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A REVIEW OF AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEXTBOOK TO TEACH ENGLISH IN INDIAN SCHOOLS
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5. SOME AWKWARD USAGE
Other awkward language usage exists in the text. Poetess is used, although 'poet' does not indicate male gender. Possibly this is an influence of the native language on the authors. "Hawaiin" is improperly used in "Hawaii, the Dreamland." Proceeding the poem, This Land is Ours, "spruce" is stated in the glossary to mean, "neat and smart." If a clever double meaning is represented, relating to both the tree and neat and smart, that is valid; however, this meaning of spruce is not well known to speakers of English. In "Floodlights of the Forest," a story about fireflies, it is stated that they glow brighter on hot evenings and dimmer "if chill." This is awkward wording. "On the contrary" is used incorrectly in one instance: "Shanthi has nothing to do now, on the contrary I have piles of work to do."
6. SOME UNFAMILIAR USAGE
The following examples portray language that is unfamiliar to contemporary, correct English:
"... made her life a misery"
"... turn Olga out of the house"
"All round the hut ..."
"Olga's father came galloping and drew up in front of the hut."
"He would not believe his eyes."
"They soon got off for home ..."
"Next day, the father ..."
"How happy I'm to know this."
"Take the first round on the right of Bata Shoe Mart,"
"His body was covered with scales as in a fish."
"People say that he has solution for every problem."
"I will tell you what to do?" (not intended to be stated as a question)
"Raju started for school."
"In course of time ..."
"Is reservation available for Monday, please?"
"He warned her daughter not to put the fire out ..."
"Government has given him an award."
"[He] climbed into the cup and lay down to have a rest."
"What did the saint advise him to do when he met him first?"
7. PUNCTUATION, ETC.
Capitalization is inconsistent throughout the lessons. Madam is written 'madam,' when it is a proper name in context. Robot is capitalized in one place, while un-capitalized in the rest of the story, "Robot, the Mechanical Man." Proper names in context are written with lowercase letters, including, "aunt," and 'uncle.'
The text contains a blatant lack of commas, which presents a distraction to the native speaker of English, as well as a faulty resource for students. In an instance or two an extra comma is added, but the large majority of grammatical errors involve missing commas in appropriate places. Some examples include:
"The old lad held her purse tightly protecting it from the thief."
"She tried to hide behind the stove to escape the attack but in vain."
"The wood hit her again and again until she fell to the ground almost dead.
"I can't wriggle out of the noisy scene, don't find anywhere to sit and do my work calmly anywhere."
"Suddenly he changed into a stag ..."
"He asked many people the way to the garden but nobody knew where it was."
8. POETRY SELECTION - EFFECTIVE AND EXCELLENT
The poems are well chosen, and contain messages about the beauty of many cultures, people groups, nationalities, and religions. Rejoice is a poem expressing pride in African heritage. Child's Prayer for other Children by Elizabeth-Ellen Long is a beautiful poem about the love of God for all children. The reference to God does not indicate the identity of God, whether He is the God of the Bible, the Koran, or merely a Supreme Being, or Universal Force. There is an illustration of a girl kneeling on a rug in prayer, with some books, perhaps her homework, at her side.
Bluebird, what do you feed on? by Carl Sandburg is a nice, descriptive poem; however, the bluebird is portrayed as sort of oracle or deity, with answers to life's questions. Other references to nature as a divine entity, include, in the fire-fly story, "The light of the fire-fly is one of the Nature's greatest miracles." In Hercules II, the giant calls the ground, "Mother Earth." Also, Coromandel Fishers states,
The sea is our mother, the cloud is our brother
What though we toss at the fall of the sun
Where the hand of the sea-god drives?
He who holds the storm by the hair
Will hide in His breast our lives.
This poem is by Sarojini Naidu, who Gandhi called, "The Nightingale of India."
In Tom's Adventure, part II, it is stated, "He prayed to everyone saying that he had not killed the doctor." Rather than him actually praying to everyone, this is most likely an expression, which means that he pleaded his case.
9. SHORT STORIES
In reference to the short stories, they are very imaginative. However, wholly unrealistic, and often derived from classic stories, such as Hercules, Huckleberry Finn, and Cinderella, yet a major distortion of these well-known texts.
There are several clever and interesting stories. "The Mixing Stick" is about a peddler who tells a woman that he can make a boiling pot of water into something delicious with his Mixing Stick, implying that it has magical powers. The whole neighborhood hears about it, and brings an item over, such as potatoes, carrots, etc., to see if the peddler can make their ordinary food have an extraordinary taste. The reader is pleasantly surprised as he or she can figure out, as the story continues, that he merely tricked the people into combining their resources to make a hearty soup.
"Robot, the Mechanical Man" contains an interesting idea that the first robot was a mousetrap. The essay states, "The catch bar acts as a very simple computer." "... The most complex robot knows no more than a simple mouse trap." This concept is valid; however, scientifically controversial and shady.
Functional English is minimally represented in this textbook. Literary enjoyment and moral instruction appear to take more time and space than day-to-day language use to meet the ordinary needs of the learners.
10. A VARIETY OF EXERCISES, BUT SOME ARE TRICKY AND MISDIRECTED
The course book provides a large range of exercises to test the students. Methods include true or false questions, fill in the blanks, applying vocabulary words to fill in the blanks, striking out the wrong word in a sentence, correcting errors in a section, matching, short answers, composition/essays, adding punctuation to sentences, looking up words in a dictionary, filling in sentences in a dialogue, and rewriting sentences in a different format or sentence tense.
Some questions appear tricky. In "Priya's Suitcase," a true or false question is, "God rewarded Priya's mother for her honesty." This is implied in the text; however, it is an assumption that depends on faith and belief, and not on the facts of the story. Some questions are thought provoking, and do not necessarily have an objective answer, such as, "Why does the poet refer to only the children 'sleeping' and not the children 'keeping awake'"? A Poison Tree is a poem about how festering anger leads to destruction. A question is, "What will happen if we contain our natural impulses." However, this question's meaning is unclear, whether it means suppressing one's impulses versus applying self-control. Referring to the unfolding of the plot in "The Mixing Stick," it is asked, "Did it bring about a kind of magic?" This question is thought-provoking, as to the meaning of the word magic and its application to the story.
Louis Braille is an excellent, encouraging story. A true/false question states, "He never felt sad for losing his sight." The answer must be true, in context; however, the story does not say that he never felt sad, but only that he never felt sorry for himself.
Creative writing exercises are implemented in this course book, including, "Write a conversation between a spider and a fly." There is a good blend of objective and subjective exercises, so a student has freedom to express him or herself, as well as objectively be evaluated on performance.
"There are two sides to every question," is a sentence in the course book, although a debatable question, since we only know as a popular phrase, there are two sides to every story, or answer.
11. THE GLOSSARY
The glossary at the end of stories and poems is an excellent resource. However, there are many difficult words in the description of other words, which may be difficult for students, though possibly unavoidable, and may promote dictionary usage for motivated students.
12. THIS TEXTBOOK IS A VALUABLE TOOL
Book 5 of the Spectrum English Course is a valuable and creative resource. It offers a wide range of stories, poems, evaluation methods, and writing exercises. Further editing and refining, however, would provide a more potent and impacting curriculum.
APABHRAMSHA - AN INTRODUCTION | LITERATURE, MEDIA, AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION - Andhra Experience | BHARATHI - A COMMON SCRIPT FOR ALL INDIAN LANGUAGES | PHONOLOGICAL AND MORPHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF ORIYA SPEAKERS LEARNING KANNADA | A REVIEW OF AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEXTBOOK TO TEACH ENGLISH IN INDIAN SCHOOLS - FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A NATIVE SPEAKER OF ENGLISH | A LEARNER'S INTRODUCTION TO MANDARIN CHINESE | COMMUNICATION VIA EYE AND FACE IN INDIAN CONTEXTS | STRATEGIES IN THE FORMATION OF COMPOUND NOUNS IN TAMIL | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
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