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Friday, July 4, 2014

Languages and language teachers

1] In India teaching is the least respected profession. All males who are not capable of /qualified to get any other job/or did not unfortunately get any other job end up as Sales men and females who belong to this category end up as teachers. very few do it with enthusiasm because the financial incentive is so pathetically low with more work load besides  most of the schools are run by people who are looking at it only as , not also as, business venture where as a cost cutting measure they do not mind appointing anyone as a teacher. I have come across some peons/sub staff working in government office saying very contemptuously in Indian English that his wife is ‘just a teacher in a private school’. { the beauty is this fellow is 9th std pass out earning more than 20k per month for cleaning tables and preparing tea while his wife an Msc maths works in a private school earning 8k per month} .  

2] In reality if anyone is made to stay in any place where a particular language is spoken for more than a year he/she will/can/must pick up that language either with ease or effort. As for learning languages, if someone is interested he can learn as many languages, I did my entire schooling in Tamil medium, my mother tongue, where because of poor teaching method like teaching seyyuls [poems] from Tiruvachakam, Tirupughzh , Manimegalai etc in First/second  standard equivalent of teaching Shakespeare in first standard they tried to kill my interest but still I continued because in those days finding a school exclusively in English medium was tough and the fee was high.
Then in PUC I opted for Advanced English [ in which I got university first mark and Sanskrit in which I got university second mark, then later on went on to learn some bits of four  European languages other than English [if we can call that an European language] namely French, German, Latin, Greek, I also dabbled in the rudiments of Arabic and Chinese just for  less than a month each, so it stopped with learning the alphabets.  Incidentally I also taught two European languages for some time.                                                                                                                                                                                                           
3] Language like life, goes on unmindful of whether any individual, group, nation, culture uses it or abuses it. It leads its own life sometimes with flamboyance and sometimes in feebleness. All languages have an inherent life which gets enriched by the users and usages or entombed by lack of interest shown by its users or their [users] unwillingness to adopt and fine tune the language to the circumstances, changing trends, contexts of life etc.   

4] If we observe without prejudice the languages which were part of the predominant subject of interest in a society or the globe [now], naturally have/had greater presence and growth compared to the rest.

5] This does not mean any language is either superior or inferior to another one. Every language has its own beauty, its time and life.                                                                                                              

6] It is so unfortunate that language, which is one of the best tools of human communication even when compared to music, art, science etc and is sometimes even the trigger for human enlightenment and emancipation because of its impact and influence , is being subjected to unwanted politics                                                                           [ this blog post alone has lot of other interesting links which may require you to spend at least two hours to read but everything worth knowing]

7] To kill a language in India you do not need necessarily make it a third language, even as a second language you can do it . I can say it with authority as a person who used to teach both French and German for plus two +2, to some college students, some scientists, some diplomats etc. None of the students can speak nor were expected to neither speak nor even understand when spoken to in these languages. The story of Sanskrit also is the same I got 190 out of 200 in P.U.C.  It was the University second mark and I did it writing 80 percent of the paper in English.

8] The malady is because we want to and we follow most things ritualistically or just for the sake of doing it. Some 40 years back it was arts and crafts period where we were all given a bunch of cotton and spindle whorl [called Thakli in Tamil]{see picture in this link} to bring out threads out of raw cotton and sometimes the spinning wheel {} [both these were given as part of the arts and crafts perhaps because Mahatma Gandhi used them, fortunately/unfortunately they did not give cigarettes because Nehru used them or tissue paper because lady Mountbatten used it.]
Instead had they given paint, brush and canvass India could have produced lot of Picassos.
What is the point in learning a language which you are never going to use for communication or understand when someone communicates in that language, or for that matter doing anything which is not going to be of use to you or through you to the society or your own body, mind or soul; what is the point in doing something which neither influences or impacts you nor do you influence or impact it. Incidentally on both these two topics I recently wrote two pieces                                                                                                                                               

9] Normally languages with logical and culturally based etymology, rich literature, religious usage, day to day survival based requirement of its usage etc survive at all costs.

10] As with life, with language also many changes happen some rational and logical and some just happen and which defies all logic as the great linguist David Crystal used to say both the words impede and expede were introduced during the same period, as well as disabuse and disadorn , but in each of these pairs only the first word stayed in the language for no logical or linguistic reasons .

11] I always view old and not so virulently and lively   surviving languages as grand parents who have made their own contribution and the later ones [as parents] who gave birth to the more lively languages [our lovers] that we romance with at present. In my case the present lover is

12] For those who would like to have a very quick and fairly brief look into the role and development of various aspects common to almost all languages in general here are the links

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