LANGUAGE IN INDIA

Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 3 : 12 December 2003

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.

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    Central Institute of Indian Languages,
    Manasagangotri,
    Mysore 570006, India
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Copyright © 2001
M. S. Thirumalai

LANGUAGE NEWS THIS MONTH
Learning Disabilities, English Medium, Indians as English Teachers in China, Recognition of Scripts, etc.
M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.


1. CHILDREN WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES - A GOOD DECISION BY THE GOVERNMENT OF TAMILNADU

Children with learning disabilities are now exempt from taking a second language by the Government of Tamilnadu. This is a very good and encouraging development. We hope that other states, which have made this provision, will soon do so in the near future. In a country where the three-language formula is presented as the solution for all the prevailing linguistic problems, it is hard for the decision-makers to appreciate the special problems of children with learning disabilities.

News items that announced this development in Tamilnadu mentioned that such children will have to be certified as suffering from learning disability by medical professionals or psychiatrists. There is no specific mention of the participation of the professionals from the speech and hearing discipline, but we do hope that this was only a slip, and not intended to be so. A report in THE HINDU, dated in August this year, said, "those correcting the papers would be advised not to deduct marks for spelling mistakes even in `non-language' papers." The order issued by the Government of Tamilnadu does not insist that the children with learning disability should take another subject such as arts in lieu of the second language. This again is a welcome departure.

Learning disability is a cover term used to refer to many problems that children face. While dyslexia, for example, is easily described and recognized, there are other behaviors that are hard to isolate and presented as specific problems. We hope that this order will help not only the students and their parents but also the professionals especially the students of linguistics, sociology, anthropology, and speech and hearing sciences to take a keener interest in identifying language-specific issues, and develop a variety of methods, materials, and evaluation tools to help children with learning disabilities. Hardly any service is available in the rural areas of Tamilnadu to help children with learning disabilities or to identify them. We pray that this order will enable every one to take a fresh look around, and start seeing the problem as real and urgent. Parents may be encouraged to choose the language of the environment as the most preferred language that their children with learning disability would learn in the school. Parental counseling, thus, is very important.

2. ENGLISH FOR THE EARLIEST STAGES OF SCHOOL EDUCATION!

Karnataka is ready to take the plunge! Newspaper reports suggested that a shift in the language policy of Karnataka is imminent. The State government may introduce English in government schools from first standard. Government felt, the newspapers added, that the introduction of English in government schools would benefit children in rural areas. The wind of change is blowing everywhere, especially because Bangalore is the capital of Karnataka, where India's money-growing software giants are located!

All these years, governments in Indian states talked about concept formation, maintaining regional identity, preserving the culture of the people, and adoring and venerating our mother tongues, etc. And these goals were seen to be opposed if English is taught in earliest stages of school education. Now the imbalance between the rural and urban areas has come to the help of the governments to change their time-honored policy. Even West Bengal has assumed this posture now.

Should we welcome such a change when the governments and the parents do not seem to take mother tongue education seriously? India is well set on the road to becoming a country with English as the only medium of instruction.

3. INDIANS AS TEACHERS OF ENGLISH IN CHINA!

The Chinese are eager to learn English from Indians as they find it easier to understand the latter's accent! Is it really true that the Chinese find it easier to understand our English accent? A Karnataka minister, who had a busy visit to China, says so. He said, "Members of the delegation of the Standing Committee of the Jiangsu Provincial People's Congress in China wanted to seek the help of the Karnataka Government in teaching English in primary schools in the province a survey conducted jointly by the Chinese and the Japanese had found Indians were among the better teachers of English in the region."

What other incentives do we need to introduce English at the earliest stages of school education?!!!!!!!

Is our English really good, or is it preferred because it can be bought at a cheap price? There is no doubt that the standard of English taught in the private schools located in urban areas in India has dramatically improved during the last 15-20 years. We've moved from a resistance to English learning in the early decades of Indian independence to a great clamor for English medium now. At the same time, nations in Africa and the Gulf that traditionally welcomed teachers from India are now in a better economic position to employ the native speakers of English as teachers of English in their elite schools. The clamor for the English medium and the problems of English education in India truly reflect all the complexities of Indian education.

4. DEMAND FOR THE RECOGNITION OF SCRIPTS

People from the Santal and Ho communities have been demanding for the recognition of their scripts as fit vehicles for writing their languages for a long time. Santals and Ho-Mundas have recently intensified their agitation in favor of their demands. This time around greater emphasis is placed on their demand to include their languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Ol is the name of the Santal script invented by the Late Pandit Raghunath Murmu of Mayurbhanj. Warrang-Chiti is the name of the script used in Ho-Munda language. This script was invented by the Late Pandit Lako Badra, of Jhinkpani in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand.

Santals and Hos claim that the arrangements of alphabets in both the languages are done following scientific principles and are perfect for these languages. Their demand is that the textbooks in their languages should use these scripts. Apparently, use of these scripts come into conflict with the use or the possible use of the Devanagari and/or Roman scripts. Other extra-linguistic factors also play an important role in fostering this demand.

People from the Santal and Ho communities have been demanding for the recognition of their scripts as fit vehicles for writing their languages for a long time. Santals and Ho-Mundas have recently intensified their agitation in favor of their demands. This time around greater emphasis is placed on their demand to include their languages in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Ol is the name of the Santal script invented by the Late Pandit Raghunath Murmu of Mayurbhanj. Warrang-Chiti is the name of the script used in Ho-Munda language. This script was invented by the Late Pandit Lako Badra, of Jhinkpani in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand.

Santals and Hos claim that the arrangements of alphabets in both the languages are done following scientific principles and are perfect for these languages. Their demand is that the textbooks in their languages should use these scripts. Apparently, use of these scripts come into conflict with the use or the possible use of the Devanagari and/or Roman scripts. Other extra-linguistic factors also play an important role in fostering this demand.


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M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Bethany College of Missions
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite C
Bloomington, MN 55438, USA
E-mail: thirumalai@languageinindia.com