Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | ePaper

Learning English now more significant: FM

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bdnews24.com :
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali has said that learning English is now more significant than ever before as Bangladesh is marching ahead with an economic transformation.
"The question of learning English as a second language has assumed tremendous significance now more than ever before," the diplomat-turned politician said, inaugurating the first-ever conference on English for Specific Purposes in Dhaka on Friday. The University of Liberal Arts (ULAB) and bdnews24.com co-organised the daylong conference bringing academics, employers, employees and other stakeholders together to discuss how to bridge the existing gap in English needs. The foreign minister said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Digital Bangladesh, the transition from the LDC to a developing country and the SDGs have opened up new opportunities for the younger generations.
"Without mastering the English language it will be very difficult for people to avail themselves of the opportunities created by the demographic dividend," he said, referring to a change in the age structure of the population now mostly young - under 35. So, he said, younger generations "increasingly need to learn English in order to avail themselves of the tremendous job opportunities in diverse sectors for proficient users of the English language". Ali expressed his gratitude to the conference organisers and said: "It has often been voiced by both academics and employers alike that there is a huge gap between the English language courses taught by our universities and the actual language needs of employers who have diverse requirements."
"There is a need for tailored English language training for different vocations and fields such as doctors, engineers, diplomats and negotiators," he said, thanking the organisers for bringing up the issue to the fore.
At least 29 papers will be presented throughout the day. Mark Krzanowski, director of the China-based Center for Academic English Studies, attended the event as the keynote speaker. Toufique Imrose Khalidi, editor-in-chief of bdnews24.com, famed for making its English News service into the most popular by the numbers of visitors, shed light on the backdrop of hosting the conference. "We run a 24/7 newsroom that never sleeps. So we need quite a few editors and reporters with special skills in that language, and try to recruit graduates with strong bilingual aptitude. I can tell you it has been quite a task, for quite sometime now. Something is wrong somewhere." "I hear similar stories from entrepreneur friends. There are those that run call centres and would like to compete with other countries; they find it quite hard to get the manpower needed to run the show," Khalidi said. "Our tourism and hospitality industry is growing pretty fast. We hear there is a problem there, too." "The point is, there is a problem that needs to be fixed. That is why we are having this conference," he said. Khalidi thanked ADN Telecom, gold sponsor of the event, and its Chairman Asif Mahmood, one of the leading ICT entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. Khalidi extended his appreciation to other sponsors as well.
ATM Sajedul Huq, director of the Center for Language Studies at ULAB, said: "We always emphasise the necessity of learning English, but how much thought have we given to the idea that everyone might not need the same kind of English?" "Language needs of a diplomat are not the same as that of a pilot, or a scientist. Every occupation requires a form of English with distinct characteristics," he said. "If our graduates are to become successful professionals, this gap between what is required and what is taught must be addressed."
Prof Imran Rahman, special adviser to ULAB's Board of Trustees, sought "massive" government support and right policy to enhance the level of English skills among students to take advantage of the demographic dividend. "The biggest challenge we face is the language skills," he said, citing his own experience of teaching in universities. Rahman said he found it among private university students that "the effectiveness of English falls short of standards" even after studying the language for 10 years to the HSC level. So the universities re-teach them the English language for the first two or three years, which he said is a "waste of time".

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