Mind your language

Mind your language

ONLY ON PAPER?  One of the reasons for lopsided language learning is the mushrooming of schools without qualified teachers.

Teaching is a profession that gives great pleasure. To watch young minds grow and evolve and to be a part of their wonder and curiosity is a great experience. However, the worst part of a teacher’s life arrives when one has to mark “fail” on an answer script. It is indeed painful to mark a script where the answers are not up to the mark. I am sure English teachers will agree with me that English answer scripts are getting more and more painful to mark.

Reading the script becomes a challenge because of jumbled, ungrammatical sentences. Spellings are creative, to put it mildly! Sentences with no regard for punctuation give us nightmares. Sometimes, we are forced to look for words that remotely connect with the answer and give marks to the student. Even bright students often suffer as they fail to express themselves properly.

It is perplexing because there is so much emphasis on learning the English language. It is often described as the global language, the means of communication in a new world, the tool to a successful career and so on.  But, in reality, a large number of university students cannot write a grammatically correct, error-free answer to a question. Not having a grip on language and writing skills leads to poor marks in other subjects too, because answering a paper requires written skills.

Why is this happening? Where has our education system failed? True, due to the mushrooming of call centres spoken English has got an unexpected boost. But it is a source of worry when we hear young techies drawl in an American accent with atrocious grammar!

Perhaps it is time to remind ourselves that language learning is not limited to its spoken form. It is equally important to focus on grammar and writing. This explains why many youngsters in the corporate sector require help to draft simple emails to clients though they speak good English.

This kind of lopsided language learning is of no help to anyone.

In trying to weed out the cause of this lopsided language learning, I have come to the conclusion that language teaching in school is the single most important factor in contributing to good language skills.

In college, there can be only remedial teaching in terms of grammar, spelling and writing. Though this may sound pessimistic, there is little that can be done when the young adult has already acquired the language.

The onus of equipping students with good language skills lies with schools. Perhaps somewhere school education has failed  students. The indiscriminate mushrooming of schools is one factor that is leading to a failed school system.
Quality assessment is perhaps only on paper. It is imperative that all schools, regardless of the syllabus followed, be assessed for the quality of teaching, teaching methodology and facilities offered.

As business and industry  emerge as important sources of employment for young India, good communication — both spoken and written — is essential for career advancement. 

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