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The Plight of Students Not Fluent in English

Do students who are fluent in English have more resources available at their disposal and is there a linguistic bias prevalent in the University of Delhi?

The English bias is a very real phenomenon, especially in a country like ours, which hasn’t been able to completely break free from the chains of colonialism, even after 70 years of independence. In the University of Delhi (DU), an institute where the medium of communication is primarily English, this becomes especially problematic for a lot of students. An education in DU is not exclusive to private school students, and the teaching methods should reflect that, doing justice to the diverse student body.

While some professors try to accommodate students from a Hindi-medium background, this practise varies from college to college.  For instance, The Directorate of Hindi Medium Implementation publishes translations of various books from English to Hindi every year. But these translations are not enough to cover the curriculum’s width and depth. Supplementary readings and handouts that professors circulate in the classroom are majorly in English, and students who are not comfortable with the language miss out on them. For them, the only way to understand the syllabus and its contents is either to seek help from guides or helpful friends. They spend long hours looking up words in the English-to-Hindi dictionary in order to understand their curriculum better. This task is tedious and the language barrier and lack of resources leads them to spend immense energy on something as basic as having access to the study material in a language which they are comfortable with. Similarly, students fluent in other regional languages face a drawback too.

Rinki, a student of B.A. Programme, studying Psychology and English from Daulat Ram College, says, “Bohot Hindi-medium students class mein bolne mein hesitate karte hain. Yeh zaroori hai ki aise motivational programmes college mein hon jisse unka stress aur hesitation kam ho (A lot of students from the Hindi-medium backgrounds hesitate in speaking in their class. It is important that colleges organise motivational programmes to help students reduce their stress levels and hesitation.)”

It is essential that we acknowledge that this emphasis on our education being imparted in English results in other students not comfortable with the language suffering immense academic losses. It is important that we establish this fact – having the ability to read and write in English is an additional skill, not a minimum requirement to have access to a good education. It is imperative that we remember that fluency in English should not be a prerequisite to be able to understand your professors.  Fluency in English is closely linked with education in private schools. It is a product of one’s privilege as much as it is the product of one’s dedication and hard work. It would be highly unfair if these criteria were allowed to determine and influence the quality of education imparted to students who don’t speak in English.  Colleges must actively seek out and encourage the faculty to bridge the gap between the resources available to English speakers and those more comfortable in regional languages.  Apart from ensuring that reading material and secondary readings are translated, they must also ensure that the faculty encourages all students to actively participate in class. The purpose of a language is to facilitate discussion, debate, learning and expression. But when language starts restricting people from actively seeking a good education, it becomes highly problematic. The first step in solving a problem is realizing that we have one.

September 8th was World Literacy Day, and it reminded us that education is the greatest gift mankind gave itself. Today, we are living in  times where we can see our mother tongue slowly fading out, both in terms of its relevance and common use.  And therefore, it is even more important that those who speak the language should be encouraged to pursue it further. If students who prefer regional languages over English keep encountering challenges while trying to pursue an education, it would lead to the slow demise of the language and would act as a deterrent for others wishing to pursue it.

 

Feature Image Credits: Pinterest

Kinjal Pandey
kinjalp@dubeat.com



Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.


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