Link language, need of the hour | Daily News

Link language, need of the hour

Now there is a discussion going on in the country about enabling Sri Lankan children to obtain education in the English medium from Grade One. Some argue in support of this move while some are against this move. Anyway this has not been implemented yet. According to some recent media reports, it is to be implemented depending on the results of a pilot project.

Sri Lanka will never walk forward if individuals, groups, organizations, etc., try to implement their own personal agendas in the country with the intention of gaining personal monetary and other benefits. First, Sri Lankans, especially the decision-makers should understand the real requirement of the country. This can be done through an in-depth and long study of the past, present and future. All stakeholders need to be consulted. No decision should be made by individuals and groups without doing so. Divisions on these matters have resulted in tragedies before.

It was July 24 of 1996. The time was around 5.00 pm. I was having tea with my beloved Mother because I was at home that day. I did not have any lectures to attend at the Sri Jayewardenepura University. Suddenly we heard a very loud sound. Both my Mother and I were shocked by the huge sound which came from several miles away from our home. My Mother told me, “Putha, that sound is not something good. It could be a huge bomb. I am very lucky to have you here with me now. Otherwise I will die from a sudden heart attack.”

We finished our tea and waited for some time. Then we went out to lock the gate and watch television for more information. But we could not lock the gate. The entire village was running towards the main road mourning. One end of the main road leads to Panadura Station. People were screaming, “I just got a phone call. The train my son was travelling in was just bombed,” … “Oh my daughter is also travelling by this train at this time,” … “My husband’s phone is dead,”… “My wife’s phone is ringing but no one answers…”

On television we saw what had happened. The burnt clothes. The broken shoes. The sweets carried by parents for their children at home. But today only the people who lost their loved ones on that day remember the incident. All the others forgot it within two weeks’ time as usual. After watching the devastation on television my mother told me something very relevant to our times.

What my beloved Mother told me 25 years ago is relevant to the present day and the future. She told me, “Putha, I went to Jaffna in 1970 with your father. We went there on a private trip. You were inside my womb. We enjoyed that trip a lot.”

I was about to cry because the sweet days we spent as a loving family before the death of my Father came to mind. But I listened to her carefully. “Putha … all vendors in Jaffna by that time such as fish vendors, vegetable vendors, all the other mudalalis in all types of shops in Jaffna spoke fluent English. We enjoyed our trip a lot because we spoke to them without any trouble and we bought everything we wanted even though we did not speak Tamil or Sinhala during our trip to Jaffna. During our very short stay there many vendors became our friends and they were in contact with us for decades.” This was all possible because English was used as a ‘link’ language.

My Mother did not stop there. She said what we should do here in Sri Lanka is to let people learn, work and live with their native language and teach English as a compulsory link language for all Sri Lankans from kindergarten onwards. English should be made compulsory for university entrance, etc.

Then there will be no more communication issues, the issues related to respect, pride, prominence and priority, accurate pronunciation, etc. Passing the subject of English language should be made compulsory for all students who enter universities and all other types of state and private educational institutions. All must speak English before gaining employment. But…unfortunately it seems no one understands this bitter truth, she said. She is no more but her

words still reverberate in my heart.

All the so called ‘experts’, individuals, groups, organizations, etc., who support or oppose the move of introducing English medium education from Grade One for Sri Lankan students who wish to obtain their education in English, do not have any memory of that incident which took place 25 years ago and may be some of them have been born after this tragic incident.

Here in Sri Lanka, no one cares about history but unfortunately history repeats itself. Therefore, it is good to learn from history and walk forward without making the same mistake again and again while hurting different ethnic groups living in Sri Lanka from time to time proposing something useless and poisonous.

We do not need to have so-called ‘border villages’ here in Sri Lanka once again and we do not need to hear loud booms of deadly bombs once again. We do not need to see the devastation caused by bombs inside trains and buses once again. We do not want to see pregnant mothers hacked to death. We do not need to hear the mourning of fathers and mothers who lost their children and the children who lost their fathers and mothers. Simply, we do not need another conflict here in Sri Lanka in connection with language and ethnicity. Enough is enough.

On the other hand, we should not hurt any of the ethnic groups living in Sri Lanka. All languages are equal but no one can force another to learn and speak in another person’s language. It is not acceptable at all. If anyone willingly does it, all can accept it. But unfortunately, what has been happening here in Sri Lanka for several decades is forcing people to lean an unfamiliar language of another ethnic group.

What practically happens is, people somehow manage to pass the relevant mandatory language Proficiency Test or Examination in order to be promoted to the next grade in their workplaces or to get the salary increment and totally forget the language they learned just after acquiring what they want (such as a promotion, salary hike, etc.).

 

No matter whether they learned the language or passed the relevant examination, they just forget the whole thing considering it useless and do not communicate in the new language they learned. No public servant is able to effectively communicate in the new language they had learned. They just learn it to pass the relevant compulsory test or examination and then totally ignore and forget the new language they learned. They do not have any interest at all to communicate using the new language they learned. They just swallowed the bitter pill to cure the disease and that is it.

What should be done is totally stopping forcing people to learn another unfamiliar language of another ethnic group and make English compulsory for all ethnic communities living in Sri Lanka. A compulsory English examination should be introduced for all Sri Lankan citizens in order to obtain any private or state employment and this examination should include an adequate level of English with an oral part in addition to listening and writing.

Only then will all Sri Lankans who are employed in any job be able to effectively communicate in English and this link language will cultivate ethnic harmony, respect and recognition for all ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. In addition, Sri Lankans will be able to go abroad and find employment in any country in the world.

Fluency in English will open the gate of knowledge of the world for all Sri Lankans. Communal hatred will vanish to thin air. English will not be a ‘kaduwa’ (sword) any longer.

At the moment an adequate number of qualified English school teachers has been deployed in Sri Lanka in order to implement this language policy. All resources are available at the moment and nothing more is required. What is required is a policy decision. That is all.


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