The lives of people can be developed in various ways where education plays a major role. However, this is an area that has received little attention.
Even though many economic development policies have been introduced to attract more FDIs to the country, a question needs to be raised as to whether the country has an English-speaking workforce that is able to communicate with the world.
As the majority of the Sri Lankan population consists of people from rural areas whose main communication medium is either Sinhala or Tamil, the idea of an ‘English-speaking’ workforce has been a challenge for the nation over the decades.
An isolated community can never move forward in the globalised world. Hence, the local community has to be armed with a knowledge of English, which is considered the passport to the global village.
The social stigma of poor English can be identified as being responsible for holding the nation back in terms of speaking in English.
Broken English refers to poorly spoken or ill-written version of the English language, sometimes referred to as pidgin English. If you remember how you began speaking your mother tongue, your vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar were poor. Nobody laughed at you, as you spoke in your mother tongue. Gradually you became fluent in your language.
Unfortunately, we are unable to apply the same theory to our second language. As a result, the stigma of poor English is on the increase. The reason is the misconception of the language.
Language is a method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. However, it seems that the local community who stigmatise poor English, has misunderstood the primary task of the language. Some people who are embarrassed to speak in English in front of the local community, do not hesitate to speak with white skinned people in any possible way.
The English language is like a horseshoe, not a crown.
A horse, with metal horseshoes attached to its feet, can run fast and comfortably. Similarly, a person who is fluent in English, can move forward fast and comfortably.
However, it is not a crown which we should be proud of. The problem is that people take it as a crown, not as a horseshoe.
This stigma has opened a can of worms, intensifying the social stratification which has resulted in many social issues, even riots. At university level, the plight has gone from bad to worse. That is why, university students call it Kadda (sword).
The sword is used to behead people.
This example depicts how the English language has become a sharp tool to move up in society and also used as a class tool.
As we were colonised under the imperialism of Great Britain, we respect those who speak in English, but do not know Sinhala, and look down upon those who speak in Sinhala, but do not know English.
Due to this attitude, people from a non-English speaking background are discriminated in society to a great extent.
It is difficult to find a person who has not followed two or three English courses, spending much money. However, we obtain the same results, as the same theory is applied. We all know by experience that teaching English at schools has been a futile exercise. If so, the question arises as what ought to be done?
Language cannot be restricted to books. It has to be practised. It should be with the people, not in the library. The language that people do not use is called a dead language.
Therefore, the time has come to change the approach towards English teaching and learning. Nobody can say this is the particular point at which one should learn or teach English, because it can vary from person to person......please share your ideas