Dec 14, 2012 Editorial
Earlier this week, in our editorial “The Southern Connection”, we elaborated on the opportunities for development available to us if we were to satisfy the Brazilian need for a northern outlet to the Atlantic. But even if closer linkages were not being pushed by Brazil, there would still be large avenues through which we would be benefitted by our contiguity to the world power of our south.
Right up there is the Brazilian need to be able to communicate in English, the de-facto ‘universal’ language for communication in the globalised world. In Japan, for instance, every high school teaches English. Brazil has not followed suit, so a host of private schools have sprung up to cater to this urge to learn English. Many of the wealthier Brazilians send their children to the US to learn English. We can provide them with a total English immersion also right here in Guyana, providing thousands of jobs in teaching, and in servicing the housing and lodging that would be needed. But first we will have to work on our ‘own” language skills.
We have been very fortunate that after all the humiliations and tribulations of our colonial past, we have been left with English as our official language. Unfortunately for many of us, Standard English is almost a second language, since we generally communicate with each other through our “Creole” language. Our passes (or lack thereof) at the CSEC in English Language reflect our lack of facility in this key resource, which could give us such a head-start over so many others in the world. Our educational system has recognised this major shortcoming and several policy measures have been already been put into place to improve our English performance.
However, there is another area where the Education mandarins have been continuing to go with the old flow and in the process are leaving us in the backwaters of the evolving global synergy. And this is in the area of “foreign” languages. We agree that not because English has become so dominant we must ignore other languages. Spanish was introduced after independence as a second language into our secondary schools.
This was a positive step since it recognised the geographical reality that so many of our neighbours speak Spanish. The global world begins at our doorstep and while it may be theoretically possible to trade with any country in the world, one would expect that our neighbours should be our starting point.
However in Queen’s College, Bishops’ and the other elite high schools in our capital, in addition to Spanish, French has continued to be a compulsory foreign language. And this, we believe, should be changed.
After all, there was a time when those same elite schools insisted that to be “educated” one had to grasp the essentials of Latin, but we have dropped that dead language without skipping a beat. The burdens of learning Latin had come to outweigh the benefits in the new world order. And so we believe for French at this time. We suggest that just as we introduced Spanish because it facilitated communication with so many of our neighbours, we ought to jettison French and introduce Portuguese.
Knowledge of Portuguese, combined with a greater facility in English, would enable us to service the English Language schools for the Brazilian students. It will, also, immediately open up the vista of vast call centres that could service the products of the Brazilian multinationals.
The fibre optic cable, which has already landed from Brazil, will make the physical infrastructural demands quite easy to meet.
Then again, if we are to take full advantage of the increased land and air transportation integration project in motion, we must have a core of translators proficient in Portuguese to deal with the paperwork and other bureaucratic demands of foreign trade.
Our administration and every political party in the country agree on exploiting the advantages offered by Brazil. So why don’t we try to make that developmental option an exercisable option by having our young people learn to communicate in Portuguese?
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