Ask Rangoo

National Education Policy 2020: Language Policy

Elementary Education in Children's First Language

All the points conveyed in the video are true and it is important to let the children learn in their first language at the beginning stages of education. However, in India the situations are complex and the problems are quite different from other countries where one single language is the first language of the children.

To cite from personal experience, I was born and brought up in Chennai and learnt through Tamil Medium up to Class VIII. Later I changed to English Medium since we were planning to shift to Karnataka. After marriage, I went to Delhi and my daughter learnt Tamil at home and Hindi from the neighbours and her friends. We moved to Gujarat by the time she was to join Class 1. Now if in Gujarat she had to learn through Gujarati, it is in fact her third language and not the first. And she had not learnt enough Gujarati to be able to learn through that language because we had just shifted. Naturally, we put her in a CBSE school where she could learn through English and Hindi.

In India, people move from one State to another for job and other purposes. Children do learn more than one language from their surroundings. But the problem arises when we try to decide which language will be preferred by them. All the States and all the schools cannot have teachers, courses and other facilities to offer courses in multiple languages.

Having capsules of learning materials in different languages in digital formats may be one workaround.

Further, teachers should teach languages through a variety of activities rather than a textbook lesson with questions at the end of each lesson to be memorized and answered in examinations.

The same classroom activities and guessing games can be repeated in most of the languages to help children learn languages for not passing examinations but for specific real life use.

Language teachers can team teach and help children acquire more than one language effectively and enjoyably.

One activity and one guessing game is given here as an example. Similar activities, games and interactive materials can be planned for all languages.

Example: a pen, a pencil, a scale, a book, a coin, etc.

These words can be taught in all the languages using similar activities and games. Teachers of different languages can work together and make the children do the activities in one language to start with and then repeat in other languages. This way children will be familiar with the procedures of playing the game or conducting the activity and can easily focus on the language difference. They can also understand the similarities and differences between two or more languages.

Once a series of activities are planned for the word level, another set of activities can be planned for simple sentences such as, 'I am reading', 'We are reading', 'She is reading', 'He is reading', 'They are reading' and questions such as, 'Is he reading?', 'Are they reading?', etc.

Language Activities

Teacher first introduces these words showing objects and then helps the children practice them by using flashcards and blackboard sketches. It is not necessary for the children to read the words or learn the spellings of these words. It is enough if they are able to use the words in listening and speaking activities.

  1. Listen to the words and identify the objects or pictures - Teacher calls out the words and children point to the objects or pictures or hold up flashcards

  2. Look at the objects or pictures and name them - Teacher shows objects or pictures and children give their names

  3. Children are able to ask each other for specific things and get them - e.g. Give me a pen.

Language Games

The Teacher takes a bag big enough to hold all these objects. She picks up each object and puts them in the back. For example, the teacher says, ‘This is a pen. I am putting the pen in the bag’. Then the teacher says, ‘I am going to hold one item in my hand’. She puts her hand in the bag and holds one item in such a way that the children cannot see what it is. Then the teacher asks, ‘What is in my hand?’ Children guess by asking one word questions. Example: a pen? a book? Etc. Teacher answers by saying, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. The child who gets the right answer comes and holds the bag and the other children guess. In this way the game continues.

In the next stage, the teacher teaches the question form, ‘Is it a pen?’ and the short answers, ‘Yes, it is’ and ‘No, it isn’t’ and the game is played again.

In the first stage children learnt the vocabulary and in the second stage they learn the question pattern and short answers using the same vocabulary.

This game can be played in the children’s first language and then repeated in other languages. For example, in Tamil Nadu the game may be played first in Tamil, then in Hindi or Sanskrit and then in English. In Gujarat, the game may be first played in Gujarati and then in Hindi, Sanskrit or English.

If the language periods are combined, the teachers of different languages can plan a class together to participate in language activities and games.

For example, the Tamil teacher can show each object or picture and let the children give the words for them. The children might have already learnt these words at home. If any of the words are new, the teacher can tell the word and ask them to repeat it. Then she will take a bag and say, ‘இந்த பேனாவை பைலே போடறேன்.’ etc. and put all the things in the bag. Then she will hold one of the objects and say, ‘என் கைல என்ன இருக்கு?’ Children will guess by asking one word questions, ‘பேனாவா? புத்தகமா? Etc. The teacher will reply, ‘ஆமாம்’ / ‘இல்லை’. Then one of the children will take the bag.

When the same game is played in English, these Tamil children will not have any difficulty, the language need not be translated and they will understand what they are expected to do. If the children enjoy the games, they will play these games in their free time and even at home.

Teaching Phonics and Teaching Reading Useful Resources

Any questions? Join this Facebook Group to share your ideas, questions, suggestions and feedback

Phonics Games are available at Fountainhead Global School

Check Facebook posts for ways of using birds for practising specific Phonics sounds and for classroom conversations.