English Should Be Reinforced As Number One Language
To speak English or iTaukei is the question facing many iTaukei families. It’s a dilemma that may also be facing other ethnic groups. But the issue of preservation of cultural identity re-surfaced again this week in the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs.
The concern is that more and more children are losing their native language because English has become the conversational language.
Language is part of our cultural identity and sometimes it can be embarrassing if we cannot speak in our mother tongue.
This is particularly so for Fijian families who have lived overseas for many years and have returned. The children grow up in an environment where English is the universal language. They spend most of time speaking English and then they find themselves struggling to speak their native language. The concern is that it is happening in Fiji.
English is the common language now in many countries. It’s a reality that we need to accept. Most importantly, English is the main language in schools and universities. Textbooks are written in English, teachers and lecturers teach in English and students converse in English. Those who have an excellent command of the English language have an advantage over others because it enhances their knowledge and understanding of the various subjects.
In the workplace, English is the common language. It’s become an important tool in communication and improves skills and performance.
Doctors and nurses from Fiji who seek work in New Zealand and Australia must pass English competency tests to be able to be registered and work there. This is because communication between patients and medical personnel is an important part of their profession. Wrong prescription or treatment could be given if the medical professionals lack the communication skills. They may be competent clinicians but if they get the wrong information because of poor communication, then it affects their assessments and judgments about patients.
Can English and iTaukei languages co-exist? Yes they can. The teaching of iTaukei and Hindi in schools is a starting point and Government has encouraged it. In the various cultures, there are occasions that provide the opportunity for people to speak their native languages. Special classes can also be held outside the school hours to teach the languages.
But English must remain the number one language in Fiji because of the reasons that have been outlined above. We cannot neglect the teaching and promotion of English in our schools because it is fundamental to our education progress. Already it is under threat because of the advent of digital technology which has revolutionised the way we communicate.
Spoken and written English should be reinforced. It is essential to our progress.