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LEARNING KANNADA BY STUDENTS WHOSE MOTHER TONGUE IS KANNADA - SOME PROBLEMS
L. Manjulakshi, Ph.D.
1. KANNADA IN KARNATAKA
In Karnataka, Kannada has been recognized as the official state language, and is spoken by the majority of people. Except among the minority communities and tribal people, Kannada is the wider language of communication in Karnataka. A child grows up in such an environment, picks up the Kannada vocabulary, and expresses the same in Kannada.
Kannada has a number of social and regional dialects. In this context, based on the dialect used by the family, a child will have some advantages and some disadvantages. The sphere of communication of the child slowly gets widened. In this process, the child may come to deal with the sociolinguistic problems and meets the challenge using the available means. The school plays a very crucial role in this process. The child learns his or her formal Kannada systematically, methodically, and grammatically in the school, to some extent. This enables the child to learn the other subjects through Kannada as the medium of instruction. The success a child may have in his classroom, among other things, depends on his or her skill in controlling and using his or her Kannada.
2. MOTHER TONGUE - A COMPOUND EXPRESSION AND MEANING
Mother tongue is a compound at two levels, namely, grammatical and semantic. Grammatically, it is a 'Bahuvrihi' compound with 'mother' as normal attribute to the head noun 'tongue'. Semantically, it is a compound of metaphor and metonymy. 'Mother' is used metaphorically referring to the qualities of primacy and intimacy. 'Tongue', the instrument of articulation, is used as a metonymy referring to the product, 'Speech' or 'Language'.
3. THE CORRECTION PROCESSES
When the child enters the school, he or she has to study Kannada not only as a subject but also as the medium of instruction. Kannada spoken by the child may not be grammatical from the available written standard. The pronunciation will be defective. The child employs some peculiar and "corrupt terms." The child only repeats what he or she has picked up in his or her home environment.
Here lies the task of the teacher to prepare the child by oral methods to speak and communicate his or her own thoughts and reactions systematically and grammatically. The next step shall be to show the child the defects and wrong usage of words and drive home the correct usage. Furthermore, the defects in the use of person, number, gender, and predicates have to be rectified and corrected.
4. SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
The next step shall be to teach the child the Kannada alphabet with the help of pictures and develop the skills of recognition, observation, and expression using both traditional methods or shape similarity. As the child picks up vocabulary, drilling in reading skills has to be taken up. From the process of reading, the child goes on to acquire the skill of writing.
The task of the teacher lies in making the child express his or her thoughts, and to model for the child the oral examples in the form of writing. While learning reading of printed or written matter, the child has to be taught to grasp the meaning, read with proper pauses, intonations, and meaningful rendering. All this requires slow and patient teaching-learning process.
All the above processes involved in learning mother-tongue in the school environment may be termed as "Primary Education". This level is transition from the 'Home Language' to 'School Language'. After the child picks up reading and writing skills, subjects will be taught in Kannada medium. For this purpose primers and textbooks have been written following "scientific and technical modalities."
5. THE HOME AND THE SCHOOL
Since primary education is basically language education, we need to organize our teaching and learning carefully taking into account what the child brings to his or her classroom. The child does not come to the school with an empty head. As such, the child's language capabilities have to be used by the school.
The school is presumed to be an extension of home, various gaps have been perceived in home and school. The biggest gap is communication medium. The gap has to be bridged and the home language and the school language have to be linked together. Home language is only a dialect, whereas school language involves observation, imitation, perception. Moreover, school language also requires knowledge of grammar, regarding concord, syntax, agreement and sentence structures.
The problems faced by both teachers and earners relate to home and school environments of the child. These problems may be seen as problems emanating from the rural or urban background of the child. Normally it is the case that the language of those coming from urban areas is somewhat nearer to the standard dialect. There are also other categeries: socially and economically advanced groups which usually are educated and which have greater access to reading materials, formal and informal discussions, etc. appear to own and use a form of language that is closer to the standard. On the other hand, students coming from the less educated or illiterate families, mostly from the socially and economically disadvantaged communities, with very little recourse to language enrichment processes within their immediate environment, do not own and use the standard. The task of the teacher is to deal with the children of these categories individually by adopting necessary and apt skills and strategies to pull up those lagging behind.
6. PHONOLOGICAL AND MORPHOLOGICAL ELEMENTS
The usual and common errors committed by children coming from illiterate or less educated rural homes relate in particular to phonology and morphology. The children imitate the members of their families and the people of the locality. The pronunciation, especially of words derived from Sanskrit, is very inadequate from the point of view of those who normally use the standard dialect. Children find it very difficult to pronounce the aspirated sounds (for example, in place of sandarbha,' children tend to use 'sandarpa' "situation").
Some of the other examples in this category are 'ganTe' for 'GhanTe,' suka' for 'sukha', and 'kate' for 'kathe'. While the correct use and pronunciation of the aspirated sounds may not be considered an essential element of standard spoken Kannada, students who have difficulty with these sounds at the spoken level clearly demonstrate difficulty in mastering the words and using these with correct spelling at the written level. Hence this becomes an important task to attend to at the elementary school stage.
Sometimes students may tend to use some words that are peculiar to their own community, which others may not understand fully even in context (for example, illina:ga for "evening"). Yet another problem is that there is clear fusion of various morphemes in phrases that hide the arrangement of morphemes in the phrases. For example, the phrase barutte:ne: "I will come" is often pronounced as battini. Students have to re-learn the morphological combinations while learning to write and speak standard Kannada. In other words, their mother tongue dialect is not of much help in deciphering the constituents of these phrases and to write them correctly. When a student's dialect is closer to the standard dialect, he or she will have less problems in mastering this feature.
Furthermore, there seems to be no appreciation of the necessary distinctions between gender and number of nouns, and the tense of verbs. Because of the influence of their home dialect, students tend to make human nouns into neuter nouns. For example 'appa barutta:re' "Father will come," is expressed using 'appa battade,' overtly expressing "Father will come (neuter)> The animate human noun father takes the nuance of inanimate neuter noun.
Sometimes, failure to pronounce correctly the glottal fricative (a rarity in some of the non-standard varieties) results in some funny situations and expressions. For example, consider the following example:
namma bhaarata deeshada hemeeya putra. "A great son of our country"
namma bhaarata deeshada emeeya putra. "Agreat Bufflo of our country"
7. AVOID ROTE-LEARNING
Furthermore there is also the misuse or hyper use of 'a' and 'ha'. The town 'Arasikere' may be pronounced as 'Harisikere' in the non-standard dialects. Where there should be no "h", a "h" may be inserted. Where a "h" must be included, it may be missed. These have to be slowly and carefully rectified and corrected in children.
Now even the children coming from urban areas as well as from the educated families present certain problems regarding correct usage. By imitation and practice they will be speaking in full sentences. But the structures of sentences will be defective and not grammatical. They have to be drilled in the use of correct grammatical sentences. Teaching by rote should not be adopted. Just as taste of the food cannot be relished if it is swallowed, so also the child cannot comprehend the meaning and reproduce the material correctly and effectively if it is rendered from rote memory.
In the early stages of teaching-learning process, aids will play a very effective and important role. By seeing and studying the pictures, the child will be able to grasp and communicate the meaning in full sentences.
For example, a cow is seen eating grass. The child perceives and recognizes the cow, grass, and the act of the cow because the child knows from observation and experience that the cow eats grass. To the question: "hasu enu ma:duttide", "What does the cow do?" the child immediately responds, "hasu hullu tinnuttide" "the cow is eating grass."
8. THE ART OF WRITING
After the process of preparing the child in reading skills, comes the difficult process of teaching the child the art of writing. The child has to learn transforming speech into writing and such writing again into proper rendering it aloud. The child has to visualize each letter in the early stages and pronounce it correctly. Then drilling in reading words and gradually develop the skill to complete sentences may be introduced.
9. THE ROLE OF MOTHER TONGUE IN LEARNING OTHER SUBJECTS
After the child learns the skills of speaking, reading and writing of the Kannada language, the child has to be familiarized with figures and the processes of arithmetic. Reading, (W)riting and (A)rithmetic, Science, and Environment appreciation and preservation should go hand in hand. The child has to be drilled in the processes of addition and multiplication. There should be no ambiguity of language in teaching arithmetic. Various aids will have to be used to make the child do arithmetic independently.
It is worth noticing that even though the mother tongue of the child is Kannada, the process of learning or teaching Kannada as school language involves the usual aptitudes, skills and strategies of learning or teaching any other language. The only difference is that Kannada will be familiar to the child and Kannada teaching or learning may be somewhat easy and quick. But with regard to grammar, diction and etymology Kannada presents the same problems and difficulties as learning any other second language.
The aim of linking home language with school language in respect of Kannada is to prepare the child to study the textbooks on various subjects through the Kannada medium of instruction as the child grows up and goes to higher classes. For this, solid foundation has to be laid at the primary level. Teaching of language skills in Kannada, as in any other language, illumines the need for linking the home language with that of the school. The child comes to school with speaking and listening skills. The child is ready to learn reading and writing. When this is not properly handed or denied, the child gets confused.
Concluding, it may be safely stated that the transition from the home language to the school language in respect of Kannada, like any other Indian language, can be facilitated if suitable coping strategies are evolved or adopted by parents, children, peers, teachers and media agencies. There are challenges right from the pre-primary to the university level. School-level language has to be a medium between Home and Environment. However, also by way of precaution, it may be said that language learning should be made. It should be free and natural. The burden for this lies more on the teachers than on the learners.
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A BRIEF SURVEY OF HEBBAR TAMIL'S VERB MORPHOLOGY | SOCIAL ASPECTS OF MOODS IN MALAYALAM | INDIANIZATION OF ENGLISH MEDIA IN INDIA : AN OVERVIEW | I WANT TO LEARN TIBETAN | LEARNING KANNADA BY STUDENTS WHOSE MOTHER TONGUE IS KANNADA - SOME PROBLEMS | LANGUAGE NEWS THIS MONTH - The Case of a Missing Preposition, etc. | AN EXPLORATION INTO LINGUISTIC MAJORITY-MINORITY RELATIONS IN INDIA | A LINGUISTIC STUDY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE CURRICULUM AT THE SECONDARY LEVEL IN BANGLADESH - A COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH TO CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
L. Manjulakshi, Ph.D.
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysoer 570006, India
C/o. Language in India
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