Posted on April 23rd, 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.

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

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:



  2. Dham Says:

    Dear Friend Susantha,

    As you said earlier, you are 20years my senior. I am the youth you are talking about.

    Sure you do have ENGLISH AS A LIFE SKILL but I have skills other than ENGLISH. It is SWRD who gave me chance to learn those skills.
    I , the son of a office servant of Chrishnie’s husband, had to enter their Colombo 7 house from back door to teach her son Maths. But I learned that skill thanks to SWRD.

    Without SWRD I could have been the office servant of the other youth. That is all.

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    DHAM !! To me, it does not matter who you are, so far as you are a beautiful human being. SRI LANKA STILL CONTINUES WITH A LOT OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST HUMANITY. THIS MUST STOP. YET IT WONT.

  4. Dham Says:

    I agree. This is the core of friendship.
    I have noted well over the years that you always spoke against injustice. You never said good is bad or the other way around.

    We have Buddha Dhamma the greatest gift no politician could touch.
    Remember there are plenty of opportunities to develop compassion but we should not forget the principle of Kamma. After the maximum effort, there is a point we should accept the inevitable.

  5. Ananda-USA Says:

    I have often written that English proficiency is a skill essential to survival of our people in the modern age.

    Yet, I must take issue with those who criticise SWRD’ Sinhala only policy for two reasons.

    1. He foresaw the rise of Tamil separatism and sought to eliminate it by imposing Sinhala only as a solution; just such moves are now underway in many European nations and may arise in the US as well in response to threats by unrestricted inflow of illegal immigrants speaking minority or foreign languages. Donald Trump’s support that baffles the Democrats, augurs this sentiment among Americans.

    2. During SWRD’s day, Sri Lankans were about 35% literate. It was easier to bring literacy to the common masses in Swabasha rather than bring literacy in English to them. He did what made sense and as a result we have 95% Literacy today comparable to Western nations, albeit in Swabasha. At the same time, we retained English as a compulsory, but secondary, skill in education .

    3. Having attained near universal literacy, what is needed today is to further develop and improve English proficiency as a skill necessary to survive and thrive in the global marketplace. To that end, I heartily support and endorse the views of the author of this article, as well as other commentators. This is an issue close to my heart as I am educating many adopted children whose proficiency in English is sadly deficient.

  6. Dilrook Says:

    English fluency among the people should be the government’s top development priority over building mega cities, ports, etc. Given the lack of resources and the potential English fluency bring, it is a must.

    At least 50 billion rupees a year must be allocated additionally to uplift people’s English fluency.

    However, that does not mean Sinhala Only in 1956 is wrong. It was the right move then. Sinhala must be the sole official language even today. The collapse of English education in 1930 to 1960s cannot be attributed to Sinhala Only. It was due to economic reasons. When colonials left, missionaries also left. Buddhist educationalists didn’t come back as the threat to Buddhism had subsided then. Free education spread throughout the country and there was not enough English teachers. Education had to be standardised. However after 1956, the overall English fluency rose (albeit at snail pace).

    It is time to equip every Sri Lankan with English fluency. In addition teaching Korean, Japanese and Arabic must also be supported. These languages also add to Sri Lanka’s economic prosperity. On the other hand useless languages like Tamil must be pruned from state expenditure. Money saved can be used to finance these worthy initiatives.

  7. sena Says:

    why do not we tell the whole world of this unique discovery – proficiency in English by every citizen automatically lead to prosperity and all the common worldly issues such as hunger, housing, health, lack of technical knowledge etc are magically solved.

  8. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    DHAM !! OK, can I learn something from you ?

    **Iam the youth you are talking about** You have put that in BOLD Letters. Teach me how to put BOLD letters please. I still do not know how to get bold letters. Help from any other commentor in this forum, is also welcome.

  9. Ananda-USA Says:


    To capitalize letters, hold down the SHIFT key (often marked by an upward arrow symbol) with the left hand and type as usual with the right hand.

    Be careful though, if you switch the hands results can be unpredictable! LOL!

  10. Dham Says:

    You did not read him correctly. But you taught people in this forum how to do what he wanted sometime back.
    Type “” ( excluding ” ) at the beginning of the BOLD lettered sentence.
    Type “
    ” ( excluding ” ) at the end of the BOLD lettered sentence.

    I thank you for that.

    Also I agree 100% with your 1,2,3 above. But let me add this

    2. If you send a child to a school with 100% English teaching and speak to them in English at home. You will most probably loose a Sinhala child. If you speak Sinhala to them you still loose 50% Sinhala child.

    There is a balance here. Children should learn mother tongue well as well as the cultural practices and Sinhala Buddhist values that come with it. Most of all children must be taught Buddhism ( including Muslims). It is a gift we have. Let them take it or leave it , but it is the State Religion.

  11. Dham Says:

    Sorry Sir. It should be at the beginning and at the end. Note the greater than sign and less than sign.

  12. Dham Says:

    I have to explain again.

    At the beginning type LESS THAN SIGN, b and GREATER THAN SIGN.
    At the end type the same thing but replace “b” with “slash b”

  13. Dham Says:

    You can use the word “strong” instead of letter simple b as well but the greater than sign and less than sign and the slash are imperative.
    I think original teacher is better. I am no match for a software engineer.

  14. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    ANANDA !! Thanks.
    YES, WHEN YOU HOLD THE ‘SHIFT’ KEY WITH THE LEFT HAND AND TYPE WITH THE RIGHT HAND, YOU GET CAPITAL LETTERS. That is not what Iam asking. What I want is to type ‘BOLD’ Letters. Dark Letters.

    DHAM !!
    is this the Greater than sign ? Sorry I still cannot get it.

    strong/ nothing doing. It is not getting into my head./ I have got my wires mixed up.

  15. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    HEY HEY !!! I seem to have got it. YET I STILL DONT KNOW HOW I GOT IT.

  16. Dham Says:

    You are almost there. But you can search and learn by Googling HTML writing.

    Command is “strong”. You start with LESS THAN sign first followed by the word “strong” followed by GREATER THAN sign. Then you type your lines and end with LESS THAN sign first followed by SLASH sign the word “strong” followed by GREATER THAN sign.

    See the above I wrote in ITALIC letters. Command is “em” in this case but you need to have all the above signs.

  17. Dilrook Says:

    Thank you Susantha and Dham. I learnt something in HTML.

    You can also extend it to italics, emphasis and link documents without actually giving the web address. Bold facing text in the text the normal way never actually bold the text when published.

    Nationalists must expand their social media (twitter, facebook, instagram, youtube, etc.) skills to get into youth crowd. Our lack of these skills are costing us. Gone are the days people read lengthy text of analyses. Nowadays it is social media with a short and impactful message.

  18. Ananda-USA Says:

    Dham, Susantha,

    I was only joking about the left and right hands; I knew that Susantha already knew how to do that, hence the LOL!


    Yes, I very much appreciate the imperative of learning to swim like a fish in once’s own native language, before becoming a fish out of water in a foreign English landscape.

    It is the love for the cadence of one’s own mother tongue reverberating in the deepest recesses of our minds that keeps us Sinhalese FIRST wherever we roam, however long we roam.

    Sinhala songs, Sinhala wit, and the droll Sinhala humor couched in our own unique Sinhala idiom can rarely be matched for its beauty, humor and brevity by any other language.

    Our patriotism and love for our little island can be maintained only by keeping this beautiful language alive as a central feature of our culture and our very survival as a unique people.

    On the other hand, my appeal and support for ENGLISH PROFICIENCY is purely practical, recognizing that we Sinhalese are only 20 million people immersed in a world of over 8,000 million. We MUST become SKILLED in the USE OF ENGLISH if we are to survive and thrive in a world that relies on English, for the most part, to communicate, interact and prosper.

    Yet, it is important to FOSTER and PRESERVE Sinhala as a living developing vibrant language, for man does not live by bread alone. Look at the Israelis, who have revived a completely dead language (Hebrew), and are using it as a living functional language. To what purpose, you may ask? The purpose is to preserve their ancient heritage and use it as a tool to preserve their identity, and SURVIVE as a unique people against all odds.

    Unlike Hebrew, Sinhala was NEVER A DEAD LANGUAGE. From the very beginning of our civilization Sinhala slowly but CONTINUOUSLY developed from its Prakrit/Sanskrit roots into what it is today. It is a distinct language of the Indo-European family, related even today to other major languages like Hindi and Urdu belonging to the same family. Its early development into a functional language with a tradition of not only ORAL communication but also of the WRITTEN laid the basis for the our historical chronicles live the Mahavansa, epic poems like the Salihini Sandeshaya, and perhaps even the earlier setting down of the teachings of the Lord Buddha …. for the first time … in Sri Lanka, instead of in India, the land of Buddhism’s birth, where the tradition of writing had not yet developed to a comparable degree.

    Therefore, we have inherited a RICH LINGUISTIC TRADITION … second to none in this world … that we must continue to develop and foster in the future.

    The focus on our SINHALA cultural heritage is perhaps MORE IMPORTANT than the practical, functional and economic benefits to be derived from English proficiency, if we Sinhalese are to SURVIVE as a unique and intellectually gifted people.

    Look at it this way: If Sri Lankla had no unique cultural identity, and sensations to delight the souls of the most jaded, who among the world’s tourists would want to visit Sri Lanka, if it were another rubber carbon copy of a mundane tourist trap ? It is our unique … quintessentially Sri Lanka … culture that captivates their minds and compels them to return again and again to this land. It is also our cultural uniqueness that sends them away as ardent supporters of our resplendent isle.

  19. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:



  20. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:


  21. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    DHAM !! It is through my heart that I thank you for teaching me how to get bold letters in our comments. I must with with a sad feeling, take up the fact that Ananda has taken the issue of ” my point of view ” about SWRD, and in the same breath, I take up the issue of him not wanting to light another lamp with his lamp of knowledge. Was it innate jealously ? Matter for conjecture.

    I will now teach all commentors on Lanka Web, to those who yet do not know how to put Bold Letters, in their comments. The merit will be all yours, my dear friend Dham. Just as a matter of interest, I hold a Diploma with Distinctions from the English Speaking Union to teach English, and it has been signed by the then British ESU President WINN PARKER. Dr. Chris Nonis former HC, was seen in a photograph with Winn Parker and a few others.

    I will make it easy, and explain the easy way soon.

  22. Ananda-USA Says:


    As Dham has acknowledged above, sometime ago I showed posted several comments at LankaWeb on how to capitalize, italicize and embolden letters and sentences.

    That is no secret; it is basic HTML that almost everyone knows, and is certainly not a “guru mushtiya” to be jealously guarded by anyone.

    My response to you about capitalization was meant to be humorous; it was not to teach you how to do so, because I was already aware that you use CAPITAL letters in your comments!

    What I did not become aware from the posts above was that you wanted to know how to make letters BOLD; I was inattentive, and had I realized it I would certainly have let you know!

  23. Dham Says:

    Thanks for kind words friend, it was a pleasure. Please let him be who he is. There is nothing wrong in his writings above, honest and open as I can see. Unlike you , unfortunately he is displaying lack of wisdom elsewhere. Then again it is his right.
    I knew your English skills long ago. I am 100% sure SWRD Sinhala only policy had far more benefits than short comings. It is a MUST at that time but as Dilrook says we should help all Sinhalas to enhance proficiency. Another area is public speech and interviews. I remember how bad a regular , matured regular writer was on Australian TV even though his English is excellent. He writes here like a professor but failed us nationalists miserably that day when quick response was needed.

  24. Dham Says:

    Politics aside I am convinced it was only a joke.
    I learned from him too. He is a very generous man.

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