I think AzETA is a pretty sweet acronym, as acronyms go. It stands for the Azerbaijan English Teachers’ Association. And I went to my first AzETA meeting this past Sunday. Apparently the Lənkəran branch is a pretty strong group. You can read about how it got it’s start with Kathy here, at the AzETA website. Currently, it’s actually headed by one of my site mates’ counterparts, Lalə, and the other PCVs, particularly Hiba, have been helping out a lot with giving the organization a strong structure. They even have movie and book clubs going on for the members. This week’s movie selection could be The Princess Bride, a real classic, among other fantastic selections.
So on Sunday I went to the meeting to see what was happening. Being the first meeting of the new year it was a bit more sparsely attended, but we still managed to get about 14 people. Five of them were Peace Corps Volunteers. And apparently this group is up to about 30-35 members. Some highlights of the meeting: Slangs. The Azerbaijanis love to learn new slangs, and my host brother, Miri, delivered. He likes collecting the slang words and phrases, so this week they called on him to present. This week featured such winners as Catch-22 and To have a bone to pick with somebody. Everyone generally enjoys the slang session.
The two other major features were particularly excellent: a reading of Green Eggs and Ham by Jaclyn, and then a word game presented by Hiba. The reading was awesome. Jaclyn should probably get paid to read children’s books aloud, and the rhythm and rhyming accentuated her speaking voice. And then Hiba brought us a word game, where we split into teams, chose a letter for our team, and then, in one minute, had to come up with as many words as we could that started with that letter. For someone like me, this is a phenomenal game. Unfortunately, our team went down in flames as we took the first game, but lost the next two.
But winning isn’t everything, right? (It’s the only thing, of course) What these meetings really function as is a medium for introducing new methods and strategies for the Azerbaijani english teachers. Many of them know all the grammar rules and parts of speech that most Americans don’t. And they don’t just stop at nouns, verbs, and adjectives. They’ve got it all down, like particles, articles, gerunds and verb tenses. Azerbaijanis love telling me that english has 16 verb tenses. Their knowledge of that and other grammar rules is almost freakish. What they generally don’t know is how to speak english, and then also how to teach it effectively. It’s not uncommon to see teachers only translating passages. That’s nice, but it involves no speaking, no effective usage of the words in the passage. So games and books are a real novelty in teaching english here. That sort of interaction isn’t the norm.