The article “Let a hundred tongues be heard” (Sept. 27) is emotional. If students are taught in their mother tongues, the result would be utter cacophony. The reason parents are keen on admitting their children in English medium schools is they know that without English and possibly Hindi, their children have no future in this country. At best, they can join the rat race to become politicians.
We should learn from China. It enjoys the strength of having just one national language, Mandarin, spoken by the overwhelming majority. Yet, since the last decade, the Chinese have become enthusiastic learners of English and many young educated Chinese speak the language with impressive fluency. Martin Jacques, author of the global bestseller, When China Rules the World writes, “One teacher, Li Yang, who runs an operation called ‘Crazy English’, has taken to conducting his classes in huge stadiums with over 20,000 all chanting English phrases in unison.”!
However, this enthusiasm for English in no way points to a decline in the popularity of Chinese. The Chinese language has preserved its remarkable pristine purity.
Col. C.V. Venugopalan (retd.),
The objective of a language — Hindi, English or regional — is effective communication. When the choice of a language is overemphasised, communication takes a back seat. In primary school, for instance, strengthening the student’s ability to grasp should be the objective. When the subject is presented in English, students who are not well-versed in it struggle to understand it.
The best way to impart knowledge to children is to present things in languages familiar to them. This does not mean English should be ignored. Exposure to it can start a little later in life. Many people who have studied in their regional languages in primary school speak excellent English.
It is the domination of English that is more troubling than the domination of Hindi. Among youngsters, speaking in English — weird slang or broken English — is a style statement. Hinglish is in vogue even though it threatens our regional languages.
The diverse local languages are disappearing as gen-next does not value them. Nor do schools offer them as a medium of instruction. A balanced education system that understands the importance of multi-lingual learning can bring about a steady change.
The article dealt with a topic close to my heart. I have felt that if we need to change the paradigm of education, it has to happen from top-down with lateral extensions. The best example is medical education. Doctors learn about diseases in English but are expected to discuss them with their patients in the local vernacular language. In Kerala, where I completed MBBS, there are numerous dialects of Malayalam that may at times be incomprehensible to a student who does not belong to a particular region.
Medical education is subsidised by the government primarily to improve health care in our country. In order to achieve this, it should be made mandatory for all undergraduate students to learn their local language. If a doctor aspires to practise in a State which is not his own, he should be accredited by the State Medical Council for proficiency in the local language.
Tony George Jacob,