At GGIS, we offer English and Hindi as the only languages. We do not offer foreign languages and we do not plan to do so in the near future.
One of the primary reasons why we do so is the futility of learning a new language in the absence of its ecosystem. By ecosystem, I mean the ability to speak, listen, read and exchange ideas in a language.
You must have come across at least one person in India, especially elders, who feel that they lost out on many opportunities because of English. Many of them have even gone to English speaking classes but could not carry on further. Many a times because their work did not involve speaking in English. But you must have also known many Indians who moved abroad and learnt English or French of any other local language within six months.
Because they HAD to speak in that language to converse. They had an ecosystem there, which enabled them to practice the new language every day. That, I believe is the best way to learn a new language.
However, the way we teach foreign language in standard classroom settings is more about rote memorization of spellings and pronunciations. Many a times mispronounced by the teacher herself. Also, the retention of such language learning is very little and superfluous.
Now comes the multilingual argument. Science proves that learning more languages makes people smarter. Sure it does. But we Indians are blessed with multi-lingualism. We can speak three different languages in the same sentence with ease. However, our colonial bias makes us believe that only a foreign language makes us smarter. Regional languages somehow do not count, it seems. If a 4 year old says Un, Dos, Tres (1,2,3 in Spanish), it is received with great fanfare by the parent and others, but same adults will very rarely applaud the child for saying ek, be, tran (1,2,3 in Gujarati).
And lastly, technology has made learning foreign languages much easier. Duolingo, an amazing app for learning any foreign language, helps learners do better with a language than most local foreign language teachers do at an elementary level. Also, Google’s advanced translation features and pronunciation help available online come in handy.
And these are some of the reasons why we do not offer a foreign language at this juncture.
So is this what every school should be doing? Should all foreign language teaching be branded as useless and be shunned? Absolutely NOT. If a school can genuinely see value in it, it must do so. We at GGIS, do not offer it because given our time, space and situation, it is not the best use of our resources. Is there a way out? Well, yes. I just visited TGES last month and they offer an immersion program in French for Grades 5-7 where the students learn all academic subjects in French. Now that kind of learning of foreign language makes sense. We sure would love to do something like that in future.
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