In search of an interface between Language Perspectives and Language Pedagogy

What is language? How does it relate to the world and the mind? How do we acquire our first language? How should we teach a new language and what are the implications of teaching a language? How is language pedagogy conditioned by our a sociological and political perspectives? Do our views on language influence our world views? These are some of the issues that often agitate our mind academically and condition our pedagogic practices in the field of language education.
There is no dearth of courses on language and language teaching in India and abroad and universities and institutions often vie with one another in advertising their courses among the prospective candidates across the globe. But most of these much publicized courses are instrumental by nature, their primary objective is either to teach a language or to enable the participants to attain pedagogical competence in teaching a particular language. These courses rarely help the participants to explore the interface between language perspectives and language pedagogy.
In spite of the highly academic discourses available on the nature and characteristics of language and its manifestation as a cognitive phenomenon and a social dynamic, language seems to be an enigma to many stakeholders involved in designing and implementing language curriculum in the domain of education and human resource development. Language as a tool for making sense of the world is coterminous with our human experience and is used spontaneously in all the spheres of our personal, social, emotional and cultural engagement right from our childhood. Though language plays a very important role in our perception of reality and the sharpening of our cognitive ability, not only in the popular parlance, even in scholarly discourses, it is often viewed simply as a means of communication. “Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of voluntary produced symbols” Sapir (1921:8). But considering language from a purely utilitarian point of view is a travesty of the fact that language is a constituent of our human entity and an embodiment of our human experience. A child’s tryst with language begins with her birth and the language ‘acts as a subtle, yet strong force, shaping the child’s perception of the world, interests, capabilities, and even values and attitudes.”(Krishna Kumar, 1986:1).
Though the professionals involved in language education have a general idea of ‘what is language’ and ‘how it works’ and ‘how it is to be taught’, an in-depth understanding of language and its role in the cognitive development of a child’s ability to express herself and its pedagogic implication in concept formation and knowledge creation are often overlooked by them. Echoing this perception, the Position Paper on Teaching of Indian Languages published by National Council of Educational Research and Training, New Delhi observes that “In order to appreciate fully the role of language in education, we must begin to develop a holistic perspective on language.”(NCE, 2006:1). But, in order to develop a holistic perspective we have to examine language in a multi-dimensional space.
As language can be considered from diverse points of view, theoretical linguists, applied linguists, social psychologists, cognitive psychologists and all other people interested in language have tried to look at it from their own perspectives. Consequently, the plethora of diverse perspectives originating from conflicting theoretical orientation often poses serious problems for the people who are entrusted with the task of teaching language or developing the professional competence of language teachers during various professional development programmes. Therefore, the interface between language perspectives and language pedagogy needs a systematic exploration for our own understanding and classroom practice.

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