Politically correct! Teaching English with a twist - Hindustan Times

Politically correct! Teaching English with a twist

Feb 19, 2021 08:49 PM IST

Madri Kakoti, a linguistics professor, draws on current affairs to teach grammar in her social media posts.

Madri Kakoti, 34, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Lucknow, is teaching English to newcomers to the language, in video lessons that pack a punch.

“I decided I would raise my voice through my skill in teaching the English language,” Kakoti says.
“I decided I would raise my voice through my skill in teaching the English language,” Kakoti says.

In her posts on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram (@ms.medusssa), she draws on current affairs to teach grammar. Migrant is used as an example of a noun, followed by a short take on the labourers’ excruciating treks home at the start of the pandemic. The farmers’ protests were discussed in a post about sentence construction, active and passive voice and how words can be used in different ways.

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“My first video, in September, was on coordinating conjunctions, and I explained this through the concept of the fanboy, using the example of certain news anchors,” she says. The 3.5-minute video on Facebook has more than 20,000 views.

“I never expected the response I got. A lot of my friends, family and teachers congratulated me. On Facebook I chose the option of ‘only friends’ who can comment on my videos, so there was no trolling,” she says.

The trolling began when the video went up on YouTube in September. “My husband is the filter between the hate messages and me. He absorbs them for me and doesn’t let me read them.”

It all started, Kakoti says, with a strong feeling of survivor’s guilt in April 2020 — she had a steady source of income, a roof over her head, food on her plate, and she could see the migrants still walking home outside.

“We would stand at the station and distribute food and essential items. That was when I decided I would also raise my voice through my skill in teaching the English language,” Kakoti says. “I decided to find a way to address some of what is going on in the country and the world and teach and also reach out to students while doing it.”

So far, she has posted 10 videos on YouTube. “But it is Facebook where I have had the most success,” Kakoti says. “I try to be regular, but I work full-time and this is something that I do when there is a spontaneous burst of creative energy, usually triggered by something going on in the world.”

Kakoti shoots and edits the videos herself. Since the first week of February, she’s been posting a Word of the Day five days a week too. A recent WOTD was ‘coup’, pegged to the coup in Myanmar and also to the coup by the desi version of Twitter, Koo.

“A lot of effort goes into each video because, even though the opinions are personal, from a grammatical point of view it must be flawless. And I want every post to be easy for the Hindi speaker to understand,” she says. She ends each video with a reminder that she believes in firmly: “English is just a language, not a mark or measure of your intelligence.”

Kakoti is now making Instagram Reels as well, making her point in just 30 seconds. These posts are more a showcase of conversational English. In one recent Reel, she pretended to be Rihanna asking Siri who Kangana Ranaut is.

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    Madhusree is a feature writer who loves Kolkata, is learning to love Mumbai. She loves to travel, write and bake

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