May issue 2009
Mind Your Language
How is the presence and constant promotion of English as the dominant language affecting not just the local languages, but also the identities of people who accept this ‘other’ language as ‘theirs’? What really are the processes through which this adoption of many languages is taking place? How do languages and their learning fit into our education system? What are the stakes involved? Several questions — but seldom reflected on.
A two-day conference on ‘Multilingual Contexts: Current Challenges and Future Directions,’ organised by the Centre for English Language (CEL) Aga Khan University, explored these and many more questions, with experts from Pakistan and abroad, and participants, in order to share possible solutions, or insightful experiences, for a deeper understanding of issues related to multilingualism. While the Higher Education Commission’s representative Noor Amna Malik shed light on its initiatives for the implementation of an “English language teaching reform,” Tayyab Zaidi from Karachi University stressed the need for working on a “multilingual ecology” which could ensure a system where the influence of English on indigenous languages could be monitored. The conference concluded on a positive note, with participants and presenters ready to go back to their institutes not just with the usual ‘tips’ for teaching that most conferences are packed with, but more importantly, with an awareness which would hopefully help in undoing the damages that being unconscious in the multilingual world have done.