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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Language Controversy over removal of German as a third language - from a former language teacher

Language Controversy from a former language teacher.

1. I love all languages more than any other subject.

2. As a polyglot I know each language has its own beauty, lovable literature, lovely linguistics and large lexicon of words. I can speak and read in some five languages and also teach three European languages.  In fact I have taught French to thousands of students, German to some, I have set question papers for testing English language skills for some prestigious MBA institutes, studied Latin and Greek  too while doing my studies in International Theosophy , I did my entire schooling in my mother tongue Tamil, university  rank holder in Sanskrit in college and of course I have some qualifications in  Hindi from Prachar sabha due to which  I have a smattering knowledge of Hindi without which one cannot survive in India.

3. However, I am appalled by our indifference to the plight of students who are the main stake holders involved in learning and also the fact why we have never bothered to calculate the  man hours and  money we Indians spend imparting  language skills to the children of India?

So, I feel in any  policy decision involving language studies we must prioritize these things:-

1. What is the practical utility of a particular language to a particular individual i.e. the relevance of learning any other language [other than one's mother tongue which invariably all of us or at least most of us may know to speak a little and understand a  bit and the language prevalent in the place/region where we are living because that too becomes inevitable for survival] . For example if one is a businessman doing business with China it would be useful he learns Chinese; if one wants to become a  temple priest then it makes sense that such a person learns Sanskrit properly; if one wants to become a play back singer in Bollywood it would be better that such a person learns Hindi properly; if one wants to pursue higher studies and research in Genetics or Astrophysics in USA then they better learn English.

2. There are some people born with an innate urge to learn a foreign language, relish its linguistics and literary value and master it . They must be given an opportunity to do so.

3. Linguistic fanaticism, political ideology driven frenzy [even if it promotes fervent nationalism], media driven manipulations etc must never burden the students unnecessarily. Let us not forget facts of nature, I mean evolution, as one the greatest  scholar Guy Murchie  in his magnum opus 'THE SEVEN MYSTERIES OF LIFE' [] in the Chapter on 'Human Languages' writes that," curiously enough,unlike the rest of proliferating evolution,languages and dialects seem to be getting fewer".

4. While the whole world is busy teaching its children science, technology and skill sets necessary for the individual's enhanced survival and contribution to socio- economic welfare and for this reason, rightly so, most of the present generation of youngsters hardly pay any importance to language as a subject of study but evaluate it only as a mere tool for communication [ with a big full stop] . They  are not even interested in using words fully, leave alone perfect sentences, that more communication is through SMS, abbreviated terms like LOL,DINK etc

5. Is it not the trend in the past few decades that even the print media  too hides or pushes inside narrative or descriptive articles if any and gives priority only to reports on all issues with opinions by pseudo judge-all multifaceted stars of the media houses who dote out twisted and biased reports with their two predominant facets one half baked knowledge and two full blown ignorance.

6. Whatever be the legality or other issues involved in this recent decision we must give a thought to the main stake holders of the issues here , namely the students who are midway through their academic year.

7.  There are many leading linguists who have made in depth studies in various aspects of language based on multiple factors of language, its impact, influence etc. I can go on endlessly spicing up with thousands of quotes for and against the significance of language learning in general. However, I thought I would quote some relevant observations by at least one or two great authorities in linguistics Steven Pinker  in his book 'The Stuff of Thought-Language as a window into Human Nature'  in the chapter 'Fifty Thousand Innate Concepts' writes,"One reason that the language we speak can't be too central in our mental functioning is that we had to learn it in the first place.....Language is only usable with the support of huge infrastructure of abstract mental computation...Radical Pragmatics, spells trouble for Linguistic Determinism, because it shows that thoughts must be much finer- grained than words".

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