The significance of learning English language in the context of Bangladesh should be very apparent to all those who have no knowledge or very poor knowledge of it. Bangladeshis in droves are going abroad nowadays. The hard toil from these folks earns precious foreign currency for the country that helps to underwrite the viability of its economy.
English is not spoken extensively in some of the most important manpower export destinations of Bangladesh. Nonetheless, as the lingua franca or the globally recognized first language in the utilitarian sense, some powers of understanding or speaking it can be helpful for Bangladeshis in all kinds of alien situations. For example, our migrant workers may not know or speak Arabic, Spanish or Italian at their first exposures to foreign work locations. But even basic speaking and understanding abilities in English can help them to make contacts and take up their jobs on gong there.
Over the years, English has become for the first time in human history the language accepted and used most widely in the world today for business, diplomacy and in various other communications between individuals of different countries whose mother tongues are different. This universality of the English Language has created the compulsion for learning the subject with greater eagerness by all the world’s people than ever before.
The Chinese, the Japanese and others who used to take pride in sticking to their own languages with passion, they too have experienced a change in their outlook and are found in a race to disseminate English understanding and speaking powers to the greatest number of their people. The awareness of learning English is also equally found strong in Bangladesh these days. A recent media report quoting the Financial Times (FT) of UK focused on the overwhelming response from Bangladeshis to an offer for English language courses from the BBC over mobile phone services.
This is no wonder in the backdrop of the current word realities in relation to learning English. But it should also draw the attention of the policy makers here to the imperative of also expanding opportunities for such language courses from the country’s own institutions as well.
There was widespread realization that Bangladesh went on the back foot in maintaining its edge in English as a Commonwealth country over many other countries in its post independence period. This advantage met a setback in the early years of the country’s existence that created an environment where English was relatively neglected as an alien language and the scramble was noted to replace English with Bengali as a matter of national pride and identity.
But the same also created some generations of young ones who are in their mid lives today with poor knowledge of English unlike previous generations. The moves to banish English was later corrected but not before a price was exacted for the change of policy. Even now, the schools at primary and secondary levels are badly short of competent English teachers.
Governmen has introduced a new education policy. Teaching of English language with a new enthusiasm needs to be a part of it. Programmes should be taken up and completed at the fastest for creating a large number of English language teachers to take care of the dearth of such teachers at publicly run and private schools and colleges. Privately run such efforts should be also encouraged and materially supported by the government. Government as well as the private sector should be essentially guided by the realistic view that popularizing of English means creating a gateway to all kinds of opportunities at the global as well as local levels.