Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 29 14:34:03 UTC 2009


*The English Language has been subject to polemic for the past few weeks and
a lot has been said about the gradual decline of Shakespeare’s language in
our schools and colleges. This short article aims at showing the value of
English in the world today, all by analyzing some of the causes of the
decay. Here are some facts that will enlarge the reader’s view about the
prestige of English in the world today: without any doubt English has become
the dominant language of the world communication. It is the main language of
most of the world’s books, newspapers and advertising. It is the official
international language of airports and traffic control and the chief
maritime language. Even two-third of the world’s scientists write in English
and 80% of all the information stored in the electronic retrieval systems of
the world is stored in English.

If today we can boast about talking of the world as a global village, we
should not forget how much credit we owe to English. Here are other examples
of the daily use of English. A well-known Japanese company, wishing to
negotiate with its Arabic customers, arranges all its meetings in English. A
Colombian doctor reports he spends almost as much time improving his English
as practicing medicine. With the computer age today, the English Language is
bound to take an added dimension worldwide. However, it is very sad to see
that Shakespeare’s cherished language is on the verge of decay in our
schools. Our country will surely suffer if we do not take appropriate
measures in view of enhancing the standard of our official language.


   - No one will deny that we as Mauritians  live in a very un-English
   milieu. As a result, we feel quite isolated from English culture and
   civilization. Our pupils have also got the propensity of thinking in the
   Creole( our regional lingo) ‘patois’ and then writing it down literally in
   English, leading to ungrammatical sentence constructions.

   - Many people have left school with the impression that English grammar
   is a dull, boring, pointless subject – simply because it was presented in a
   dull, boring and pointless way. Something is wrong when this happens. If
   there is ineffective teaching of its grammar any language would suffer and
   this is the case for English.

   - No teacher in the world would deny that a language is better learnt
   through frequent exposure to it. But today reading has become a hateful act
   for the majority of our pupils. No reading at all or even superficial
   reading is very often fatal for the Mauritian candidate. Go and ask a pupil
   who has failed in English at S.C (School Certificate), for instance. The
   distaste and disinterestedness in English Language and literature in upper
   classes is greatly responsible for the decline in passes in English at S.C.

   - Gone are the days when reading books, novels, magazines etc. were as
   important as our daily prayers. How much pride did we take when we read
   Dicken’s ‘Oliver Twist’, Defoe ‘Robinson Crusoe’, Bronte ‘Jane Eyre’ or
   Hardy’s ‘ The Mayor of Casterbridge’ among others when we were at school?
   But how heart-rending is it today to see our libraries almost deserted,
   losing their magnetic aspects, and only filled with plenty of
   gossip-mongers. Somebody has rightly said “Our modern libraries are
   neglected storehouses of knowledge. Recently the Municipality of Port-Louis
   conducted a survey to find out how many citizens inhabiting the capital
   actually take the pain of coming to read in the various libraries of
   Port-Louis. The finding was shocking; less than 10% ‘use’ the libraries. The
   question worth asking is: Is it value-for-money maintaining such costly
   libraries when so few people do come and read there?

   - Mauritius is some way a unique country as far its policy towards the
   official language is concerned. No other country in the world where English
   is official gives such little importance to English. Our T.V is
   French-dominated; most of our newspapers are in French; we speak French in
   our offices and ironically still, English is our official language.
   Sometimes we are tempted to ask ourselves if its is not a deliberate policy
   of the authorities to keep the lower classes at a mark disadvantage in

   - Why have many of our secondary institutions dropped English Literature?
   In the past, it was strongly believed that such subjects like literature and
   History help to boost up pupil’s English-Today we are doing away the
   literature. Mrs. Christine Calay, subject officer of the English Language at
   Cambridge University stated during her visit to Mauritius in 1994 that if
   Singapore does much better in English than Mauritius, among many others
   reasons, there is the undisputed fact that Singapore English is given its
   due importance-there, the pupils ALL have to do English Literature and they
   speak English everywhere. When will Mauritius understand this bare truth?


   - It’s not a secret that reading is the magic key that unlocks the door
   to the wonderland of stories and information.

   - Language and literature are first meant for pure enjoyment and
   appreciation. It is after that, they become academic subjects. So learn to
   love to enjoy your reading first, improvement is bound to follow…

   - Many parents unfortunately still believe that reading is limited to the
   classroom only; which is no true. Reading is the most important thing that
   parents can do for their children, and as often and early as they can.

We should also not do away with traditional, “old fashioned” type, of
learning English, rote learning and instead adopt only so called methods of
language learning.
Let’s end by quoting Samuel Johnson who said “I am always sorry when any
language is lost, because languages are pedigree of nations.”

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its
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sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman,

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