AsiaCALL and IndiaCALL

Mike Ledgerwood's picture

I can't even begin to tell you how amazing my trip to India was, representing IALLT as the first keynote speaker at this conference.  I received a great amount of support from my University for this trip, was so happy to be received so well in India once there.  Once again, I have lots of videos from this trip as IALLT President and will post them, soon.  India is such an old civilization and has jumped into the 21st Century so recently and so quickly that India is even more complex than ever.  As one of the main presenters at the conference has said on Facebook (now a friend after I'm back), "India is one of the few places one can see the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries all together, live, in one place".


Traffic in India

Mike Ledgerwood's picture

One more note on India:


The traffic is worth its own paragraphs. I would
never drive in India. First of all, they drive on the left (as the
Japanese, Australians, Singaporeans, and many other Asian, Middle
Eastern, and African peoples do). I was always looking ...the
wrong way trying to cross the street. I also kept trying to get into
the wrong seat in cars. Once, the son of the host family asked me if I
really wanted to drive since I was getting into the driver's seat and
not front passenger seat. I assured him that I did NOT. More
importantly, Indians do not obey any traffic rules, including the few
red lights or traffic policemen. You can see why there are speed bumps
everywhere to make people behave. Of course the often terrible pavement
and poor roads help, too. (The exception to all of this are the new
toll road expressways which are new, beautiful, and have a top speed of
100 k/h (62 mph)

Essentially, the only rule is that bigger has
priority. So buses and trucks can do what they want, although they do
have to face constant challenges from smaller vehicles. Whenever
possible vehicles make two lanes pushing slower vehicles to the left so
faster vehicles can pass on the right (remember we're driving on the
left). If there isn't enough room, the middle becomes the passing lane.

adds extreme complexity to this chaos is the variety of traffic.
People are constantly trying to encroach onto the roads and cross the
streets and, of course, people are everywhere all the time. They're the
lowest priority in traffic, yet a constant hazard. No one really wants
to hit people and people don't really want to get hit. However, hard
to tell that sometimes. The next layer up are the camel carts, donkey
carts, and other animal-drawn carts. They stay to the left, but are so
slow that coming up on them unexpectedly on a real two-lane road is
quite exciting. A layer up from them are bicycles and then the farm
tractors which are nearly as slow. They come into the middle of the
cities, just like the animal carts. So they're an urban hazard as well
as rural. One more layer up are the mopeds which are the main
individualized transport for most of the country. Often three people
will be on a moped. Beyond them are the real motorcycles which
challenge for the fastest vehicle in the city. Again two or three
people per motorcycle common. And very few people wear helmets or any
kind of protection on bicycles, mopeds or motorcycles. If you have a
crash or even fall off one of them, you'll be lucky not to have severe
injuries. The next layer up in traffic are the ubiquitous "rickashaws".
These are three wheeled tiny minicabs, always painted in green and
yellow with a moped engine. The new ones all run on compressed natural
gas. They can have as many as eight people in them hanging on for dear
life. Like all cabs, they challenge constantly for room and speed.

the next level up are cars. There are lots of cars in India now. Cars
are almost always quite small (a Honda Fit [tiny car here] is a large
car in India). You'll see Hyundais, Suzukis, Tatas (Indian company),
and Chevrolets (Korean-designed Chevvies), all built in India. If a car
isn't built in India you pay twice the price for it. So, few "foreign"
cars although did see several Audis and a couple of Mercedes. Beyond
cars are all sizes of trucks and then big buses. I guess the fact that
so many Indian cars are Korean designs or firms helps us understand how
Korea is taking over the car world.

So, traffic is a constant
dance between all of the different kinds of people/vehicles trying to
occupy the roadway and move. Horns are constant. You tap your horn to
warn, to move, and to protest. I think if you don't have a horn you
can't drive any kind of vehicle in India. Intersections and roundabouts
are constant sources of challenge. Vehicles push through them as much
as they can get away with. Crashes almost never happen but are avoided
by millimeters. I usually sat in the death seat (front passenger seat)
in cars and saw so many near crashes avoided by nanoseconds that I
started to become Hindu...

As one of the conference attendees
from the United Arab Emirates said to me after watching the traffic,
"life is very, very, cheap in India". I agreed with him then yet I'm not
sure now if I agree. I saw no deaths, no injuries, or even any
accidents. I guess this system, such as it is, works in India.

I can extend this metaphor, I think much of what happens in India works
for India, despite how alien it seems to those of us from other places.
And does it work in other places? I don't know.

What else? The
conference was cool. Most attendees from India. However, the foreign
delegates included me as the only American (!). Others were from Saudi
Arabia, UAE, Lebanon, Spain, Chile, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia, and
UK. At one meal we really talked about religion and politics. Very
interesting conversation.

I enjoyed the food quite a bit. Almost
all vegetarian of course. Some really good dishes at the conference as
well as the four star hotel where I stayed. Yet, would I say that the
food was outstanding? With a few exceptions, no. It was often very
good and often quite varied. Did it rival the elegance and taste of the
food I had in Japan in August? No. Did what I had (and I did NOT eat
in any top places in the country) compete with great restaurants in this
country? No. Guess I'l have to go back and try out top places. Grin.

So, with all of this description of the difficulties of India why would I go back there in a nanosecond?

of all, the people there are amazing in all kinds of ways. I felt so
privileged to get treated there so well and get an insight into this
huge country. I guess I got fascinated by the complexity there, too. I
also realized and was told how the new wealth in the country is working
to help everybody in the country. I saw all kinds of hope there every
place I went.

At the conference where I presented I was treated
like a rock star. I must have been in 150 photo op events and even more
individual photos. I was asked for autographs. I had "groupies"
follow me.

Back in the U.S. I now have more than 20 Indian
friends on Facebook from the conference. I'm working to establish new
links between IALLT and IndiaCALL. What a difference from the Japan
meeting in August. No one from that conf. sent any emails or contacts
to me or other IALLT people who went there. IndiaCALL needs IALLT and I
think IALLT needs IndiaCALL, too.

And my new Indian family asked
me after the party on Fri. night (despite language difficulties) if they
could kidnap me to stay in India. I was so surprised and taken aback.
Guess they liked me? I told them they could, of course! They laughed
and said I was the first willing kidnapped person they had heard of. We
all laughed. They then told me they might send me a ticket to attend
the wedding of the older son. Well, if they do, I'm going!

What a gracious people. So much like American Southerners.

Very best to all, Mike.

Mikle D. Ledgerwood, Ph.D. Professor of French and Linguistics Chair of World Languages and Cultures Samford University Birmingham, AL 35229. Past-President of the International Association for Language Learning Technology 2011-2013. President of&

India (India CALL and Asia CALL)

Mike Ledgerwood's picture

Here's a series of comments I have posted about the trip to India to be the first keynote speaker (of five) at the combined India CALL and Asia CALL meeting in late November/early December:

Got back from nearly a week in India last night
late. For those of you who don't know, I was invited to be the first
keynote speaker at a joint meeting of AsiaCALL and IndiaCALL (Computer
Assisted Language Learning) in India. The conf.
for all my expenses in India and set me up with a host family to help
me out both before and after the conference. Samford paid for my
airfare and IALLT (Int. Asso. for Lang. Learning Tech.) of which I'm
President kicked in a bit of money which went for visa, etc. So, trip
was totally paid for.

My keynote went super well. All tech
worked with me bringing all kinds of cables and adapters. Had great
video clips in talk. Helped set the tone for the whole conference. I'll
do try to do a similar version of this talk next summer at IALLT in

Last night I was grateful to Delta for letting me
take earlier flights so that I didn't have to sleep in Atlanta airport.
Of course my bag went AWOL as a result (since Delta hadn't given me a
boarding pass for B'ham and didn't put my standby flights into the
system, and since TSA requires people and bags to stay together)
however, it should arrive here at the house shortly. (Just arrived,

Huge thanks to Sue for coming here to drive everyone while I
was gone and help with meals, etc., too! Thanks as well for the Omaha
meat, Kay, and the maple goodies from New England, Bill, Jane, and Sue!

Cold here today, especially after India heat and humidity.
Was already in the 30s when Fayanne and I took the dog for a walk.
Then I had to pump up a tire on the minivan and spend an hour picking
the last of our tomatoes. Got a huge crop this year, probably 60 pounds
from four plants! Down to mid 20s tonight.

Despite the Delta
help, the trip back took over 34 hours, hotel to house (trip out took
26). Considering, I'm not too strung out. I did sleep in some this
morning which helped and slept a lot on the planes. As far as I know so
far, don't think I caught anything there. I certainly had no diarrhea
problems. I took several drugs with me but brought them all home and was
very careful there. Of course, I was very well taken care of there and
was in very nice places while there. Wasn't working in the slums or
even seeing them except from cars and busses (yet saw lots and lots of
severe poverty of course)

As for India, what a complex place. It
is easily the most different place I've ever been to. I'm not sure
anyone can ever be "ready" for it. I was in the state of Gujarat which
is the bump that sticks out into the Indian Ocean in the Northeast not
far from Pakistan. I was in the largest city in the state, Ahmedabad
(you can see the Islamic history in the name), and Anand which has the
largest dairy (a co-op) in the country (and India produces the most
dairy products in the world). Traveling between the two cities I got a
glimpse of rural India. Ahmdevad (as it is pronounced) has 7 million
people, so I certainly got a view of urban India, too.

I was
taken out by my host family (Dad is CPA and financial planner) for two
dinners, a meal at their condo, and a party in Ahmdevad. So, got to see
what upper bourgeois life is like there. Lots of interesting details
with them. They have a Hindu shrine on their balcony, so many people,
including a priest, were in and out of their flat going to the shrine at
odd hours during the day. All of the three kids are working at good
jobs. Oldest is in Singapore running the Asian branch of a major French
company (yes, he speaks French). The Dad is in final stages of finding
a bride for him (arranged marriages still the norm in India). The
party was fun, too. It was way out in the country. Was the 25th
wedding anniversary of some of their friends. Big party with over a
hundred guests. I saw at least four different bands/acts in the time we
were there. Huge spread of food and drink. Fireworks, etc.

I did some videos of the trip which are up on Youtube. If you have any desire to see them, here is the playlist
amateurish videos, but indicative of my stay and what I saw. Change
resolution on Youtube to 720p to see them at their best. You can find
all videos as well by searching for "Frenchprof01" (zero one) in

I'm not sure what else to say about India. The poverty
is numbing at times. I saw miles of "neighborhoods" of shanty towns
where people live under canopies without running water or electricity. I
saw extremely poor people hard at work. I saw people so blackened by
the sun in the fields that they reminded me of Fénelon's description of
French peasants in the late 17th Century (where he describes "beasts"
and finally realizes they are "people"). I was only approached for
money once after my host Dad had parked illegally and had the lock put
on his car. A peasant boy came to tell him about it and then wanted a
reward for doing that. He almost perched on the hood demanding money as
we left. Guess that shows you how protected I was during the time I
was there since that was the only time I was faced with that. Have had
much more panhandling directed at me in the U.S.

I guess the
other shock was seeing how old-fashioned industrial the country was.
One of the rivers was multicolored and foamy. Reminded me of the U.S.
in the 60s. Factories spewing smoke and who knows what else...truck
stops that went on for miles full of ancient trucks and tiny businesses
catering to truckers as well as prostitutes catering to truckers,
too...people living under canopies and corregated huts in the cities,
too..Thousands of tiny businesses and people selling everything
possible, including what they picked out of the garbage to sell.

two different camels pulling carts. Were monkeys in the trees near the
conference where I presented and at the memorial nice garden we went to
honoring a hero of the independence movement in India. Very odd bird
calls outside my hotels. The rural certainly comes to the city, too.

my very well-off host family only had a tiny car (fairly new, but quite
cheap) and their spacious flat was 1400 square feet.

The dirt
and dust was everywhere. The air smelled of smoke from people burning
wood, woods, and fields. In the morning the haze was enough to make me
cough. Again, like the 60s in the UK and the US. Sacred cows and dogs
of same color everywhere, too.

Mikle D. Ledgerwood, Ph.D. Professor of French and Linguistics Chair of World Languages and Cultures Samford University Birmingham, AL 35229. Past-President of the International Association for Language Learning Technology 2011-2013. President of&