4 July, 2022

Blog

Should English Be Lanka’s National language?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

English is the only feasible option as a link language between Lanka’s communities; anyone who thinks otherwise inhabits a fool’s paradise. Ninety-nine percent of young Sinhalese will not learn Tamil, why should they, what purpose does it serve? Only young Tamils living in the South or intending to move to the South for business or employment will bother with Sinhala. Both however are desperate to improve their ability to communicate, read technical and non-technical material, use the Web and even speak English. They need the world’s lingua franca; they are, very wisely, wild about it. English in all its manifestations is the world’s lingua franca. As first languages we have British and Canadian English, a near equivalent they speak in America, and it is the first language in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand – in practice the only language in the latter two. Over 50 countries recognise English as an official language. Close upon two billion people the world over use it as a first, second or third language. Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken, and Chinese is written, by over a billion people in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines but as a global lingua franca its importance is nil.

As a second or third language as many people can manage some English in the Subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) as the entire population of the United States. It is entrenched in South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, most of eastern and southern Africa, the Caribbean and the Philippines as an official language and medium of instruction in schools and universities. The Swedes, Norwegians, Danes and Belgians have better diction than people living in East London or the United States. Graduate students across China I have found on my many research and lecture visits are enthusiastic about English because they want to access the world’s top journals and the very best among them want to publish in these journals. The French pretend they don’t speak or understand English. Bollocks! They jolly well do. Do I need to tell you any of this; all stale news you will say.

English is, has been and will always be Lanka’s link language. It is and will always be, de facto, a national language. However I am a pessimist in that it is hard to make it the medium of instruction in secondary and tertiary education though the case in favour is unassailable. In the alternative we will have no link language at all! If it had been fostered post-1956 there would have been less racial bloodshed in Ceylon-Sri Lanka. The question nevertheless right now is should it be made the language of secondary and tertiary education? Should English be formerly recognised as the principal national language as in Singapore, where to all intents and purposes it is THE only national language? Chinese, Malay and Tamil hang around within communities and mostly among older people. Singaporeans of all social classes increasingly use English as their home language; they are cannier than Lankan’s who have cut their noses to spite their faces. We had a head start and squandered it just as we did with our economic potential. Day by day we are falling behind Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Bangladesh, Nigeria, the Philippines and even the Pacific Islands. But hallelujah! We have our parliamentarians who can neither speak nor understand this damnable colonial encumbrance. Damn Imperialism! Damn English! Damn our future! If we don’t have it, we will take the whole nation down with us!

Admittedly it is not easy to make English Lanka’s principal language or even universal link language now. To achieve the former, it will take two generations and the latter one generation even with the greatest effort. The obstacle to the latter is lack of teachers. When senior officers in the public and private sector are dumb in both spoken and written English (I have many friends who are otherwise very smart) what do you expect from lowly paid school teachers? It’s a monumental task but it has to be shouldered. The money has to be found. If the billions of dollars squandered on plane-less airports, spectator-less stadiums and audience-less concert halls had been spent on education instead of Paksa-Plunder, think how much could have been achieved. The opponents of enhancing the role English in education will be monks, ultra-nationalists, sufferers from inferiority complexes and the plain jealous.

The ability to use simple English in the adult population will require two generation to take root. It will happen naturally when the generations that have been secondary and tertiary schooled in English grow up and become parents. It certainly took Singapore more than one generation notwithstanding Lee Kwan Yue’s piercing vision and iron fist. The great point about India is that nobody is against the improvement of English and the spread of English in education, science & technology, business and in Internet activity. This is one reason why the economy is making significant progress and Indians has made world class advances in science, and its computer scientists dominate Silicon Valley and head the world’s leading IT firms (Alphabet, Microsoft, Twitter, Adobe, IBM and a few others). “Indian” authors writing in English have excelled not only at home but also in Pakistan the Caribbean and of course the UK; Sri Lanka has produced but a handful. This last comment is en passant; Shakespeare, Keats and Naipaul are not my point, pragmatic concerns are what I have in mind.

To repeat, English is the preferred global language of science and technology, tertiary education, diplomacy, the Internet, aviation, business, entertainment and culture the world over. Now a possible worry; if in Lanka the use of English becomes widespread and if it becomes the language of secondary and tertiary while the vernaculars are employed in primary education and used as home languages, will it gradually weaken the national cultural ethos? To be perfectly honest and peering just two generations down the line my answer is “I really don’t know”. Sinhala drama, creative writing, broadcasting and media, vibrant conversation, political debate and sloganeering are alive and flourishing. Tamil within Sri Lanka is less active in some of these domains such as cinema but strong in others. Will a stronger role of English lead to a weakening of some of this? Will English language cinema and drama (remember the old University Dram Soc.) make a reappearance? It will and that’s good. Language is a living entity and like all living things it must partake of the rough and tumble of life and share in the process of survival in the face of what history and community find fittest. All languages have changed and evolved with time; their role in society are as transient as the Buddha said of all things. The South African Constitution extends recognition to eleven languages to, in part, protect their cultural and local heritages, but will some of them fade in the next fifty or one hundred years? I have no clue. However, language use decisions made each day cannot be decided by loyalty to concerns about historical preservation; they have to correspond to pragmatic social needs of the day. Let the future take care of itself, right now we have certain practical needs to serve.

I anticipate howls of protest and offers of instant lynching in response to this column. But the point is this; from every person one expects integrity, financial integrity from all, from politicians integrity to their own cause even if one has a different perspective from theirs, and from the intellectual integrity to reason (harmless old Socrates paid the price for simply saying what he thought was reasonable). Since Edward Saeed there have not been many who said what had to be said even when it was unpopular with the masses (and the powerful). Nevertheless It is good to boldly ponder the future role of English in Sri Lanka.

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Latest comments

  • 24
    3

    Should English Be Lanka’s National language? Kumar David poses a no-brainer!
    .
    There are two areas that interest me. Language and Learning. Communication and Knowledge.
    .
    If we forget racial factors for a moment, we, who should be a leading nation in the Indian Ocean region have fallen behind because of ignoring English language learning. (I have no time for those who wish to differ. So, keep your wisdom to yourselves!)
    .
    I cannot agree with Kumar David on his ‘excuses’ for not making English a principal language. Nothing is achieved when you don’t venture.

    • 5
      11

      I wonder what the medium of instruction is in most Asian countries to the east of India, and to the west of Pakistan.
      A country with perhaps the most awkward script to learn is now streets ahead of the West in many sectors of technology.

    • 7
      1

      I doubt there is any need to actively promote English as a link language. The rise of SMS messaging and the smartphone have made it the default language.

      • 20
        2

        To hell with English ….. and the rest of the crap.

        Sex is the common link language humans have spoken from time immemorial.

        Learn to speak it well ….. all problems will disappear.

        When people are deficient in that language ……. and the inexperience teachers have no clue what to teach ….. things end up in pestilence, war, famine, and death …….

        Here in beautiful Ljubljana in absolutely breathtaking Slovenian …….. people are happy …. they have good teachers …..

        Time to send Sinhala_Man ….. and the rest of the teachers back to school! :))

      • 0
        0

        OC
        Wait for the day of PINYIN messages

    • 6
      3

      What a world difference across palk straight. In India, we south Indian condemned when union minister asked to communicate in hindhi than in English whereas there people still argue fir English as lingua franca. I proposed this when there was arguement. A book with one side on vernacular medium other side with same stuff in English so students can master both English and their mother tongue. Second subjects like maths science should be taught only in English and subjects like history can be taught in native medium. This balances growth of both native medium and English. English what lifted my life and the indicators India achieved is due to English

      • 2
        0

        m
        I also know that in Tamilnadu one can go from primary school to graduation from a university without knowing a word of Tamil. But In Karnataka you cannot pass through even primary school without a knowledge of Kannada.
        Annadurai & Co were happy to have English. They never fought for their languages.
        Nice t know that English lifted your life, will it do the same for the protesting peasants?
        *
        “A book with one side on vernacular medium other side with same stuff in English”
        Half the book will not be read, and you know which by whom.

  • 29
    2

    The article is written with good intention. I agree with the author that English should be used as a link-language and possibly as the language of instruction of from 8th grade to university. This kind of approach will be accepted by majority of the minority communities (Tamils, Muslims, Burgers etc). However, it will be a Himalayan task even to talk about this concept among the sinhala-buddisht community. The simple reason is politicians and the buddhist monks, they will vehemently oppose this concept, as it will make them redundant in their community. Ceylon was under colonial powers for more than 300 years, did we loose our mother tongue during that long period? The answer is a big “NO”, implying our mother tongues will never disappear when English is accepted as a Link-language.

    • 7
      12

      V
      What proportion of the population needs English? An elite is trying to impose it on everybody in the name of link language.
      *
      English cannot cure us our respective racist attitudes.
      Three Tamil speaking nationalities speak one language– see how well they get along! Even the N&E Tamils are split on various regional grounds, and now religion (thanks to religious bigotry).

    • 1
      2

      “The answer is a big “NO”, implying our mother tongues will never disappear when English is accepted as a Link-language.”
      Your language is fast drowning in English thanks to the commercialization and the entertainment industry.
      Can you call much of the speech in Tamilnadu ‘Tamil’?

  • 19
    3

    Restitution of English will surely catapult the nadir Srilankan IQ to a rational value and restore sanity in the whole country for sure and rid the country of the bigot.

  • 15
    3

    when we obtained independence we should have copied 3 things that lee kuan yew did for singapore.

    1.meritocracy.

    2.The way we handle the exchange rate.

    3.English to be made a official language.

    we won’t be in this plight today if we had done that.It is never too late to do it now.

    Better later than never.To make mistakes is human.To repeat mistakes is stubborn and lack of wisdom.It was Einstein who said repeating the same experiment over and over is the definition of insanity.have our leaders been insane since independnce and should they have been sent to angoda?We have never done a psychiatric evaluation of them have we.

    • 7
      1

      i should have said einstein said repeating the same experiment over and over and expecting different results is the definition f insanity.

  • 7
    1

    what did lord bhuddha say about anicca-impermanence.Nothing lasts,nothing is going to be the same.

    so why are our leaders so shy to make changes.If we don’t do it we will nd up with dukkha -suffering and anyway will have to face a changed country and society one day after a lot of painful suffering.

    what lord bhuddha was saying is don’t be afraid of change.everything changes.nothing is permanent.

    we did not change our non meritocracy policies because we got attached to sinhala bhuddhism.We did not change our way we handle the economy and exchange rate because we got attached to the easy way of doing things to get benefits .We did not change our language policies because we got attached too much to the sinhala language.Even tamil becoming official was after a hard fight.

    In singapore lee kuan yew made english,mandarin and malay official as soon as he took over.He was not deeply attached to mandarin.he followed lord bhuddha’s advice on attachment and not to take it too far because the detachment will become very difficut to bear one day.

    • 4
      16

      Shankar,
      “He was not deeply attached to mandarin.he followed lord bhuddha’s advice on attachment and not to take it too far because the detachment will become very difficut to bear one day.”
      —-
      If separatist Vellala Tamil politicians in Yapanaya followed Buddha’s advice and detached themselves from their attachment to Tamil language and encouraged Tamils to learn Sinhala, the language of the majority community who accommodated them in their country instead of telling them not to learn Sinhala because of the fear that it could jeopardize their plan to create a separate State for Tamils in Yapanaya, situation in Sinhale/Sri Lanka could have been different.
      Now, learning Tamil is compulsory for Sinhala students and learning Sinhala is compulsory for Tamil speaking students up to Grade 9 but in reality this does not happen. In Sinhala schools teachers have been recruited to teach Tamil but in the North, the Provincial Council does not recruit teachers to teach Sinhala.

      • 8
        2

        eagle eye

        Lord bhuddhas advice is universal for all human beings irrespective of their race.

        Too much attachment to tamil language is not good.Tamil leaders need not encourage tamils to learn sinhalese,but should certainly not resist it as it will be beneficial for tamils to be multilingual.Learning english should be encouraged as tamils will be trilingual then.Sinhalese will help them to live in sri lanka,but english will help them to live in the world and communicate with the world.

  • 9
    0

    ………….As first languages we have British and Canadian English, a near equivalent they speak in America………….says Prof: David.
    George Bernard Shaw famously remarked that English has not been spoken in America for years………….

    If a survey is undertaken in the urban centres within Srilanka a good many would show more than an interest to learn English.
    Since 1956,Srilanka has gone one full cycle [or several?] to realize the foolhardiness and misplaced sense of Nationalism in rejecting English.

    So, Prof:David need not worry about howls of protest and offer of instant lynching…………….

  • 6
    11

    “You, Sir, despite your seemingly leftist credentials, appear to suffer a colonial mindset” is what Dr David might be told, as part of the proverbial lynching he rightly predicts :-)

    • 5
      0

      “You, Sir, despite your seemingly leftist credentials, appear to suffer a colonial mindset”
      SA.Velan,

      You cannot ignore the fact that every Sri Lankan or Other neighbours that English has become a normal communication language even though that it is not a National language. The “Suyabasa” system in Sri Lanka is completely failed to bring the trust between communities. It is not about the mindset suffer but that is a practical solution like now every one wearing trouser, having bread and cutting cakes for Birth days.

    • 6
      7

      SAV
      I will not call for lynching the retired left.

  • 9
    30

    “English is the only feasible option as a link language between Lanka’s communities; anyone who thinks otherwise inhabits a fool’s paradise. “
    *
    That makes the author’s neo-colonial conversion complete.

    • 10
      6

      SJ

      english has nothing to do with colonialism.It has everything to do with giving a fair go to individuals who are competing with each other.For example how would you like a person competing with another in a swimming race no wearing goggles while the other has one.Or a person running in athletics with a inferiour pair of shoes while the others are competing with expensive running shoes.This happens very often to our lads and lassies when competing in international events with poor diet,shoes,training etc.Teaching english to our people from chilhood helps them compete better internationally and makes it comfortable for people to communicate with us from all over the world as it is the international link and business language.

      Why do you think our leaders like SWRD while hollering that we should learn sinhala only sent their children overseas education so that they learn in english.

      patriotism and nationalism is the last refuge of scoundrels.Are you one of those?

      • 8
        3

        Shankar,
        Not only SWRD sent their children for overseas studies he also
        studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Christ Church, Oxford.

        • 4
          11

          A
          One more of your shots in the dark?
          Your contempt for facts is bewildering!
          All of SWRDB’s children completed their schooling in Colombo, and he was killed before they completed school.
          In his time, there was no university in Ceylon.

      • 5
        7

        English in former British colonies has everything to do with colonialism.
        British rule eliminated three languages in the British isles.
        East Asia advanced by educating and working in their own languages and using English as necessary.
        SWRDB was not the father of Swabasha education. That came well before he was elected. Under SWRDB education in Tamil was on par with that in Sinhala. The Official Language department produced matching numbers of glossaries in both languages.
        It was a small group of privileged Tamils (including academics) that undermined higher education in the sciences in Tamil.
        Please check what the rest of the world does about education and commerce in their countries. English comes in only fora limited number of purposes where it is absolutely necessary.
        *
        Our blinkered colonial outlook does not allow us to see sideways.
        Even the Latin Americans despite US domination use Spanish or Portuguese for all their activities. With China playing a bigger global role the need for English could even shrink in much of Asia.

        • 3
          6

          As for your uncalled for dig, let me assure you that one can be unpatriotic and be a bigger scoundrel.
          Are you unpatriotic?

          • 3
            5

            sj

            iam not patriotic nor unpatriotic.I follow the middle path espoused by Lord Bhuddha who said not to go to extremes.Will i be born a sri lankan in next birth?

            • 6
              6

              Even SWRDB said that he followed the middle path.
              I merely responded to your dig.
              *
              It may be good to check what you may be born as before checking where.
              Did the Buddha assure heaven or hell or even a designer rebirth by taking the middle path?
              Wonder what he meant by ‘anatta’?

        • 2
          2

          SJ

          “East Asia advanced by educating and working in their own languages and using English as necessary.”

          east asia’s advancement was not due to their native languages.It was due to their hard work ethic and discipline and the ambition and intelligence to become the best in the world.These qualities are less in the south asians. Who knows where the east asians would be if they had studied english too from childhood.

          but the east asians are at breaking point now.Their work culture is taking its toll and suicides are many.I doubt whether the younger generation will follow the older ones path of work,work,and work only in their life.I know a korean who workds everyday till 9pm and works on saturday and has only sunday to do his washing and shopping for groceries.Their life work balance is not there.

          we do not want our fun loving easy goingpeople to become like that.However we can eradicate corruption by jailing the high and mighty and also make our people more productive and competitive and pay them accordingly what they deserve.

          • 6
            6

            The point is that we have people who cannot even breathe properly without English.
            The East Asians did extremely well without English.
            Does that not say something about the mysterious ‘magic of English’?
            If we lack something that they have, let go for that rather than praising the glory of the colonial maters tongue.
            *
            BTW
            Do you do your arithmetic in English or Tamil?
            Even after decades of teaching in English, I still do my sums in Tamil.
            It is a far more scientific language than any in Europe.

      • 6
        6

        It was the language of the colonial master who destroyed three major Celtic languages in the British isles.
        It was the language by which they ruled the colonies.
        See below for my comment on your “sent their children overseas education” bit.
        Do not shoot in the dark, you may hurt yourself.

  • 6
    0

    An Outsider’s Perspective.
    *
    Yes – it makes sense. However it will never happen imho.
    *
    The last thing your Politicians want are educated people – they might start asking too many difficult questions!
    *
    English ability will mean people can access information (on the Internet) and learn some very important truths about their so called “leaders”

    • 2
      0

      UK citizen

      you are right.The british also never educated everyone in their colonies because i think they felt the same as you,that educated people would become a threat to them.Our politicians too i suppose too would like a lot of semi educated people so that those people will have to totally rely on them for their sustenance and hopes.

      After C.W.Kannangara started free education attitudes of the educated yuth changed towards their rulers especially when they did not find jobs that were commensurate to their education and violent uprisings such as the JVP insurrection started.

      Hoever cw.kannangara did the right thing y giving everyone a fair go and making education free.However no one gets a free lunch in this world.The qualityof the free education our people got was poor.They got only literary and numeracy skills.

    • 1
      0

      “The last thing your Politicians want are educated people – they might start asking too many difficult questions!”

      Educated franchise over adult franchise termed elitist since Soulbury
      ……just look at Aragalaya.
      D.S papa and Ramanathan may have had a dream

    • 4
      4

      UK C
      They use other languages as well on the Internet.

  • 5
    3

    Should English Be Lanka’s National language? No. Compassion is the common language for all Sri Lankans: In words, and most importantly in deeds.

    Buddha will smile in his grave if that happens!

    • 5
      7

      I thought that the Buddha was cremated.
      It may be his relics that will be laughing rather than smiling at what goes on in his name.

  • 1
    7

    No absolutely not

  • 2
    9

    It is much better to learn “C” than english. you can make a lot of money. and be relevant for decades.

    • 8
      2

      Need some English to learn C

      • 5
        7

        Not a lot though.
        A tourist guide may need more.

        • 12
          1

          This is the guy who objected to my starting a degree in computer science at U. of Peradenya saying it can be learnt in streetside tutories. The students voted with their meet in the merit-based choosing of speciality. CS was no. 1 for the top students. Sivasegaram’s mechanical sank to just ahead of chem. eng. attracting the worst performers in the exams (with the exception of one or two who really wanted to read mechanical engineering). That frustration seems to linger on.

          • 1
            8

            ok lets be clear. the one who started the Computer Engineering in pera was neither of you but Gunda. and in my opinion, he was the one who taught me the most in my life and helped me to be where I am. You taught me how to learn and I still do it as old as I am.

            • 9
              0

              Hi a14445, are you serious that the late Prof G taught? The man is no more, so I won’t speak ill of him, but I would beg of you to reflect a bit on that claim.

              • 0
                5

                Absolutely. What he taught best was how to learn and how to adapt as an engineer in an ever-changing world. That was more important than any controls theory or power electronics lecture.

                In addition to that, he remained a friend throughout.

                The ones who hated it were the ones who learned to be spoonfed. They(the majority) hated him for that.

            • 4
              1

              Thanks
              Gunda was never a person to make claims about his achievements.

          • 3
            8

            I know someone who wanted to start engineering in Jaffna with nothing on ground. That lunacy was sunk by a few wise dons of the university.
            Prof Walgama may be able to tell us a little about how the “Computer Engineering” proposal sank.

          • 8
            0

            Jaffna man , that is exactly makes the guy a complete retired Silly Lankan Leftist. Stidied in English to be a Professor of some thing and now calling KD , elite and neo colonist for suggesting English as official language and medium of education so that younger generation too can gain.

            • 3
              5

              Watch out when you rush to bear other balls: the man with the glass ball may resent it.

          • 0
            0

            Jaffna Man, Can excessive reading of mechanical engineering lead to mechanical / stereotype thinking ???

  • 9
    0

    All schools in SL should teach all 3 languages–English Singhalese and Tamil. We are all proud the way Rasamanickkam speaks all 3 languages freely. He speaks the TRUTH in the parliament and in the public.
    We need more teachers to teach all 3 languages in the school. One can see how much Rajapaksas are dependent on a few SLPP members(like Prof.G L P who can speak English fluently..

    • 1
      0

      we can ask teachers from UK,canada,US,australia and NZ to come and teach us english.

      i am sure there are organisations that would fund this or at least subsidize it.

      Getting our own teachers will be like blind leading the blind.For fan they will say pan.

      • 1
        0

        also the village thug might be appointed as the english teacher by the govt for a fat salary.NGO’s and overseas governments who like to spread the language is the way to go for us.There are people in this world who are very committed to spreading their language and it makes them feel that they are doing a patriotic job like SJ.

        • 3
          3

          Shankar
          Are you still smarting about the response to yours on “patriotism”?
          Sorry if it hurt badly. But then there are things said about glass house residents.
          Discussion can (not will though) be sensible when one avoids personal abuse. But one cannot help it when losing an argument.
          BTW
          Now we have a government with the full blessings of the US and its prime European colony. they will send ‘their thugs’ the way criminals were sent to the ‘down under’ some centuries ago. Unemployment will soon be an issue, and they will have plenty of unemployables to ‘help’ us.

      • 4
        4

        Shankar
        “we can ask teachers from UK,canada,US,australia and NZ to come and teach us english.”
        Had you got out of sleep when you made this comment?

        • 0
          2

          SJ

          it is called brainstoming.Not necessariy the solution but would lead to healthy discussion that could come out with modified solutions in different scenarios.

  • 5
    2

    The option for Sri Lanka is to have Sinhala, Tamil and English as official languages

  • 5
    1

    The best rational policy would be to make Sinhala, Tamil, and English (all) official languages. In the chapter on language in the constitution, there is immense confusion. Why should we make a difference between national language and official language? More rational, equitable, practical and outward looking chapter is necessary. It is through English that we (people) can communicate with the outside world.

    • 9
      0

      Laksiri , in India a person can study and communicate in any number of Languages as theywish.Though many study in English, we still have to communicate in local/ regional language to be a successful physician. English has never been a sensitive issue as in Lanka but Hindi is, when forced by governments.( so that, not to become another Lanka) . Many study Hindi as language and communicate when necessary. Simple example is currently regional movies are made in multiple languages including Hindi for “Pan India reach”.

      • 6
        0

        Chiv, I used to visit some places in India in late 1980s for some education project work. Average fluency of English of educated people (say graduates), was far far better than graduates in Sri Lanka. The reason is most of them have studied their degrees in English. This is an advantage in many respects and areas. I had the same experience when doing my masters in Canada (1974-76). Here in Australia, I have recently come across young men and women coming from Nepal to work in the health sector. I don’t think Sri Lanka can promote such a group to Australia fluent in English. Promotion of English of course should not neglect Sinhala or Tamil.

  • 10
    2

    Strictly relevant comments. PART ONE of Two Parts
    .
    Since two comments that I submitted, after those by Nathan and Velu, haven’t appeared yet let me now submit them again, slightly edited.
    .
    Kumar’s article covers the ground well. When I first read it, there were no comments.
    .
    During the past two months, since realisation dawned that Sri Lanka is destined to be a poor country for a long time to come, the clamour to learn English has grown.
    .
    At all levels. Velu, I don’t think you have to worry about Sinhalese-Buddhist racists damping the burning desire. But that there are almost no teachers now is true. I used to be a teacher, but I’m not one any more. I have given up; I’m still following what is happening. I discuss; I advise, but I have opted out. Teaching requires effort and energy; I don’t have them any more.
    .
    Languages are most easily absorbed from infancy; absorption gets less effective, as the child gets older. That ability to absorb appears to cease with the onset of puberty. Thereafter, the effort has to be more cognitive.

    • 10
      2

      PART TWO
      .
      However, there now is the possibility of self-learning via the internet. The variety makes learning for long periods less arduous. I especially suggest the excellent YouTube programmes that abound.
      .
      The possibilities are there, but what is offered must vary with consideration of who is to be taught. You can’t indiscriminately use the same techniques and material irrespective of whether the learners are toddlers, those who have just completed their O. Levels, or A. Levels.
      .
      Normal children learn; but in Lanka, from infancy, kids are regimented out of spontaneity. One obvious activity that has been neglected for the past fifty years is recording oneself speaking. English teachers don’t do it. It used to be difficult; but now smart-phones are ubiquitous.
      .
      And there are those who want to migrate; a huge swell. They want to get to “white countries”. They have little idea of the standards expected. Although for some it will be impossible (and the sooner they face reality the better) the swell is so great now that English will spread. But let those who have no commitment to this country do the learning themselves. May they feed well in their “green pastures”.

      • 2
        0

        At least Professor Kumar David tells us all that he can, as clearly as he can. There’s no feedback from the other Faculties, notably the equally prestigious Medical Faculty. Not surprising, considering that the “Meddas” never participated in anything claiming that they had to study every bone and muscle in the body and so never had time for anything “extra curricular”.
        .
        And nothing from the Ministry of Education, which bears out my complaint that they go through the motions of teaching, but without any great conviction that it is of significance.
        .
        The time is 9.52 pm (I gave it ambiguously earlier) – new comments not in yet.
        .
        And so, “the hungry sheep look up and are not fed.” Unless the people show greater spirit and unity, we will be able neither to shake off the Rajapaksas, nor to ensure that those who are left behind as slaves will ever master any language but their Swabasha. This will be not because of the good intentions of Kumar, but because in typical Lankan style we want to hide behind safe boulders and hurl stones at all others.

    • 2
      1

      For the sake of accuracy, I must qualify what I said about “there being no teachers”. My guess is that the Education Ministry itself employs upwards of 20,000 teachers of English.
      .
      I will never tell any of them that they are incompetent, and some of them may be reasonably good teachers. However, the system is such that not much is expected of them. And the material used to teach them (confined to the text book, and no innovation encouraged) is such that standards are levelled down.
      .
      There are the 5% of Lankans who “cannot even breathe without English”, according to SJ. They know what sort of English to go for, and within certain families they maintain those standards. And to their ranks are recruited a handful whose parents have earned money through whatever means (think of Dhammika Perera) who are given English by the “International Schools” in Colombo. Every provincial town also has poor imitations of them. In Bandarawela there are at least two.

    • 2
      1

      Now that the comments are almost at an end, please survey what has come in (81 comments as at 8.42 m):
      .
      Many comments from Professors of Engineering (with PhDs naturally), who are having digs at one another. The youngest, “Jaffna Man” is 69 and would have had Swabasha education in school, but comes from a background with English.
      .
      I don’t know “Singar Velan” at all, but he too is an engineer. I know that “a14455” entered the Engineering Faculty at Peradeniya the same day as I entered the Arts Faculty; he knows (and hates) me but will not reveal who he is. The Professor Gunda he refers to did indeed start computing before it was established as a discipline. The corny references to his not really teaching is because he set the students tasks and forced them to think it all out for themselves. He was personally a nice and simple guy, but was a terror in the E Fac., notorious for failing a majority of the students.

  • 3
    0

    Should English Be Lanka’s National language?

    English should be like the national language all going a broad or to do bussines we need it even in middle east all going there need english for you to get involved and from other country to get involved.

  • 10
    2

    OTHER CONSIDERATIONS – PART ONE of Two – not strictly relevant to language learning, but very relevant to understanding why we don’t progress.
    When people who want to migrate ask for help, I ask them to join the “Aragalaya” and help us rid this land of crooks. Let me also be pilloried as one who doesn’t even know a better English word for our struggle against the Rajapaksa-Wickremasinghe tyranny.
    .
    Language learning requires effort. The motions of teaching English are gone through in all schools, from Kindergarten to tertiary education, but mechanically, with no conviction. Some will challenge what I say. It is not taught in Grade One, they will say. Oh, it is. Primary teachers are asked to use mingle a few words of English with their regular “Swabasha” teaching.
    .
    Some who are reading this will imagine that I am ignorant that teaching is done in the “vernacular languages”. I’m not writing this for the sophisticated Professor Kumar David, who may be an engineer, but needn’t (and don’t worry, wont!) read (may be after clicking on these two links).
    .
    https://daily.jstor.org/black-english-matters/
    .
    https://writingexplained.org/grammar-dictionary/vernacular
    .
    Unsatisfactory! No shortcuts!! I’ll have to explain clearly – basically, language of the servants.

    • 11
      2

      OTHER CONSIDERATIONS – PART TWO of Two

      Vernacular entered English in 1601, and was first used by Anglican Bishop William Barlow in some papers defending the Anglican Church. Before then, it was used in Latin as vernaculars, sometimes specifically in reference to servants and slaves.
      .
      “Yes, yes, but what does it mean today?”
      .
      Those who ask that question, are spot on. Language changes, and to know what the word means when used by Lankans today, one needs to do some THINKING, not be smugly satisfied after checking etymology.
      .
      Once more, it means “of the slaves” – now of the uneducated President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Kumar well knows this. See the last paragraph of his article – where Kumar fears lynching and connect that with the comment by “SJ”, who never misses a chance to have a dig at Kumar. Who is “SJ”? That is something that I should never show that I know. However, I have observed that he never loses an opportunity to have a dig at Kumar.

      • 10
        2

        The PRESENT SITUATION: VERY RELEVANT
        .
        Bilingual learning is happening now in schools and in tertiary education. Let me link you early in this discussion to the methodology now used:
        .
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaUmlwczKJA
        .
        That’s a 9-minute video.
        .
        Lots of reading up is possible. Google for more:
        .
        https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/content-and-language-integrated-learning
        .

        There could well be a take-off now. What has made a difference is the realisation that this island is not the greatest country in the world, and English has to be learnt.
        .
        However, given the present conditions, where all seem to be selfish, or calculating, or slaves to ideology, I am a man who is now definitely a retired teacher. Before any progress is made, we must throw off the shackles that the Rajapaksas have enmeshed us in.
        .
        old codger once asked something which I thought very pertinent. Set me thinking. Do all Lankans need Education; isn’t it only the “Ruling Elite”? Let’s keep the Slave Class unenlightened. I’m hoping that he will comment candidly on this article.
        .
        Go join the “ Aragalaya”.
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

  • 10
    1

    Kumar for President if he can pull it off. I think 1 generation (not two) to get this going.

    • 3
      6

      He will if only you have the power to appoint him.

      • 9
        2

        I have the power to vote for him, in case you do not know how a democracy works.

        • 7
          7

          Please tell us how democracy works to elect the likes of Trump, Biden, Boris J, Mrs Thatcher, Reagan and many more.
          I may not know how our democracy ‘works’, but even the Election Commission seemed not to know when it allowed the nomination of someone whose papers were not in order.

        • 8
          1

          Jaffna man, it’s obvious education cannot change a person from being stereotyped or persevering after retirement. Language is not the root cause for race or religious bigotry. Countries who do not recognize English as official language do have the same evil. People like Champa and Ebil where ever they are are still will be racist. Hitler’s was communicating mostly in German or English ??

          • 8
            1

            Jaffna Man there is also a tinge of jealousy, resentment and frustration. The guy also said he wss offered some advance education in some English speaking westerm country and not China or Russia. What a hypocrite??

            • 1
              3

              “Countries who do not recognize English as official language do have the same evil.”
              Brilliant!
              A whole two thirds of mankind lives amid evil. Of the remaining third half the population cannot speak this language of “un-evil”?

              • 3
                1

                As in , ” Lankan kids born and/or raised in U.S are immoral. ???

            • 2
              4

              I give it to you C, you can be pathetic, effortlessly

              • 4
                1

                SJ take it easy. Resentments after retirement, are not good , especially at your age. But that is no reason to call KD an elite neocolonosist or being tyical you trying to undermine Jaffna Man. You then blame Tamil politicians for disagreeing with each other. Can any be more pathetic and hypocrite.

          • 2
            0

            sorry, “being perseverative stereotype” after retirement.

            • 1
              0

              When did you retire?
              Happy holidays.

          • 8
            1

            Chiv

            “Countries who do not recognize English as official language do have the same evil.”

            You have just offended SJ.
            How come Mao’s ***** carriers have completed their PhD’s in Engineering and other subjects abroad without having a working knowledge in English?
            Is it anything to do with hypocrisy or too much parochialism?
            Is Chinese population in China fluent in English?

            • 4
              1

              Native , I guess both hypocrisy and parochialism. SJ says Chinese go all over world to acquire knowledge( or is it, to steal technology) but believes Mandarin will replace English one day so that his grandchildren will communicate in Mandarin and not English If they live in Lanka it’s possible. I wonder how many international students go to China to acquire knowledge? ( like SJ)

          • 7
            1

            Chiv
            .
            Please understand this: learning English will not erase mental problems.
            Champa can learn all the languages she wants, but it will not cure her of her madness.
            .
            One thing English language will do is make channels for normal people from various backgrounds to interact and understand each other better. Thereby building a nation that is united rather than one that is divided as it is now.
            .
            But as for psychopaths and raving lunatics like Champa, EE, and Lester the only option is incarceration at Angoda mental hospital for the rest of their lives. They are too messed up and beyond medical help.

  • 4
    0

    A timely article and a very relevant discussion. Professor Kumar David has touched on a topic that is very sensitive and has deep social implications and affecting our economic development too.
    English used to be “taught” for Reading for academic purposes; as a basic requirement to get access to institutes of higher education. Then when it was realised by those concerned with “teaching” the language that writing was being neglected the focus was shifted to grammar-based language. Gradually the focus shifted to it being officially taught as “the link language’.
    In the 1980s when Mr Ranl Wickramasigha was the Minister of Education teaching of English was “opened out” to the “country – to every child”. The “teaching” of English then, (moving along with the academic world trend) began to be looked at, as a tool that was needed for “communication”. A lot of resources were invested in developing regional language teaching centres(with assistance from the British Council) and training of teachers of English from every District to be absorbed into that same District(DELIC) supported by volunteers from the USA under a special USA programme. The text books for the purpose was labelled”English Everyday”
    Through these and other projects English was taken in a very wide and broader way into the daily lives of the average Sri Lankan. English now, can be understood and spoken by a major sector of our community.

  • 4
    0

    Far more importantly, using English as a tool for communication among us, will help immensely to bring the community together as most of cannot understand the widely used second language, Tamil or Sinhala.

    Teaching Tamil to our Sinhala using brethren and teaching Sinhala to our Tamil speaking brethren might take even more than two generations.

  • 6
    1

    To link or not to link, English is important because much of modern knowledge is not available in Sinhala, Tamil, Chinese or Sanskrit. People have a right to be skilled at accessing such knowledge. Pretending otherwise has economic consequences, too — for example, Sri Lanka could not develop as strong a software engineering / IT sector as Chennai and Bengaluru did. That was a massive missed opportunity for which the blame lies squarely with swabhasha education.
    +
    The alternative is for us to keep talking about 2500 year-old civilization, as we have done a lot of, or structurally grow its counterpart as happens in the University of Jaffna where there now is a full Faculty for Hindu Studies. Perhaps we will explore how to convert foxes into horses, or mass production and export of Holy Ash!
    +
    To think China (and others) are doing it all in their own languages is also not quite correct. The Masters’ programme I teach in a British university has a queue of Chinese students (130 / 150). I suspect they are here to acquire new knowledge (and have studied English to do that) and not of re for the colonial master!

    • 2
      0

      //and not of re for the colonial master//
      and not of some admiration for the colonial master

      • 10
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        SAV,

        The issue is far bigger than learning English. There should also be a commitment to learning, competing, taking pride in accomplishments, etc.

        Some academics opposed to giving importance to English do so on anti-colonial or anti-capitalist grounds.

        Narayanamurthy of Infosys was a leftist protester before he started a small IT company and grew it into a global powerhouse and became a billionaire in the process. Global capitalism seeks to loot global wealth, and Indians recognized that they needed to compete to acquire their share of the loot. This can provide a safety net for the poorer segments of their population, without exploiting them since the wealth transfer comes from the richer countries, not by impoverishing their own populations. In other words, they are using capitalist principles as a way of resisting the predatory aspects of global capitalism. The Lankan left needs to recognize this instead of knee-jerk reactions about “neo-colonialism” that keep the country from growing and competing.

        • 5
          6

          “The Lankan left needs to recognize this instead of knee-jerk reactions about “neo-colonialism” that keep the country from growing and competing.”
          *
          Oh dear.
          What say did the left have in running the economy of this country to ruin starting 1978?
          Do you seriously think that there is no neocolonialism?
          Or is it people objecting to it that hurts you?
          *
          However, Latin Americans seem to think differently these days.
          Good luck to them

          • 5
            0


            “What say did the left have in running the economy of this country to ruin starting 1978?”

            People know who ruined the country from the begging.
            Did it matter whether they were left or right it as long as the stupid rulers intentions (to ruin the country) were fulfilled.

            It is impossible to erase the memories of people as to how they suffered under Siri Mao and her merry men. My Elders told us despite this country was being a rubber producer, bicycle Tyre prices shot up from from Rs 2.25 to Rs 7.50 in a short period of time. Due to shortage Black market thrived. A friend of mine told me his father was looking for a Cooperative inspector as bridegroom for his sister.

            No sugar, no flour, no bread, ……………………… probably at that time this man must be living outside and in one of those western countries or in his own planet.

            Neo Colonialism didn’t prevent Tiger Economies grow, nor it stopped China becoming industrialised, what this man wants is to keep this island underdeveloped, poor, …. and …… a country like Cambodia under his favourite dictator Pol Pot.

            This man needs help.

          • 0
            0

            Oh dear, didn’t our Oxford / Cambridge alumni comrades and other Pseudos, return wearing suit, smoking cigar, and sipping sco*tch , telling the poor all about communism, socialism and how democrazy in Lanka works. Do you seriously think there is no neocolonialism ??

    • 4
      6

      Delighted to know that there was a language option for Chinese students in the UK.
      Perhaps the guys who are working technological miracles are all who queued up at an English tutory.
      China is sending students all over the world to gather skills. But they teach mostly in Mandarin I imagine.

      • 5
        0

        No language option, SJ. I don’t offer courses in Chinese. Chinese students studied English so they can go to a British University and learn about modern developments in genomics from the likes of me. In fact the standards of English of many Chinese students is increasingly better than students I see from Sri Lanka. So it is possible to study a language to high standards with the purpose of acquiring new knowledge without any colonial history.
        For a small country like Sri Lanka, tertiary education in the English medium with students given good opportunities to become competent in the language is the most effective way of doing it. It is more effective than translating genomics texts into Sinhala and Tamil, or inventing complex technical terms in these languages.
        Simply dismissing it as “colonial”, or more fashionably as “neo-colonial” and keeping our people busy learning our very own Saiva Siththaantham in the Faculty of Hindu Studies is, in my humble opinion, just irresponsible hypocrisy.

        • 1
          4

          Did I say that you offered any course in Chinese or any other language but English?
          Am I disallowed a TIC remark?
          *
          As for what they teach in the Faculty of Hindu Studies, it is plain stupid not to teach systems of philosophy other than Saiva Siddhantham. I see no hypocrisy there but lack of vision and shortage of competent teachers to do it.
          A retired professor of Tamil informed me that at one time that Vaishnava Bakthi literature was an important part of Tamil teaching here. It got lost at some stage in the second half of the 20th Century.
          I had chance to read the whole of “naalaayira dhivya pirabanthangkaL’ only recently. The Tamil there is less Sanskritized than its Saivaite equivalents. It is beautiful poetry in the way an AzvAr relates to God as father, friend, lover, child etc. (Interestingly, Barathi could see in his god a female lover as well).
          I never saw anything as interesting as this in Saivaite literature.
          God is mostly a father figure and occasionally a friend– almost as boring as the book religions

      • 5
        0

        The rest of the world is teaching the Chinese students in Mandarin?

  • 8
    0

    In the Middle East you will find mostly workers who have to communicate with customers at stores and restaurants, mostly come from the Philippines. Our workers not only have a hard time with speaking English, but they find it difficult to follow orders. Our people were deprived of being able to converse, or understand the language, because of idiotic decisions made by past leaders to make our education system Sinhala only. Those who came from English speaking households were able to get over it, but the others were at a disadvantage, and finding employment abroad, or representing our country abroad became an obstacle.

    • 6
      7

      So A, is English a super slave language?

  • 2
    3

    It is worthwhile knowing English.
    But the most important thing right now, is to get the freemasons and tares (serpent seeds of cain), thrown out of power.

  • 5
    0

    Can you imagine if English had remained the lingua Franca of Sri Lanka from the beginning?
    Sri Lanka would be on a very different footing by now. It is the disconnection that was made at that time that has turned our people into frogs in a well.
    .
    Do you realize that on CT, there are hardly any young participants? This is because by default an average Sri Lankan youth and even those in their later ages do not understand English. So we are stuck with a bunch of psychotic rabid dogs like EE, Champa, and Lester.
    .
    If the younger generation were onboard, the likes of EE would have been lynched by now. The present-day young people’s mentality is poles apart from that of the people like EE, but due to the handicap of limited English, they cannot participate.
    .
    So yeah English should never have been removed in the first place. We must somehow reintegrate ourselves with the rest of the world ASAP.
    .
    Proficiency in English not only helps with communication, but it will also help our guys gain the vital confidence needed to overcome inherent inferior or naïve behavior found in our youth.

  • 0
    0

    H.
    It is interesting on language but I think I get your drift. If the seeds of cain are alive and active at their game, it could soon be the tower of Babel.English,Singlish or Chinglish is on the menu for now by popular choice.

    Wonder what the local clairvoyants say ? Wonder what language they speak ?

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