The language divide
By T Murugavel
18th July 2012 12:13 PM
Learning a subject in your mother tongue is supposed to be more effective than studying it in an alien language. However, the plight of students who have had their education in regional medium is too much to put in words. Their problem is apparent but complicated.
These students find it difficult to understand lectures as they have problems comprehending the vocabulary, sentence structure and even pronunciation. Some of them may understand but cannot respond despite their best efforts.
This problem seems to be more evident in colleges offering engineering courses than in arts and science institutions. Every one of these students is admitted to colleges on merit through government quota which certainly means that they did work hard and do have acumen for an engineering course. But to these students ‘language’ is a problem.
And this reflects in their performance in assignments and tests and in the process, in university examinations too. They fail to clear papers in time and even those who clear them, find it difficult to get a job.
However, we cannot blame them for their poor performance. The system expects them to use a language they are not exposed to.
Though even in regional medium schools English is taught as a subject, learners do not gain any proficiency as they memorise answers for possible questions that might appear in the examination and reproduce them.
Their exposure to English is almost negligible and they do not have any models to follow. Only the regional language is used, even in English classrooms, and it is the medium used by all for communication.
Hence, nearly all of them barely recover from the cultural shock they undergo when they are in college.
It also creates in them a state of uncertainty about themselves and their ability. So these learners do not mix with their peers who speak English and tend to spend time only with non-English medium learners.
While the teachers do own the responsibility to help them in improving their language skills, I think their classmates can play a vital role in helping these learners. It is with them these children spend time and communicate. Instead of avoiding them, if the students from English medium schools help their mates to get over their mental blocks, inculcate in them the confidence that English as a language can be learned, and more importantly make it a point to speak to them only in English, I am sure that there will be a sea change in these students’ life.
For, the students from the regional medium only lack the confidence to mingle and communicate with others. They seldom use English at home. Therefore, if their English-speaking friends act as models for them and ensure that they speak only in English, even if it is not grammatically correct (initially), it will help them gain confidence to use English as a medium for communication.
This, I am sure, will give an excellent opportunity for students from non-English medium schools to mature as fluent communicators and also provide immense contentment for their peers.
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