Vigneshwaran M is an engineer from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, who after working in the software field for a few years decided to pursue his interest in the English language. He is now an English language trainer and has improved the verbal communication skills of over 15,000 graduates from across the country.
But there’s more. The 27-year-old has a rather unique way of teaching English using cricket.
Speaking to The Better India, Vigneshwaran says, “I have seen how being able to communicate in English effectively changes one’s life. The common medium of communication is slowly shifting to English and as the first graduate in my family, I have immensely benefited from speaking in English. Being able to train people in this medium and see that change first-hand is what keeps me going.”
Over the last one year, Vigneshwaran has used his YouTube videos on his channel ‘Let’s Learn’ to teach viewers the meaning of words like onslaught, squander and phrases like ‘Go down to the wire’, and understand how these words are pronounced. His channel has over 1 lakh subscribers.
Learning By The Test Series
With the lockdown being announced in March 2020, Vigneshwaran found himself with a lot of free time on his hands, as many others did. He decided to use that time to create two-minute videos explaining a particular term or phrase that was often used by commentators during cricket matches. He says, “It was during the Indian Premier League (IPL) season and many people I knew were watching the matches with great interest. The matches were interesting and the commentary was also equally entertaining.”
However, while many people want to learn English, Vigneshwaran felt that not many were willing to try the traditional methods and put in too much effort. “Combining cricket with learning English was my innovative way of making it fun and interesting,” he adds. Vigneshwaran wanted to do something that did not feel like ‘learning’. So he picked a known topic and explored an unknown facet of it through his videos.
Cricket commentators often use words and phrases that viewers do not understand and one such phrase that Vigneshwaran found fascinating enough to make a video on was ‘Houdini Act’.
He says, “Houdini was a celebrated American escape artist, and the term Houdini’s Act refers to the successful completion of an impossible task. In the IPL context, the commentators referred to Rajasthan Royals pulling off a Houdini’s Act during one match.”
In that particular match being played by the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab, the latter needed to score four runs from six balls with eight wickets in hand. It was a match that had Kings XI Punjab’s name written all over it. However, despite Kings XI Punjab being just one hit away from winning the game, Rajasthan Royals bowler did rather well and curtailed them from scoring runs. The surprising outcome of the match was the instance used in the Let’s Learn video to explain the term’s usage.
After the final match between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Kolkata Knight Riders, during the closing ceremony, Indian commentator Harsha Bhogle asked CSK captain M S Dhoni, how he ‘conjured’ the win. Picking up on this word, Vigneshwaran says, “I was intrigued by the word and when I looked it up I found that conjuring meant making something happen out of nowhere. In my mind, the word ‘conjuring’, thanks to the movie, only had a scary connotation.”
In his video, he says, “From being the second last team in the last season to clinching the title this time around — it was a magical turnaround. Making something happen out of nowhere, thus making people believe that it was magical is what ‘conjuring’ means. One can only feel the magic of CSK when they conjure a win.”
In order to make these two-minute videos, Vigneshwaran watches and reads many different blogs and commentators. He says he spends close to three hours on just basic research before he can get down to scripting and putting together the content for the video. “I keep researching until I come upon a new phrase or term to work with. I enjoy watching the match live on television and reading the commentary alongside. That helped me build my vocabulary, even as a young boy,” he says.
Some of the words that Vigneshwaran learnt because of cricket include unorthodox, implode, flamboyant etc. “Cricket has taught me so much and I am glad I am able to share my learnings with others through my YouTube channel Let’s Learn.” These videos on YouTube are targeted to help students in college and beyond better their English vocabulary and speaking skills.
Tips to Better Your Vocabulary:
1. Choose an area of interest:
“I chose to learn by using cricket as a base. The vocabulary used in commentary helped me a great deal,” says Vigneshwaran. You could pick any subject that interests you.
2. Observation is the key:
“In everything you read and hear around you try to find words and phrases you are unsure of. These are the words that you then need to find the meaning of to ensure that you are able to use them in conversation,” he adds.
3. Understand the root of the word:
“Always try and understand how a word is pronounced, its origin and any other interesting information it might have. These will help you retain and recollect the word,” adds Vigneshwaran.
4. Create reference points:
While trying to remember the meaning of the words, always create a reference point. Link the word or phrase to an instance or an incident to ensure that you remember it at a later stage, he says.
5. Practice, in every possible in context:
“Do not be afraid of using the words or phrases you have learnt in various scenarios. The more you use the words the more confident you will feel about its usage,” he says.
To access the Let’s Learn videos, click here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)