Meet Our Propell® Trainer in India — Monisha Banerjee

This month's Feature of the Month introduces Monisha Banerjee, a Propell® trainer based in Bangalore, India. Monisha shares her fascinating story of transitioning from the world of research and IT to language skills training.

Life has strange surprises for us at the moments we least expect them. Imagine this for a second, why would a postgraduate student in Nuclear Physics end up being a Language Trainer? Twenty years ago, armed with a degree in Physics from one of the most prestigious science institutions in India, I considered myself an ideal candidate for scientific research and work that required mathematical precision. My initial stint with software firms in analytics and then software training were based on that very assumption. It's hard to explain how I transitioned from software training to language and soft-skills training — it's almost as if circumstances and opportunities conspired to help me change course. And what a fascinating course of self-discovery that has been! After taking time off for the birth of my child, I started at The Princeton Review part time. I enjoyed the classes so much that within a year, I became full time. And now, for the past decade, I have been associated with Manya, an educational services company in India which is partnered with The Princeton Review, a test-preparation company headquartered in the USA. Here I have transitioned from a SAT®, GRE®, GMAT® and TOEFL® trainer, to a master trainer, academic head and then product management lead roles. I currently manage a programme that helps build employability skills in the Indian youth. One of the biggest skill gaps that exists in Indian graduates is their English-language skills.

While I was using my creative juices to build programmes that sought to bring about transformation of the average Indian youngster, I was presented by ETS with the opportunity of running the Propell® workshops for the TOEFL iBT® test. I remember my initial apprehension as I sent in my profile for consideration. One of the prerequisites for the position was an English-language teaching qualification or some experience with English as a Second Language (ESL) training. I do not have traditional ESL teaching qualifications since English is widely spoken in India. ESL as a concept is fairly alien in India where most urban kids learn to speak versions of English varying in the range of precision, accent, fluency and style. Yet no one qualifies as an ESL student, since these various flavors of English become the de-facto locally acceptable forms of English. Thus "Hinglish" (a blend of Hindi and English), "Benglish" (blend of Bengali and English), etc., are quite commonly understood words in Indian language parlance. Hence, English-language trainers in India face the daunting task of getting students to un-learn the norms of Hinglish and Benglish and learn a new variant of the language.

To my surprise, my profile was accepted by ETS and I qualified as a Propell workshop trainer in 2012. The training that I underwent at ETS's Princeton headquarters was memorable for several reasons — the wonderful learning and in-depth understanding of the TOEFL test that the training gave me, the warmth and hospitality of the hosts and the wonderful camaraderie that blossomed between trainers from different parts of the world. The 12 workshops that I held last year not only helped me build a strong community of TOEFL trainers in India but also helped me to learn and share some of the most effective practices in language training across a culturally diverse geography.

As a trainer with experience in teaching both the TOEFL test and IELTS™ to students, I have discovered several reasons as to why I would advocate that a student take the TOEFL test over any other English-language test. I believe it to be not just one of the most objective English-language assessments measuring a candidate's ability to communicate in the real world but also one which builds skills that are critical and permanent. It is this firm belief that motivates me to run the workshops over weekends despite a busy full-time occupation. I look forward to continuing this wonderful learning experience with ETS and helping other trainers in my country facilitate effective language training.

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