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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Chrisyinks: Adopting an Improved View on Learning International Languages





One of the dictionary’s definitions of the word ‘language’ is the systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols. Underpinning this definition and other definitions of this word is the emphasis on communication a crucial aspect of living in this era. The prevalent phenomenon of this age –globalization – has created enormous benefits for those who can effectively communicate their value, and exchange services with the varied people and cultures that inhabit this planet.


Nigeria is a culturally rich country with a diverse population possessing visible language divides. With about 500 ethnic groups and each one boasting its almost unique language or dialect, supremacy of the language of communication is often fought between the three dominant ethnic groups and their respective languages – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba Language. This has had the consequent effect of a tacit neglect of how best we can integrate globally and leverage on the world’s culture and its vast human resources for strategic goals. Asides EnglisLanguage that has its roots from our colonial past, we cannot boast of other foreign languages that are spoken by many of our citizens – French Language, although being taught in some schools hasn’t been given the requisite attention needed in effectively learning a language.


As a personal example, in my secondary school days, I was mandated to take the three major Nigerian languages as subjects and pass them. Although, knowledge was being added, I dare say that it was a sub-optimal use of any pupils time given the relative obscurity of any of these individual languages on the global landscape. Till today, I only communicate in one of those languages – my own dialect. Being a member of an international non-governmental organization, often times when international conferences are scheduled, there is usually the issue of Nigerian attendees not being able to enjoy rich conversations in the local tongue of prominent host countries. A contrast to many of our African counterparts that hail from Francophone countries, yet make diligent effort to learn the English language (Nigeria’s official business language), hence having the added competence of enjoying to a higher degree, the diverse and differing culture the world offers.Singapore had a similar issue when in their formative days as a self-governing nation, four languages (Chinese Mandarin, Tamil, Malay and English Language) prevailed with a number of other dialects used in communication. It took a calculated effort by its leaders to straddle the beneficial path where international relevance was not sacrificed on the altar of preserving cultural identity. Achieving this goal enabled Singaporeans to be of better relevance to global businesses as against their other Asian counterparts, and experience enormous leaps in their development as a nation.


I reason a holistic approach has to be adopted in ensuring that Nigerians are better equipped to communicate their competencies, skills, knowledge and effectively integrate to the immense opportunities provided by globalization thereby enhancing our competitive advantage. It is not uncommon these days to see job opportunities requiring interested applicants to speak proficiently or at least professionally two or more international languages.


I believe that if schools can come up with a curriculum to meet this language gap, we can take longer strides towards better leveraging the opportunities being a polyglot offers. This approach should not discount other educational fora that can be harnessed for this purpose, for learning isn’t restricted to the four walls of a classroom. Astonishingly, research enlightens us that a child in his/her early stages of development can comfortably learn as many as six languages.


I posit that we have a primary and secondary school curriculum that mandates students to learn at least one local and one international language. At university level, all students should be mandated to learn in their first year, another international language with students in the language field mandated to major in any language of their choice with a minor in another international language and encouraged to take courses that teach yet another foreign language. It is easier for a language student to appreciate the selected language course of study when he/she can contrast that language with other languages.

While I understand the need to preserve one’s heritage and that to achieve this, one has to preserve and distill one’s language to the younger generations, I reason that pre-tertiary education can be reformed to achieve the aim of ingraining cultural identity. Additionally, heritage centers that entrench our indigenous languages should be commissionedIt is a good plus that the Nigerian society and its prevalent communal approach to life helps transmit our local languages to the young.

 


PS: I define International/Foreign languages as languages prominent in International business and the world’s landscape: French, Chinese, Arabic, and German.

17 comments:

  1. I've been trying to learn French. Je comprends un peu. La langue est très difficile pour comprendre.

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    1. Moi aussi, Je parle francais un peu. If you are still resilient about learning French, I feel the easiest, efficient, and most effective way to do that is to envelop yourself in a French-speaking environment. I hear there is a French school in Badagry, Also Alliance Francaise do courses that teach French (I did two months with them and it was worth it). Also, online free courses, games in French, help with the learning process; if you do have friends fluent in French, communicate in French with them; watch movies in French and before you know it, you’d be proficient with the language…if only I could heed my advice.

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    2. Yh,i find it a lot easier reading it than listening or writing it.

      If our govt encouraged other foreign languages the same way Arabic is being taught,the excuse of funds and wrecked educational system wldnt apply..

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    3. lol....if only I could heed this advice too. I'd been learning French 'for my mind' since 18th century. The advice is good anyway.

      -F

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  2. Spanish and Portuguese added to that list.

    "...in my secondary school days, I was mandated to take the three major Nigerian languages as subjects and pass them...".

    Wow, that's serious multitasking. Reminds me of my primary school days where we had to compulsory study and pass Urhobo, from primary 1 to 6.

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    Replies
    1. Urhobo? Why, considering it's not a major language?

      -F

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    2. Yeah Memphis, Spanish and Portuguese make good additions seeing as they have a number of people that speak the languages either as a first or as a second language. I just feel it has two major drawbacks: It is not widely dispersed among continents save for only Europe and parts of America; and their economies do not play a deciding role in shaping the global economy.

      Being a public secondary school, I think the appearance of activities was more important than the real work of effective learning. I had assignments that consisted of writing one to five thousand (in words) in all three languages…to think of all the exercise books I wasted accomplishing that.

      Besides, how’s your Urohobo coming?

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    3. My Urhobo? Loool. Apart from the greetings and words like Ómóshare(boy), Okoté(girl), Eranko(dog), Kpukpuyéké(duck), Ishóshi (church), Iméjé (table), numbers 1-10, the urhobo alphabet, etc, making/writing a sentence is like praying a cock grows teeth.

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  3. When I saw that the topic was from Chrisyinks I had to put on my serious face.

    1) Is it really that important? Im not sure but I dont think it is mandatory for students in the UK to study French (And France is just beside them) If anybody wants to become an international business person he/she should go out of his/her way to study foreign languages. The Govt doesnt have to make it mandatory. There are many other things bugging our education system.

    2) Its a cost. If the Govt makes it mandatory they have to recruit teachers across all the Schools, make available all the French books/material in all Schools. And then what is the direct benefit to the Govt? Its a cost...is it an important cost to the Govt? That is the question.

    Peace

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    Replies
    1. My brother,
      I totally echo your reservations...

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    2. Ah ah Kon, I’m not always this serious. Surprisingly, If you met me, you’d be inclined to adjudge me unserious. Apologies for the lengthy reply.

      To your questions:
      1) Yes I feel it is that important. To the best of my knowledge, I know it is encouraged for UK students to pick up fluency in other European languages. Many times when you read profiles of notable westerners, they do not fail to include the number of languages they are proficient in. There is something about discussing with another party in a mutual language of understanding (without any interpreter), it enables either party gauge the non-verbal gestures being communicated through stressed words, choice of words and other means that may be lost when an interpreter has to normalize communication with oftentimes, a restrictive choice of words. When governments fail to understand that their actions and policies are supposed to encourage fluid integration of its citizens with other countries and continents, they effectively stifle the potentials of their citizens. Many notable and thriving nations today weren’t made solely for the benefit of their citizens: Dubai is a tourist attraction not to its people but foreigners, America has always been the melting point of the world, Germany’s economy is oftentimes outwardly looking to meet the world’s needs, China and many other Asian nations have opened up their closed economies and culture. That there are many other issues bugging our education system doesn’t make this issue any less valid…maybe of less priority.

      2) I reckon there is a better approach to look at cost and benefits. For example, if you had to choose between two opportunities: A with a cost outlay of two naira and a guaranteed return of ten naira and B with a cost outlay of five naira and a guaranteed return fifty naira, surely you wouldn’t choose A because it involves a lesser cost outlay and a guaranteed profit… other considerations come to play. I reckon that the government has both the means to comfortably meet the cost outlay and it stands to benefit from a strategic approach to encouraging learning other international Languages. Once when I was negotiating with a roadside seller in English, I switched language to pidgin to facilitate the transaction. My cousin (who doesn’t reside in Nigeria) who was party to conversation was a bit puzzled why I did so. That singular act got me a better bargain – a simple switch from English to Pidgin English, how much more a switch to another language. Thelma’s recent ‘Correct Aje’ post touches a bit on this. When I speak your language, it helps to build trust, aids communication and even lowers barriers to forming strong relationships – these are important factors for international businesses and governments and by extension, people of any society. I know in many universities, International Languages as difficult as Russian are studied, most graduates of these courses have to secure jobs unrelated to their academic background to make ends meet. If we could adequately make good use of these graduates and other resources at our disposal, we’d be lowering cost and improving returns. In addition, there is the issue of the lost child-potential; for every day that passes, we lose the opportunity for these children to easily acquire a robust language skill-set.

      @Uyi
      I hope with these added few points of mine, you can see better reason for my viewpoint?

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  4. Government ke? In this situation we are in? Even our local languages are not receiving fair treatment let alone foreign languages that are obviously far more expensive.

    I notice that even most 'middle-level' private schools cannot afford to hire foreign language teachers on full time basis. They are often hired as contractors.

    It's unfortunate really.

    -F

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    1. How are you?

      Well, I still believe that the government is the only true and legitimate entity that can be modified to meet the development that you, I and many other Nigerians desire and deserve. It is probably an unreasonable belief, but it is one I still hold claim to.

      If foreign language teachers are expensive, government and educational institutions can encourage other effective and less-expensive methods like online free courses, educational TV programs in other languages, etc.

      I have even thought of the government establishing language centers that cater to a number of schools within a vicinity. For example, on Monday, one could have five schools from a certain axis come to take a number of languages in that center, on Tuesday we could have another five schools etc. This should reduce the cost per school per student. I guess I just feel when a goal is necessary and important, one shouldn’t shy away because of the cost, rather one should seek ways to reduce the cost outlay, after all that is what innovation is all about.

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    2. I'm fine. Thanks for asking and trust you are doing well too.

      I agree with your position, 100%. It is just sad individuals have to be the ones to provide basic and important things for themselves.

      -F

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  5. Well written.

    You have a good point but right now is not the time for the government to implement this, there are so many things wrong with the educational system, the issue of languages is just a minor problem. Then there's the cost issue that Kon raised.

    I didn't think that anyone who's interested in learning or having their child(ren) learn a foreign language can hire someone to teach it to them or go find a school/organization that renders such service and patronize them. That's the way forward right now.

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    1. That's always the excuse. That "There's so many things wrong with our educational system" don't mean we can't start fixing it from somewhere. There are a lot of parents who take foreign language very seriously cos they know it's importance. Since the FG plans on recruiting over 500,000 teachers, any hope that they wldnt all be science teachers?
      Funds has always been an excuse in this country whenever the FG don't wanna do something. Since they scrapped History in schools, they cld replace those teachers with foreign language teachers. Win-win situation...

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  6. Hello Sunshine, thanks for the compliment.

    I believe I have addressed a number of your concerns in my earlier replies. As much as I agree that we have a number of veritable issues bugging our nation, I think an approach that takes this issue of language into consideration would do us better good. If we restrict this issue to those privileged to independently meet their own needs, we risk creating an uneven playing field for the children (leaders) of tomorrow.

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