Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The campaign to teach English our way being promoted unwittingly
While the intention is good and honorable it clearly lacks a degree of rationalization and contemplation as to what it is we are trying to achieve. If it just to communicate amongst us Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka only then it has some merit, however if it is to communicate with a foreigner in Sri Lanka or overseas then it is a disaster. If we learn to speak our way, the problem is that we may have to unlearn many of the grammatical errors which when translated to English is literal, but totally meaningless due to the lack of the positioning of the words in a sentence.
We must first follow the teaching methods of countries like Japan which has an extensive private education system in teaching English, which they use to diligently learn the language realizing the importance of English as a language of communicating with the rest of the world. Communication must be understood, otherwise there is absolutely no point. It is important to have a semblance of correct pronunciation, as otherwise the party to whom the communication is addressed will not understand.
I believe it is harder for Sri Lankans to communicate through the spoken word as compared with the written word, and accordingly this weakness should be addressed and tackled rather than resorted to as a local dialect of English which may as well sound like another foreign language.
While I used Japan as an example, we do not have to go much further than India where I believe they are making great strides at learning English and learning it in a manner that can aid in communication as well, something we should learn from them and introduce here. We both face the same obstacles in learning English as the roots of our native languages are similar and therefore similar learning difficulties arise in both our nations.
I am not trying to criticize out efforts at learning English but wish to remind that even Europeans who are heavily accented nevertheless can be understood as they speak clearly and usually are grammatically correct even though sometimes the accent takes a while to comprehend. If both the accent and the grammar were wrong then there is absolutely no chance in comprehending what is communicated.
There is an ad campaign for speaking English our way. What does that mean? There is one way to speak English and we are all on a continuum on that path, the degree to which we are at on this continuum determines how we are understood. Therefore all our efforts should be directed at being understood as otherwise learning any language is a waste of time, when the primary purpose is ignored.