Special Correspondent

VIJAYAWADA: Is the teaching of English in the lower classes damaging to the cognitive skills of children? Former HOD of the Social Sciences and Humanities Department, Regional Institute of Education, Mysore, N.S.Raghunath says it is.

English should be taught to children only after they learn the local language, he says.

Inherent skills

The socio-linguistic expert, who is here to participate in a seminar on teaching language by the Forum for Child-centre Education, quoting American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky said every child had an inherent sense of grammar built into it.

The children picked up the grammar right from when they were in the womb.

The first language to which children were fully exposed to was the regional language. So the grammar of the regional language forms a template on which other languages are learnt.

But this did not mean that children should not be taught English, he said.

It was much easier for children to learn English after they learn the local language, he said.

The theory that children would learn English better if they were taught in the medium from the beginning was flawed, Mr Raghunath said.

The mixing up of the inherent grammar, with that of a grammar that belonged to a foreign language, caused an arrested development of the cognitive skills, he said.

The best age for Indian children to learn English was eight or nine, he said.

Mr Raghunath said there was a very strong link between language and culture. Several regional cultures were also being destroyed with the younger generations not learning their regional language.

Mr Raghunath will speak on “Is English a killer language?” at Siddhartha Auditorium at 6 p.m on Saturday.