TEACHING TECHNICAL ENGLISH AND GENERAL ENGLISH
English today has become more than the Lingua Franca of the masses. It has become the lifeline. The call of the hour is for the academia to well-equip itself with the most competent language skills. Only then can suitable help be extended to the beneficiaries, the students. My paper will focus on the nature of General and Technical English today. It will also attempt to show how Technical English and General English can be made more student-centric as the Academic language. The second most spoken language in the world and the lingua franca in many professions, English is a culturally rich, exciting field of study, with some 380 million native speakers. Only Chinese and Hindi have more native speakers while Spanish is similar in number. English is also the dominant member of the Germanic languages. It has lingua franca status in many parts of the world, due to the military, economic, scientific, political and cultural influence of the British Empire in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries and that of the United States from the early 20th century to the present. Through the global influence of native English speakers in cinema, music, broadcasting, science, and the Internet in recent decades, English is now the most widely learned second language in the world, although other colonial languages such as French and Spanish retain much importance worldwide. The Business Week statistics declares that speaking English increases your salary by a minimum of 35%. With all these numbers in mind, let me commence by shifting my focus, first to Technical English.
English for Engineers, as it is known today lays a lot of emphasis on the functional aspect of the language. Comprehension, report writing, composing letters for various occasions and similar technical aspects comprise the language that is learnt by the professionals today. Technical English has more to do with the fine tuning of the learner’s LSRW (Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing) skills. A focus is placed on Language with prefixes and suffixes, Adjectives and Modals, Infinitives and Gerunds so on and so forth. While explaining these, the teacher often finds that the learner is unable to comprehend these, unless he/she has a basic knowledge of grammar and this is a vicious circle. Where do we begin? The Million dollar question looms large before the tutor. Listening for specific information, for note-taking, making inferences; listening to recorded telephonic conversations and listening to reports and audio texts- all these sound very gratifying in black and white. But how much is effectively employed by the student to refine his language skills? The question is still unanswered. Speaking skills place a lot of importance to pronunciation and accent. Of course, the language labs are extensively used by the institutions to enable the smooth process of enhancing these skills. Out of the lab premises, accent is placed on conversation practice in different situations, self and peer introduction, debates and oral presentations. Since these are not emphasized at the school level, the I year students find the transition difficult. The difficulty arises because the entire syllabi is packed within the first year of study. There is no time to give ample scope for the development of each individual skill. Predicting the content, Skimming the text for the gist, Scanning for specific information dampens the spirit of a poor reader. It is disheartening to say that most of the youngsters today browse more and read and read very less and thereby, are poor readers. It is essential for us to first instill in them the love for reading. Teachers today have to be role models themselves. Thrust must be given to reading books rather just spoon feeding them with the details of the books. A love for literature must be developed in the student. As Sachidananda Mohanty says, “I do...
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