Posted on April 20th, 2016

Sarath Wijesinghe – former Ambassador to UAE and Israel

English as a life skill

English as a life skill is a straight and simple tool of communication striped of its historical baggage, a skill for employment and a vehicle for reaching the outside world of knowledge. It has been a property owned by few elite in the Sri Lankan society as a prized possession of a privileged class, as an instrument of social repression and not acceptable to its utility value. It is now necessary to transform this to common property, for the benefit of all and the country for development and prosperity. English is the language of Information Technology, International Trade and Commerce Sri Lanka is expected and bound to take forward. Sri Lankan Standard of Education is of highest level with efficient and intelligent labour force won the confidence of the local and international employers in Sri Lanka and outside.

Time to nationalize this precious property to the people

It is time we transfer and nationalize this precious property jealously guarded with few into common property resource owned by all to be utilized by everybody. We must encourage the leaners to speak English the Sri Lankan way as the case in India, where the standard of English and English Education developed to attract even foreigners to India to learn English. A Linguist – in England once said that even if English disappears in England it will still continue in India as India is so interwoven and embraced English in Education. India has emerged today as the world’s centre of excellence for the teaching of English for non-English people. Thousands of people come to India from former Soviet Republic, or CIS countries, South East Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Russia, Chine and many other countries in the Globe. Sri Lanka has the capacity and competence to be an excellent Centre of Excellence” on English and Education including Medicine, Agriculture and related subjects.  India used English as a utility value and a tool of communication and education not as a tool for social climbing.

In India and Sri Lanka Cricket and English has become a way of life

In India Sri Lanka Cricket and English has become a way of life and played and spoken as well as or better than where it was originated. Children from Tamil and Sinhala speaking homes find it much easier to learn to speak Japanese, Koran, Russian, Chinese, French, and German than to speak English. In the Middle East- especially in the UAE where over 300,000 are employed with sound working knowledge and competency to speak foreign languages fluent, with reluctance or refusal to learn to speak English which has direct relevance to physiological backwardness due to deep rooted social implications back in the country on fear of speaking proper grammatical English with Accent. We must encourage the leaner to make mistakes in pronunciation and grammar when speaking and the teacher should quietly and gently guide the leaner to progressively make less and less mistakes giving confidence that it is as easy and more easily as any other language. In the United Kingdom not everybody speaks Good English. London is an immigrant city full of migrants speaking Broken English” or their won languages.

Confidence Building

It is confidence building and getting them to know the basic vocabulary of few hundred worlds with which leaner can build on. If two basic building blocks English and IT, were put in place in all hooks and corners of the country, we will be able to get unexpected results in the employment sector which is full of unemployed and under employed, expecting at least a labourer job in the government with pension by joining 10% of the population in public service, lot of leave and other perks with very light work irrespective of the qualifications. There are mushroom international schools of inferior slandered and quality spread teaching mainly for the children unable to find a good school or parents capable and eager to give them English Education. When arts graduates from Universities going in processions on the road for employment in the public sector, they find employment as sales assistants, industrial and  private sector and other establishments. If we provide this powerful tool scientifically and with ease to those in Information Technology Sector, Journalists, Artists, mature students, and those in employment in the public and private sector and those seeking employment and planning to SME’s medium Entrepreneurs, it will be a boom and a foundation for a new life and era for the development in the spheres of economics, politics and general outlook in education and employment sectors.

Entrance Free workshop on 26th April at the OPA Auditorium

We are planning to give a gentile push and encouragement solely on voluntary basis getting the services of renewed intellection and experts in English and Education. First workshop scheduled to be held at the Organization of Professionals Auditorium on 26th of April from 6.00 to 8t   P.M. with the participation of the British Council and with an open invitation to all interested parties at no cost, is the initial stage to be continued in various parts of the country with the participation of the English Departments of Universities in Sri Lanka and Indian Universities at later stages.


English is a West German Language that was first spoken in medieval England, and now a global language. It is Official language to 60 sovereign countries including Sri Lanka. It is the third most commonly used language developed over 1400 years and the language of Information Technology, Medicine Trade and Commence mainly in the Commonwealth of Nations and the West. Now that we are entangled with English due to colonization by the British, we are bound to carry on with it as in cricket and system of administration and trade. Our workforce and the future generation needs only a little bit of push and confidence to learn spoken and Basic English which will enhance their IT skills and personality. If on is in a position to command few hundred words with confidence and ease with directions from competent dedicated  advisors and teachers it is possible to master the skill to improve other skills and personality with confidence for the success of any discipline.

Technology of Communication

English at one level is a technology of communication. You need to realise that every technology- and this includes English- is an ideological system as well. In our country English was a communication that was crafted by our westernized elites as an ideology that provided a gateway to the West which required perfect grammar and pronunciation. Now we no longer need to continue this difficult route which was utilized as a social oppression by the privileged class and instrument of social repression and not as a tool of communication. Internet and mobile phone will be a main route to be utilized.

Way Forward

Sri Lanka 2050  which is a group of non-political and non-profitable organisation of intellectuals and professionals have  organized the workshop/seminar on 26th April at the Auditorium of the Organization of Professionals, with the assistance of dedicated case workers, volunteers and experts in the field as a service to the community without expecting any remuneration or a payment. Entrance is free and future programs too will be open to public in the follow up work. We thank the British Council, for having agreed to partner the event and invite those interested and competent to join the group. The target groups are the Information Technology Sector, Professionals, Tanning Schemes in various fields, Journalists, Artistes, Mature Students, and those who are interested to learn and practice this important and powerful yet easily acquirable tool. Media in all forms have major role to play in encouraging and promoting this skill which will give a boom to the people in this competitive world. It is time for the English Newspapers, Websites, Electronic media, professional associations, Educational Institutions, and Social networks and groups to take an active part in the process.

0777880166/0779529797/0113100064/0112421752- 83  Mihindu Mawatha Colombo 12.

4 Responses to ““ENGLISH AS A LIFE SKILL””

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Thank you Sarath Wijesinghe. We agree with you.

    English should have been the government’s top development priority since 2009 instead of infrastructure projects. That would have armed people to advance their earning potential (tourism, etc.), education potential and career advancement. All this could have uplifted the nation from poverty, economic disaster and hopelessness.

    At least 100 billion rupees must be allocated annually to increase English fluency among the people. It is a far better investment than anything successive governments embarked on since 2009.

    Attempts by poorer sections of the Lankan society to master English is saddening and must be helped. Mega cities, beautification of cities, rail roads to the north, floating markets, a bridge to India, canals in the wet zone and other rubbish developments must be scrapped to find the money needed to teach people English.

    In addition Korean, Japanese, Arabic and German language learning should also be supported given the direct economic contribution they make.

  2. sena Says:

    Veneration of English as a social stature is the main reason that there has been no positive contribution to our economy from our 70 year old investment in higher education. Beginning from CCS (administrative service) and all professional fields including even science , medical and engineering fields the main yard stick to climb higher has been fluency in English. The professionals impress each other by talking in as good English as they can master while doing no productive work. It is no secret that countries in East Asia who could not care less for English have advanced in science and technology and have established their own knowledge base economies

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sarath Wijesinghe speaks the truth. We agree with him.

    The English Language is a tool to acquire knowledge of any subject, particularly with the modern day use of computers. It is the world language in place in our era. Knowledge of the English language is power to acquire skills that lead to jobs, social networking, and connecting to the rest of the world. It is the link language that will erase social barriers. Translating all the knowledge available in English to other languages, including Sinhala & Tamil, will be quite impossible as scientific reasearch and other fields of studies grow on a daily basis and made available via the English language.

    There are many more reasons for teaching English as a Second Language in the schools of Lanka.

    English should be taught as a strong SECOND Language in all schools in Lanka. Learning English should not be considered as subjugation to former Colonist, Britain. In fact, one way the Britain can make up for the damage done to the world through the British Empire is to make available to former colonies easy methods of teaching English as a Second Language.

    If English is not taught in the schools of Lanka as a Second Language, Lanka’s masses will be left behind to rot in third world status.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    correcting error, read as “. … one way that Britain can make up ….”

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