In a bid to make all Sri Lankans bilingual within the next five years, the National Languages and Social Integration Ministry has taken measures to decentralise its services and set up Provincial Language Centers in all nine provinces.“Our objective is to create a bilingual Sri Lanka within the next five to ten years to eliminate the language barriers and pave the way for inter-ethnic harmony and peace among all communities,” National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva S. Nanayakkara said.
Minister Nanayakkara added that the new project to teach Tami language to all Sinhalese and Sinhala language to all Tamils will be implemented in accordance with the recommendations of the LLRC. The LLRC has specifically pointed out the necessity for all Sinhalese to be fluent in Tamil and vice versa as the base for durable peace and inter-ethnic harmony.
The National Languages and Social Integration Ministry has also suggested to the Education Ministry to include Sinhalese Language as a subject up to GCE A/L for Tamil students and Tamil language as a subject for Sinhala students up to GCE A/L. However, the severe shortage of Tamil teachers competent in Sinhala and Sinhala teachers competent in Tamil have posed a setback to this programme, Minister Nanayakkara added.
In the de-centralisation project the first provincial center of the National Language Commission ‘The Provincial Language Center’ (PLC) will be set up in the Northern Province in Killinochchci shortly. All other provinces will get a PLC each in the next few years.
The PLCs are tasked to teach Sinhala in Tamil areas and Tamil in Sinhala areas through language societies set on a village basis. For the Killinochchi PLC, the Ministry has already trained 700 instructors to teach Sinhala.
In Sri Lanka only 10% of Sinhalese know Tamil and 30% Tamils Sinhala. The aim of the PLCs is to expand this capacity and some day make all Sri Lankans bilingual, Minister Nanayakkara stressed.
The main task of the PLC s would be to give Tamils a ‘working knowledge’ of Sinhala and Sinhalese, the same competency which means a Tamil would be able to walk into a government establishment and get an official task done using Sinhala and a Sinhalese could do the same.
The language training will be mainly focused on communication, not to make a person extremely fluent in reading, writing or speaking, Minister Nanayakkara said.
BY SANDUN A. JAYASEKERA, Aug 4, 2012