Thursday, May 27, 2010

Second Language a Boon or Bane????

Today morning I got up with a great relief. Can you guess the reason? My son's third grade second language (S.L) exam was over yesterday. For the past two weeks we have been (both of us) slogging over learning Hindi when compared to other subjects. Other subjects needed two hours of studying but the S.L needed six hours of practice. The reason being that he was not familiar with the language. When ever his exams approach I become stressed out and my B.P shoots up high. I know I am over reacting but I have to admit that at times I am an average Indian mother. I have to work with him to make him get a pass at least.

When he was in first standard he was given the option of choosing Hindi,or Tamil or French. There should be some use when you learn a language.I made him chose Hindi because I thought that he could learn a new language. Tamil being our mother tongue he can learn at home. French is going to be of no use other than to score marks. He is not going to speak in French with any of his friends unless he happens to go to France when he grows up. In that case he would have forgotten the language by then. Hindi seemed to be the best option because it is our national language and he can speak with his friends in Hindi . I feel very bad for not having learnt to speak in Hindi.

When I was in 9th standard there was a new girl from Dubai. She had moved with her family from Dubai to Tanjore. She didn't know a word of Tamil. Out of over enthusiasm to learn Tamil and to make new friends she came to me for help. When you are in your teens you know how your brain works out all nasty plans. Me and another friend of mine used to teach her Tamil . First we started off with all animal names (so that she can call others by those names) , then taught her the "disrespectful words" followed by words used to scold others. She was so innocent that she would repeat what ever we taught her. It was so much fun to watch her speak Tamil. In the name of teaching her Tamil we used to make fun of her. She didn't care about our teasing. Slowly by the end of the year she was able to converse in Tamil. Next year she started showing interest in learning the alphabets so that she can learn to read and write. By the time we were in twelfth standard she could read and write. She had learnt a new language very easily without any stress.

Language is nothing but imitation of sounds. Learning a language should be lot of fun. Kids either chose their mother tongue or a new language as their S.L . In the name of second language our kids are made to hate learning a new language or their own mother tongue. Not only my kids, I think most of the school going kids spend a lot of extra time in learning the S.L. The amount of effort they put on the S.L, doesn not help them in their future.

The best way to introduce a language is to teach how to speak the language first. When young you are not shy to speak a new language. You are ready to correct your mistakes very easily. As you grow older you feel shy to speak a new language . You are conscious about what others will say. When I see so many people around me speak in Hindi I feel I should also speak but I am very conscious about the mistakes I make and I switch back to my comfort zone--English. From first standard to fourth standard children should be taught to speak the second language fluently. Once their vocabulary is strong enough then in the 5th standard writing can be introduced. They learn fast to read and write once their vocabulary is strong. They can easily frame sentences and the grammar part becomes easy too. They understand what they learn.

What is the use of learning too much of grammar? By focusing too much on grammar kids loose their interest in learning the literature part of a language. The element of enjoyment in learning a new language is wiped out . It is not that all the children learn their mother tongue as their second language. For kids who learn a new language as their S.L their vocabulary is very limited. It is very difficult for them to express themselves or answer the questions in writing. Language should be a means of communication .Children should be made to listen to a lot of the new language. Listening comprehension should be emphasized . They should be encouraged to speak the language. When a child learns to speak a new language fluently then he gains confidence.

Getting a A+ doesn't mean a child is well versed in the language or that he or she can appreciate the culture and the heritage of the language. It is just for the grades kids learn the language with extra effort. This attitude should be changed into learning out of interest. They learn with so much hard work but when applying for colleges the S.L marks are not taken into account, unless they opt to specialize in art subjects. Even for kids who learn mother tongue as S.L why do they need to learn the intricacies of the language? In what way is it going to help them? If some kids show extra interest let them be segregated and given greater challenges. When the medium of instruction of all subjects is the same as the S.L then it might be easy for the kids. But for other kids learning a new language is like climbing the Everest.

Kids of this generation mingle with multi racial, multi cultural, multi lingual children. The common language for communication is mostly English. They even tend to speak less of their mother tongue at home. Hence they think in English and speak in English. It is not fair on our part to push them too hard into learning the grammar part of a language. We all want to help our mother tongue thrive in this English dominating society. We have to be more creative in helping our kids in the learning process.

Do we remember the grammar or the poems we learnt in our school? Why unnecessarily put pressure on the kids from young age. Instead of concentrating on the S.L so much they can learn other subjects. Other than speaking,writing and reading a language nothing else is going to help them in the long run. Without knowing how to speak a language fluently what is the use of learning the language? When you move to a place where everyone speaks a language you don't know, you are compelled to learn that language. No matter you are a learned person or not, you learn it very quickly because of the need. Let us first help our children to speak a new language before they learn to read and write in that language. When the base is strong enough they will automatically show interest in learning the language in detail. It is an easy job both for the children and the teachers. As the children go to higher classes they should be taught to appreciate the language. When young they look upon a language just as a tool for communication. They cannot appreciate the richness of a language.

Second language learning is too stressful these days both for the children as well as the parents(of course the moms--personal experience ). Exam oriented approach should be changed while learning a language. It should be a pleasant experience. The learner as well as the teacher should enjoy the experience. Especially kids who move from one state to another and who return to India after having studied abroad are affected by the S.L .

As I said earlier initial stress should be on teaching the children to speak the language fluently. For this more interactive teaching methods should be introduced. Acting out a drama , a small on the spot speech --just a few lines on any given topic , could be tried out. They should not be asked to memorize anything. They should be encouraged to speak on their own . This way their vocabulary will improve. By listening to other kids do the same thing they will gain confidence to speak the language. Later reading should be taught. Writing should come after a few years of speaking and reading.

I know how to read and write in hindi but I don't know the meaning. What is the use? If I had known how to speak the language first then it would have been a great help for me. Hope I will learn to speak Hindi by the time my son completes his tenth grade. Just like many moms out there, who are hoping for a change in the Second Language Learning and Teaching approach I am also waiting with lots of hope. The Education Department should design a syllabus to cater to the new generation. The old school of thoughts should be improvised to suit the new current scenario.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mother's Day Special

We all celebrated Mother's day on the 9th of May. It is almost a week now. To me everyday is a mother's day. Let me rewind what happened last week in my house. Since May 1st I kept reminding everyone in my house about the mother's day and was asking how each one was going to make me happy on that day. I was hoping that my family would give me a break on that day since it was on a Sunday. I was dreaming that my husband would wake me up with a cup of milk and that my kids would scream in my ears "happy mother's day mama". With my built up dreams I was expecting the day to come.

It was Sunday 7a.m. My alarm woke me up with a big bell. I rubbed my eyes and with much difficulty I opened them. Next to me Ravi was sleeping as if his side of the bed was sound proofed. Not even a single twist or turn. I woke up and brushed my teeth. So with my first dream shattered I went inside my kid's room and woke them up saying "good morning, Who is going to wish mama happy mother's day?" Absolute silence. No noise in the room. They just acknowledged my voice and covered their faces with the blankets. With deep disappointment I went and started my daily routine. In between my work I called up my mom and wished her "happy mother's day." Later everyone got up. My daughter wished me "happy mother's day." My son was too shy to wish me ---for whatever reason. Then my husband wished me and reminded me about our friend's family coming over for lunch. I started my cook's job, then finished up with my cleaning job. In between I had to take care of the kids too. No one even had the slightest idea of helping me. I understood that afterall mother's day was special only to me . For them it was just another day in the calendar. Our friends came for lunch. We all had a good time. Then they left in the evening.

I asked my husband what my mother's day gift was? Many a times I am shameless like this. He directed me to ask my kids, because it was supposed to be given by the children to the mom and not by the husband to the wife. So the slightest chance of getting a gift was ruled out . Later in the night my daughter came up with a bag to me and said happy mother's day once again. Then she gave me the bag. Inside there was a poem written by her and she had made a wonderful wall hanging with pictures of me and her. I was sooooo thrilled to see it. We hugged each other and when I read the poem tears rolled out of my eyes. One of the lines was "I am not ashamed to tell you that I love you." I felt the fulfillment of being a mom that very second. My son who was watching all this got envy. He didn't know how to show his love. He just came and sat near me and was smiling. I asked him what was his gift. He told he had nothing to give. I asked him how he would show that he loved me. "I don't know" was the answer I got back. Shall I call this typical boy gene or dad gene? I told him that he should learn to show me that he loved me. Immediately he asked "mama can you sleep in my room?" ---I guess this is his way of showing his love for me. I was happy to sleep with the kids that day. I reasized that this is what motherhood is all about.

When I was lying down with my kids I was thinking about my mom. The person behind "Me being Me." Have I ever told her that I loved her? I started wishing her for mothers' day only after I my children were born . Till then I didn't realize about the value of motherhood. Even now I wish her but never say "I love you mom." Is it because of shyness or is it because I am reluctant to admit that I love my mom? Is it because it is not taught to us when we are young about how to express our affection to our parents? We do many things for our parents after we grow up but do we ever say "I love you mom or dad?" As we grow older we don't want to show our love outwardly to our parents. When my daughter was till her 3rd grade she used to make so many things for the mother's day . She used to remind me before a week. Now as she is growing I feel the way she shows her affection is becoming less expressive. No more hugs and kisses in the morning. This year it became ten in the night for her to wish me with a card. Though it was late I cherished it . I feel she was bold enough to say that,"she was not ashamed to say that she loved me?" Is admitting your love for your parents something shameful? Why does that kind of a thought pop inside us as we grow older.I am happy that my daughter had realized it at an younger age when compared to me.

When we are young we are not ashamed to ask anybody and everybody "do you love me?" but as we grow older we are ashamed to say "I love you" to our near and dear ones. But the fact is that as you grow, other things in life gain more preference than the Mom. Is it because when our kids are young we demand more love out of them? May be if my mom had asked me," do you love me?" a hundred times as I have done then I would have aslo told her "I love you mom." May be I am more efficient in extracting demanded-love from my children. No matter I demand it or they shower it on me at the end I am privileged than my mom . Another few years then my children will also start doing the same thing as me. Just call and wish me. Unlike me I hope they will admit their love for me once in a while atleast. What is the reason behind our inhibition to show our love as we grow older?

My mom is very strong. Though she knows that she doesn't get back the love she deserves still she never faults in her duty as a mother. I would be torn to pieces if my kids don't admit their love for me.I understood the motherhood of my mom when I became a mom. When ever my girl back-answered me I respected my mom even more inside my heart. Each time my daughter told me "I love you mom", I adored and loved my mom . I appreciated my mom's cooking in my mind when ever my children said "yummy food mama" . When my daughter said "your clothes are not fashionable," I remembered how I have hurt my mom's feelings the same way. I remember my mom everyday when I ask my children to keep themselves clean, when I oil and comb my girl's hair with care, each time I ask my daughter to keep her volume as well as the radio volume low, and when I cut my children's nails every week. In Tamil there is a proverb which means the quality of a saree depends on the thread we use. Like wise the character of a child depends on the character of the mom. I realize my mom's anger when I enter into the kitchen after being out the whole day. I feel my mom's pain when I fall sick and no one bothers to offer me a cup of drink. Till today my mom does whatever She could do for me. What have I done for her in return? All this realization is within my mind and heart. Nothing comes out in words. When will I learn to be expressive?

The extreme happiness I have given in her life is that she has been promoted from mother to Grand Mother. . The word grand decorates her name but I have loaded her with additional responsibilities. I think about her in every walk of my life . I wonder what drives me even now not to express aloud what I feel inside? I take the liberty to chide her, scold her even at this age. I even go the extent of saying that certain things which she does are wrong--forgetting the fact that I am her reflection, forgetting the fact that I am not a perfect mom according to my children too .Though I have scolded my mom I have never told her "I hate you mom or you are mean or you are lame" as my kids tell even for a small disappointment. When I am happy to hear the "I love you" from my children I should be able to accept their "I hate You " phrase also willingly. When they say "I Love you" I feel like I am on top of the sky. When they say "I hate you" I feel like I am in the bottom of the deep ocean. I haven't told my mom neither "I love u nor I hate you". My mom is lucky in that way.

I love my mom from the bottom of my heart but when will the auspicious day come for me to say "I LOVE YOU MOM"? Better late than never.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"Third Grade Prefect Election"

It was just three weeks since the new academic year started for Rahul . Rahul was a third grader studying in Vidhyalaya School. The first two weeks was full of fun . It took two weeks for the teachers to know the names of the children. The children did not have any difficulty in making friends because they all had studied in the same class in second grade. They were very happy since all the friends were in the same section. They were proud to call themselves seniors --forgetting that they had just finished their second grade two weeks back. They looked down upon the so called "lower primary chotuus". The boys thought that it was below their dignity to talk or play with the girls. If someone happened to talk to the girls the other boys would make fun of him. Rahul was pretty much conscious about not talking with the girls . The reason they had for this discrimination was that "girls are lame and they play only with barbie dolls." The boys considered themselves to be "tech-freaks".

After two weeks of school the class teacher decided that she would conduct a class election to select the prefect for the class. In her absence she wanted someone to control the class. The children were all excited to hear about the election. Till the second grade the teacher used to select the prefect. Now the concept of election was quite interesting to them. They could be on par with their older siblings when they talked about elections. The prefect would get to wear the prestigious "prefect badge." The teacher told that who ever was interested in contesting for the prefect post could give their names. Out of over enthusiasm everyone raised their hands. The teacher told that the election would be conducted on the following Monday and they had time to think about their choice. On the election day they should write down on a piece of paper the name of their favorite friend whom they wished to select as the prefect. Everyone nodded their heads as if they had already decided about their choice.

Rahul went home that evening and told his mom about the class election . His mom asked him whether he was going to contest. He told that half the class had decided to vote for Ishaan. And the other half had not decided whom to vote. He also added that Ishaan had the chance of winning because he was the tallest boy in the class and that he had already turned 8 years-- Better criteria than that of the Indian parliamentary election.

For the next four days the talk of the class was," who was going to vote for whom?" Boys were against the girls and the girls were against the boys. It looked like the wind was on Ishaan's side. The day of the election came. The teacher distributed a small piece of paper to each student and asked them to write the name of their choice. The class was of pin-drop silence. Everyone wrote a name secretly then folded the paper and gave it to the teacher. The teacher told that she would announce the result after lunch break.

That evening when Rahul reached home his mom asked him about the election. Rahul did not seem to be very excited about the results. His mom thought that may be someone he did not prefer was elected as the prefect. She asked him who the prefect was? Rahul told that there was no prefect elected. His mom got stunned .She asked him,"How come Rahul? You all voted for the prefect and why didn't your teacher elect the kid who got the majority of the votes?" Rahul told,"No mama, last minute we all decided that we won't vote for Ishaan. Everyone wanted to become the prefect so everyone wrote their own name on the paper and gave it to the teacher. The teacher got confused and told us that everyone is the prefect in our class." Rahul walked away innocently after saying this. Rahul's mom did not know whether to laugh or admire at the innocence of the little children.