Thursday, May 23, 2019 | ePaper

Learning English in Bangladesh

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Dr. Foqan Uddin Ahmed :
The English Language Education (ELE) system of Bangladesh has been established backed by the guidelines of the NEP given that Bangladesh does not have a language policy. The educators and advocates of the ELE in Bangladesh give a number of arguments in favour of the compulsory provision for the ELE in Bangladesh. They are i) English is a colonial inheritance, ii) English is an international language, iii) English is a means for the access to the global knowledge, and  iv)English is a means for the access to the global job market.
However, these arguments are not enough to make the ELE obligatory in Bangladesh. Because, the ELE as a system is required to be established and run by based on a language planning in compliance with a language policy underpinned by an appropriate ideology. Hence, Bangladesh needs a proper framework for establishing an ELE system of its own. However, there are certain frameworks in order to establish and run a system of education under the administration of a government.
The extent and importance of the English language to-day are such as to make it reasonable to ask whether we cannot attempt an intelligent speculation as to the probable position, which it will occupy in the future. From a language spoken only by a million and a half of people towards the close of the eleventh century, it rose to be the language of five and a half million by 1700. From eighteenth century onward, English began to spread outside of England. And now it is spoken by men and women in the different parts of the world. English is the second language in Europe (Russian being the first from the point of view of numerical strength). Chinese and Russian languages that rival the English language for the position of the world language have one basic drawback. They are limited to particular blocks of land-they are not scattered throughout the world. Moreover, they are collections of many dialects which from the phonetic point of view are as good as distinct which from the phonetic point of view are as good as distinct languages. In this respect, English is more fortunate. It is spoken by men and women scattered throughout the globe. It is the language of America, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The language has spread to South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma and Malaysia. It is now spoken and written in Africa countries and even in China and Russia. Thus in each continent, there are large numbers of people who would plead for English as the world language.
There are certain liabilities, which prevent English from becoming the accepted language of the world. The vast number of its synonyms and the lack of correspondence between spelling and pronunciation stand in the way of the foreigners to learn English quickly. In Asiatic and Africa countries of England-American English, British English, Australian English, Canadian English, and also Indian English.
It is, therefore, necessary that English should try to forge a Standard English, which should be accepted by all. Potter rightly observes, "English is likely to remain the most widespread language of the world, but its future depends on the energy and enterprise of the people who speak it." It is time that the Britishers should accept the kinds of English spoken by America or Australia or India. To-day English language is not a monopoly of the inhabitants of Britain, it belongs to all. It would be reasonable to give parity of esteem to all educated forms of English speech.
Fortunately, there is solid core of common usage in all English-speaking countries, which makes it possible to talk of standard world English. The differences in vocabulary are not enormous; the differences in spelling are negligible; differences in pronunciation can be accommodated. In formal writing, the essential structure of the language is practically the same throughout the English-speaking world. So the English speaking world should not be fastidious about minor differences. In this respect, English has a major role to fulfill. She should try to accelerate the progress of English language in all fronts of life. There are forces working in favour of English and these forces have to be strengthened. A joint drive by the British Councils and the United States Information service can considerably strengthen the forces and play a vital part in the emergence of English as the common language of the world of to-morrow.
English can not be dispensed with in free India. It is the international language for communication among the peoples of the world. No country to-day can remain isolated from the rest of the world. There are multi-lateral trades, multi-dimensional cultures and multi-linear science and technology through the interaction with different countries. Modern world has expanded and intensified the exchange of ideas and thoughts among the nations. Higher education is best imparted through the English language. England and America are still the centres of modern researches in science, technology and literature. The knowledge of English language would foster our relationship with these countries and would help us imbibe the latest thoughts and researches in science and humanities.
There is no reason why the students in Bangladesh should not learn English from the primary age. A boy can learn two or three languages because a boy's mind is more receptive and more sensitive. One's mother tongue should be given the priority in the language group of studies, but English can be studied as a second language. It would be harmful for the country if only a few elitist schools teach English to their boy's. This will lead to the social and cultural disparity resulting in serious hindrances to the progress of the country.
All boys and girls would be given equal opportunities of learning and each student would be allowed to make their grade according to his merit. Poor students in village schools have the potentialities to qualify themselves for good careers in administrations, commerce and education, and they should be provided with opportunities and ambience for the display of their merits and potentialities. English learning at the primary level would prepare them for higher education and would open up possibilities for their brilliant careers.
Economic backwardness, culture disparities have intensified the separatist forces. We talk of common religion, common heritage, but these talks do not go down much with the present generations.
A common language and educational facilities through the common language can mitigate this sense of plurality, and generate the feeling of unity among us. Bengali alone cannot serve this purpose, though it is internationally recognized. English can be the link language among our different areas and at the same time can link us with the outside world. To disown its importance and neglect its use in India would be at our peril.

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