Importance of learning foreign languages in schools

One important reason for the local workforces’ low skill set is their lacking in language proficiency. Not that linguists are naturally more talented with skills but that professionals without strong backgrounds in languages will eventually expose their credibility. The school education is partly to take the heat for falling behind in this important area.

While its easy to dump the blame on the general shortage of teachers, especially in foreign languages, it really cant be an excuse for a country that was under British colonial rule for 200 years and Turkic-Persian rule for almost a thousand years before that.

Not too long ago conscious Bengali muslim families would make it a point to impart at least four languages (Bangla, Arabic, Persian and English) to their children (mostly sons) in preparation for their entrance examination in the civil services or for higher education at provincial capitals. The shortage of teachers was not acceptable as an option regardless of the geographical disadvantages. The objective was to acquire the language proficiency and the skills needed to compete for a decent job.

English is undoubtedly the most important of all foreign languages in the sub continent. it is quite unfortunate that many people still believe English language is the monopoly of a particular race. South Asians inherited the language through a combination of multi cultural interplay of civilizations and a cross racial experience in education and politics.  The English language in South Asia is indeed a language of South Asia as much as it is the language of Britain, Canada, Australia and America. Knowing this language will result not in any physical transformation but it will boost a person’s ability to communicate effectively with the world.

There is no excuse not to have more skilled teachers in this field. Families 60 years ago did whatever it took to impart that training when life and commuting was a lot harder. It should now be all the more prevalent and customary for any child in any village to build that skill set.

In a globalized HR market competition is fierce. The demand for menial workers in the Middle East will dry out sooner or later. So will the $50 a month minimum wage in the sweat shops. With rising living standards and the impact of globalization class systems will likely come under a greater fire. That sort of situation will not be sustainable by any government. One small spark will have the potential to engulf the entire city into a riot. European countries too have experienced such outbursts in the last few years. Frustrations bottled inside unemployed youth carries the mixture of a deadly social bomb waiting to explode any moment.

“English is not enough”`, those are not the words of a South Asian dreamer but they are in fact the conclusion of a survey conducted by the British government in 2000 under Sir Trevor MacDonald and Sir John Boyd. Britain, an English country (to say the least) understands through such studies, “It is a regrettable fact that for many years, after a strong period in the 1980s, the major foreign languages, French and German, have been in continuous and sometimes dramatic decline in British schools and universities.Britain faces the great task of changing this trend. It is absolutely in this country’s interest that British young people, now and in the future, should be competent in foreign languages. In January 2002 the House of Lords debated the value of foreign language learning. All the speakers agreed that in a globalised world characterised by international links and intercultural connections, linguistic skills and international experience are crucial for employment and career. International skills should have a major part in every young person’s school curriculum”

Urdu or Hindi is a non geographical language. Especially Urdu whose center is Delhi not Islamabad although Pakistanis speak this language in addition to their distinct dialects. Urdu was “designed” by the Turkic-Persian rulers in a way so as to encompass the immensely diversified cultures of the sub con. It was a stroke of genius. The court language continued to be Persian while Urdu spread through the length and breadth of Hindustan, an Arabic-Turkic-Persian name for South Asia for their admiration of the unique and colorful cultures of India.

Satellite TV programs are almost entirely in Urdu though they may originate in states not home to majority Urdu speakers. Pop cultre being an important ingredient of modernity excludes the usage of ancient languages in preference for “fusion” of languages and cultures to suit their multi cultural thoughts.

By now 4 languages have easily made their way to our urban centers, Bangla, English, Urdu and Hindi. There is a fifth language which has traditionally been studied but only for religious reasons. It’s a pity that millions of Arabic readers are denied the opportunity to grasp the language with just a little bit of extra effort. In effect Bangladesh can make us e of 5 languages in their curriculum supported by a high level education policy.

“Why should we learn foreign languages?” This would have been a very normal statement up until the age of the internet gate crashed on it. Individuals thanks to the internet are a member of the global online community at par with anyone else from any international city. Development in internet speed will narrow the gap in cultural exchange in the future. In an environment of multicultural influences knowing multiple languages will further improve and add to our existing skills. The next generation can benefit immensely from the internet in terms of sharpening language skills in addition to old fashioned class room based study. Specialist sites are known deliver learning results through animated teaching online. Children can also be encouraged to enroll for foreign language classes in French, German, Malay and Mandarin at various private language institutes. However, the easiest and the most economical way to boost language skills would be through the public and private school curriculum, online blogs and through the mass media.


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