Saturday, July 1, 2017

National Trust Lecture on the SINHALA ATTITUDE TO KNOWLEDGE by Dr G Uswatte Arachchi @ HNB Towers on 29th June at 6.30pm.

Dr Uswatte Arachchi, is a former Central Banker, CEO of Marga Institute, UN Civil Servent, Economist who did his doctorate at Cambridge etc etc.

I was confused about the topic, as to what it meant. Despite, Dr G U A being quite feeble and old now, he was not well enough to stand to deliver the lecture, so he read out his lecture seated with instructions to the operator to change the slides on his command.

In some cases one had to concentrate a lot to be able to appreciate the nuances and stanzas and changes of dialect to explain what he was on about! His accent and the slight LISHP he had added to that difficulty. I wish the lecture notes were available on line to read afterwards to better grasp these concepts.

I am afraid the Colombo OLDY types who attend these (the National Trust Membership) other than the likes of Professor Gananath Obeysekere who too is feeble, but attended, fail to understand the intellectual gravitas of his speech. It is even more important TODAY to understand why we Sinhala are hidebound from understanding concepts and new technology because of the language and ITS INABILITY to intellectualize the words they use for the new concepts that are part of colloquial English today, that have not dispersed into the Sinhala usage due to the lack of meaningful words being created!

TO be honest it is that much more difficult therefore to write and so in answering exam questions especially in new technology, IN SINHALA, the student is AT A DISADVANTAGE when compared to that of the one who is fluent in English and is able to communicate in English.

That is what this attitude to knowledge really means! There is little appreciation of new knowledge concepts by those whose job it is to devise the words needed!
He mentioned Kumaratunga Munidasa and why he was not sufficiently well recognized in his endeavors and others like Martin Wickremasinghe, and the Anagarika Dharmapala were also referred to.

Sadly there is a huge dearth of real talent even in the Sinhala Language despite the large numbers of people studying Sinhala at A level, due to the lack of alternative subjects at their schools. Sinhala scholars with absolute knowledge today are few and far between, who are sufficiently eminent and conversant of the problem that the Dr Uswatte Atachchi referred to, and this results in a distinct lack of intellectual debate on how Sinhala words change with the times. The likes of Gunadasa Malalasekera still hold forth due to the lack of examples.

The synopsis above is by someone who is NO academic or with no credentials to talk, except to express a personal opinion on what I believe is a problem that persists and needs to be solved, so that we are able like the Japanese and the Germans, to only use their languages in scholarly writings for people using their vernacular can follow, at a better level of understanding than merely be relegated to FB Sinhala that serves NO useful purpose in the overall scheme of academic discourse.

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