Thursday, April 26, 2007

Uncle, Uncle...

Uncle, uncle, what is your name? How old are you? What is your father's name? My name is Karma. I'm in fourth grade. My father's name is Sonam. This is my friend, he is in second grade. His name is Tashi. Where are you from? He is taller than me. Are you married? What is your daughter's name?

Kids often approach me, want to sit next to me, and ask me tons of questions. Even though they are really young, it is amazing how well they are speaking English. English might be their second or even third language (after Dzongkha, Sharchop, Nepali) but still they are able to grasp the language at a very early age. Sure, they are not yet fluent but they will be getting there pretty soon. Medium of instruction in all schools is English and the use of Dzongkha is limited to a short period every day. Even in kindergarten, kids are trying to use English sentences.

Sure, it is not that way all over Bhutan. Samtse is a forward-looking place in Bhutan. Folks in this area are pretty well educated and as a consequence, they help their kids from an early age on to get excited about school. Additionally, most of the kids that I interact with are the kids of lecturers. If you go out to remote places, the situation might look different. Some teachers might have problems with the English language and kids might not be well-supported by their parents in learning a new language. As a consequence, it might take a bit more time for them to get the feeling for the language. But still, they will grasp the basics and be able to communicate reasonably well in English. That's at least my experience from having interacted with the students at the Samtse College of Education.

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