The children at Hunar Ghar are learning English. It will be their third language after their maternal language (spoken by so few that it doesn’t even have a name), and Hindi – no mean feat.
So why do Hunar Ghar students learn English?
There are several reasons as to why. Firstly, learning English will increase the students’ ability to communicate. There are 780 languages spoken across India, and while Hindi has 258 million native speakers, it still accounts for just a fifth of the population. English, however, is taught nationally and is often the only common language between people from the East & West and North & South.
Furthermore, later this year work will begin on the construction of a computer room for Hunar Ghar, bringing access to the Internet. The principal Chandrakant feels that an increased knowledge of English will increase the range of information pupils can access.
We want Hunar Ghar to broaden horizons for its students, and being multilingual is a key part of that. For us, learning English is about more than new job opportunities and better communication.
We see learning another language as an exploration of another culture and into another way of being – Charlemagne put it well 1200 years ago when he said “to have another language is to possess a second soul.” Language learning is an enriching process. It opens your eyes to other cultures and deepens your understanding and appreciation of the world around you. We want our students to learn Hindi and English without forsaking their local language, which remains a key medium and something that we celebrate in school.
It’s no small task though. In rural Rajasthan, only 11% of females can read. In a recent survey we carried out of the local area we found that barely half of 11 and 12 year olds, after 6 years of school, can read Hindi letters.
We are looking to develop better ways to teach English in rural areas. To do this we’re creating a focus on verbal communication, rather than the learning-by-rote and literacy focused teaching methodology typically found in rural schools.
Focusing on verbal communication – speaking and being understood – is incredibly motivating for students as it brings an almost instant sense of success. This is vital for building the all-important confidence in a foreign language. Confident students are more motivated and as a result learn more, which creates a great springboard for later getting them stuck into the challenges of reading and writing.
In 2015, we will be recruiting a dedicated intern to spend time at Hunar Ghar to support the English teachers there and strengthen English teaching. More details will follow in our next newsletter if you are interested in applying for this role.