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A MULTILINGUAL APPROACH TOWARDS LANGUAGE TEACHING IN INDIAN SCHOOLS
B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
1. MAKE LEARNING ADDITIONAL LANGUAGES A RELEVANT EXERCISE
In this paper, I would like to identify and discuss an approach that may enable us to teach several languages simultaneously in the Indian multilingual educational context. Such an approach or method will answer the concerns of students, parents, and educationists who often consider learning several languages either simultaneously or successively within the school curriculum is a burden imposed on the school children with no explicit benefits either to them or to the nation. A practical approach such as the one presented here will make learning additional languages a relevant exercise for all. I am presenting only an outline of my proposal.
2. KEY TO THE PROBLEM - TEACHERS' SEEING THEMSELVES AS SPECIALISTS
This paper is divided into two parts. In the present part I review the existing lack of inter-relationship between the mother tongue or first language, second language, and third language teaching in Indian schools. In the second part, to be published in the next month's issue of Language in India, I discuss specifically the methods and approaches that we may adopt to teach the languages simultaneously in the curriculum. The key to the problem is a better understanding of the present context of language teaching in Indian schools, and a vigorous thrust to encourage the teachers to see themselves as specialists in dealing with various types of language learning situations.
3. LINGUISTIC CO-EXISTENCE AS THE ESSENTIAL FEATURE OF INDIAN LINGUISTIC LANDSCAPE
The Indian linguistic landscape presents a picture of coexistence of more than one and sometimes more than two or three languages almost throughout the country. Any discussion on language teaching should take this factor into consideration.
4. APPROACH, METHOD, AND TECHNIQUE
Language teaching comprises three basic aspects (Anthony 1972). They are approach, method, and technique.
4. THE CONTEXT OF EVOLUTION
The Context of evolution of an approach towards language teaching is an important issue. Every approach towards teaching language has evolved in a defined social and linguistic context. Every approach is context-sensitive and is context-defined. Thus, the linguistic context will define the approach to be followed in teaching languages in the schools. Most language teaching methods and approaches currently practiced in India have evolved mostly in monolingual and rarely in bilingual contexts. These approaches and methods usually assume ideal conditions of language teaching and language learning. Since Indian schools present a bi/multilingual situation, we may have to have a second look at the approaches currently used for language teaching.
5. THE INFORMAL LANGUAGE-LEARNING SCENARIO
The Informal language-learning scenario shows that the students, who acquire more than one language informally, acquire these languages without being conscious of learning these languages. In many contexts around the country, two or more languages are acquired informally, sometimes even simultaneously, from the early childhood stage. When these children come to the school, they are already bilinguals or multi-linguals. This happens because they are exposed to many languages in the market, media, and in most of their surroundings and situations because in these environments more languages coexist. Here the learning more than one language is integrated in the day-to-day life, in a natural process.
6. THE LACK OF FUNCTIONAL AND INTEGRATIVE LANGUAGE LEARNING
The National Policy on Language Education in India recognizes this fact and recommends the teaching of a minimum of three languages through schooling for functional and integrative purposes.
As far as the actual language teaching is concerned, there is some comparability, if not similarity, across the States and Union territories and across the languages.
7. SHOULD THE CURRICULUM OBJECTIVES BE IDENTICAL OR SIMILAR?
The Curriculum objectives for the teaching of the three languages almost look alike across the states. For example, in Karnataka, sometimes the objectives listed for the teaching of Kannada as a Mother tongue or First language seem to be the translation of the objectives listed for the teaching of English as a Second language or Third language, and the objectives for the teaching of Hindi as a Third language look more like a shortened or abbreviated list of the objectives for the teaching of the other two languages. The quantum of language being taught and the year from which they are taught do differ. But gradually attempts are made to introduce them as early as possible in the schools.
8. THE REVERSE GEAR
Three years ago, the Karnataka State decided to introduce the school students to the developments in the field of IT and took some of the practical aspects of the IT revolution into the class rooms. Students with Kannada as the first language and medium of instruction had some difficulty to cope up with the use of the information given to them in English, or part English and part Kannada. Since the information was not made available readily in the regional language, people started talking about the introduction of functional English in the schools. The very next year the same government started to speak about the need for functional Kannada as if Kannada the first language/mother tongue being taught is not functional. Perhaps there is some justification for this demand from the government because the mother tongue textbook continues to be literature-oriented.
9. TEXTBOOKS AS TOOLS FOR MINIMAL ACHIEVEMENT
The Textbooks are prepared in order to accomplish the minimum levels of learning to be achieved in each standard. While those who prepare the textbooks have begun to give some serious attention to certain learning principles like from the simple to the complex, easy to difficult, concrete before abstract, etc., actually applying these principles to the production of language textbooks is not masterful. As a result, the textbooks appear to be a hindrance to better learning, and the teachers are not equipped to make things simpler and easier to learn, without losing the quality.
10. AVOID TRAINING AUTONOMOUS LANGUAGE TEACHERS
The Teacher education scheme for the language teachers has a different structure. At present, the training of different language teachers like the Mother tongue teacher, Hindi teacher, English teacher, takes place in isolation. Teaching each language is considered autonomous. Language teaching is not looked upon as a unified concept to understand and practice. Similarities and commonalities of the methods are neither used nor exploited to teach or improve language education.
11. THE LANGUAGE TEACHING SCENARIO IN THE CLASSROOM
The language-teaching scenario in the classroom gives yet another picture. The language teachers, whether they teach first, second or third language, follows almost the same pattern of teaching their students in introducing the text, and practicing the items that are taught. They seem to adopt the question and answer skills. The evaluation methodology, used to evaluate the achievement and performance of the learners, is almost the same. And there is very less interaction among the different language teachers to discuss the language teaching and learning process.
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REFERENCEAnthony, E. M. (1972) Approach, Method, and Technique, in Allen and Campbell,(eds.)Teaching English as a Second Language: A Book of Readings. TATA McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Ltd., Bombay.
This is a revised version of the paper I presented in the Seminar on Teachers, Textbooks, and Technology held at Delhi University from Feb 1 to 3, 2002.
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B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore 570006, India
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