The book ‘Language and Social Cohesion in the Developing World’ – edited by Hywel Coelman and published in Colombo jointly by GIZ and the British Council was formally launched at an event during the 11th Language & Development Conference in New Delhi on the 18th of November. The book launch was followed by a panel discussion highlighting issues around language and social cohesion in various contexts from various perspectives and describing strategies to deal with some of these issues. The panel consisted of some of the distinguished authors, Sasanka Perera, Thaiyamuthu Thanaraj, Hywel Coleman, Francis Thevanesan Croos, and Bonny Norton.
Hywel Coleman, the editor of the book focused on the importance of social cohesion and education in the current context. He highlighted that freedom to become educated in one’s own language is a human right but that the existence of legislation in favour of language rights guarantees nothing. He stressed the importance of involving the people concerned while forming language policies.
Bonny Norton, the reviewer of the book appreciated how the book deals with most of the issues around language and social cohesion in various contexts that we are currently trying to address.
How English has created two nations in the country of Sri Lanka was effectively brought forth by Professor Thanaraj, sharing the results of a recently conducted survey. According to the survey results, one of the key factors that plays a key role in learning a language is self-motivation. Mere parental force does not go a long way. In addition, Sasanka Perera highlighted that people are encouraged to learn English not out of ‘emotional interest’ but economic interest.
When asked by one of the members of the audience whether the learners can own the language, Bonny Norton interestingly portrayed how it would help democratise English if we freed it as being defined as a language owned by native speakers. English is a part of global and cosmopolitan identity. Teachers need to help learners realise that language can be used creatively in different contexts and does not need to be standard English all the time. She suggested that a hybrid model would work better, wherein learners are encouraged to see for themselves where the different forms of English can be appropriately used.
The recording of the the book launch can be viewed below:
The book can be downloaded from the Language and Development conference website for free.
Post by: Manisha Dak
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in North India