Language As A System Of Communication English Language Essay
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This chapter enters into the basic important aspects of the research report. The chapter throws light on the background of teaching and learning process in general, the concept of Municipal schools in India, Andhra Pradesh and Vijayawada. It also includes the background and need of the research, significance, statement, objectives, assumptions, hypothesis, scope and limitations of the research.
1.2 What is language?
A language is a systematic means of communication by the use of sounds or conventional symbols. It is the code we all use to express ourselves and communicate to others. It is a communication by word of mouth. It is the mental faculty or power of vocal communication. It is a system for communicating ideas and feelings using sounds, gestures, signs or marks. Any means of communicating ideas, specifically, human speech, the expression of ideas by the voice and sounds articulated by the organs of the throat and mouth is a language.
Language is a very important part of life. It is indeed a wonderful phenomenon. Only human beings can communicate with each other in various languages.
A human language is a system of remarkable complexity. To come to know a human language would be an extraordinary intellectual achievement for a creature not specifically designed to accomplish this task. A normal child acquires this knowledge on relatively slight exposure and without specific training. He can then quite effortlessly make use of an intricate structure of specific rules and guiding principles to convey his thoughts and feelings to others, arousing in them novel ideas and subtle perceptions and judgments (Chomsky, 1975.4)
Language is an exclusively human property. There are many tools for communication e.g. signs, symbols, gestures, expressions and languages. Out of them language is the most developed, advanced and popular tool for communication. So, language has become an integral part of human life. We cannot think of anything without language.
Language is a defining characteristic of humans that plays a central role in virtually all aspects of human activity, interaction, knowledge and thought. Because language is at the same time a socio-cultural phenomenon and a formal system grounded in human cognition and biology, its study rests at the intellectual interaction of the humanities and the social, biological and behavioural sciences.
Most human knowledge and culture is stored and transmitted in language. Without language, society as we know now would have been impossible. Language in fact is a great tool which has made human civilizations possible. It is also the most important tool for understanding, thinking, for development of knowledge, its pervasion, storage and improvement.
1.2. 1 Definitions of Language
Language has been defined in different ways by the linguists.
According to Bolinger, language is “A system of vocal auditory communication, interacting with the experiences of its users, employing conventional songs composed of arbitrary patterned sound units and assembled according to set rules”. (Pandit, kute and Suryawanshi, 1999. 1)
Wardhaugh defines language as “A system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication”. (Pandit, Kute and Suryawanshi, 1999. 2)
Block and Trager states “Language is a set of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group communicates”. (Boss, 2002. 1) “Language is the medium through which the child acquires the cultural, moral, religious and other values of society”. (Klein, 1986. 6)
An understanding of language as Open, dynamic, energetic, constantly evolving and personal (Shohamy, 2007. 5) encompasses the rich complexities of communication. Language is not a thing to be studied but a way of seeing, understanding and communicating about the world and each language user uses his or her language(s) differently to do this. People use language for purposeful communication and learning a new language involves learning how to use words, rules and knowledge about language and its use in order to communicate with speakers of the language.
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Distinctive Features of language
(A) Language is Human
A totally distinctive feature of language is that it is human. It is a very different from that of animal communication. Human language uses the duality feature that is of concurrent system of sound and meaning. Language does not exist in the communication of any other species. So in the words of Dwight Bolinger, “Language is species specific. It is uniquely human trait, shared by the culture so diverse and by individuals physically and mentally so unlike one another.”(Bolinger, 1968. 3)
(B) Language as a system of communication
Language is primarily an instrument of communication among human beings in a community. Humans convey their ideas, thoughts, feelings, emotions, wishes, experiences to the others by performing certain actions. These actions create sound waves which travel through the air from one person to the others. Thus, language works as a means to express ones communicative needs.
(C) Language as Arbitrary
The sound and the meaning bear an arbitrary relationship. It is a matter of convention. Between the sound and the sense the occasional matching is a chance and not a rule.
Hence, this arbitrariness is the relationship offers a wide field of uniqueness and variety. This property is helpful to the language user who enjoys and openness and freedom to use the language.
(D) Language as Vocal
The primary medium of language is sound. Sounds are called oral aural symbols of communication. It is basically related to the vocal sound system.
(E) Language is learnt
The child learns a language and he/she learns it over a long period of time. His or her language learning starts with various isolated sounds. Gradually he or she acquires the total sound system and grammatical rules.
(F) Language changes
Every language is a living phenomenon. As per the speakers needs it constantly changes and develops. New words are borrowed and absorbed in a language from time to time.
In a way, human language is very significant and important; It is like a raw material to learn anything in one’s life. Language is something that people do in their daily lives and something they use to express, create and interpret meanings and to establish and maintain social and interpersonal relationships.
The vital aspect or property of language is that language is ‘acquired’ and not ‘inherited’. In the focus of this property, language acquisition becomes very significant in the case of every human being.
1.3 Process and Learning Process
The term ‘Process’ which is common in acquisition/learning studies is used in two related meanings. It refers both to the sequence of development [i.e., to the incremental nature of acquisition/learning] and to the factors that determine how acquisition/learning takes place.
Illeris (2007. 3) states learning is a very complex and many sided matter including “Any process that in living organisms leads to permanent capacity change and which is not solely due to biological maturation or ageing.”
This definition implies that process such as socialization, qualification, competence development and therapy are regarded as special types of learning process where real learning takes place.
1.3 1 (i) Acquisition Vs Learning
There are different opinions about the acquisition of language and learning of language. Krashen’s (1981) opinion is one among them. He distinguishes between ‘acquisition’ and ‘learning’. The former refers to the subconscious process of picking up a language through exposure and the latter refers to the conscious process of studying it.
According to this view, if a language is internalized subconsciously through exposure in a natural environment the process becomes ‘acquisition’. In contrast, if a language is internalized consciously through instruction in class room settings the process becomes ‘Learning’. When a language is internalized subconsciously by a learner, he or she may not have grammatical competence but he or she may have communicative competence in a particular context, and when a language is internalized consciously by him or her, he or she may have grammatical competence, but need not have communicative competence.
(ii) Acquisition and learning of a Language
Acquisition is the act of getting something especially knowledge, skill, etc, by one’s own efforts, ability or behaviour.
Learning is gaining knowledge or skill by studying, from being taught, one’s own experience, etc.
It is the process by which a child acquires its mother tongue.
Acquisition is an active process by which children, taking cues available to them, construct their own utterances and say things they have never heard of.
Language learning is a behaviour acquired by making conscious efforts.
There are also many distinctions between the processes of acquisition and learning.
Children within five years of age learn their mother tongue through acquisition.
A second language is learnt through conscious effort of learning.
Acquisition is an unconscious process where no formal classroom instruction is involved. Learning however is about conscious knowledge and the application of rules and structures.
In language acquisition, the focus is on communication or reception of a message. But in language learning the thrust is on Syntax and grammar.
First Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning Process
There are two different approaches about the acquisition process of language. Linguists like Chomsky and his followers, assume that language is innate and children acquire only the Corpus of the language from the environment and not the structure. Psychologists assume that language is learnt like other behaviours.
Further, they claim that both the corpus and structure of language are acquired from environment. However, both the approaches accept the importance of the environment for acquiring a language.
First language acquisition occurs when the learner usually a child – has been without a language so far and now acquires one [Klein, 1986. 4]. Hence, the acquiring process of language takes place, subconsciously in a social environment in several stages. The studies (Droni, 1979; Ingram, 1989; Redford, 1990) reveal the stages of acquiring first language. These stages are prilinguistic stage, single word stage, early multiword stage, later multiword stage. In the later multiword stage, children produce unlimited number of sentences using their linguistic competence.
Where as ‘Second Language acquisition’ (SLA) is used in the applied linguistic studies to refer to the internalization process of an L2 through exposure in a social environment where the real communication takes place. Further, Eliss (1986. 6) says that second language acquisition is the subconscious or conscious process by which a language, other than the mother tongue is learnt in a natural or a tutored setting. It covers the development of phonology, lexis, grammar and pragmatic knowledge.
As far as acquisition of first language is concerned, the child follows the sequence of linguistic skills i.e. L-S-R-W (Listening – Speaking – Reading – Writing). But while learning a second or foreign language the sequence of skills is changed. It becomes as L-R-W-S (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking). So learner of a foreign or second language faces many problems.
How has this problem of foreign or second language occurred? And why has it become acute in these days?
1.3.3 Second Language Acquisition
According to second language acquisition theory, language is acquired when we understand what is said or written, rather than how it is expressed. Language acquisition takes place when we focus on meaning and not on form (Stevick 1976). Learners succeed when they actively participate in their own learning.
Stevick further says that the learners may only succeed in formulating few language utterances when they are actively involved in interaction. Therefore, interaction plays a vital role in the second language acquisition process.
According to Krasheu (1984), comprehensible input is necessary for second language acquisition which, according to him, takes place in a low anxiety situation. In some cases input is provided and understood, but does not result in acquisition, as the learner suffers a mental block which prevents him or her from learning effectively. Keeping this in view, Krasheu has formulated the ‘affective filter hypotheses in relation to second language acquisition. His ‘Affective filter hypothesis’ claims that, when the learner is not motivated, when he/she over anxious about his/her performance, then there is a mental block called the ‘affective filter’, this prevents the input from reaching those parts of the brain responsible for language acquisition, and as a result the second language acquired turns out to be minimal.
This theory implies that the second language, classes should be filled with comprehensible input presented in a low – anxiety situation. In order to facilitate second language acquisition, the classroom is considered a very good place for beginning second language, acquisition, as the learners acquire the language conditions which are conducive to learning through instruction. One of the main goals of teaching in the second language class room is thus to help the learners understand the language, and improve on their own. With the help of the knowledge of the new words and the clues provided to them through exposure to the second language.
The language classes, which expose the learners to comprehensible input, are considered to facilitate the second language acquisition. As the present study focuses on learning process of English at school, it is important to examine the language skills (LSRW) as a means of acquiring second language.
Historical Background of Teaching English in India
Let us have a look at the historical background of teaching English in India.
When English was introduced in the country in the 19th century, the purpose was to create ‘a class of people, India in blood and colour, but English in opinion, in moral and in intellect.’ The English educated’ class of people were to act as mediators in administration. Thus English became the utility language.
After 1920 and right up to the dawn of independence many historical events took place in India. These events were National freedom movement, the round table conference, the economic dead look and the Second World War. These were followed in quick succession. The overall effect of these events was that the government could not implement any changes regarding their policies of education and medium of instruction. However, English continued to dominate the curriculum of Indian schools, colleges and universities.
In this way, English became very important Language in Indian education system. It was associated with better education, culture and intellect. The British ruled over many parts of the world, hence, English pervaded in many countries. Naturally it got international status.
Post – Independence Era
Though the Post-independence India witnessed a great deal of anger against English, the language has been retained as Associate official language since 1950. But the people of India began to feel their problems in more realistic way. They began to think keenly about politics, economics and even about education. They wanted complete independence in every field i.e. political, cultural, economic and educational fields.
Pundit Nehru expressed his views in connection with the continuation of English. He said, “Indian languages have suffered psychologically and otherwise because of English, yet they have gained a great deal to form contacts with the wider worldâ€¦â€¦..however, English cannot be in India, anything a second language in future.” (Gurav, 2002. 4)
“Of all the superstitions that India has, none is so great as that a knowledge of the English language is necessary for imbibing ideas of liberty and developing accuracy of thought.” [Gurav, 2002. 4]
Though the above expressions revealed that our national leaders, who were the product of English education, were supporters for English as a foreign or second language, English language has been in the position of controversy even after fifty years of the country’s independence. The challenge posed by English language in the multilingual society of India with 1652 mother tongues and 18 major languages included in the VIII schedule of Constitution, was the subject of examination by several commissions, Committees and Reports on the issue of language policy and medium of instruction.
However, English continued to occupy an important place in Indian education system.
After independence various commissions and study groups have given their views about the study of English language in India e.g.
The Radhakrishna Commission (1948) emphasized the need for the continuance of the study of English.
The University Education Commission (1949) focused on,” English will continue to occupy an important place in India’s academic and intellectual life. English should be studied in High schools and in universities in order that we might keep ourselves in touch with the living stream of ever-growing knowledge.” [Purkait, 1987. 320 -21]
Kothari Commission (1964) highlighted the role of English as a ‘Library language.’ (Gurav, 2002. 7)
The report of the National Commission on Education (1964), Ministry of Education, Government of India, has insisted on the study of English for practical purposes. (Yardi, 1987. 34)
Prof. Gokak said that the study of English should be continued. (Yardi, 1987.29)
From the above mentioned views, it is clear that English language has occupied a place of prestige in our country.
1.4. 1 Importance of English
Language plays a vital role in a society because it is not only a mode of communication but also a way of life. It carries historical, cultural, religious as well as ethnic markers of people. It is like a raw material to have fine product of education. Hence the English language has got the significant importance in today’s education system.
English is widely used as an international language throughout the world. It is one of the official languages, even in most of the countries of the world. It is spoken by more than 340 million people as a first language in United Kingdom and the United States. It is also used for international communication.
Randolph Quick point out that, “There are now something like 250 million people for whom English is the mother tongue or first language and this of course means for the most part, their only language. If we add to this the number of people who have a working knowledge of English as a second or foreign language (many Indians, Africans, Frenchmen and Russians and so on), we raise the total to about 350 million.” (Quirk, 1972. 8)
It is important as a library language which plays a vital role in higher education. It is a language of trade and commerce, science and advanced technology, medicine and computer. Importance of English language is due to its international use. In Pandit Nehru’s words it is a “Window to the world’. (Gurav, 2003.7) English has proved itself, as a torch – bearing to the nations of the world.
English has become important language for national and international communication. It is the only language which is widely known as a link language. Hence, English is treated as a language of a global village. It is an important language for social cohesion.
F. G French has rightly pointed out the importance of English. He says, “Because of rapid spread of industrial development, science and technology, international trade and commerce and the close interdependence of nations; English has become a world language.” (Gurav, 2002.8)
Due to such importance it seems that English communication is the most effective way to open various doors of opportunities in various fields.
Let’s see what place the English language has in the school curriculum.
1.4. 2 Place of English in India
The English language became popular, because it opened paths to education, employment and influence. The English education system was started in 1835 by the British. At that time English played an important role in school curriculum. It was taught as a compulsory subject.
By the time India became independent, English had already consolidated its position in the school and university education. The language acts of 1963 and 1967 reinforced the position of English in India. The language has blended itself with the cultural and social life of the country. Its importance as a national and international link language as a language of trade, as a library language and an official language of administration is fully accepted in India.
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However, the National Policy of Education [NPE] of 1968 reiterates recommendations to adopt regional languages as medium of instruction at the university level and efforts to implement the three language formula. Inspite of strong recommendations of NPE (1968), the university education has been continued through English and the noticeable fact is that English is preferred by many learners and the parents. This is because of the better chances the learners would have to qualify with a reasonable command over the English language.
Kothari Commission (1964 – 66) has suggested the there language formula in which English has been placed as a second or third language. The three language formula is as follows:
Regional Medium Schools
English Medium Schools
Telugu (Mother tongue)
English (International language)
Hindi (National language)
Hindi (National language)
English (International language and 2nd language
(Telugu as Mother tongue in Andhra Pradesh)
English as a second language
English has been used as a second language in India not a foreign language. It has been used as an official language, a medium for higher education, the national and international link language, interpersonal and inter institutional communication, a language of business, a language of competitive examinations and a language of professionals.
English became the ‘neutral’ language for wider communication and the language of technology, modernity and development. After Hindi it is the most commonly spoken language in India and probably the most read and written language in India.
1.4.3 English Language Teaching in Andhra Pradesh
The syllabi of the state analyzed gives the picture of how language learning is understood; the basic conditions for learning a language as a second or foreign language aimed at and the essential of a good language learning, teaching in a situation like the rural Indian settings. The essentials may be listed as
(i) Proficient language teacher (ii) amount of exposure of students to the language (iii) motivation of children (iv) materials that would provide opportunities for the learner and teacher to act and react and move beyond the texts.
But the syllabus of Andhra Pradesh does not make an attempt to understand what is language learning i.e. assumptions about language learning. The syllabus reflects:
ƒ Attainment of basic proficiency, and
ƒ The development of language is as an instrument for basic interpersonal communication and later for abstract thought.
It does not talk about the learner, nature of learning, language and learning. The place and status of English language is touched formally. The syllabus draws learning upon NCF-2005.
Objectives attempt to bring in many things at the same time. Though the syllabus advocates multiple methods of teaching learning the language, it appears that it relies heavily on good old structural approach in the primary classes. The number of structures to be taught / learned is listed in the detailed syllabus.
As the research is based on the municipal schools, let us see the background of municipal schools of Vijayawada, A.P.
1.5 History of Municipal Administrative in India
In India a Municipal Corporation is a local body that administers a city of population 200,000 or more. Under the Panchayati raj system, it interacts directly with the state government, though it administratively part of the district it is located in.
The First Municipal Corporation in modern India was set up in the former presidency town of Madras in 1688. It was followed by Municipal Corporation of Calcutta in 1876 and Bombay in 1888. Lord Ripon (1880-84), the viceroy of India introduced and element of elections in the municipal Corporation. The reforms introduced by Lord Ripon continue to have its traces in the existing local self governments.
1.5.1 Functioning of Municipal Schools in A.P.
Education in the AP Municipality Act, 1965 under section 130 read with Rule 42 of taxation and Finance rules appended to the APM ACL 1965, municipality can incur expenditure connected with education on the following items:
Establishment and maintenance of Schools;
Construction and maintenance of school buildings; and
Training of teachers.
Education is not mentioned explicitly as an area of core concern for municipalities in Andhra Pradesh and there fore it is a grey area. It is taking care from Section 31A above that the role of municipalities in ‘managing’ education is restricted. The administrative function of appointing Headmasters and teachers in the Municipal Schools, managing and disbursing their salaries, promoting and transferring the staff and maintaining the upkeep of the municipal schools under their management is what all municipal authorities have been doing so far. Most of the academic functions rest with the education department.
In AP, municipal schools exist in only 13 districts of the 23 districts in the state. Nearly 2100 municipal schools are functioning in the state. About 1400 primary schools, 400 upper primary schools and 300 secondary schools are functioning in the state. Over 3.5 lakh children are enrolled in these schools and 8100 teachers are working in the municipal schools with TP ratio of 45, 49 and 40 is primary, upper primary and secondary schools respectively
1.5.2 Municipal schools in Vijayawada, Krishna District, A.P.
Vijayawada, also called “Vidyala wada” (Place of Education), occupies a large amount of the educational infrastructure of Andhra Pradesh. The city was named “The Educational Sahara” by a foreign ambassador.
Education in the city is implemented by both the government and the private institutions. Vijayawada Municipal Corporation takes care of the government educational institutions.
Following are the statistics of Municipal Schools:
High schools:28 (including 1 Urdu Medium, 2 Schools both English and Telugu Medium and 1 Tamil Medium)
Upper Primary Schools: 15 (including 3 Urdu Medium)
Elementary Schools: 65+10=75(10 Urdu Medium, 2 English Media)
Students: 28,450 (as on 30.06.2011)
Municipalities are responsible for opening / up gradation of schools in the urban areas are under Municipal Corporation. A municipality is a unit for all purposes. All teachers in a municipality are under one unit for purposes promotion or reversion etc. Panel committee in the municipality has the authority for promotion of teachers. Teachers are transferred from one school to another in the same municipality. Municipal authorities inspect the school. Salaries of teaching and non – teaching staff are paid by the government. But it is reduced to the extent of education tax collected by the municipality.
The trends in enrolment show a clear shift to private schools in urban areas like Vijayawada. Poor infrastructure, lack of sanitation facilities, lack of subject / adequate teachers, teacher absenteeism, are some of the factors leading to poor performance of students resulting in low demand for these schools.
Class rooms: Adequacy of rooms to accommodate is a problem in municipal high schools. Problems exist with regard to ventilation and sufficient space for all the children in all the class rooms.
Headmaster’s office and staff room: In the urban municipal schools in Vijayawada there is one room that is used as a double for the HM’s room as well as the office with the files stacked behind. There is no place to store and exhibit the various shields, trophies and mementos won by the school and its teams adequately.
Laboratories: There is no exclusive space for a laboratory in any of the schools visited. There are a small number of demonstrable aids and equipment in high schools, but the same are stacked in cupboards inside classrooms. In the case of an upgraded school, laboratory equipment is being borrowed from a neighbouring school and the same is returned after displaying them in the class.
Library: Libraries ideally provide access to books that are beyond the classroom texts and create a link with the developments taking place outside. Storage of books in the best of municipal schools is found not to be satisfactory. Books are not accessible to the students for whom they are meant to be additional reading material.
Common rooms for girls: The Government of India has embarked on a mission to retain girls in schools through the National Programme Education for Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL). Urban slums in Municipalities and Corporations of the four districts including Krishna district was covered under the programme. It was seen that such room existed in one high school, but was not being utilized for the purpose. The new constructed rooms were being used as staff rooms for female teachers.
Drinking water and Toilets: Drinking water for children has not been uniformly attended to in all municipal schools. Sanitation facilities or toilets in schools are shared by the students and the teachers. This is a cause for concern as drop out among girls is normally attributed to poor sanitation conditions in schools.
Playgrounds: In the space scarce areas of urban locations, it is hard to find municipal schools with adequate play space for the students.
Furniture for Staff and Students: Municipal schools have been lacking in furniture for its students. There are hardly any municipal schools, at all levels, which have been benches for all the children. This could possibly be the reason for shifting of parents in moving their children to private schools.
Performance: Looking at the results achieved by municipal schools over the years, it is found that the pass percentage has been a mixed bag of success and failures. Some of the students of VMC have excelled in academic despite adversities.
The performance of Municipal School students in SSC Board exams over the last three years is consistently around 60%.
Performance of Municipal School Students in SSC Exams
2008 – 09
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