N. Nadarajan, Ph.D.
1. TEACHING STYLE IN LITERATURE CLASSROOMS
Teaching style in our classrooms is an integral part of teaching literature. But it should become an integral part of first or second language teaching as well. Literature offers rich and invitingly different kinds of oral and written materials to the learners of any language.
2. TEACHING STYLE IN LANGUAGE LEARNING CLASSROOMS
My focus in this paper is on teaching styles to the learners of various Indian languages as second language. Once the basic language skills are achieved in their target language, or along with the acquisition of the basic structures and language skills, the learners should be exposed to the ocean of literature in their target language. The heritage of the target Indian culture is directly revealed through the various literary works in the target language. Current idiomatic expressions are better learned through the literary pieces.
The second language learners attain greater facility in their target language when they begin to master and use the various styles adopted in their target language. Mastery of the styles adopted in the target language should begin in right earnest as early as possible in the language curriculum. Introduction to the style adopted in the target language enables the second language learner to gain an additional familiarity with many linguistic structures, forms, and conventions of the oral and written modes.
3. LINGUISTICS AND STYLISTICS
Linguistics is the science of describing language and showing how it works. Stylistics concentrates often, but not exclusively, on the variation in the uses of language, with special attention on the most conscious and complex uses of language in literature. Linguistic theory explains communication in terms of an underlying abstract system that links expression and meaning. Stylistic theory explains the functions of language in communication. Style is the product of the functions of language. How the underlying abstract system is used to fulfill certain communicative functions is dealt with in stylistics.
4. ON DEFINING STYLE
In order to teach styles, we must first have a clear notion of what style is. However, there are as many different approaches and different definitions of style as there are different styles themselves. The notion regarding style should come from the linguistic differences that are likely to distinguish one style from another. This is certainly not a satisfactory or an adequate attitude towards teaching style.
In order to arrive at some working definition or understanding of style, we may list out those elements of language that generally form the notion of style irrespective of the differences in the approaches to the study of style.
5. LOCATING DIFFERENCES IN STYLE
We may identify the differences in style based on the following:
The list is endless, and if the teacher has an adequate background in the target language literature, he or she should be able to add to the list depending upon the interest and skill attainment of his class.
6. THE WRITTEN VARIETY
The written variety cannot be fully analyzed in isolation from the spoken or colloquial variety. Our understanding of the written variety clearly draws on our knowledge of the corresponding spoken variety and on our linguistic competence in general. Unless we know the relation between the spoken and written varieties in an Indian language, we will not know fully well what the target language literary piece that mixes these two varieties wishes to communicate.
Remember that Indian literature has a very, very long tradition of mixing the spoken and written varieties to bring several effects in the minds of the reader. Kalidasa has used this technique deliberately. Natya Sastra encourages this and delineates certain conditions for mixing these two. Tolka:ppiyam makes references to this technique. You can cite old historical sources from other leading Indian languages such as Telugu and Kannada. In modern or current Hindi literature, mixing up the written and spoken is taken to another level. In this level, the language-like dialects are mixed within the spoken mode. Also in Urdu, we notice the mixing up of the Persian and Arabic words for specific effects. It appears that no major Indian language is an exception to the process of mixing the spoken and the written forms for specific effects. Styles are developed around this technique by the authors to suit their characters and themes.
7. SYNTACTIC AND MORPHOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES
8. THE TECHNIQUES OF PARAGRAPH FORMATION:
9. OTHER ELEMENTS
The points presented above may be used to identify the characteristics of the style adopted and to distinguish one style from another. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it presented in any particular order.
As the teacher begins to look at the style adopted in a literary piece, he or she will be able to identify the specifics of the style adopted by the narrator. Once some of these specifics are noticed and brought to the attention of the students along with the communicative functions such stylistic characteristics perform in the literary piece, the students themselves will begin to identify the other characteristics of the style of the literary piece. But our focus is not on listing out the features. Our focus should be on using these features in the communication process either in the oral or written mode.
10. ARE STYLES RELEVANT FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING?
I do recognize that the teaching of styles through literature does not give the learners the kind of vocabulary and structure they really need in their day-to-day use of the target language. However, there is little doubt that extensive exposure to the different styles of the language facilitates the transfer to a more active form of knowledge. The language of the literature may not be typical of the language of daily life. But the variety of lexical devices, syntactic patterns, etc., to which the learners are exposed through the teaching of the styles, definitely have a bearing on the development of higher language competence.
11. HOW DO WE DEFINE TEACHING OF STYLES?
I would suggest the following points for consideration:
12. THE LINGUISTIC APPROACHES TO STYLE TEACHING
Normally, the linguistic approaches to the teaching of style focus on lexical devices, syntactic patterns, and other linguistic elements. The content-oriented approaches to teaching style focus on content organization, presentation, and form. An understanding and enjoyment of the style of a literary piece provides a rich context in which the individual lexical or syntactic items are made more memorable. This in itself is a sufficient reason to teach style in a second or first language classroom. The exposure to the novel construction of sentence patterns and their functions, the variety of possible structures, and the different ways of connecting ideas in novel ways using words and sentences broadens the learner's own style of speaking and writing.
13. THE GOAL OF TEACHING STYLE
The goal of teaching styles in our Indian language classrooms should be to enable the students to have their own individual styles that may also have elements of clarity, proper content organization, attractive form, emotional appeal and other elements that would attract others to read what is written and to sustain the interest of the reader. If this position is accepted, then the list I presented above for locating the differences in style may be treated as indicative of the items from which selections could be made by the individuals to develop their own style.
Yet another goal of teaching style is to develop the ability to write the same content in several alternative forms and modes. The style-learning process helps develop the sense of belongingness, identity formation, mastery of the medium, etc.
14. STEPS THAT TEACHERS CAN ADOPT
How best the teacher can work with his class to teach styles? At present, information on style is restricted to pointing out the peculiar uses in the target language and the literary techniques employed in the text. While this certainly helps the recognition of the peculiarities of the style adopted in a text, our ultimate goal is not style-recognition but the production of one's own style. In order to achieve this goal, the following processes may be adopted. The list is only suggestive of the initial steps.
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N. Nadarajan, Ph.D.
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore 570006, India