Tag Archives: LangDev2015

The 11th Language and Development Conference was held for the first time in India from November 18–20 2015 at The Lalit hotel in New Delhi, supported by the Ministry of Rural Development, UNESCO, Research Councils UK, the National Multilingual Education Research Consortium (Jawaharlal Nehru University) and the Digital Empowerment Foundation. The conference theme was Multilingualism and Development.

‘Communicative vulnerability’ in healthcare delivery

Mind the Gap: ‘Communicative Vulnerability’ and the Mediation of Linguistic/ Cultural Diversity in Healthcare Delivery – plenary by Professor Srikant Sarangi at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

The conference so far has discussed multilingualism in education systems, but Professor Srikant Sarangi session helped us to broaden this discussion to other domains – from the classroom to the clinic.

Srikant Sarangi, Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM) at Aalborg University, Denmark

Srikant Sarangi, Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM) at Aalborg University, Denmark

Professor Sarangi started by acknowledging the relevance of discussions around multilingualism beyond education in the areas of healthcare and the current refugee crisis. The linguistic and cultural diversity has cost implications for health care professionals. He stressed that in ‘super diverse societies’, the objective is to maximise access without the help of formal or informal mediators.

Sarangi then talked about how in the European context, healthcare given by a ‘foreigner’ is perceived as poor quality and as substituting ‘mainstream’ healthcare. He identified these scenarios as evidence of the need for multi-cultural and multilingual communication research and training.

Sarangi discussed the ethical vulnerability of healthcare professionals and how mediation can sometimes leading to negative consequences. He acknowledges racism and discrimination among overseas healthcare professionals and states that legal action and judicial reviews have started to emerge against European mainstream health care bodies. Language clearly has a role to play in the construction and mediation of these situations.

Sarangi concluded by recommending questioning, training and assessments rather than stereotyping differences. He highlighted the need to raise awareness about inter-cultural interaction and stressed the importance of research in clinical practice. He also was clear that there is much that we know about learner-centred teaching which can be translated and transferred to the healthcare context.

Watch plenary speaker Srikant Sarangi’s session here:

Plenary speaker Srikant Sarangi’s interview can be viewed here:
Post by: Radhika Gholkar
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in West India

Share via email

Language and learning: the challenges of primary education in India

Language and learning: The Challenges of Primary Education in India – Plenary by Dr Rukmini Banerjee at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Pratham Education Foundation

Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Pratham Education Foundation

Personally my favourite session of the conference, although I would have to admit to a degree of bias as many of the locations mentioned in the presentation including Bihar and the North East are precisely those areas where the British Council East India projects I’m involved with are working: however, I think it was clear from the audience reaction that this was a very highly-valued session. 

Dr Banerjee provided a range of examples which were microcosms of interaction with language and our often stumbling educational interventions to deal with them. They included her account of language breakdown between visitor and children in a Jharkhand school, children in the slums of Mumbai ‘navigating language continuums’ where mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters might all speak different languages and contexts where the printed word documents become highly valued, frozen and never used. Most memorable to me was her description of the visitor to an Assamese school unable to speak any of the children’s languages who was escorted to the river by the kids and taught to fish – with follow up work in the classroom in visuals and multilingual writing. A brilliant way to conclude such an interesting conference…….

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

Share via email

Multilingualism in Africa: marginalisation and empowerment

Multilingualism in Africa: Marginalisation and Empowerment - Plenary by Professor Dr. Birgit Brock-Utne at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Professor Dr. Birgit Brock-Utne, University of Oslo

Professor Dr. Birgit Brock-Utne, University of Oslo

So why EMI? And, finally for the day, a speaker who feel strongly that EMI Is not appropriate for Africa – and nor is it good for English. Professor Dr. Birgit Brock-Utne expressively articulated many concepts of which I’d been not very articulately aware when working in East Africa: that Africa is not ‘English-speaking’ or ‘French-speaking’ (the extent to which it is has much to do with missionary work), that English is only to a limited extent a medium of instruction and policies are often complex and the idea of L1 and L2 in Africa doesn’t make much sense. Three quarters of economic activity in Africa requires African languages.

I was fascinated by the discussion of two North Namibian languages which are basically the same but are transliterated in different ways because of the influence of Finnish and German missionaries. The sheer scale of Africa means ignoring its diversity is a big mistake – although I was surprised that twelve to fifteen African languages would be enough for communication across Africa to take place. But Africa also presents many examples of how not to impose English and how it’s owned by the ‘English knowing caste’ and the need to increase the status of national languages.

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

Share via email

Digital media and the internet

Digital Media and the Internet: Threats or Opportunities for Local Languages, Culture and Knowledge – Plenary by Osama Manzar at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Osama Manzar, Founder Director of the Digital Empowerment Foundation

Osama Manzar, Founder Director of the Digital Empowerment Foundation

There are one hundred and ninety six endangered languages in India, oral languages spoken mainly in rural India. But what is the impact of digital media on local languages? Why do some languages flourish and some do not and will we become a monolingual world?

At the 11th Language & Development Conference 2015, plenary speaker Osama Manzar described his own exposure to a range of languages in his own multilingual journey and the wealth of languages in India. India is an oral society and oral languages are making use of digital media such as Google and Facebook which reach communities and these become tools to support oral languages.

A radical shift is taking place in which graphic design, visuals and symbols become digital tools beyond language which are accessible to speakers of less spoken languages in rural areas, including older people or people who may not be literate. Osama provided striking examples of homemade local language based radio stations at minimal expense, with functions including the reduction of violence against women. Written language is restricted; oral language and oral tradition is inclusive and self-generating digital media including mobile use can support the democratic process of this inclusivity, keep less spoken languages alive and empower their speakers.

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

Share via email

Multilingualism, Education, English and Development: Whose Development?

Multilingualism, Education, English and Development: Whose Development? - Plenary by Professor Ajit Mohanty at the 11th Language and Development Conference, 2015

Professor Ajit Mohanty with Alisher Umarov

Professor Ajit Mohanty with Alisher Umarov

Alisher Umarov, (Chief of Education and Programme Specialist, UNESCO) the Chair of the session, kept the expectant audience entertained and informed with is dry wit while technology issues were solved at the start of the plenary. Professor Ajit Mohanty framed his talk identifying the key issue as access to development, opportunity and success, and that this access is usually controlled by language, with English perceived by many as the gatekeeper to success.

Professor Mohanty outlined the impact of a hierarchical structure of languages, and how these layers put English and major regional languages at the top of the hierarchy, with local indigenous languages disadvantaged and marginalised, entering a cycle of neglect. He explained that in India, EMI schools are almost always private, and therefore link between class and social status is directly related to school fees. The rise of low cost EMI private schools, which he labelled as ‘Doom schools’, are on the rise, with lower socio-economic classes making great sacrifices (5-10 per cent of their income) to send children to schools that achieve very little education, apart from rote learning and memorisation of phrases and texts. The wide held belief is that EMI schools offer a better quality education, however Mohanty provided research evidence that showed that children learning through Mother Tongue medium at lower primary levels are more successful than EMI schools in all subjects, and that when English is introduced in Grade 4 or 5 as a subject, their English proficiency is the same by grade 9. In Orissa, for example, out of the 22 languages identified, education is now being provided through 19 of these languages and research shows these children are doing better than children receiving their education through English or even Odia. English, he stated, benefits the privileged and discriminates against the disadvantaged, and children from low income and marginalised communities who study through EMI and worship the ‘English Goddess’ neither learn English nor get a proper education.

Following this point, Geetha Durairajan asked whether English can be viewed as a ‘healer’ language rather than a ‘killer’ language. Professor Mohanty explained that English can lead to diminishing of linguistic diversity, but within a multilingual framework, English does have a key role to play when it is founded on strong mother tongue development. Our children, he said, need to be multi-lingual, and education is a place where they learn about their world through their mother tongue, and learn English as a subject that can provide access to so much. The key is that English is learnt and used on a strong foundation which he believes is best achieved through teaching in the children’s mother tongue.

Post by: Simon Etherton
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in South India

Share via email