As we all know English is becoming increasingly important for the
younger generation to get through in life. With Information Technology
and Communication, developing so fast and to survive successfully in
such an advanced and sophisticated world, obviously, a link language is
very vital. Therefore, all of us will have to learn English.
An important legacy left behind by the British who granted us our
independence was an English educated upper and middle class society.
This language is the lingua franca of the modern world. The senior
citizens who were endowed with such an intangible wealth must impart it
to the less fortunate younger generation who suffered the consequences
of a myopic policy on the language issue.
My view is that there is a fair segment of senior citizens in our
society who have had a good â€˜Liberal Educationâ€™, which is a kind of
education which encourages one to develop a large range of interests,
knowledge and experience and respect other peopleâ€™s opinions. Further,
it is directed towards the cultivation of the mind for its own sake.
When I was called to the Bar in mid seventies I found almost all my
colleagues in Galle interacted in English and most of the paralegal who
had had a formal education only up to about third or fourth standard
could reasonably speak and write well.
Thirty years on, standards have depleted incredibly. However, in my
view there are the elderly who could converse well in English, in all
parts of our country but who do not do so thinking that it would
embarrass the young. What I find is something quite to the contrary.
Interestingly, theyâ€™re waiting to be spoken to in English. If we as
elders do not use this language, the young will never be able to listen
to this language nor will they ever be able to speak. Hence, we have to
increase the currency of the language. A language could not be taught or
spoon fed, it has to be learnt by mere usage.
There is a resurgence of old English music. If you visit any CD shop,
theyâ€™re full of oldies which get sold like hot dogs. And I find the
elderly and some young happily buying them. I
n the same token, the elderly and the English speaking younger
generation should be more enthusiastic in resurrecting the language by
speaking in English to most of the people whom they interact with, for
example their superiors, subordinates and to anybody outside the office
When they go shopping or to any other establishment they should
negotiate in English. Indeed, we must realize that not like two or three
decades ago the present younger generation is more adventurous,
outgoing, engaging, receptive and are waiting enthusiastically to
interact in English.
Therefore, the elderly and others who can speak that language must
play ball. Furthermore, they must be more assertive and forthright in
encouraging the youth to develop this ability.
In other words, they must tacitly play the role of a mentor, a
teacher and a role model. One doesnâ€™t have to be a linguist to play the
above role. Moreover, one does not have to be a grammarian to speak a
language in as much as â€˜One doesnâ€™t have to be a mechanic to drive a
My experience is that if you speak to someone like a shop assistant
in a super-market, or for that matter any young person in English you
could see the glow in his or her face.
They too like to speak in the same language and be sophisticated.
Very soon it will be fashionable to speak in English. Everybody should
bear in mind that it should not be the language of the elite only.
It should be a commodity available for the common man namely taxi and
trishaw drivers, filling station attendants and pavement hawkers and the
like to negotiate with their customers.
On the part of the learner, he or she should also play an equally
important role by being adventurous and enthusiastic in getting the
seniors to speak this language.
They must be on a learning programme. They must welcome anybody
conversing with them in the link language, rather than giving it a cold
One does not need to know Oxbridge English to communicate today in
the technological world or nobody expects one to use Shakespearean
English which was in currency few decades ago at a time when the world
was full of literati. What is required today is basic functional English
to communicate effectively. However, to express idiomatically later on
is a secondary matter.
Therefore, my humble appeal to the elderly in this beautiful country
is to impart this hidden wealth in their possession in order to help and
motivate the helpless innocent youngsters who will reap the benefit of
this untapped resource.
This will also inevitably inculcate in the young, the lost old values
and instil in them how to respect the elderly.
I read with interest your article on â€˜Let no man influence youâ€™. I
agree with most of the points stated. Women represent a majority of the
university entrants and they thereafter fall back due to pressures from
their partners. I do agree that women may take less opportunities for
higher education, study abroad or demanding occupational options because
of the same partner pressures.
However, a girl in Sri Lanka is guided to studies by her parents and
it may be the father or the mother who has either succeeded in a male
dominated world (which is good) or frustrated due to having fallen back
and wanting to see the world through her daughterâ€™s eyes.
What is important for an adult daughter/partner is to have a choice
and for parents and/or partner to help achieve that choice with maximum
support and minimum counter pressure.
A potentially highly successful career might be given up by a woman,
if her choice is to look after her family and be a home executive, or
the partner or parents may take the surrogate mother role and allow the
woman a chance to develop her career.
The best option of all would be support and compromise from all
parties including the woman. Supportive non-judgemental parents and
parents-in-law, cooperative and compromising husband and wife who have
realistic dreams and aspirations.
This would be the path to success not an antagonistic, no compromise