May 08, 2020

Lost my 60 Day Duolingo Streak Today!

So unfortunately I lost the consistency that I kept up with Duolingo since the last 60 days. I have been doing at least two minutes a day during the entire Quarantine. Finally I lost all of that hard work in one day of inactivity!

No just kidding! It just hurts to see that 'o' day streak status. On the plus side, I learned a lot in the past 60 days/1 month alhamdulillaah. Hence, anyone who feels disheartened at losing a streak should not take it so seriously. If you have missed it, just move on and build again. During the journey, you will trip and then you will rise again. That's just the part of growth, right?

May 07, 2020

How to make training less painful

Providing training is one thing, and making that training fruitful is entirely another. In a corporate setting, the trainer doesn’t have months and years to make learning work. Time is really of the essence here.

Training is different from a course in that training continues for only a day or two unlike a course, which may continue for months or even years.

As a trainer, your task is nothing short of Herculean. First of all, you have to cover all your materials in a short period of time, and you have to ensure that the participants take something away after the completion of the training session.

Someone who does that successfully today earns a living doing exactly that. Why? Because everyone isn’t good at it. It takes blood and sweat to develop that skill.

More often than not, it is not that you have to share, but how you share it. This task may become difficult or easy depending on how interesting or dull the training topic is.

The trainer needs to keep in mind that some topics are inherently interesting, whereas some others are just plain dull.

Being a trainer of language, I often have to deal with the difficulty of making a grammar session captivating.

Unfortunately, grammar is a topic which automatically puts off learners.

But you have to teach it somehow, don’t you? Especially when the trainees come to you in the hope of learning English from scratch.

There are a number of issues at play here. First, you have little to no time to teach a language in one day. It is simply not pragmatic.

Second, you can’t expect adult individuals to learn language the same way as children. Hence, even if you try to teach them grammar, they would not be as retentive.

So what exactly is the solution? Make the learning fun!

Doesn’t that make sense? Teach grammar, but do not be limited to just the rules. Let the trainees learn by using the language. Show them the grammar in use.

Find out what’s relevant for them and focus on helping them with those. Try to “teach” and you’ll spoil the session. This is something I learned the hard way. I tried to be traditional with the trainees and I simply got negative feedback.

A couple of days ago, I facilitated an English session again. This time it went differently. For the better. Simply cut the lecture and get to business. Have as many group activities as you can incorporate in the training.

This way, the learning will be less boring or not boring at all. Incorporate interesting and lively video clips and have them moving, laughing, and doing things. Believe you me, your experience with facilitating will never be the same again.

Nahiyan Asadullah is a corporate trainer of English and business communication. He has a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and ELT from BRAC University.

May 06, 2020

Breaking the rules

My article on English language learning was published on the web section of Dhaka Tribune on 11th July 2017.

A wonderful article was published in the op-ed section of the Dhaka Tribune on July 7, 2017 titled “Is English a failed language in Bangladesh?”

The author masterfully communicated the importance of English language skills in the local as well as global scene and the lack thereof. He further pointed out that the state of English in Bangladesh is so poor that most Bengalis struggle their way through college and end their English learning journey once and for all after college graduation.

I second that opinion as I totally understand where Mr Kabir is coming from. However, the scope of the article didn’t allow the author to suggest any practical tips for the struggling English speakers/learners.

Hence, being a professional trainer of the English language and communication at a large local corporation, I would like to offer some suggestions that worked for me personally and the people I have been helping at work.

Forget schools and own your learning

One of the primary problems in Bangladesh, I think, is how the language is taught in middle and secondary schools. You would be far more concerned when you find out that the top schools in the country (Bangla medium schools mostly) are no different from the lesser ones.

I, for one, went to a good Bangla medium school in Dhaka and to be honest, my English classes didn’t contribute much in the way of learning.

From primary school to college, I have always found that the institutional teachers try to force students into learning English grammar. And when you try to force someone into learning, they block their learning faculties and stop learning completely, or don’t learn very well.

Thus, a very obvious consequence is that students start believing there are no alternatives to learning English other than the boring grammar deals.

However, for the peace of your mind, I would like to inform you that learning English doesn’t have to be difficult and boring, as the average English guru will have you believe.

English is, in fact, much simpler than you think. It is a pretty straightforward language for speaking, and this is the exact reason why it is the global communication tool.

You have relied on your schoolteachers in your student life to no avail. You have tried the mainstream way of learning and you have seen for yourself what it did to you. Hence, the number one way to learning English well is by breaking the rules.

Forget grammar and textbooks and immerse yourself in English and let the language be your best friend.

Learn like a child

You have always heard that children are not only better learners but they are also faster learners. Well, maybe because their mind is pro-active as they don’t have to worry about the daily grind (ie work/business).

Yes, it is true because they just enjoy the process of learning and they don’t fear being ridiculed for making mistakes. Adults, however, are always terrified about letting go.

Why? Because they already have the experience of learning English in a way which is not fun, and making mistakes in that system is absolutely unforgiveable.

Hence, breaking the bad habit is quite a challenge for us unfortunate adults. On the other hand, children don’t even have a habit to break to begin with.

So how do children learn a language? They learn mainly by observing and listening. Hence, the first thing you have to change in your learning routine is to avoid learning with your eyes. Listen first.

English doesn’t have to be difficult and boring, as the average English guru will have you believe

Sure, you can incorporate reading in your listening material but listening should come first. You can also read along while listening. Thus, you’ll be doubling your learning effort by engaging two of your learning faculties.

Repeat and repeat some more

This is the most important part of this article. Therefore, you absolutely must note this down.

See, the importance of reading and listening for acquiring a language (both receptive skills) is not news to many of you. But what makes reading and listening powerful is how many quality hours are spent on the activities. There is no obscure mantra to automatically store the language in your mind. It is pretty simple if you want to really learn English and are willing to work hard to achieve that goal.

The secret to learning English, or for that matter, any language is to learn deeply.

There is no other solid alternative to learning English. Yes, watching movies and TV shows in the target language helps, reading novels and books helps, listening to podcasts and BBC radio helps.

But these will not help you without concentrated repetition. If you think just by listening to that podcast or watching that movie once, you will take it all in, you’re mistaken.

Moreover, always choose materials (movies, books, audios) that you are interested in. The learning material also has to be just a bit difficult than your current level according to the American linguist Stephen Krashen’s i+1 theory.

So, if you’re listening to an audio, make you sure you understand at least 80 to 85% of the material from the beginning. This way you’ll easily be able to pick up the new words and grammar in the language. Your existing knowledge of English will help you figure out the rest.

Staying motivated

Finally, how do you stay motivated?

I think this is the most difficult part in learning. My advice to you is to just go the extra bit. Don’t think of it as a huge task. Because no one is asking you to master English today.

You just have to be present when you are learning. Try to master the task at hand. And then build on that.

You will be well on your way to becoming confident in English. Don’t get frustrated about how you do as long as you try.

So, speak English like a boss even if you don’t sound like one.

Nahiyan Asadullah is a corporate trainer of English and business communication at Nitol-Niloy Group. He has a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and ELT from Brac University.

May 02, 2020

How do you make Dalgona Coffee?

During this lockdown due to Covid19, people have been making different food and drinks to help with the boredom. Of all these things, most people have particularly been more interested in Dalgona coffee. So what is this Dalgona Coffee? I searched a bit and found that this partcular coffee is somehow or the other related to the country of South Korea. You might want to read more about it here

Anyway the beautiful thing really got me interested and made me want to have a go at it and surprise my wife :)

The procedure is pretty simple. You will need equal amount of coffee bean, sugar, and hot water. It's something like this:

1. Take two spoonfools of coffee in a cup/bowl or whatever (any brand shoud do, but I found Tim Hortons gets frothy faster)

2. Take two spoonfools of sugar

3. Two spoonfools of very hot water

4. Now stir, stir, stir and stir some more for 7-8 minutes until the color lightens and gets frothy. [We mostly used spoon and sometimes manual beater, but I recommend using electric beater as its faster and less laborous]

5. Prepare hot milk and put the froth on top of it and voila you are done! Look how I did in the picture below :D

Lockdown: Why it's necessary in Bangladesh?

The covid19 situations in the States and Sweden are a big slap in the faces of people who think lockdown is not necessary. Sweden, one of the Scandanavian giants, has 22,082 covid19 positive cases as we speak. Of them there are 2669 deaths and only 1,005 cases of recovery. On the other hand, the US have 1,148,439 positive cases of Covid19 of which there are 66, 804 deaths and 162,114 cases of recovery.

In order to understand what happened in Sweden, we have to understand how things work between the Swedish government & its people. Historically speaking, there has always been an unspoken understanding between the state and its people. The Swedish people follow the instruction of the government to the letter. Government says you are to maintain social distancing and they go 'OK fine, we are going to do exactly as you say!' and trust me when I say that that's a different level of 'we hear and we obey.' Now what went wrong for Sweden was it only depended on its people to do the work. What it didn't realize was that only social distaning would not have cut it. You needed stricter measures (see lockdown). It has been seen time and again that lockdown does help control the spread of infection. Albeit Swedish case is not particularly a disaster compared to other European countries such as Italy and Spain, it is definitly not an ideal one compared to its nordic neighbors.

Let's now turn to the mighty US. Don Trump's paradise. The US simply were oblivious to the whole thing. Tell me If they were so concerned from the beginning then how come they have such a large number of cases in such a short time? We all know prevention is better than cure and according to this article Trump didn't do that either.

And finally when the disease hit the country, neither did the gov't enforce the lockdown properly nor the American people helped. Just today I saw in the news that they were relaxing lockdown in 15 states Texas and Alabama being two of the 15. What's more? Beaches have started getting crowded. I mean really do these people have no brains? Americans, some of them, really are so stupid!

What about our topic at hand, Bangladesh? We're one of those few countries that have one of the worst recovery rates. Thanks to our limited resources and corrupt authority. What's more? We don't want to get infected because we know that we're not going to get treatment if we did get the infection.

Anyway, what is to be done to stop the pandemic now? In Bangladesh, simply increasing the general vacation won't work unless the lockdwon is enforced. The government is not only Not ordering lockdown it's started to allow certain shops and businesses to remain open. Our factory and garment workers are in the worst predicament. Why? Because some garment owners take them for nothing more than a commodity. We should pay heed to constant warnings of WHO and enforce lockdown in the entire country. The less the movement, the better.

April 29, 2020

The Death of Bollywood Superstar Irrfan Khan and Our reaction

The news of Irrfan Khan's death came as a shock to a lot of us. It is interesting that while we get upset about the passing of someone we like we somehow forget the reality of our own mortality. We can very easily talk about other people's death, but we don't want to think about death of our own body (the soul does not die). And one of the primary reasons why we don't want to think about death is because we all have heard about the torments of grave. Whether we decide to think about death or not, death will come in its own time and things will happen exactly as our beloved the truthful Rasulullaah (s) has narrated to us.

One of the best science fiction writers of all times Isaac Asimov was once asked in an interview what will happen to you when you die? He answered: "Nothing. Nothing will happen to me when I die. I will just turn into dust." It is as one prominent late scholar said that all this knowledge and fame didn't make this person any better than the illiterate Arab Beduyin 1400 years ago. And Allaah says in the Qur'an that these people will say on the day of judgment that we did not have any intellect.

Being Muslims do we want to end up like the person who has to say that he does not have any intellect? We all have the advantage of mind to think yet we just do not use it the way we are supposed to. Why does our knowledge of the punishments and trials of the grave do not make us any different from these disbelievers? It is only natural as we rarely if at all think about death.

Ramadan in Lockdown (Day-4 & Day-5)

Here's what usually happens to us at the beginning of Ramadan. We get this spritual high and do more than required only to tire ourselves out not realizing the month has just started. Trust me this is what I've been feeling in the last couple of days. So I thought I should put my thoughts to this post and think through the problems in sha Allaah.

How can we get out of this situation?

First of all, let's just relax. Let's not try to complete the Qur'an in one sitting. Read one page after each salaah. Doing otherwise would only make it a chore and we do not want that at any cost.

Also you'll see that you're not feeling anything in your heart when you're praying even after leaving sins. I think this is just natural. It takes time. Repentance, I believe, will help our hearts to open up more in sha Allaah. It is said that Prophet (s) would do istighfar more than 100 times a day. SubhanAllaah if the prophet(s) did that we should be doing that 1000 times a day at the least surely! Well practically we can't but we can surely follow the sunnah in sha Allaah by reciting the bare minimum 100 times only.

I think the best way to soften one's is to constantly remind oneself of the destroyer of pleasures, the death. The prophet (s) said: "Death is true." If you think about death more and dunya less, you would see that your heart has changed. It will have less and less attraction to the dunya and all the pleasures that it has to offer. We shy away from the topic of death because it makes us feel uncomfortable. But is there any more true than death? Does anybody ever claim that they will not die?

Although we hate to think about death, doing so can bring numerous benefits to the life of the Muslim. He will realize that he will one day die and will have to answer Allaah for his evil deeds. Hence, he will automatically repent from his sins and seek refuge from the punishments of the grave.

In this topic, I highly recommend the life in Barzakh series by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi. The series will be easily found in the playlist of YQ's YouTube channel in sha Allaah. Another one to recommend is Imam Awlaki's Hereafter Series ( I ABSOLUTELY do not support his views on jihaad, by the way).