While I was travelling today, in the same compartment a set of Government servants were returning after attending a workshop to Learn Tamil. There were eight people and one of them was the Tamil trainer and the rest attendees of the workshop. Through out the trip they were trying to apply what they had learnt today, they tried to read the name boards which had Tamil writings and at most times concluded that the name board was wrong. Some were actual errors on the board while the others were due to their course hasn't covered still some finer points (these are old Tamil writings for letters like ணா written in the pre computer style ). They observed that in the Kadugannaawa name board the naa was wrong, balana was written as balaana and so forth. Usually I had got used to bigger funny totally misleading mistakes so these finer points never really raised any alarm before this.
This episode made me wonder why the government servants had been asked to learn the 3rd language and made me wonder for a moment, won't this be a beautiful place where each person knew others language and sentiments blaa bla. My curiosity continued to grow on why all of a sudden they had got a 'liking' to learn 3rd language at this old age. Then luckily I overheard one of them explaining to a fellow passenger that they had to get through a third language exam to get to a certain level in their job. Now this shrugged me out of the dream world I was about to get submerged into and started wondering whether if this was a sustainable solution.
This made me thank about the real goal of learning a 3rd language. I guess its to make sure the two communities can communicate to each other easily and to promote national integration. If this was the goal, instead of making people learn 3rd language why shouldn't we manage using two languages, where we promote and emphasize each person to learn their mother tongue and English. English can be the bridge between the two communities and its obviously much more easier to sell the importance of learning English to either community.
This I consider to be a more practical and versatile option. Forcing people to learn a 3rd language just for the sake of passing an exam to get the promotion is of little use and I think its a waste of time and Energy. I can bet that most people will pass this exam but the application of the language will be zero and most importantly these people does not have any real incentive to use it in day to day activities than to just learn it for the sake of passing the exam passing.
I know I am hitting a nerve wire of criticizing native language learning and promoting the learning of a colonial, western language. But if you evaluate the two options without considering the emotional factor I am sure hands down learning English will be the most practical and sustainable option.