Teaching French: Curriculum for an Undergraduate Class

 

Teaching French as a foreign language inIndia makes it essential for a teacher that he keeps his mind open for new ways of teaching. It must be flexible and creatively open. Listening, speaking, reading and writing in French with certain level of comfort for the students is the aim of French as a Foreign Language (FFL) class and it needs a versatile and creative teacher. Books, cassettes and CD’s, the internet and various audio visual aids ought to be used in tandem to develop an effective and efficient learning and teaching classroom environment. A FFL class generally begins with an introduction to French language – a language that held sway all overEuropeas the language of culture and politeness. A good introductory class must aim at making students aware of the spread and importance of French language in the world and the advantages one gets from learning this beautiful language.Franceand francophone countries may be introduced through printed material, audio visual aids and the internet. This must be done in such a way that students fall in love with French people, their language and their culture. Students must be asked to explore the internet on their own to get information regarding France, French people etc.

 

Once the students have become interested, the same level of interest and momentum of the class must be maintained by taking them straight into learning the language itself. First of all, the sound of the French alphabets must be given by the teacher to the class and it will be followed by the class practicing the same in chorus. Later the students’ pronunciation may be refined with the help of recordings of native French speakers pronouncing the alphabet. Accents are very important in the pronunciation of French language and they must be taught with various examples to make their individual effect on pronunciation clear.

 

Once the class has learnt the pronunciation of French consonants and vowels, its journey towards acquiring spoken French skills begins. An adequate vocabulary is a must if one wants to learn a language, as words are the means through which communication is largely made possible. Articles of daily usage and words for common everyday use purpose must be taught in the first few classes, so that students may start using them. As practice makes one perfect, every opportunity must be utilized for speaking French whenever time permits. Common ways of greeting and useful expressions must be taught in introductory classes and students must be encouraged to use these expressions regularly.

 

Numbers, days in a week, months in a year etc. must be the next to be taught as they are very important for those who intend to learn French. They must be taught and then inspired and encouraged to practice more and more. Use of mnemonics, mind maps etc. must be introduced at this stage so that so many new words in a foreign language can be learnt comfortably, retained adequately and recalled successfully and satisfactorily as when the need arises. Setting the words into popular lyric tunes has always made learning them easy. Common expressions of greeting can be taught very easily if students revise when the pre-decided tune is played softly in the background.

 

One peculiarity of the French language is its articles that change form according to the gender and number of the subject. Le, la, l’, les, un, une and des may be taught using the words of common use along with these articles. The first few lessons of Un cours de langue uses this method in question answer format.

 

Affirmative, negative and interrogative sentence structures must be taught and practiced. Students must practice making sentences based on the same pattern in paired or group practice sessions. As most elementary and essential kind of sentences in any language depend on verbs in the present tense, some important French verbs must be taught in their present tense so that students can understand and use at least some basic verbs and sentences. Verbs etre and avoir are two very important verbs that may form the point of departure for any beginner. Affirmative, negative and interrogative sentence forms in the present tense of these verbs may be taught in the natural order of skills acquisition in language: listening, speaking, reading and writing. First of all, students must listen to the teacher or to the audio visual material that produce sentences using the verbs under question along with the meaning of sentences. A bonus will be teaching avoir with various body parts, e.g. J’ai un ……

Tu as une ……. etc. and teaching etre through sentences that are produced in response to the questions beginning with “En quoi” with all personal pronouns.

 

Learning language needn’t be boring and colourless. Colours may be added to the class by teaching adjectives of colour, shape and size etc. Various colourful objects may be brought to the class and 8-10 colours can be identified and used in sentences made with etre/ avoir. Students can be given practice in sentence formation and in  speaking French by making them respond to questions like “De quelle culeur est le/la …?” etc. Verb repetition and revision will be a bye product of using adjectives of various kinds. Etre can be used with adjectives that stand diametrically opposite to each other with all the personal pronouns e.g. “Je suis grand. Tu es petit” etc.

 

Prepositions are essential for sentence formation and beginners may do well to learn certain basic prepositions, e.g. sur, sous, dans, devant, derriere etc. These prepositions can be used in response to questions beginning with “Ou, quand etc.” e.g. “Ou est le livre? – Il est sur la table.”

 

Common French expressions viz. “Il y a, qu’est ce qu’il y a, voici, voila” etc. must be taught carefully with their English equivalents. Now the students have reached a level at which they have some command over the fundamental vocabulary and the correct pronunciation. They may be attracted towards looking at objects and speaking a couple of sentences about them in the class. Table, chair, blackboard etc. and the adjectives related to them are already known to the students and they are in a position to use them in either their own sentences or by following the pattern provided in the class. It can be followed by and supplemented with dictation, dialogues and reading aloud in the class.

 

After the student has learnt the basic vocabulary and expressions, the time is right for introducing the concept of three categories of verbs in French – again a surprise – as the students are habituated to English and their mother tongues that do not resemble French at all in this aspect. The first group of verbs (ending in -er) is the natural choice to begin with. Personal pronouns and the respective conjugations with, e.g. “Parler” will be a good point to start at. Once the class has mastered the endings of the verb with various personal pronouns, practise other verbs like habiter, ecouter, demander, aimer, appeler, inviter etc. Sentences must be made in present tense in affirmative, negative and interrogative forms. Students must be encouraged to practice sufficiently so that they internalize these verbs. There are some verbs ending in –er that are exceptional in conjugation, e.g. Nous mangeons, instead of the usual Nous mangons according to the rule, as the conventions of pronunciation demand.

 

After having learnt etre and avoir, and some basic –er verbs, students are ready to write small dialogues and short messages under the teacher’s supervision first and then independently. Writing and reading aloud what one has written gives the practice required and a continuous supply of new areas of vocabulary must be made. Adjectives of personality and physical traits; sports, parts of a house, types of clothes, health, food etc. are the areas related to which new words may be introduced progitably.

 

As the teacher is open to using both the direct and the grammar-translation methods of teaching French, students can be asked to do exercises and exploration on their own too. They will not face any difficulty if constant guidance is available. Quizzes and games based on French language and culture must be organized in the class tom make the subject more interesting. Documentary films and short animated films with French sub-titles may be introduced at this stage so that interest generated is kept at a high level and effective learning may take place in the class.

 

Les articles contractes (a la, a l’, aux, au, du, de la, de l’ and des) must be introduced in the class. New prepositions and conjunctions must be given so that the students find themselves capable of making their own sentences. Seasons of a year and weather in those seasons must be taught with help of colourful pictures and by making comparisons of the same with the weather in those seasons inIndia. Moreover, important festivals that fall in these seasons must also be compared to their Indian counterparts. Till now, the students have learnt numbers up to 20. they must now extend their vocabulary up to 100, and must also know how to make ordinal forms of the numbers learnt.

 

The second group of verbs, those that end in –ir, must be given to students at this point of time. Verb finir may be taught in affirmative, negative and interrogative forms of sentences. Once the students are confident enough in –ir verbs, they ought to be given ample practice in conjugation with verbs like grosser, jaunir, rougir, blanchir etc.

 

Daily life scenario must be chosen and the teacher must play dialogues in the class related to these scenarios. Students may choose to play part in the activity. Dramatization and role play have always been enjoyable activities in language class and French will be learnt in an easier manner with the elements of fun and play involved. There are many books in the market in which every lesson begins with a specific locale and situation and how people react in French. While doing this, students will expand their vocabulary and will also become aware of the fact that there are many verbs that do not follow the rules of conjugation given for the verbs  that end in –er or –ir. These are called the irregular verbs. As there is no set rules for conjugating such verbs, students will have to learn the conjugations by heart and also to practice a lot. Verbs like aller, dire, faire, repondre, entendre, attendre etc. must be conjugated in present tense in their affirmative, negative and interrogative forms. It is at this stage that students may be asked to learn the French possessive adjectives (Mon, ma, mes, ton, ta, tes, son, sa, ses etc.) and learns their uses with the description of their family members, e.g. ‘Mon pere a soixante ans’.

 

Passe compose(simple past tense) of some important verbs must now be taught. Conjugation in past tense of “er”- ending verbs like parler, montrer, marcher, fermer, chanter, regarder  voler etc. must be given. The time and its irregular expressions and conjugation of verb sortir in three forms in present tense, expressions “etre en retard” and “etre en avance” etc. must be taught after that. An introduction of  imparfait, future proche, passé récent, future simple must be given so that students are able to form useful sentences in these tenses.  Regions, famous monuments, gastronomy and beverages ofFrancealong with an interesting peek into the life of the French people through their celebrities must be the point where the class departs at the end of the session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ELT Classroom: Strategies for Imparting Language Skills in Learners

There are 5 fundamental skills of language use that are acquired by a learner in the process of language acquisition. These are: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking. A child picks the first four skills in the mother tongue in the order given above. Thinking comes naturally in the mother tongue. There is a natural order of skills – Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing (Boran 5) – that is widely acknowledged as essential and all the language teaching curricula are structured around the first four elements, but the fifth one is not given the central position that is its due. English, which is a second language, for many Indians, and a third language for most of them, is picked up differently as compared to one’s mother tongue. An average learner first comes in touch with English in school. The teacher writes the letters of the alphabet on the blackboard for all to see and copy. The pronunciation of the letters is given and is repeated by students while copying them from the blackboard. Reading and writing of words and sentences are learnt afterwards. The last skill learnt is the listening and speaking of words and sentences of English coherently. Listening, speaking, reading and writing are the four areas of language competence on which various degrees of attention is given by people with different needs. Thinking in English is a skill that is never taught in schools and colleges but it is picked up by the learners on their way to mastering the language. Progressing beyond the level of beginner’s competence in using the resources of language depends on the capacity of a learner to actually think in the target language. English is not just a language in India. For the powerless it is their passport to power. They look at the acquisition of English language skills as a guarantee of better job prospects and upward social mobility. As Cook very perceptively points out that the students are acquiring “a skill they can use outside the classroom”. At the same time, their personality is being developed (230). In many states of India people opt for English for the reasons already mentioned and also because of an associate phenomenon of the snob value of this language. As Graham Hall mentions in his “Local Approaches to Critical Pedagogy: An investigation into the dilemmas raised by critical approaches to ELT”: “ELT provides life chances, opportunities for economic success, and status for learners” (2). Phillipson states that English is promoted as a panacea for economic and social problems at both the nation-state and individual level (27). Using a language which is not one’s mother tongue is not easy, especially when one does not have an environment conducive for it. English Language Teaching (ELT) becomes important for a country like India. The language teachers or instructors work on the environment so that learning and improving language become easier. Flexibility and creativity in adopting teaching strategies and techniques that facilitate learning are the needs of the hour. Strategies for any ELT classroom must be made keeping in mind the needs of the learners. Most of them use English after having acquired their mother tongues. Therefore, their primary and first language is their mother tongue and not English. They generally have a non-English speaking background. Any strategy that targets such learners can also not take English as purely the second language too because it is not used by the users in any sphere of their life consistently, whether they are at home or with their peers. English is spoken in certain situations that warrant its use. The learner’s requirements are: to speak English with confidence and without making many mistakes, to write up to a couple of pages at a time that are largely free of errors and can be understood by their peers and superiors, to understand what the superiors or peers speak in English and to read and interpret the material that is required to be understood in any given formal or informal situation. The emphasis is on a utilitarian approach towards the language aiming at – active listening, confident speaking, reading for understanding and independent writing (Sharma 17) Once the mind is made and the resources assembled the time is just right to start. Books, newspapers and magazines, internet etc. are all fruitful language learning resources with which one starts one’s quest. As Warschauer and Healey assert, the teacher should play the role of facilitator rather than being an all knowing oracle (31). The teacher should help learners learn the basic and advanced language skills in the most efficient and interesting way is role in the classroom. The teacher ought to maintain an overall class environment that facilitates learning English and makes interesting to learn at the same time. To play his role efficiently he must adopt, adapt, innovate and improvise continuously to impart the 5 essential skills of language in the learners. Flexibility and creativity in devising ways of using various available language resources are the prerequisites of efficient and effective learning and teaching. “[Teachers] can no longer be content to teach language in classrooms ignoring issues in their own and their students’ lives outside of the classroom walls” (Larsen-Freeman 179). Thus, issues raised and topics covered in the classroom must be in sync with the day-to-day, “real life”. While teaching the four basic language skills- listening, speaking, reading and writing in English – the fifth one, i.e. thinking in English must also be kept in mind. Listening and understanding the words and sentences clearly is the point at which language acquisition naturally begins. It provides the learner the required vocabulary, the appropriate pronunciation and syntax, the frequently used, therefore, useful stock sentences and sentence patterns using which the learner is able to listen, speak, read, write and think in a better way in his later stages of development. For developing listening skills various audio-visual aids are available. English films and TV serials and documentaries with English subtitles, English news broadcasts, CDs etc. prepared with ELT in mind – all help in improving listening comprehension. As one imbibes the language unconsciously, an overall environment conducive to learning is created. Passive listening is a waste of time. Therefore, the instructor must inform the learners about the objectives of the class activity. There must be specially designed activities and worksheets to be attempted at the end of a session e.g. after having watched a part of a film; learners may be given a worksheet related to the section of the film they have seen. The objective is not just to test their retention, but also to ascertain how much was understood of whatever the learners listened to, and how is that data utilized by them. They must be encouraged to watch 15-20 minutes of the same part of a film two to three times and to note down sentences that contain any new or interesting words and also to note down new types of sentences in separate sections of their notebooks. The notebook thus maintained over a long stretch of time will definitely assist them in learning English methodically and in revising conveniently and regularly. Moreover, they may make sentences with their chosen new words to assimilate them in their active vocabulary. They may choose certain sentences or patterns in their own conversations either in practice sessions or in real life situations. The same process must be followed while listening to a news broadcast or an educational CD or DVD. This will facilitate understanding and thus turn the content and the process of learning easier and more interesting. All the learners must be given full assistance so that they actually enjoy their experience and their classroom activities and thus they learn actively and fully. Once the class has been through a couple of listening sessions; it maybe in a better position to speak the language, at least, in controlled classroom conditions. Open ended question sessions, role plays, even re-enactment of very short sections of the films they have seen – all give confidence in learners. Recording the speaking sessions is automatically done when there is language lab software functioning in the class, but in many cases the language lab facility is not available. In such circumstance, an inexpensive digital camera or even a mobile camera may be used to record short sessions. The recorded data may be stored on a computer for future reference and analysis by both the learners and the instructors. Reading is an activity that bolsters the learning process and also the learner’s personality. Instructors must develop rapport with learners so that their personal preferences and past reading habits are known to them. In the initial phase, newspapers, magazines, novels etc., whatever interests a particular learner, must be used creatively to give them a push in the right direction. The objective should be to encourage them to read English material. Moreover, understanding the material read is equally important. Therefore, one’s reading comprehension must be tested regularly – either orally or through written tests. Reading newspapers and magazines must become a regular habit. The learners’ notebooks must contain separate sections to keep a regular and daily record of new or interesting words and sentence patterns that must be revised regularly so that the learners actually start using the same in their writing and speaking. Repeated exposure to the same word in various sentences and ways will also help one in acquiring the word and in using it proficiently. Thus, the efforts made in acquiring this skill will definitely benefit all the other skills and vice-versa. As the instructors have planned a holistic strategy for language skills development, there will always be a synergistic effect of learning one skill over the learning of the other. Writing has been one activity that an average learner has had extensive previous experience of. Therefore, the learner’s present need is to hone his skill of writing so that it becomes fluent and free of errors. This warrants exposure to a huge amount of printed and written material that will be retained either consciously or unconsciously to improve the overall level of one’s language. The teacher will have to make an inventory of all writing tasks the learners may have to face in his real life outside the classroom in future e.g. writing applications and letters, making resumes, writing reports, presentation’s content, speeches etc. They must be given practice in those tasks so that they are prepared for the future. Samples of letters, applications, resumes, presentations, reports and speeches must be given in the class so that the learners have a fairly good idea of the things to come in future. Advances in technology and the advent of the World Wide Web ushered in an era of Network Based Language Teaching (NBLT). The Web is full of materials useful for an ELT classroom. Aykut gives examples of activities using NBLT: 1. Lexical quizzes, games and other vocabulary learning specific activities (e.g. lexical maps, class dictionary building etc.). 2. Grammar tutorials, exercises, simulations and games. 3. Listening and pronunciation virtual lab activities. 4. Reading and writing webtasks 5. Computer Mediated Communication activities (email exchange, collaboration projects etc.) 6. Use of blogs and wikis for individual or group language learning (16-17) As a learner gains confidence in listening, speaking, reading and writing in English, the instructor must start emphasizing the hitherto unemphasized activity- thinking. Thinking in a language other than one’s mother tongue doesn’t come naturally. One has to cultivate the habit painstakingly and carefully. It has to be done consciously and continuously so that thinking in English becomes a natural thing. Once a learner starts thinking in English independently and for considerably long stretches of time, he has crossed the threshold of language skills acquisition and the effect will be reflected on the other four skills as their performance fundamentally originates in the mind that thinks. It makes perfect sense to focus on thinking as a core activity in ELT. Stern had posited four foci of language teaching – understanding the target language and the target culture, performing communicative activities and learning the language in question – and they develop in coordination with one’s ability to think flexibly and objectively in a language. Therefore, language and culture must be studied and understood thoroughly. Activities which involve the use of language in its socio-cultural context must be given full attention. Moreover, “the learners [have] to take a wider and more detached view of their involvement and to reflect in a generalized way about languages, culture, and learning” (103). It aims at opening up one’s mind to new ways of thinking and of looking at the world around us. A conscious attempt at developing thinking skills in English language gives an added advantage of also developing a consciously controlled rational thinking power. Thus, whatever is learnt in the classroom finally becomes available in the life outside the classroom environment. Language teaching in this sense reaches beyond just learning a particular language. The liberal humanist view of literature as a storehouse of human values and goodness, when combined with the various ways in which it can be utilised for ELT, makes it very clear that it ought to be integrated with regular classroom teaching techniques. In addition to consolidating the gains made in listening, speaking, reading and writing, it also “provides access to new socio-cultural meanings, offering opportunities for the development of cultural awareness… [and] stimulates the imagination, as well as critical and personal response,” thus contributing to the major aim of educating the whole person (Ferradas 27). Therefore, literature can be used to induce higher order thinking skills very effectively and easily. The preceding paragraphs give a picture of one of the ways an ELT programme can be planned and executed. If used judiciously and creatively, they may become the point of departure for both instructors and learners who want to delve deep into the unfathomed depths of the ocean of language and get the gems of knowledge for all.

References

Aykut, Arslan. Implementing a Holistic Teaching in Modern ELT Classes: Using Technology and Integrating Four Skills. < http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/20707/ MPRA Paper No. 20707>15. February 2010

Boran, Gültekin. “Methods and Approaches in Language Teaching in Brief”.

Cook, V. J. “What should language teaching be about?” The ELT Journals,37(3): 229-234. 1983.

Ferradas, Claudia. “Enjoying Literature with Teens and Young Adults in the English Language Classroom”. Britlit: Using Literature In Efl Classrooms. British Council:London, 2009.

Larsen-Freeman, D. Techniques andPrinciples in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Hall, Graham. “Local Approaches to Critical Pedagogy: An investigation into the dilemmas raised by critical approaches to ELT”. http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fss/linguistics/groups/crile/docs/crile48hall.pdf

Phillipson, R. “Linguistic Imperialism”. Dunford Seminar Report.London, British Council. 1991.

Sharma, Sanjana. “Changing Face of ELT in India: Problems and Perspectives”. Journal of Rajasthan Association for Studies in English. Vol 6,2010.

Stern, H. H. Issues and Options in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1992.

Warschauer, M., and Healey, D. Computers and language learning: An overview. Language Teaching. http://www.gse.uci.edu/markw/overview.html, 1998.

Literature and Globalization

Art, in all its forms, has always been a product of human mind processes, and the mind processes aren’t totally independent of the effects of the stimuli coming from the world out there. Human actions are affected by their milieu − social, political, economic and cultural − and affect the milieu in their turn. Thus, literature has a reciprocal relationship with the people and systems of its own time and before and after it. The degree and extent of the circles of influence in which the production, dissemination and reception of literature fall have been changing in types and radii with the changing times. Gone are the days when printed knowledge used to travel at snail’s pace and cover geographical distances in a world with frontiers and checks and restraints. Today, the dissemination of knowledge occurs at the speed of light through the World Wide Web in a world sans frontiers and nearly sans any kind of check or restraint on its movement or speed of dissemination. In a span of less than a hundred years, the world and kind of literature it produces have undergone a sea change. The central factor behind such a huge change is globalization. The technical innovations that belong to the age of globalization have changed the way human beings think and react. The intellectual horizon of an average individual − expanded post-globalization – has limits imposed only by the individual’s own thirst for knowledge. Globalization can not be given an all inclusive definition because the process has been perceived in various ways by different people. Moreover, its positive and negative effects too have been weighed against each other to make pronouncements ranging from rapturous optimism to uninhibited ranting about an inevitable doom that is the logical conclusion to the story of globalization. Taking the golden mean may prove to be the most fruitful. Globalization can be seen as a process that expands the economic frontiers in such away that trade and commerce are conducted keeping the overall world market in mind, and not mere national or regional ones. What began at the level of economy, spread at a fast pace to socio-political and cultural spheres and globalization started to indicate something like merging of spatial boundaries and shrinking of time taken in reaching from one point to another. Thus, globalization may be seen as an ongoing process that made it possible for the peoples of the world to overcome many barriers and come together. When one looks at the phenomenon of globalization, one finds that there is a lot that remains hidden and whatever is visible is only the tip of the iceberg. Equality is one of the desired objectives of globalization but the two World Wars and the post cold war scenario have shorn the world of any kind of faith in humanity. The post-postmodern world of the twenty-first century is characterized by the absence of any kind of faith. It doesn’t believe in the “invisible hand”. Neither does it trust the “innate goodness” of those in power to think for the welfare of others. Theories on globalization try to find out the dynamics that evolves out of the interactions between various nations and bodies that are definitely unequal in power and pursue diametrically opposite goals and conflicting interests at times. In many ways, globalization is a continuation of the scourges of colonialism and imperialism. It is seen as a means of exploitation of the poor and powerless by the rich and powerful, e.g. the apathy shown by corporate giants towards the extent of exploitation and living standards in the sub Saharan Africa is not very different in comparison to that shown by the imperialist and colonial powers till the mid-twentieth century. Globalization has also been seen as a menace that threatens cultures, languages, and ways of life of the peoples away from the centre of the power discourse. Income, information and education gaps between the rich and the poor are widening not narrowing; economic crises, trade imbalances and structural adjustments have precipitated a moral crisis in many countries, tearing the basic social and cultural fabric of many families and communities apart… (Chinnammai) They are being marginalized and finally their culture, languages and ways of life are eliminated effectively through substitution by their counterparts in the dominant force. Thus globalization is a “homogenizing force that threatens to wipe out local cultures” (Jay). The corporate giants that function at trans-national levels have become immensely powerful in the age of globalization, and they have exploited human and natural resources equally dangerously and irresponsibly, without any concern for sustainability. All the disadvantages of globalization notwithstanding, this fact can not be denied that the advantages of globalization are many. Irrespective of which one weighs more on the scale, globalization is a process that doesn’t seem to be stopping or stoppable in the near future. Gutenberg brought the first revolution in the world of written words by inventing the printing press. He made it possible for the words to be reproduced with accuracy and with a speed resembling that of lightening, as compared to the speed at which hand-written books were produced before the invention of the printing press. The printed books could be produced very fast and in much larger numbers. This change in the means of production played a very significant part in bringing about the Renaissance of learning. With the increase in the speed of the modes of transport, the rate of dissemination of printed words increased and it brought about a very significant change in production, dissemination and reception of works seen as literature. The man who wrote in the medieval ages had in his mind people of his city, region or nation as readers. The Renaissance and post Renaissance writer wrote for that part of the known civilized world that spoke the same set of languages. The modern writer wrote keeping that part of the world in mind with which he had socio-political, cultural or linguistic affinities. The writer in the age of globalization writes keeping the global village in mind. Thus he produces a world literature. Al-Azm points out that Goethe was the first person who gave the idea of a world literature or Weltliteratur, “transcending national limits, cultural boundaries and provincial traditions”, and globalization has produced something akin to Weltliteratur, at least partially, if not wholly or substantially. It is written for a market that comprises real and virtual players and networks and whose forces determine the shape the writing will take. Decisions are determined by the market that has to be catered to and by the kind of reception a work will get. As Paul Jay asserts, globalization ensures that the “contemporary production and consumption [of literature] no longer take place within discrete national borders but unfold in a complex system of transnational economic and cultural exchanges characterized by the global flow of cultural products and commodities”. To begin at the beginning of the life cycle of the creative production, a writer conceives the idea of writing a piece of literary work with certain considerations in mind. Today’s professional writers are market driven – they have to be, as their survival depends on the circulation, reception and reach of what they write. They do not write in isolation from the society without thinking anything about the fate of their writing as did their counterparts not more than a hundred years ago. For them, market is the taskmaster and even their God. What happens to their writing career after their books hit the stands depends on who talks about them and what kinds of awards they get. As a result of rapidly accelerating globalization we are moving toward a world market for literature. There is a growing sense that for an author to be considered “great,” he or she must be an international rather than a national phenomenon … the arbiters of taste are no longer one’s own compatriots—they are less easily knowable, not a group the author himself is part of (Park). As an author is in the process of creating a work, most of the times even before he starts working on it, he has to look into the matters like the prospective publishers and promotional campaign that the publishers will run before the launch of the book. The book has to be talked about in the right circles by the people who matter and must get the media’s spotlight, and if possible, a Booker or a Nobel. The audience an author targets is neither homogeneous nor fully known or predictable. It is an international audience whose tastes the author has to cater to, and such a heterogeneous set of people is not pleased easily. In addition to buying the book from various bookstores, the buyers also have access to the sites viz. Amazon.com, from where they can very easily order and purchase the book. Moreover, an international market of the age of globalization also means that the work must avoid obscurity arising out of a need of background or cultural context linked knowledge. In particular one notes a tendency to remove obstacles to international comprehension …Kazuo Ishiguro has spoken of the importance of avoiding word play and allusion to make things easy for the translator… culture-specific clutter and linguistic virtuosity have become impediments… (Park) Thus the reader has come to the centre of the process of production of literature. The consumers’ demand generates supply in the commodity world market. The same is true in case of literature too. Therefore, for an average international reader, “it has become easier to sidestep the slow and heavily institutionalized process of canonization” (Vriezen). Moreover it may also gives birth to an international literature: novels, poems, travelogues etc. Such a novel will be, as Rushdie put forth in his article entitled “In Defense of the Novel Yet Again,” published in the special issue of The New Yorker the kind of novel that globalization has given birth to is “postcolonial … decentered, transnational, interlingual, [and]cross-cultural” (qtd. in Al-Azm, 47) Such poetry will have, as Leevi Lehto’s Plurifying the Languages of the Trite puts it: independence vis-à-vis National Literatures, including institutionally […]; mixing of languages; borrowing of structures – rhythmical, syntactical – from other languages; writing in one’s non-native languages; inventing new, ad hoc languages; conscious attempts to write for more heterogeneous, non-predetermined audiences… (qtd. in Vriezen). Existing in a veritable pot-pourri of socio-cultural influences and especially exposed to them as their work demands it, a writer is always absorbing new ideas bombarded from all types of media. Being dependent on the successful and artistic synthesis of ideas assimilated in the course of life, their work is thus firmly shaped by the kind of exposure they had. The global market for the types of books in demand follows a trend. Once a technique or kind of work grabs public attention and best-seller lists, an avalanche of books following the pattern appear in the market in no time. Thus starts a trend that has a life cycle and span of its own e.g. “magical realism, which began as a recognizable signature from Asian and Latin cultures, over time has come to seem almost normal as it’s been embraced by Western writers.” (Black) Orhan Pamuk or Salman Rushdie are prime examples of the new breed of global writers whose origin owes to the openings availed to them by the forces of globalization. They are hailed all over the world as great writers but in their own country, amongst their own people, there are large sections that see them as mere panderers to the western tastes. There are many writers, e.g. Soyinka and Achebe from the continent of Africa, who react against the forced homogenization of literature that globalization has brought about. These writers go back to their roots and revive the traditional forms of the literature of their respective countries or tribes. This countercurrent in literature is a part of the larger post-colonial discourse. English being the language of the colonialist forces from whom their countries had won freedom painfully, these writers passed through three stages: unquestioned acceptance and imitation, partial questioning and alteration and rejection and creation of new forms of literature that they had inherited from their colonial masters. They are not the sole representatives of their countrymen or culture. They only represent a set that has chosen one way. The other set with different choices has writers that are “de-rooted and have to cure this handicap through ‘a cultural imagery,’ trying to overcome their fear of not belonging anywhere and nowhere. The writer adopts a caricatured identity…as ‘World’s Citizen,’” (Boneza). The hegemony of English language and literature is directly linked with the forces of globalization and polarization of powers – both military and monetary. English literature is published and launched by big publishing houses like OUP or Harper-Collins that belong to USA or UK. The literature of other languages is translated into English and enrich it. The reverse process of appearance of English books into other languages and countries does not reach global levels or standards in general (Black). Thus a writer has to write in or get translated into English so that he may reach a global audience. The big publishing houses determine to a large extent the types of books that’ll see the light of the day and their decisions are determined by market diktats. Thus globalization suppresses variety and does not give a level field to small or relatively less known names. Still, as globalization is to stay, literature must find ways of surviving and even thriving. Literature can’t ignore the forces of the globalized world that act on it as they are too strong to be ignored. The best way would be constant vigilance and openness to new innovations and ideas that originate through the processes of globalization thus getting affected by them but also trying to modify their effect an to make its survival as a genuine art form possible.

Works Cited

Al-Azm, Sadik J. “The Satanic Verses Post Festum: The Global, The Local, The Literary”. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. vol. XX Nos. 1&2 (2000). n.d. cssaame.com. Web. 15 March 2011.

Black, Shameem. “Is There a Global Literature?” The European Business Review. n.d. Web. 15 March 2011.

Boneza, Rais Neza. “Ghettoization or Globalization Of African Literature”. author-me.com . 2006. Web. 15 March 2011.

Chinnammai, S. “Effects of Globalisation on Education and Culture” University of Madras.. http://www.openpraxis.com. . n.d. Web. PDF file.

Jay , Paul. “Beyond Discipline? Globalization and the Future of English”. PMLA, Vol. 116, No. 1, Special Topic: Globalizing Literary Studies (Jan., 2001), pp. 32- 47 MLA. 31 August 2009. Web. 15 March 2011

Vesajoki, F. “The Effects of Globalization on Culture: A Study of the Experiences of Globalization among Finnish Travellers”. 16 December 2002. University of Jyväskylä, Department of Ethnology. Web. 15 March 2011.

Vriezen, Samuel. “Globalization in Literature – Vierde Column Voor Vooys”. Vooys. issue 27-4, December 2009. Web. 15 March 2011.

Park, Tim. “Tim Park On The Globalization Of Literature”. Underbelly-buce.blogspot.com. 09 February 2010. Web. 15 March 2011.

Om Shanti Om: A Postmodern Perspective

Brief CV: Rajnish Mishra is an Assistant Professor in the Department of applied Science and Humanities, IMS Engineering College, Ghaziabad. His particular interest areas are inter-disciplinary practice-led research and critical theories. His Ph D was on A Critical Analysis of Villains in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.

Motion pictures have been very important socio-cultural constructs since the time they were invented. In the “post-techno-capitalist” (Robinson, 43) societies of today no man can remain an island. Be it a director, a writer, an editor or an actor, no one can remain unaffected by their milieu. Hence there is a close relationship between films and the tendencies and characteristics of the period they are made in. The present paper proposes to focus on the extent to which a popular Hindi film Om Shanti Om (henceforth, OSO) displays the tendencies of postmodernism and the points where it departs from them. This film was chosen because of its conscious and unconscious intertextuality, its conspicuously conscious fusion of genres and its numerous explicit and implicit allusions to the “great tradition” of Indian cinema. Its plot, cinematographic techniques, characterization, dialogues, “incredulity towards metanarratives” (Lyotard qtd. in Rivkin, 507), hyperrealism and foregrounding of the intertextual elements: all challenge many assumptions about and trends of the modern cinema. The title of OSO is from a famous song of Karz − the film that gave a huge proportion of its plot to OSO. The title of the film makes any attempt at symbolic puzzle solving impossible. The happenings in the film provide a stark contrast to what one may expect from the title. There is no bliss or peace (shanti) till the end of the film as chaos and disturbance rule both the film’s plot and the life of its central characters. Roll, sound, camera, action: thus begins OSO, by foregrounding the “unreal city” ─ the studio of the successful producer Mukesh Mehra. The same studio appears in the second half as a burnt and dilapidated one which the hero is trying to bring back to life to shoot the “film in the film” − Om Shanti Om for the second time as he wants to complete the circle of life. The circle of life is a motif that appears repeatedly in the film and is mentioned by the hero OK in a talk with the villain Mukesh too. The circle of life is complete with the linking of the key image of “Om” that appears on the forearm of the hero in his two lives as Om Prakash and Om Kapur. Prolepsis and analepsis, both in terms of OSO and in terms of the history of Hindi films, tend to complete this circularity. Prophesy and allusions along with active determination of future through planning perform the functions mentioned above in the film. Outside the individual film, the same functions are performed variously, e.g. Shah Rukh as OK uses the title of film Main Hoon Naa to reassure the frightened Mukesh and Quick Gun’s part played by Om Prakash as Omiswaami in Mind It gave rise to a film with the hero’s name in 2009, intentionally or unintentionally. The film begins with a caption that reads “30 Years Ago” as the camera takes a long shot of the studio premises. Junior artists are in the period costumes and the camera focuses on a scene in which there is a simulation of unreal. Another director (Subhash Ghai) is ordering the camera to be focussed on an actor lip syncing a song sung by someone else and even this is not real because the audience’s “willing suspension of disbelief” is challenged willingly and consciously by a merging of past and present. The song Om shanti om is being shot as the film starts and the whole crew of the film inside the film is present and involved in this opening sequence along with that of OSO. Thus starts the merging of reel, apparently real inside reel and real. It is a blitzkrieg of merged time−referrants that the audience experiences since the very first minute of the film when Om Prakash Makhija (does the audience still see only Shah Rukh Khan?) imagines himself replacing Monty (Rishi Kapoor). This merging is atavistic; as Forrest Gump (1994) had already celebrated the present’s entering the past and becoming one with it. Thus the film blurs the line that separates fact from fiction and history from story. Incidentally, both the words have the same etymological descent from Latin or Greek historia ‘finding out, narrative, history’, from histōr ‘learned, wise man’, from an Indo-European root shared by wit ‘have knowledge’. OSO enters the realm of faction and combines a great deal of period fact with fictional treatment or incongruously incorporates actual living experience with history. It challenges reality and creates a simulation which simulates what actually is not there. The real director of OSO is shown as the unimportant audience, along with the real star Shah Rukh Khan shown as an insignificant junior artist. “It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum” (Baudrillard, 405). Real collapses within the imaginary and the simulation that one observes is hyperreal. The film has a lot of self referentiality – it refers to the industry and to its own self − which is ironic at times. The irony that is hidden − as references made in the first half are realized in the second half only − becomes explicit on the second viewing of the film. A close viewing ( suspending entertainment for a while) also shows the numerous references dropped casually – as if OSO was paying tribute(or making fun of) the whole “great” tradition of Indian cinema. The self referentiality also tends to foreground the aspects of the art of filmmaking that tend to be neglected at times. Bela Makhija, the mother in the film, is posited as a counterpoint to the prototypical mother of Hindi films. She delivers the dialogues used by the original mother Durga Khote − the primary or the first user of the lines in the first, real or primary reservoir of reference, Karz. She does it with a twist that distances her from all the previous mothers of the tradition. Ironically, her son Om Praksh calls her his “filmy” mother and rebukes her on her overacting when she is only faithfully copying the onscreen mother Durga Khote. Does one hear the echoes of prince Hamlet’s instructions regarding the art of “real and faithful” characterization to the players? Is it a conscious allusion or just an accident due to Shakespeare’s presence in the now globalized collective unconscious? There is more to it than just coincidence. The song “Sunne waalon” uses lines that echo Macbeth’s famous lines about crime’s having tongues to declare itself and about blood staying on hands etc. There is intertextuality and self−referentiality in the use of music too that has several effects. Just like Karz, OSO uses a recurring signature tune that transcends the frontiers of time and is associated with various responses of various people. The tune on which the song “Main agar kahoon” is composed is the tune used for a sad song after Om Prakash overhears Shanti’s conversation about her marriage with Mukesh. The same tune is used in the song that announces to Mukesh OK’s being a reincarnation and his intention to take revenge. Whenever this tune is audible – diegetically or non−diegetically – those hearing it become aware of the referring back within and outside the film on screen. Thus a signature tune becomes an independent motif just like it was used in the parent film – Karz. OSO is a metafilm too in a way. Film history keeps dropping every now and then as the characters interact. There are instances that reveal the artificiality of the process of film making in a planned manner. The song “Main agar kahun”, for instance, shows the ways in which effects like blowing wind, moving vehicles, snowfall etc. were created in the eighties. The mock−shooting of the Tamil film and the Mohabbatman scene parody the way action sequences are shot. Names like Raj Kapur, Chintu Baba, Alam Aara, Mughal−e−Azam, K. Asif, Madhu(bala), Rajendra Kumar, Om Prakash etc. appear casually. Just after the first song Om Prakash meets his best friend Pappu Master and they talk about his possibility of becoming a superstar. In a tongue-in-cheek kind of ironical stance he parodies the superstitions and trends related to names in the Indian film industry. He advises him to have a name that ends in Kumar (Raj), Kapur(Rishi) or Khanna(Rajesh) – the successful heroes of their time. They advise a struggling artist Govind Ahuja to change his name and adopt a name like Rohan Kapur or Raj Kiran(incidentally an actor in Karz) and finally give assent to the name he suggests – Govinda. There is a scene in OSO that attempts to parody that famous scene of Mother India which is an immortal part of the Indian “film tales” due to its repeated retellings. It was this very scene in which Sunil Dutt saved Nargis from a fire and they came closer after that. Shantipriya plays the role that Nargis had played in her real life and Om Prakash, the junior artist, plays the role of Sunil Dutt after the “real” hero of the film refused to jump in the fire that had gone wild. Om Prakash has a habit of talking to his muse Shantipriya, the “Dreamy Girl” of the eighties – a sure reference to the “dream girl” Hema Malini of the same era. There is a very interesting set of products (from Sholay to Exide battery) being advertised through hoardings that flank the huge centre poster of Shantipriya’s film Dreamy Girl. His mother comes and very much unlike what normally happens, accepts her “daughter-in-law” readily. Her prophetic soul tells that her son’s face would appear on posters one day. The significance of this scene becomes clear once Om Kapur – the reincarnation of the old Om Prakash in the second half − is seen on the same bridge talking to his friend Pappu about revenge. As in this scene products and finish are to reflect the passage of thirty years, all the hoardings have sleek and modern designs and products, and the centre hoarding has OK endorsing some product (is that for real or on the reel only?) Just after this scene the premiere of Shantipriya’s film stages a veritable carnival of parodies. After actors representing Dev Anand, Dharmendra, Shatughan Sinha, Rajesh Khanna, Mithun, Aruna Irani, Dimple Kapadia etc. come to the premiere Om Prakash and Pappu both pose as Manoj Kumar and the actor playing Manoj Kumar (the real one in the film but actually only a poser) is chased away by the police off the sets. The whole evening has a heightened set of attitudes as unreal is posed as real and overacting is in the air. But then, overacting is very real in all the events where the public figures appear on screen. The scene shown on the screen as the film in the film – Dreamy Girl – begins is a reference and tribute to and a parody of Amar Prem. The heroine, a prostitute, speaks the lines that highlight the importance of the sanctity of vermillion. There is no hero visible only Rajesh Khanna’s voice says “Pushpa” in his oft parodied characteristic style. The song “Tum tana” is thrown in without any link with the film on the screen. It falls directly in the tradition of the dream songs of the yesteryears. It has a crescent moon and clouds that are very clearly and consciously not real. The screen is now presented in muted tones and whenever the camera focusses on the audience “real and lifelike” colours reappear. Thus the polarity of real versus imaginary is highlighted where the element portrayed as real is only a representation – that too without any attempt at hiding its nature, i.e. hyperreal. Once again a merging of real past with the screen present and real present is shown without any possibility of confusion in the minds of the audience. The heroine(Deepika Padukone as Shantipriya) projected to the eighties is shown with the heroes of sixties to eighties and Shah Rukh as Om Prakash replaces them in each case by the end of their section of the song. There is no attempt at generating laughter through this epitome of anachronism. Hence it’s a pastiche and not a parody of a song. It celebrates it and assembles together the stars and styles of the past golden era of Hindi films in the form of bricolage. It challenges all the conventions to such an extent that they are totally obliterated and no trace of any question related to disbelief or even its conscious suspension remains. This film never attempts at the classical suspension of disbelief, it challenges it, parodies it and neglects it completely thus leaving chaos at the end very happily. OSO questions the ability the medium of cinema has to stand for reality and life. It is highly self-conscious and the dream like nature of cinema is underlined through the recurrent dream motif in the film. This attitude is a signature of postmodernism, as only postmodernism can celebrate chaos with such an abandon. The second half has songs that address completely the youth amongst the contemporary audience. It parodies the MTV loving, “happening” crowds through OK’s demand and inclusion of a dream song that is totally absurd and is not needed by the script. It flashes a completely and shockingly new image of the reel or real Shah Rukh with his well sculpted body (and the six-packs abdomen) for the first time on screen. Just after this song comes the picturisation of a scene with Mohabbatman, a real and consciously attempted absurdity in the genre that boasts of the technological feats like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Krrish and a host of small screen super heroes like Shaktiman. It is the second time in OSO that the hero is picturised flying. The first time round it was Quick Gun Murugan (an eponymous film later) who flew for quite a long time to land without hitting the target. The advances in mechanics made the flying easier and more “real” but the absurdity of a man flying remained the same as it was thirty years ago. Both the scenes are presented ironically. OSO foregrounds “the element of ‘narcissism’ in narrative technique… [it] focus[ses].. on and debate[s]… [its] processes, and thereby ‘denaturalise[s]’ [its] content” (Barry, 91). There are several instances that foreground the art, economics and truth of film making. It shows how many producers and superstars actually ghost direct through remote control. There is a mention of three of the greatest Indian directors of classic films like Pather Panchali, Madhumati and Kaagaz ke Phool by Partho Roy the director of a film being shot. He tells the producer Mukesh that he had used the camera angles of Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt. The realistic producer gives him the bottom line by asking him to finish the shot that very day and to use the one angle that would surely work – that of the famous golden jubilee masala film director Manmoham Desai. Later in the film superstar OK forces the director to insert an absurd “item” number with 5−6 item girls and coerces him to accept his “inspired” idea. The second half also has the part in which OK writes the script and directs the story of his revenge – just like prince Hamlet, or Anand (Dileep Kumar) in Madhumati did. OK screen tests the candidates for the role of his real heroine, there are instances when Bela Makhija shows them and lectures on how to act and shows her disgust at finding them incompetent. The difficulties faced by the technical staff are shown through the failed attempts at lighting a fire behind Shanti’s portrait. OSO is basically a series of spectacles and favours style over substance at several important junctures. Even OK’s scenes with his mother are turned melodramatic just for the sake of an ironic perspective on the traditional spectacular nature of such scenes. This distances the spectator from the developments on screen and denaturalizes the linear reception of the content by drawing the viewers’ conscious or unconscious mind towards the mode of representation. Thus the need to analyse the truth of and on the screen – a very postmodern attribute of a film − is aroused. The two halves make a confused potpourri of elements from the plots of Karz and Madhumati. There are changes and surprises but they are calculated not to astonish or shock the audience. Even the ghost of Shanti is not shocking as it is quite logical in relation to Madhumati. The linking of the three films appears to be very conscious on the part of the director. This makes it easy to switch between the two reference donor plots and the plot of the film on screen. OSO is self−referential, self−exposing, self−analysing and self−reflexive. The whole film, especially the first half, is so rich in intertextuality that on every exchange of dialogues some allusion, reference or quote drops in. There is a distinct mixture of multiple genres in OSO. It begins as a romantic comedy with elements of farce in it. Then it turns into a tragedy due to the murder or death of the protagonists. It finally becomes a suspense thriller along with a romantic comedy with dashes of reincarnation and masala elements thrown in. Silly wordplay within a serious context makes the artificiality of art or fictionality of fiction apparent. The reel−real play keeps recurring. It raises “alienation to the second power, alienating [the audience] even from [their] own alienation” (Eagleton, 362).

Works Cited

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural theory. Chennai: T. R. Publications, 2006. Print.

Baudrillard, Jean. “Simulacra and Simulations.” Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. Ed. Lodge, David and Nigel Wood. First Indian Reprint. Delhi: Pearson, 2003. Print.

Eagleton, Terry. “Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism.” Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. Ed. Lodge, David and Nigel Wood. First Indian Reprint. Delhi: Pearson, 2003. Print.

Jameson, Frederic. “The Politics of Theory.” Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. Ed. Lodge, David and Nigel Wood. First Indian Reprint. Delhi: Pearson, 2003. Print.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. “The Postmodern Condition”. Literary Theory: an Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1998. Print.

Robinson, Dave. Nietzsche and Postmodernism. First Indian edition. Delhi: Worldview, 2005. Print.

Kashi

How’d I ever write of anyone but you, O Kashi!
Lord Shiva, the destroyer of all desires,
How burnt he in his desire for return!
I too, with closed eyes come to you
And roam in the lanes I lived in-
A restless, haunter
Of my city,
My ghats, my and lanes and days with you.

My uncle, exile, he wept for his Kashi,
And used to say:

“The man who loved you most
Was cursed to stay away forever.”

A curse, they say, is curse
When heart it burns.

The old curse fell.
This time,
On me.
The curse of living away,
Of never coming back
To you, O Kashi!

Poetry

Poetry is not easy.
Had not been, so many times.
Running daylong makes difficult forcing mind.
Yes, forcing to write
While thoughts in head
Whirl restlessly and chatter and cry;
Scavenging for even a shred of thought,
Is tiring, endless, boring too.

And then there’s “I”.
I can’t escape, it seems, this “I”.
It comes on pages all I write.
I’m all I write, and firmly so.
They say it’s wrong,
Indecent, crude
So subjective, and passionate too.
But when did I write for them?

Words flowing out

Words flowing out,
Haltingly,
Slowly.

Irregularly
Trickling down
As I wait for them.

In anticipation,
Angrily.

Oh! The futility of waiting
On and on!

Looking at the console
All the while

I keep on wishing, that they’ll come after all as they used to – once.

Once.
Yes they used to pour uninvited.
Words the water of a broken pipeline on the street.

All the taps
Are dry mouthed now.
No water.
I wait
In anticipation
For words’ flowing out
Even if haltingly
Slowly.

Life

How big a bully this life has been!
It pushed you, slapped you, pinched you:
To make you dance on its tunes new
Took props away-all- lest you lean.

How big a con, without a blindfold
It made you trust its lays.
Snatched all your years, all nights and days,
It shackled; poisoned, kept you in hold.

The ground below and wide sky blue,
It’ll make you run and take em away.
If you breathe still, it’ll say,
“Now give me all sweet, small things too –
That hold you when I’ve taken all.

I could not linger on the platform # 1

I am no natural poet.
No sir!
Poetry comes very rarely,
Infrequently, to me.
It had been knocking
The last few days
Faintly.
I did not open the doors
(Metaphorical), of mind.

I’m a busy man,
You see.
How can a professional
Adult Indian male
Be so weak as to stop running
His private-public rat race
And take time out
For a thing so insignificant
As licking his wound
That rankles with pain of (good) old days?

I could not linger on the platform that night.
I had a train to catch,
3 bags to place,
With a status of RAC.
Delayed heartache.
The prognosis I prophetically knew.
It was true.

Home is not where the heart is;
Home is where the purse can be filled.
And the belly.
Heart and all it can do,
Is nothing –
When compared to
What stomach does when aroused.

Therefore, I have travelled 798 kilometers
And come
To the city where I work
From the only city where I ever lived
From the city I loved
(And hated, and tried to flee from
But that’s another story.
I was a better/worse man/boy then).

So, I could not stay,
While coming or going,
On platform # 1.
12 hours and so much to do.
You see
I could not even meet you
And you and you.