There is little question that being multilingual is the norm in India, with 22 official languages and over 19,500 mother tongues (according to the 2011 Census). This reality is acknowledged in the new National Education Policy (NEP), which places a strong emphasis on multilingualism and language education as one of its 22 basic principles. However, despite the seeming simplicity with which many people acquire these skills, language learning is a complicated process that is influenced by a variety of variables.
Acquiring one, two, or more languages at home as a young child is a different process than learning multiple languages at school or as an adult. Even while pre-schoolers are excellent at learning several languages at home, teaching new (and multiple) languages to children at school requires careful preparation and resources.
Use of multilingual methods with awareness
When many Indian children begin school, they encounter a significant language difficulty. This is frequently due to the fact that the medium of teaching used at school differs from the language(s) used at home. Many co-ops are conducting study on how these youngsters cope and develop the required abilities.
Demand for English
The NEP expresses a strong desire for children to study in their native language. 'Wherever practicable, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably until Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother-tongue/local language/regional language,' according to the MHRD's NEP document.
This is mitigated, however, by widespread parental desire for other languages, particularly for their children to attend English medium schools. Many parents believe that knowing English opens doors to better possibilities, and there is evidence that it does.
How can the parents' desire for academic English competence and the NEP's goals be reconciled? A common misunderstanding is that in order to gain appropriate English abilities, students must learn via the medium of English in all disciplines.
Learning is typically more successful when English (or any other extra language) is taught well as a separate topic rather than as a medium of teaching, according to studies.
This has a greater favourable impact on overall learning outcomes since children are more likely to acquire other topic matter - math, science, and so on - in a more familiar language.
The NEP emphasises this, stating that "all languages shall be taught to all pupils with high quality; a language does not need to be the medium of teaching to be taught and learnt effectively."
Nonetheless, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to effectively learn multiple languages as separate topics. This involves not just the instructors' personal language skill levels and teaching abilities in the classroom, but also the acceptance of many languages as more than just social discourse. Existing language skills can be used to aid in the learning of new languages.
Teachers must be supported by a school culture that encourages this and builds teacher competence in pedagogy (including the use of multilingual methods specifically) and linguistic competency. The practise of officially prohibiting the use of languages other than the medium of teaching in the classroom is common, yet it is ineffective.
Recognition of the equality in status and rich legacy that languages provide to our country is critical in ensuring that we establish a culture that really values and encourages diversity in the larger community and beyond.