Friday, May 27, 2011

Third Language for Promotion!

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.


  1. I have mixed feelings about this.

    First of all, I think whatever the purpose of the learning is, still it is a good thing if you do learn another language, specially if it is Tamil or Sinhala if you are a Sri Lankan.

    You point about it's effectiveness is valid, but this at least is a start.

    I, personally, always wanted to learn but one thing or another prevented me, my laziness being in the forefront too. A/Ls, Uni, then work all and it kind of got lost. So even today, if I had the opportunity I would think I'd put some effort into it even without any incentive.

    Well there are incentives; for instance you won't be able to curse me in front of me anymore. Also you know where I lived back in SL there were a lot of Muslims who also speak Tamil. We got along quite well, but who knows if the buggers are going behind my back when for example they're trying to sell me something. Always worth knowing.

  2. machan I beg to differ on this, this option for me falls into the "something is better than nothing option". I doubt making it compulsory and evaluating using an exam will in anyway make them give a better service to the other community at operational level.

    btw given those are your incentives I have a lot of reasons to prevent u from learning

  3. What's the alternative? Gotta start somewhere, right?

  4. I agree we need to start..What I propose is to make English the common language.. I might be being very pessimistic here...but as I see for more than 50 years our communities had not been able to learn each others language and all of a sudden to expect them to learn it to get a promotion? I doubt it

  5. At least for government servants it's a must Sayya.. Specially if they are asked to serve in places with higher Tamil speaking community ..Many people struggle with language barrier, and in SL, these matters can be worse unlike in other countries.. Remember during Tsunami visit.. It was so great we had you and Sara there.. I was kind of ashamed not been able to understand those people said.. and learning English is a must as I see.. However in rural areas we still do not have enough resources to do that ..but we should go there someday .. At least need to start it from Schools .. ( We had to learn Tamils in grade 4-6 , I was so bad in it, and I had a monster like teacher, so that's one reason I didn't like it, but still like to learn it. )