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Visualizing Sound

Posted by on April 24th, 2013

One of the key things we try to work on with our Panigram trainees is their pronunciation. Many of the students have good vocabulary, grammar and confidence, but sometimes the clarity of their speech is not perfect.

To try to improve this, we have been teaching the students the International Phonetic Alphabet (I.P.A.). This is a globally recognized system of writing the pronunciation of words. You may have seen in it in dictionaries, usually in parentheses directly after each entry. The I.P.A. uses symbols, derived from the Latin and Greek alphabets, to clearly show both the sounds used in a word and the word stress.

The I.P.A. helps learners to visualize speech by thinking about the shape of their mouth when they make each sound. While it is a difficult thing to learn, it is well-known that a solid knowledge of the I.P.A. can help second-language learners to greatly improve their pronunciation.

With this in mind, I began by teaching the twelve simple vowel monophthongs (sounds like eeeee, ooooo, aaaaa, ih and ah), doing a number of exercises to make the classes think about the shapes their mouths were making. For example, try holding your finger to your lips, as if shushing someone, and then say ‘eeee-oooo-eee-ooo’. You will feel your lips coming forward and back, from a wide smile to a round kiss.

This, while being very amusing to the students, also made them think that I had lost my mind. For the following few days, I got phone calls from students just so that they could practice the sounds down the line. Things got trickier when I introduced the eight diphthongs, which are combinations of monophthongs, that make sounds like oi and ow. This had the students somewhat bewildered, but I promised them it would be worthwhile in the end.

Yesterday, I taught the classes the 24 consonant sounds. As many of these symbols are similar to the the Latin ABC’s, the students were a little more confident.

At the end of the class, I wrote a long paragraph on the whiteboard, using only the I.P.A., and asked them to read it. Together, the students figured out the message.

As I turned from the board to face them again, I could see that a light had come on in most of their minds. The I.P.A. penny had finally dropped and I was no longer just a crazy lady making strange noises.

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A Picnic for the English Teachers – Deshi Style!

Posted by on December 30th, 2012

A few weeks ago, our students did something unexpectedly delightful; they took it upon themselves to plan a picnic for us!

Now, picnics in Bangladesh are quite different from picnics back home. From the activities to the food to the clothing, it was a whole new experience for me, and so much fun!

Mostly, though, I was impressed by all the thought and organization our students put into the event. They took the initiative and planned every detail, including a colorful tent, music, lovely tableware, delicious food and a cricket match. Honestly, it was more like a catered garden party than a picnic.

The best part: We really got to see our students shine and put their English and hospitality training to use. I can’t wait to see how they perform when they interact with Panigram’s guests!

What celebration would be complete without a silly group photo?

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Astonishing Dedication: Villagers Make Panigram Training Their Top Priority

Posted by on December 1st, 2012

As part of Panigram’s philosophy of responsible tourism, we have set ourselves a number of targets regarding the demographic of our workforce. Our primary aim is to take as much of the workforce as possible from the local community in order to boost the economy of the area. We also pride ourselves in employing a relatively large proportion of women: our current male-female ratio stands at approximately 140:80.

Looking to the future service staff of the resort, we are constantly recruiting potential employees. We have frequent recruitment drives, including a speed interviewing process. Successful applicants are invited to attend our training program, through which they learn both hospitality skills and English communication. The scheme will continue until such time as the resort opens its doors, when participants will be offered appropriate positions according to the standards they have achieved.

While we try to include as many people as possible in the training program, there are some applicants who are unable to attend due to a variety of factors. A few of these factors are explained in the following insight into the background of our trainees.

Education
All participants of the training scheme have gained their S.S.C (Secondary School Certificate) at the age of 16. Most continued on to complete the H.S.C at 18 and some have passed (or are currently studying towards) a bachelor’s degree. A few even have master’s degrees and some experience working in the hospitality field.

Home Life
In Bangladesh, and particularly in rural areas like Jessore, it is normal for people to marry quite young, often between the ages of 18 and 25. Once married, couples tend to start families straight away. Therefore, many of the trainees have young families and the commitments that come along with them. Trainees who are not yet married generally live in a joint family system, with many siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. all living in a single compound.

As Panigram is being built in a small village, the homes of our trainees can be anything up to 10km from the classroom. Our participants usually walk or ride bicycles to class, as many of them have no other mode of transport. This takes some students upwards of 30 minutes.

Employment
Another aspect that should be considered is that while participating in the program, the trainees are not yet employed by Panigram. Most of them earn their modest income through agriculture and take time from their farming work to attend our classes.

When all of these factors of distance, transport, education, work and family commitments are taken into consideration, the dedication that we see in the trainees each day is outstanding. It is very rare that someone is absent from class and, if they are, they usually try to come to a makeup class later in the day. After a 15 minute walk in the rain, there is still an enthusiastic smile on each face.

The positive attitudes I observe in my students each day makes teaching them a real pleasure!

Most students walk or ride bicycles to class from the neighbouring villages.

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British Invasion! Our Second English Trainer Arrives

Posted by on November 9th, 2012

We are really gearing up our village training programs now. About 100 new students joined our classes on November 1st, so we had to import another native speaker to help train them in English. Nazmeen Green is the latest addition to the Panigram team. She will be working with Angela to develop our English curriculum. Nazmeen and Angela are also teaming up with our hospitality experts to teach our students how to book spa treatments, make beds, and properly clean rooms. Most of our village staff will have had one year of training (6 classes a week) by the time Panigram opens its doors.

Nazmeen Green

Nazmeen Green Headshot

Nazmeen Green

Assalam alaikum! I’m Nazmeen Green and I have been working alongside Angela as an English trainer at Panigram for the last month.

I was born and raised in England, where I decided at quite a young age that I wanted to teach English in either France or Germany. However, after graduating with a degree in languages from the University of Wales, Swansea, I realized that I needed a short break from studying in which to travel.

I set off for a one-year teaching contract in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I eventually stayed for eight years. While visiting some friends in Dhaka earlier this year, I was struck with a feeling of belonging. The warmth of the local people and their acceptance of me made me feel instantly at home, especially when they heard that I was a recent convert to Islam.

I started looking for work in Bangladesh and struck gold with Panigram. I am really excited to be part of such an interesting project and to be working with some wonderful people. I have been delighted to see the eagerness of the students and the way Panigram is contributing in a positive way to the local community. I look forward to seeing both the students and the resort develop over the next year.

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Hospitality 101

Posted by on August 8th, 2012

Students practicing their English

It’s my last opportunity to visit the English classes before I have to leave Bangladesh. I feel both sad and excited when Angela, Yohana, and I arrive at the Union Council building where the classes are held.  It will be the last time that I will see these students, and I’m disappointed that I won’t be around to see them finish their training. But today is also exciting because I know there is something special in store for the students.

Today’s lesson will be taught by Yohana Tsegai, the hotel intern. Angela, the instructor from the U.S., usually teaches the class but will have an assisting role this time. It’s the first time where the roles are reversed for Yohana and Angela.  I’m just as curious and interested as the students to see what the lesson will be like. Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s Time for English Class!

Posted by on July 30th, 2012

Angela teaching a class on timeAt the Union Council building, it isn’t difficult to find where the English class is. Out in the courtyard, I only had to follow where the loud, excited voices were coming from. Not to mention that the groups of children and adults peering into one of the rooms was a good giveaway that there was something interesting going on inside or perhaps that a foreigner was present—or maybe both!

Last month, Panigram Resort started its English classes to increase the language skills of those interested in becoming a Panigram employee.  All of these students are currently from the surrounding villages near the resort. They come to class eager to participate and learn. In fact, students usually rush to answer the questions if not shout them out. It’s probably every teacher’s dream to have such eager students. Read the rest of this entry »

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First Impressions: Assessing the Local English Abilities

Posted by on June 30th, 2012

Students taking the English Assessment Test at site

Angela Jacobus and Yohana Tsegai walk around the temporary entrance area of the Panigram site preparing for their first meeting with their students.  Dozens of potential Panigram staff are here to take an English assessment test. The testing area doesn’t seem like the typical place where one would take an exam. It’s a sandy, open-air area shaded with lush tropical trees. It’s also perfectly located to catch the cool breeze. The day is beautiful and I can’t help but associate this spot with visions of  hammocks and piña coladas. Read the rest of this entry »

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