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Anita Selec, Lecturer at the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, completed an English Language Specialist project designed for members of the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) in June 2019. The project focused on teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP) for Maritime Security and the curriculum was designed to provide participants of the nine-day workshop series with the communication skills needed for joint training exercises with United States military personnel in Maldives or in the U.S. (The participants of this project requested that their images not be shown.)

“I like being a Specialist because the experiences are intense.  The participants and the Specialist do and learn so much together in a very short amount of time and we bond over this experience.” – Anita Selec, English Language Specialist 

Selec used authentic materials and content-based tasks throughout her project with the MNDF members. Participants read reports from the U.S. military and wrote and presented on their own duties in the MNDF. For example, the group of soldiers, marines, and sailors worked together to develop the communication skills needed in establishing triage areas at an airport or a beach after an airplane crash, in neutralizing terrorists in hostage situations on an aircraft, and in coordinating search and rescue missions, among other scenarios. Selec noted that, “they were interested in the content because it was directly relevant to their military duties.”  

“After 9 days, I felt like we had become a team,” Selec explained. From the start of the project, the group had established a friendly, relaxed, and yet professional atmosphere for their workshops. “I like being a Specialist because the experiences are intense,” Selec shared. “The participants and the Specialist do and learn so much together in a very short amount of time and we bond over this experience.” Selec and her participants learned from each other’s expertise both inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to the nine intensive days of workshops, Selec and the MNDF members often met informally to discuss life in Maldives. Selec had the opportunity to meet two of the participants’ sons and learn more about their community.

“This project made me realize that we are so limited by our perspective, our backgrounds.” – Anita Selec, English Language Specialist 

During one of the workshops, a participant who had never left Maldives asked Selec to explain the difference between a river and a lake. Selec responded to the question and continued to reflect upon it. “This project made me realize that we are so limited by our perspective, our backgrounds,” Selec explained. She didn’t know the difference between the life stages of a coconut or the uses of different types of sand, for example. The question about lakes and rivers led Selec to reflect on limitations of perspective in relation to education. “It made me realize the importance of teachers in expanding students’ perspectives of the world, or experience of the world,” she shared.

When Selec met the families of her workshop participants, she witnessed firsthand the impact that English was making on these families’ lives. Selec observed that English language skills would expand opportunities in their own communities, in the world, and on the internet. By discovering new perspectives through English, this group would be “more receptive to the idea of learning that there are rivers and lakes in addition to lagoons and atolls.”  

“We will definitely be discussing sand and coconuts and rivers and lakes and how we simply don’t realize what we don’t know, but that we should always be conscious that there are different cultures, experiences, geographies that color one’s perspective.” – Anita Selec, English Language Specialist 

Selec plans to take her experiences as a Specialist back to her students at the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “We will definitely be discussing sand and coconuts and rivers and lakes and how we simply don’t realize what we don’t know, but that we should always be conscious that there are different cultures, experiences, geographies that color one’s perspective,” she explained. 

Anita Selec is a native Vermonter with an MA TESOL. She has taught English at universities in Japan, Bosnia, and the United States. She also advised international students at Northern Vermont University. Selec was an English Language Fellow in Sevastopol, Ukraine. Her English Language Specialist assignments have been in Maldives, Nepal, Bosnia, and Colombia. She has designed the following workshops: ESP for maritime security, English for employment and 21st century skills, and teacher-training workshops on employing creativity, project based learning, and critical thinking in the EFL classroom. She currently lives and teaches at the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia. She also works as an editing consultant for international clients. 

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