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Mother tongue helps master English
- British Council survey links Queen’s language to yours

Children good in their mother tongue are also very proficient in English, says a survey conducted by British Council in collaboration with non-government organisation Pratham.

And those not familiar with their mother tongue are just as weak in English. The survey, conducted between 2007 and 2012 at various places in the country, also highlighted that elder students in a classroom had better command over English than younger ones. Many such interesting facts emerged at a discussion British Council organised at a city hotel on Wednesday. “The theme was ‘English Medium Instruction: Boon or Curse?”

Andy Curtis, a professor at the School of Graduate Education at Anaheim University, California, and Debanjan Chakrabarti, head, English Policy Research and Publications (India) at British Council India, were the main speakers. “If you are learning English, it does not mean you are going against your mother tongue. I believe the more languages you learn, the more you learn about various cultures and the better human being you become. I am a multi-lingual person and it helps me a lot,” said Curtis, also the president of international organisation Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). He threw light on some misconceptions about learning English and foreign languages and the approach required to teach English in classrooms.

“Teachers need to include content-based instructions and focus on task-based teaching and learning and proper implementation of communicative language teaching to make their teaching effective. English medium instruction could prove to be a curse for those who don’t need English in future or those learning English from teachers who are not very adept in this very particular language. English medium instruction would always be good for those who would have to deal with English in future and those who are learning the language from a good teacher.”

Chakrabarti talked about the grim situation of language teaching in educational institutions. “The scenario of language teaching is pretty grim. The general perception is that if you are good in mathematics or science, you can crack IIT, UPSC and other competitive examinations. But people hardly bother to find out whether a person is rich in any language. All languages, be it English, Bengali or Hindi, are facing a similar problem. People are not keen to learn a language. This is the real crisis,” said Chakrabarti.

Chakrabarti later talked about the initiatives taken by British Council to promote English in the country. “We have been working with nearly a dozen state governments in India to improve English language teaching in educational institutions. Over 8 lakh teachers were involved in this exercise since 2007. We need to understand what approach to take for teaching English in classrooms, what works and what does not.”

Chakrabarti said British Council had planned a series of lectures by Professor Curtis to help improve English teaching in classrooms.


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