English is a complicated, confusing language, but can we live without it in this age of globalization? Unfortunately, no. There may be people around the world who survive with only their native languages, but on a global platform, knowing English definitely has its own advantages. Think about it, especially if you live in countries where Engish is the only language used. I don’t mean to say that you need a degree in English to survive, but I feel that everyone should have at least basic communication skills in this tongue.
Why am I advertising the English language today? Well, it’s because of a couple of incidents that occurred in my class this week. Before I get to the incidents though, let me tell you about my experience managing the classroom this week. My lead teacher was on a break and her absence made a lot of difference. The classroom was LOUD. I tried all my tactics — talking to the groups who were creating a ruckus, doing one-on-one sessions, taking on a stern tone, and finally giving up and requesting…to my exasperation, NOTHING worked.
To top off the already brewing chaos, a new boy, M, joined on the 1st of this month. He is just under 3-years old, has never been to a school before, is enrolled for the whole day (8:30-6:00)… and wait..there’s more… doesn’t know any English except for no, hungry, and a couple more words. I think he understands basic instructions when they are accompanied by gestures but other than that, communication was difficult. On his first day, he refused to eat or take a nap and kept repeating a phrase in his language (he was pointing outside, so maybe he was saying that he wanted to go home). You can’t really blame the boy… just imagine the situation from his perspective. Until the previous day, he was at home, with his parents, being fed, cuddled, etc. by them, and then all of a sudden, he is introduced to a strange environment with new people talking in a new language. Poor thing!
Another boy, E, has been with us for a few weeks now. He speaks only Mandarin but understands English. We have been working with him for some time now, teaching him the English words for fruits and vegetables, etc. And he has been learning them well too. A few days back, he spilled almost half of his lunch and very sweetly cleaned up his mess. I was feeding another child when E came to me and said something in Mandarin. I asked him to show me. He very sadly rubbed his tummy and repeated the line. I asked him if he was hungry, and he nodded yes. I felt really bad for him but was also relieved that we were at least able to communicate. I quickly gave him some snacks that we keep in the classroom and then he was fine.
This is why I have been canvassing the English language. Children these days are very sharp and I believe these preschoolers are the right age to be introduced to different languages. Our school has Mandarin, Hindi, and Spanish classes for all and I have noticed that most of the older children have a good grasp of the basic words taught in all three languages. I have been told that I was enrolled in preschool when I was 2.5 years old; I knew only Malayalam and even went on to teach my Bengali teacher one word in Malayalam, ‘vellam’ (water). After I was exposed to school, English, and other languages, I began switching languages based on who was talking to me: Malayalam at home, English with friends/teachers, and Hindi with the maid. I am glad I was exposed to English and other languages from a young age, and am appreciative of the fact that I can now communicate well in three languages other than English.
Until I write again, give English a try while keeping a strong connection with your native tongue. Trust me, you’ll not regret it!
P.S. Hope we can help M and E learn English soon so that they can communicate better with us and their friends.