I Can Walk English…Talk English…

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English mania is a global phenomenon, though English is no mania; It is a necessity. So how can Kashmir lag behind. SHAZIA YOUSUF reports.

Some come for speaking English, some for speaking with Englishness. Some want to be able to converse, others to be part of larger conversation.

With a number of people lured by English speaking courses, Srinagar is getting dotted with English academies, most of them opening with the closing of school for winter.

Libra English Academy is among the first few English academies of the valley. Libra has 12 branches in the valley and is perhaps the only one that runs throughout the year. With its success it plans to set up more branches in Jammu and outside states like Haryana and Delhi. It claims to have successfully trained 30,000 people since its establishment in 2005. “All these branches have been opened on people’s demand. We receive hundreds of students from far flung areas like Uri, Karnah who come here for learning English. This mania is everywhere,” says Sheikh Zahid, director of the Libra academy.

Zahid has his own assessment about the trend. One third of the aspiring candidates, he says, come for fun and lack orientation. But a good number take it as career oriented course. “Though we offer a two month course, we have dozens of students who are here from more than a year and want to stay until they are fully satisfied,” Zahid says.

The motivation of joining the institute varies from student to student. Quite a few come from local English medium schools who desire to overcome an “inferiority complex” because of lesser hold (perceived or real) on English language compared to their counterparts in elite schools. Then there are marketing executives, government employees, businessmen who want to polish their language.

The classroom activities comprise of group discussions, role plays and presentations. The courses are of 60 to 90 days duration. Many students mistake these courses for ones that would help develop writing skills. Some come for improving spelling and punctuation errors. When Irfan Majeed joined one such academy he thought that he would no more have to learn his lessons by rote for examinations, “I thought all the problems will be solved but I came out empty handed after three months. Nothing changed. I still learn by rote,” Irfan says.

Irfan’s friend Arsalan who also joined the institute along with Irfan had a different motivation, “I wanted to impress people. Girls,” he says.

Arsalan too didn’t get expected results, “I couldn’t learn anything. Finally I gave up and crammed a single line that my teacher wrote for me on my request- I think I am crazy about you. I start every chat with this line and quickly get back to my Urdu,” says Arsalan with a smile.

As competition among institutes increases, some offer “Money Back Guarantee” and assure complete learning in a specified time. It is this money back guarantee at English Mania, institute of English learning at Nowhatta Srinagar that attracted 26 year old Irtiqa Nabi of Qamarwari.

Irtiqa had left studies after higher secondary almost nine years ago. Since then she is learning tips of homemaking and forgetting whatever she had retained from her schooling. That was fine with Irtiqa until a month back when her parents started looking for a groom. “I thought this is the basic thing I lack. I can manage everything but when it comes to my speaking I don’t impress anyone. Staying home has reduced my confidence,” she says.

A television advertisement told Irtiqa about the institute and she thought it to be the solution for her problem. “After every half hour such advertisements come on television. It is a bit scary the way they assert the need of learning English. You feel like it is only thing that completes you,” Irtiqa says. Nothing enthuses better than English mania – reads a graffiti on the wall behind her.

When this academy was thrown open last month 58 students enrolled themselves for learning English in the first week. “Though we receive diverse students including marketing executives, medical representatives, businessmen and even government employees but most of our students are school and college going students that is why we close it once the winter vacations are over,” says Gousia, the counsellor.

There are two courses – basic and intermediate, “In basic we teach language while intermediate is for polishing of language with advanced vocabulary proper pronunciations and elimination of MTI (Mother Tongue Influence).” It charges Rs 1600 and 900 for intermediate and basic level course and Rs 2000 for students opting to attend both.

The counsellor tells you everything about the institute except the specialization or qualification of trainers, “No candidate ever inquired about it so I too didn’t enquire,” she confesses.

There is an argument world over that English mania kills the diversity of the languages while some believe that it is being monolingual that actually kills the diversity.

“I saw the name of institute written on a board and asked my friend what is mania, he replied it is junoon (obsession) I thought why not to be a part of this junoon,” says Abid a class 12 commerce student, who has joined the institute.

Abid wishes to be a successful entrepreneur and make full use of his English, “This course is useless unless you have planned your future. I have mine planned that’s why I like working on it,” he says.

Then there are again a good number of students who join these institutes because they have “nothing else” to do, “I wanted to kill time and learn something at the same time,” says Asiya from Hawal.

However, Asiya couldn’t not learn that “something”. She says she was asked to memorize hi-fi vocabulary which she all forgot quickly after the course was over, “I didn’t know where to use those words that’s why I forgot.”

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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