Earlier this year, I was very pleased to meet the national Gujarati Co-ordinator for the BAPS Gujarati schools, for the first time. At that time, I must confess to not knowing much at all about the Gujarati language and how it is being taught around the country. I listened keenly to the work being done by the BAPS Gujarati schools, to promote the teaching of Gujarati in supplementary schools and that there are many supplementary schools around the country, where students, of all ages, can learn the language and take a GCSE and A-Level in Gujarati. I was also very interested and impressed to hear how dedicated the teachers are at the supplementary schools, teaching their students in their free-time because they believe in the importance of keeping their heritage language alive and giving children the opportunity to learn about their heritage language.

I was very honoured to be invited to be the Key Note Speaker at the National Gujarati Teachers’ Conference, on Sunday 15 July 2018.  The teachers’ conference took place at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, in Neasden, North West London. The word ‘mandir’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘mandira’, meaning a dwelling place and for Hindus the mandir is an important place for rituals, festivals, celebrations and satsang. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is described in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest traditional Hindu mandir outside India and one of the most beautiful places I have attended a conference at. I strongly recommend a visit to the mandir, which is open for visitors, seven days a week!

The one-day conference brought together over 300 teachers and senior management representatives from 48 different supplementary schools, mandirs and community groups across England. Interactive workshops, discussion panels  and networking sessions covered a variety of themes and topics, designed around the theme of ‘Treasure, Innovate and Inspire’ – to treasure and promote the rich heritage of the Gujarati language, to innovate novel teaching methods (including technology and media) and learn the latest information about the GCSE exams, and to be inspired with renewed enthusiasm to teach Gujarati to the young and bring awareness to their parents.

I was invited to talk to the teachers attending about my own experiences of motivating children to want to learn languages. What was interesting for me was the overlap of challenges there are, whether we are teaching youngsters a European language, or a heritage language. We, as teachers of languages, all share the same aims and challenges and it is important that we share and network with each other, to help keep whatever language we are teaching alive and of interest to our children. I believe that motivation is of equal importance to pupils and teachers and that motivating ourselves as teachers, helps to motivate and enthuse our pupils. Conferences, courses, workshops and other networking events are so important, particularly when we are faced with challenges, as they help us to connect to others, in a similar situation, helping us to reflect on what we are doing, why we are doing it and to keep ourselves refreshed and motivated, enabling us to keep ourselves going.

I would like to thank all the teachers and the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir for the warm welcome and hospitality I received at the conference in July. Namaste!

To read more about the National Gujarati Teachers’ Conference and to appreciate the conference in more detail click here.