Dr Frans Goes to Wisconsin

Dr Thulha Frans, a Lecturer in the Department of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, was selected to be a Fulbright Scholar from August 2019 until May 2020.

Dr Thulha Frans, a Lecturer in the Department of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, was selected to be a Fulbright Scholar from August 2019 until May 2020. Dr Frans was studying Teaching and Learning of English as a Second Language in the Curriculum Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWMadison) in the USA. She attributes her successful selection into the competitive programme to a post-doctoral research project with English teachers in Omusati Region that she has carried out with assistance from a team of NUST English lecturers. During her time as a Fulbright Scholar, she attended postgraduate modules, conferences, and enjoyed some cultural activities before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was implemented.

Dr Frans with Fulbright Representative, Jenny ParhamDuring the first semester, Dr Frans enrolled in “Learning Second Language and Literacies”. In this course, she became familiar with major theories of second language acquisition (SLA), and has learned to conduct research in SLA, and performed inquiry into the implications of SLA research and theories for school-based teaching and learning. The Course allowed her to “understand part of the English language challenges in schools and tertiary level in Namibia.”

“Some additional factors associated with SLA are age, motivation, attitude, environmental factors, school factors, home/family, and early literacy of a child. These amongst others, are considered factors that greatly influence someone in their SLA,” she explained.

During the second semester, she has enrolled in a course titled “Assessment Strategies for Advanced Foreign Language Teaching”, which she said helped her identify the “similarities in teaching a foreign language (TFL) and teaching English as a second language (TESL). Many theories in TFL can be applied in TESL.”

Dr Frans also participated in two major conferences. The first one was in Boston, Massachusetts in November 2019 where all African Fulbright Scholars converged to share knowledge for four days. There, she has delivered an oral presentation on English second language teaching and learning in Namibia. The second conference was in Kansas City, Missouri in March 2020, and has focused on the “The Future of Work: Bridging the Skills Gap.”

Dr Frans in front of the UW-Madison Memorial Library

“This Conference was one of a series of activities that created a forum for Fulbright scholars to explore aspects of American society and culture. We engaged with local organisations, residents of Kansas City, and Fulbright scholars from around the globe,” said Dr Frans. Before being selected as a Fulbright Scholar, Dr Frans had never visited the USA. Naturally, she experienced culture shocks with her surroundings, including the sprawling UW-Madison campus, the cold climate of Madison, new racial dynamics with other minorities, and transport systems.

“The people in Madison are very helpful. I had a great host, Prof Margaret Hawkins, who allowed me to stay with her while I have secured a flat. She would often invite me for lunch or coffee to discuss my programme progress,” said Dr Frans. In addition, Dr Frans also made friends, many of whom invited her to their homes for dinner, holiday celebrations, and lunch dates. It was a wonderful experience until the COVID-19 Pandemic brought activities to a near standstill. Face-to-face classes were cancelled, but Dr Frans managed to finish her research. As it is the case with many, she experienced physical and mental health challenges due to isolation and homesickness during the lockdown.

Having returned to Namibia and restored her health, Dr Frans is excited about continuing her work. She plans to continue her Teachers’ Development Programme in Omusati Region, and engage the education ministries on the subject of her research. Dr Frans is currently writing a book on English language acquisition in Namibia.

Dr Frans with other African Fulbright Scholars at a conference in Boston     

 

Date: 
Thursday, December 3, 2020
for Month: 
December, 2020

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