been teaching English for the past seven years. For the past four years, she's been training other teachers.

AA: I asked her what she thinks are some of the best ways to teach English.

NISO MAMATKULOVA: "The best strategy I found, it's to interact with students using communicative teaching methods, and to give them more freedom."

RS: And the worst strategies?

NISO MAMATKULOVA: "To correct them always. To threaten them, or to reward them maybe very often. Not to give them time to improve. And ... the least effective? Students think it's to give them much homework to do!"

AA: Finally, I asked if there was an anecdote she would like to tell about her teaching experience.

NISO MAMATKULOVA : "It happened twice, maybe three times. A student was giving advice to me on different topics, and I liked that. And I said, 'OK, I'm going to follow your advice.' See? Students like when we are friendly to them, when we are open to them, and I like that."

RS: Niso Mamatkulova from Uzbekistan and Sam Ahmad from the United States, both interviewed earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas.

AA: I met them at the annual convention of the international group known as TESOL: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

RS: And that's Wordmaster for this week. Our e-mail address is And our segments are all online at With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.

MUSIC: "An English Teacher"/Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera (1960 Broadway production of "Bye Bye Birdie")