The Curious Case Of Five Vowels: Are We Teaching Language Right?

Oct 11, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Expressions, General, Opinions

Comic Scenario Or Tragedy?

It is a fact well acknowledged that the Pakistani parents having a good fortune prefer to get their kids admitted into the best institutions for the sake of quality education. Due to fact that English has developed to be the lingua-franca of the modern era, it cannot be neglected and for this reason, they choose institutions which have English established as the medium of education. Now, the question here is that are we teaching the language right? Are we making the children creative? Are we actually teaching them to develop their linguistic capabilities? Or are we just making some poorly bilingual translators by teaching them traditional-grammar and tenses through grammar-translation method in our schools?

It is to be kept in view that most of the students, even college graduates, may not know the linguistic concepts as simple as ‘vowels’, let alone the correct pronunciation of words and fluency. Upon asking a student, the answer would doubtlessly be, “it’s so simple they are five in number a e i o u”. Most of them, except the ones pursuing a major in linguistics, will die claiming the fact that there are five. And that’s true. Now trust me, vowels may get seriously angry on that and they’d be justified in their view as they are nineteen in number with twelve monophthongs and seven diphthongs. Moreover, it’s not just the vowels which may get aggressive but grammar too will be pissed off because of the mistakes like using ‘the’ before the proper nouns and claiming sheeps and fishes as the plurals of sheep and fish.


The Problem:

The dilemma of our society is that on one hand, we yearn for our children to learn English and we want them to be able to speak it with remarkable fluency; and when they do, we take it as a symbol of pride regardless of all our hate for the western society and their cultural norms which is quite ironic. On the other hand, we have hired teachers holding on to the grammar-translational method and traditional-grammar as if it is a tool for salvation hereafter. Such a teacher would claim to be a beacon of knowledge and for obvious reasons only he will be having the right answers to every question while the answer by students according to their individual interpretations of a simple literary text will result in the marking of the answer as incorrect accompanied with insult and shame. Rarely will one of us be able come to across a teacher who motivates and inspire children to learn and to create utilizing their own abilities. Being neutral, my observation compels me to claim that nowadays private schools are producing students who are more creative and confident as compared to the ones being produced by government institutions and the responsibility for this bias surely lies on the shoulders of our feeble and weak education ministry.

The Solution:

Keeping these problems in consideration, there is a dire need of educational reforms in order to get out of this vicious circle which is doubtlessly consuming several of our students who may have been Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare or Faiz Ahmed Faiz by now.

  1. Students should be taught the basics of linguistics of whatever languages they are being taught.
  2. Phonetics and phonology should be included in the syllabus in order to ensure the correct pronunciation of language and the fluency.
  3. Introductory topics from Sociolinguistics must be included in the syllabus either in Social Studies or in the language course (whether Urdu or English) in order to let the students get the idea of how language and society is inter-related and how they mutually interact to change one another.
  4. Students should be taught in a way so as to distinguish between both the formal and informal styles of writing and the registers and styles of language, because simply making them cram a number of applications and letters for several occasions is useless.
  5. Teachers should pay more attention to the oral presentations on several topics so that students feel free and confident to express their opinions and in this way the confidence can be developed.
  6. Classes for creative writing should necessarily be commenced for the purpose of polishing creative abilities of the students.

The reforms needed are surely not that easy to apply in the moth-stricken educational system of ours but the significance and need of such reforms cannot be denied as well. The responsibility lies on the part of parents (to demand) and the government (to plan and provide) the way forward with the reforms so that we may live to see our next generations more creative and linguistically more proficient than we are.

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