`Elite-oriented teaching of language increasing ghettoisation`
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By Haneen Rafi | 2/10/2017 12:00:00 AM
KARACHI: Further expanding on the theme of languages and their dynamic relationship with speakers in a cultural, political and economic framework, the closing day of the fourday short course titled `Importance of language in education` focused on the case study of Torwali, which is one of the endangered languages of Pakistan hailing from Swat.

Organised by the Irtiga Institute of Social Sciences and held at the Gulshan Public School, the lessons learnt, and the experiences shared by different speakers on the previous days, were also summed up by keynote speaker Dr Tariq Rahman.

Dr Rahman spoke to Dawn about the historical and political significance of language teaching which in South Asia has always used foreign languages. This is to cater to the ruling elite, so be it Sanskrit, Persian or English, `the elite-oriented teaching of language and dismissal of mother tongues has caused increasing ghettoisation`.

Languages in Pakistan suffer at the hands of politics, and the government`s policies usually are the result of vestedinterests. According to Dr Rahman, the ruling elite further contribute towards the increasing marginalisation of languages, especially of those whose speakers are among the underprivileged.

Praising the initiative taken by Irtiga in organising the course, Dr Rahman said that it could help `challenge the conventional way of looking down at other languages as an obstacle in learning, as well as dilute the arrogance and dismissive attitude shown towards the mother tongue`.

Healsoreiteratedtheresearch shared by Farida Akbar and Salma Imtiaz, AMI trainers at the Montessori Teachers Training Centre, Karachi.

Speaking about multilingualism in Pakistan, both speakers, he said, explained that the manner in which a child acquires language would in turn groom them.

According to Farida Akbar, parents must not hinder the proactive period of a child`s acquisition as he has an inborn urge and desire tolearnlanguages.Ifduring this period he does not face any obstacles, not only will the child acquire more than one language, but he will also adopt abstract and critical thinking more successfully.

Dr Ghazala Rahman Rafiq, on the third day of the course, presented a case study of Sindhiwhich outlined the many reasons why Sindhi language is being devalued and may be headed towards its downfall. Despite it being a rich language, it has been let down most by its own speakers, especially on the political front.

She had shared her personal experience of teaching at different Sindhi and non-Sindhi schools where she saw the classification of the `other` those who spoke their mother tongue, and not Urdu and English. Her efforts in using Sindhi to communicate in the classroom created a safe zone for the students which showed a boost in their confidence and interest in what she was teaching them.

On the final day of the course, the speakers shared tales of a careless and reckless disregard for the linguistic identity of minority groups. There were tales shared from school days where the teacher would verbally rebuke the child for speaking in his mother tongue.

Zubair Torwali, regarding the marginalisation of Torwali, as well as other languages, however, channelised this prejudice into a productive way to revive the Torwali language. The aim was to reverse the loss of the language in his region through a mother-tongue based multilingual educational approach.

Incorporating Torwall lan-guage and its cultural heritage, as well as two other linguistic frameworks Urdu and English the plan was a trilingual approach over the two years of preschool.

There was a language progression plan in motion. In the first two years of preschool, the medium of instruction would be reserved to the mother tongue, in this case being Torwali. It was only in grade 1 that the second language would be introduced orally. This linguistic progression would slowly incorporate the second and third languages Urdu and English over a span of a few years as the primary medium of instruction.

Certificates were also distributed at the end of the course to all the participants.

SaƱa Bano, lecturer at Karachi University, shared her views about the course. She said that multilingualism was a fact that should not be denied.

`However, denying a child the use of his mother tongue can cause an identity crisis within him. Language is related to identity and it is unfair that people are forced to give up their mother tongue for the sake of upward mobility.

`The course and its speakers did not urge that English should be discouraged. However, it should not be promoted at the expense of other languages.