Where words come alive
RUDYARD KIPLING tells us the story of a man who achieved a notable deed. He wished to narrate it to his tribe. But as he stood up to speak, he was at a loss for words. The story goes on to say that a master less man stood up and, with the magic of necessary words described the merits of the notable deed in such a fashion that the words "became alive and walked up and down in the hearts of all his hearers."
The tribe seeing that the words were alive, and fearing that the man would hand down untrue stories to their children, killed the man. But later they saw that the magic was in the words, not in the man.
Modern English is the fusion of a number of tribal migrations and invasions. Early modern English, through its innovations, became the language of scholarship, replacing Latin. The overwhelming richness of its vocabulary provides its users the liberty to coin their own words.
Arundhati Roy, for instance, exercised her liberty and authenticated her English by fusing colloquial language to Standard English. And she made the words come alive, with an unprecedented style of writing.
On the national level, English still remains the connecting web of scholars and students. By some estimates, there are more speakers of English in India than in Britain, its first home. But there is a noticeable disparity between the students in the major cities of India and the students in rural areas, in terms of writing and reading skills.
Here is an issue that needs attention. Our Government, at the Central and State levels, is offering opportunities for the underprivileged students to come into the mainstream by reserving seats. Once they are in the system, these students sit in classes bewildered, trying to comprehend the gist of the lectures. Students in Open Schools are not any different.
Subsequently, a division in class happens. Those students well versed in English will obviously do well in studies. For students struggling with English, learning will remain obscure, even though they are good in a particular area of specialization. How do we strike a balance?
The value of the instruction in a child's mother tongue cannot be belittled. When the mind is fresh in the formative years, kids sponge up everything from the adult world. A first standard teacher would know better. Experiments in education have always brought us back to square one.
A study in early education done recently among many civilized countries has proven that introducing a child to alphabets after the age of seven will remarkably improve that child's learning skills. Cramming a child at a very early stage will jeopardize the child's key factors for success, self-selection, drive and motivation.
Give access to a child the study of the English language when he/she finds it comfortable. But, there should be a standardized curriculum to blanket all school-going kids to study English at the same level.
Qualified English teachers at the primary level, giving the child a strong base to build on, should teach written and spoken English.
Incidentally, there is no dearth in India for qualified masters of English. Actually we must have a surplus. But how many of them really contribute to the educational system?
Many of them are educating themselves further, just for the enjoyment of learning. When you have wisdom, it is useless unless you share it with your younger mortals.
Margaret Fuller said it so eloquently, "If you have knowledge, let other's light their candles at it." The wealth of those undetected English scholars living in India, leading retired lives is enormous. Imagine their collective potential, if they were mobilized to enlighten and enrich our educational system.
Popularized by television, films and radio, the English of the U.S. has become the voice of trade, technology and finance. In multi-cultural countries there is permissiveness to differences in accents. Whether it is Italian, British, Indian, Canadian, Americar Jamaican, accents seem irrelevant, if you have mastery over a grammatically correct language.
One of the primary duties of a parent and teacher is to instill in the child, a love for reading. Books in most schools and college libraries still remain safely locked-up in big and old dusty shelves, inaccessible to students.
It is inaccurate to say that in India we do not have the expertise to conduct an error-free national survey.
We have to agree that we do not have the actual number of English speakers in India.
Rounding) up to the nearest million is not exactly precise. The time has come to reinforce English on a wider, national level, because "English is the first truly global language."
It should not remain the language of the privileged classes only. To compete in this global village, measures should be taken to bring English, along with other regional languages, into the schools in rural areas.
The floodgates to rural areas should remain open for information and learning, to empower the rural population to be partakers of an evolving process of globalization.