Hunza News

English language, hurdles in its acquisition

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By Nasira Jabeen

Even before Pakistan’s inception as a dominion state the would be Pakistani nation had an intimacy-perverse though with a foreign language that was to occupy an important space in its curricula and to play a major role in defining the nation’s advancement and ultimate fortune in the years to ensue.

HunzaNews, July 29,2014

With the Aligarh Movement of Sir Syed Muslims witnessed their renaissance. From a downtrodden community they were raised into their past position of eminence. Their hatred and conservative attitude were diluted into amicable and lenient bearing towards English education. In short, their resistance worn thin in the course of time but the initial ostracism of English language by our forefathers at the expense of the many advantages and privileges in their favour is as though has gone into the veins of their descendants, moulding their linguistic faculties less responsive towards it and rendering its thorough acquisition harder. But this language like a kind yet obstinate spirit is ever haunting; bent on getting itself involved and impressing on its worth and invincible hold. Being a lingua franca its usefulness the nation is conscious of. It is the source of international communication. Being a language of science, technology, commerce, the rich foreign literature, politics and diplomacy, it has opened both our casements and doors to a wide realm of knowledge and enlightenment. The problem arises in its acquisition to the level of gaining mastery over it or even equaling that of the national language, Urdu. English language acquisition and proficiency is a complex process, involving many interrelated factors. As against our first language or mother tongue, or even our second language, Urdu we are learning English with reference to a speech community outside national or territorial boundaries. We may create context for it but its success in terms of speaking, comprehending its literature, trying a hand in English composition, when contrasted with Urdu, is but a light feat. For Urdu has an edge in the first place as a national language. It has its full participation in the political, economic, social spheres and in media and recreational fields. It is the mother tongue of some section, second language for the rest with diverse first languages—as they will be acquiring it within the country with the context and contact group as environmental support, provided. Thus Urdu can be learnt informally too, can be ‘picked up’ without much effort. In such a scenario when with a variety of purposes in mind like travel abroad, international exposure, communication, outshining in competitive exams, comprehending and scrutinizing foreign scientific, technical and literary works , English language has to be learnt ,it poses exhausting strain and exertion. Individual learner differences are also factors affecting the acquisition of English language. Age, aptitude, cognitive style, motivation and personality retard and accelerate the acquisition accordingly. It is a commonly held view that children learn quickly and things learnt in childhood last for long. However, their memory capacity, experience and exposure is not as great as adults’ to have an in- depth and extensive exercise in the language and to use its formal features in appropriate places. With aptitude or special ability for English, some steer their ship pretty smoothly not even undergoing any systematic learning for it. Learners who are interested in the language, who are keen to explore more of the native speakers’ social, moral and cultural values; who have a yearn to gain more from their way of academics, politics or business; who see themselves prosper only in English garb, are prone to learn more successfully as compared to the less motivated learners. Similarly worldly wise, adventurous, gregarious and extrovert personalities are generally believed to learn English with ease as they remain ready to take any risk and are not reticent and are curious and hardly sedate in the face of any mystery that they must unravel. (Here, introvert personalities can also be good at the language acquisition, for they are the quiet observer and good listener and have quite a store of contents, provided they don’t let them grow stale within them.) The way we learn English and our peculiar handling of a certain problem according to our cognitive understanding, also has its significance in affecting English language learning. The role of the input for English language on the part of the teacher also carries weight. It must be comprehensible input and must present the language in digestible doses but it will not prove fruitful unless the learners sit hand in hand, waiting to be spoon- fed and writhing when it comes to any overture they are to make for the purpose. Otherwise if it were possible to be the author of tens of books without reading a single book, we would be abounded by authors. These factors more or less frame the impediments in our collective aim of progression with perfection in English language, which has become a prerequisite for success in all other fields. Acquiring the language is more arduous in remote areas of the country like Chitral, where environmental support for the cause equals to naught and where students of schools and colleges are subject to no exposure comparatively. Above all the students in general are prepared only for the intervention of a teacher for the realization of their cherished dreams of gaining the ground with an English weapon, when they are required to lead the cavalry charge. In such cases instead of voicing complaints about their poor performance in English paper in exams, they should be ensured of environmental support. The direction of their dish antenna should be turned entirely towards English channels. Parents and students themselves should see to it that English is practiced not only in the learning institutions and with peers upon restriction but in relaxed and leisure times too, and at homes also for that matter, if it could be made feasible. Establishing libraries at homes would not be more costly than other extravagance. Equipping it with thought-enriching books, used for pruning skills and potentials for better growth, would be providing only healthy occupation to the children. For student learners (of English) of Chitral in particular and learners of the country in general, I must say that you can’t both have your cake and eat it. Compromises on your part with respect to learning this lingua franca would herald your success. You must choose either course and be prepared to resign any claim to the other set of advantages viz time at your disposal, chat, movies, visit sand the like. The aforementioned issues in the language acquisition are in their place, but if students work with perseverance and determination; with a focused and undivided mind, they can curve a name in this field too- which to a willing heart is not something of a herculean task. Formal instructions alone won’t stand for them on an extensive scale. Reading newspapers, magazines, studying English usage books with due measure of care and zest, building sound vocabulary, managing sentences effectively will help them entertain command of spoken and written English. Through consistent practice of these processes the whole battle we can say can be won.


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