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 Post subject: Current local misuse of English
 Post Posted: Thu Dec 25, 2008 3:07 pm 
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Current local misuse of English

English as it is used today is interesting because it is Singlish, Tinglish and Minglish. It is given a Sri Lankan flavour.

by Manel Fernando
@ The Island - Thursday, December 25, 2008


Answering a question on letter- writing at a recently held examination, a student writes to her brother serving in the Army on the importance of "living together." What she really meant was co-existence, and she ends her letter with a prayer to the gods: "May all gods, give you full security." Today, gods are entrusted with not only providing protection they have to provide security as well. In both instances inappropriate terms have been used; which distort the meaning.

This brings to my mind an instance where students in an intensive course were taught vocabulary, and the lecturer had used the word ‘depart.’ She had meant "to leave". When the class was over she heard one of the students say, "I will depart now." Very often if words are not used contextually this happens.

English as it is used today is interesting because it is Singlish, Tinglish and Minglish. It is given a Sri Lankan flavour.

Last week, I was surprised the way some of my students in the class were addressing each other. "Fit Eka, can you pass this book men", said one.

The response was "a million sorry's."

Then another said "don't be "out" and yet another intervened saying, "Eya sentimental".

I was confused as to how they have learnt these nonsensical words and discovered they are being use in a very popular tele-drama, that won a tele award this year.

This language has caught up with the young and they say they use it in the class-room.

No wonder the standard of English has deteriorated and the electronic media is partly responsible for this.

If you watched those slogans that appeared during the World Cup you will understand the damage done. Some said "Gud luk Sir Lanka Loins." "Raise the flag Loins". There were many more.

The irony of it is, English is also taught in these channels by way of ‘Spoken English’ by those supposed to be versatile lecturers. I watched one, dressed in complete Western attire, accompanied by all the gadgetry, "teaching" the "have form."

He said "I havu, you havu and "They havu". It was disgusting to listen to his pronunciation of words and this is how he proncunced mosque.

"The boy went to the Mosque English teachers on the Education Service say: "Children we are going to learn Pre-porsitions."

On the other hand there is artificiality in the News Readers on F. M. Channels.

Their English cannot be comprehended. Talking of pharmaceutical products, one said, "varied brands of pharmaceuticals are available in the market sold by unsruplous traders." These are passed on to listeners unchecked.

English is a rich language. Its called the "Kaduwa." You cannot afford to mispronouce, misspell or use inappropriate words, because the meaning changes.

Students of literature often make these mistakes in their O/Level literature. They write about the "Neckless" for Necklace. "Scared land" for sacred land. "Deer Departed" for "Dear Departed" Eleanor Rugby" for Eleanor Rigby.

They also come out with new ideas that Oliver Twist was born to a 'baby farm'. Also Chief Seatle is the headman of Seatle. 'Admiralty" in the poem Macavity is an admirer. Stories to them are wrapped around and not woven around. All this they have learnt from tutory aids or incompetent teachers.

It also should be noted that English cannot be translated. For instance a student writes about the "Dental tooth palace" for ‘Dalada Maligawa.’ In fact, a young man asked me when I 'walked into his office to meet their boss. "Who is searching you". Some say politicians have "Two Tonques". The menu card in a hotel read like this. "Red rice with umbrella curry, plantain flowers jak seeds, and beat roof."

Fortunately the Veda Mahathaya who treats fractures has now replaced his board which said "Treatment for breaks" to "Treatment for whole body."

Even punctuation is equally important. At a nursing home I noticed an arrow giving direction to patients without punctuation in one line: "Lift cashier wards." If sounded like lifting the cashier to the wards.

Also a road notice to slow down traffic read like this "slow men at work" all in one line. Its true when you look at these trenches dug up for laying cables incomplete, you realise slow men are at work.

In schools there is a dearth of English teachers and the majority are teachers having learnt English as a second language. So they are inexperienced. Most of them depend on tutory notes. Reference is hardly done and they do not care to update themselves. Though the English medium has been introduced in government schools, students only use the work book and graded text, so their extra bit of English and literature is done in the tuition classes.

Schools lack library facilities and teacher writers have no incentive to write.

Teaching of English is also not monitored by the department. Where are those flying squads that used to watch us teach?

Tutories thrive dishing out English the way they want and students have access to them. Being an international language English has to be resuscitated; by all means. The dearth of English teachers, especially in rural schools, hampers children’s knowledge of English. More teachers have to be recruited. They should be trained; seminars and workshops during school vacations would help them to enhance their knowledge and method of teaching. It is left to the teachers to update themselves by way of keeping abreast with modern techniques.

English should be used in the class-room. It is by listening and use, that fixation takes place. There must be a lot of activity when teaching the young. You, have to honey the bitter pill, to some.

After all, being a developing country we cannot live in isolation. English is a link language. It’s intra-national, bringing the world to your door step. Linking ethnic groups within the country is very necessary. For this reason it is of significance that we should improve the quality of teachers and teaching at the moment in Sri Lanka today.


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