Mastering the snob language

Opinion

Mastering the snob language

 English is not a language of the elite. DH file photo

Our country is home to numerous languages and is a melting pot of various cultures. The influence of mother tongue pervades the English class, so we cannot deny the influence of the vernacular in learning English. It is with this goal in mind, the review of National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2000, was initiated by NCERT to specifically address the curriculum load on children and make learning a joyful experience in school.

An inclusive discussion and participation by the learners in the classroom paves the way for a greater understanding and engagement with English. Through mother tongue, English can be made more comprehensible especially to the learners at the initial stages.

Mother tongue need not intrude into the effective learning of the English language, it can only assist. The first language can thus assist and provide for an easy grasp of the language. Background information, folklore and story telling technique may provide effective inputs as a first language and facilitate learning English as a second language. A regular exposure to a variety of meaningful language inputs will nurture the ground for effective learning and appreciation of English as a language.

Beginning early

Removing the barriers between languages should begin at the primary level. One has often come across the dichotomy that exists across the socio-economic spectrum. At one level, one finds learners from the vernacular medium terrified of English -- both spoken and written and fumble at the thought of communicating in English. At another level, learners from privileged background are actively encouraged to converse in English even at home surroundings, most often due to the snob value attached to the language.

Learning English should not be seen from a myopic vision as a language of the elite classes. It should be seen as an international mode of communication that can be used as an effective handle to deal within a globalised world. Removing barriers between different language learning should begin at the primary level. Learning activities should be so formulated that the child becomes aware of the world around correlating classroom learning with the community outside. This makes the child an enthusiastic learner.

Methods

Introduce parallel texts in more than one language. Stories from Indian mythology or classics like Panchatantra or Jataka tales narrated in different languages can enliven the classroom atmosphere. Importantly, they involve the learner in acquiring the major language learning skills in listening, speaking and reading.

Using the known language for reconstruction of the meaning of the unknown, in this case English can be an effective tool for the beginners. The learner can attempt an expression through imperfect English. Allow the child to make mistakes.

Production of bi-lingual dictionaries at various levels has been found to be useful. Such efforts encourage bi-literacy, which our country cannot ignore. The vast diversity and richness of this country’s languages cannot be ignored. Bi-lingualism has precedence in schools and universities of England. Learners can thus be effectively rid of English phobia. Let us integrate the ground realities that cannot be ignored in vast swathes of the country where exposure to any other language other than one’s mother tongue is minimal. It can be used as an effective tool to provide the urban elite child familiarity with a language other than English. The benefits far outweigh the doubts one may have about the efficacy of such an experiment.

Some subjects may be taught in a non English language. Some schools have successfully implemented bi-lingual teaching-learning for the social sciences. Numerous resources are now available in the form of newspapers, magazines and children’s magazines like Chandamama, Amar Chitra Katha. Parallel language editions of these publications are available. They must be allowed to enter the classroom. Some degree of independence from the prescribed texts is necessary for teaching- learning to expand beyond the set curriculum and make learning a truly liberating experience. It is up to the think tank of the educational bodies to make learning a dynamic experience.

We need to evolve a right balance for effective implementation of language learning and increase the child comfort level with the subject. English can thus break from the shackles of its image as an elitist language. Let us repose faith on the children’s innate capacity to construct knowledge out of their experiences so that learning can be joyful and without burden. The goals of attaining basic language proficiency can break down barriers that exist between English and other Indian languages. All it needs is our commitment to child centred educational practices. RabindranathTagore reminds us that ‘creative spirit ‘and ‘generous joy’ are crucial to childhood both of which can be distorted by an unthinking adult world. Let us remove the shackles and allow them to create their version of knowledge on their own terms.

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