Anyone who has had a conversation with someone who speaks English as a second language is likely to have heard the same complaint: English is one of the toughest languages to pick up. Being such a widespread language, the benefits of learning English often far outweigh the difficulties involved – but what makes learning English so hard in the first place? Aside from differences in grammatical structure and unintuitive spelling of many words, there’s another culprit at fault in many cases: the way the language is taught.
Teaching styles which are too rigid and obsessed with structure often fail to hit the mark when it comes to instilling a working knowledge of English in students. An innovative new language teaching program in Pakistan, put together by the US Embassy, has attempted to address these problems and update teaching styles to focus more on practical results rather than rigid methods. The program is designed with students in mind and involves recognizing learning disadvantages and overcoming them through unconventional teaching methods, such as interactive learning sessions. In short, the program’s teachers have abandoned a didactic teaching style for one which is more all-inclusive, allowing students a greater level of participation in the classroom process.
With all that said, the door certainly swings both ways when it comes to language learning on the Indian subcontinent. The BBC reported recently that only one of 150 British diplomats in India is fluent in Hindi. The diplomats are now engaging in more of an effort to meet the locals halfway, embarking on Hindi learning programs in order to develop closer personal relationships with Indian businessmen and open up new opportunities for relations between the two countries.
In fact, in Indonesia the difficulties associated with learning English have resulted in some controversial changes – the government is moving to cut English from early school curriculums altogether, on the grounds that it limits students’ abilities to learn Indonesian as fluently as they should. Naturally, this change – conceived as a way to help strengthen and protect Indonesian culture – has been criticized because it is perceived as isolating Indonesia from the world. The fact remains that regardless of the difficulties involved in learning English, it is now almost a necessity for countries looking to strengthen their international business and trade.