English Teacher in Cameroon Sends a Positive Message About Texting

AA: 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
MARTINA MBAYU NANA: "I am Martina Mbayu Nana. I teach English as a foreign language in Lycee Joss, Douala, Cameroon."

AA: "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."

MARTINA MBAYU 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 to Douala."

AA: "And how old are these students?"

MARTINA 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?"

MARTINA 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 American English."

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."

MARTINA 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?"

MARTINA 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?"

MARTINA 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?"

MARTINA 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."

AA: "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?"

MARTINA 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.