The English Language and Literature department at the University of Gondar is increasing the confidence of students by welcoming them to English Clubs via the English Language Improvement Center (ELIC). Such activities as free talk, debates, reading clubs (for instructors) and film clubs are performed to motivate the students, which come from all departments, to express their thoughts linguistically.
From the actual arrival when one enters the ELIC lab it is clear that Amharic is left at the door and English is immediately used to convey any thoughts thereafter.
According to the World Economic Forum of the approximately 1.5 billion people who speak English, less than 400 million use it as a first language. That means over 1 billion speak it as a secondary language and the University of Gondar, with its unwavering determination for excellence, is trying to cultivate its students to be a part of that illustrious group.
Mr. Misganaw Tilahun, who is a lecturer at the University of Gondar and the ELIC coordinator, is the focal facilitator at the center. He mentions that a lot is being done to advance techniques that will stick with the students for years to come.
“We give training through need assessment” he said, “therefore those who are in their final year of studies will not receive the same training as freshmen students because of their capacity difference.”
From the discussions that were being held at the time of the interview it could have been observed that students from all stages of their university life were present trying their best to cultivate their language skills.
One of the students, who is in his third year at the University of Gondar, was one of the individuals taking part in the ‘free talk’ activity. When asked about the toughest thing about speaking English his response was quite shocking.
“I do not think that Ethiopians are intimidated by the structure, grammar, vocabulary or the writing of the English language” he said. From his personal history though he mentioned that the culture and awkward tradition of mocking those who attempt to speak English is the one thing that keeps people from bravely speaking.
“There is a culture that holds us back from a young age,” he said, “ Sometimes when those who have the right skills attempt to speak in a different language, that language being English, he/she is stopped because of the ridicule”
Such cases of disrespectful insults are common and, from the lack of objections in the room to his remarks, it was clear others felt the same way.
But according to Mr. Misganaw Tilahun training with multiple techniques are essential in helping students achieve their desired goals of attaining the language proficiency.
During the ‘free talk’ club activity the students would be picked one by one to take the stage. Once chosen they would be asked questions by their peers that would help the speakers’ mental thinking abilities.
English language is used in a variety of means in governments all across the world. Being the diplomatic lingua franca of almost all countries, it makes sense that people are interested in picking it up as a second language.
Trying to increase this interest in the English language, the English Language and Literature department, which is found under the college of Social Sciences and Humanities, is doing its fair share. In imparting some conventional methods to students that will help them in acquiring the widely accepted language the department is bound to make an impact.
Perhaps those taboos of old will take a backseat to new ways of thinking that would encourage students to speak a different language without the thought of being laughed at. So far though, by training students, developing English training manuals for the deliverology program and by training numerous students from UoG’s Community School the facilitators have expressed that ‘progress’ is being made in this regard.
One thing is for certain though language acquisition is a thing that takes time. For example in the Middle East and Africa English language proficiency is at the lowest end of the rankings. Almost all of the poorest performing countries in the Middle East and Africa, with the exception of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, are rated very low.
It may be that these measures that are being taken by the English Language and Literature department are making a difference. Therefore according to the coordinator and facilitator of the ELIC program all those who are willing to contribute and learn are welcome to join. The ELIC facility can be found in Maraki’s campus. And for more information about the club’s activities those who are interested are welcome to visit the English Language and literature department office.
By Samuel Malede| Public and International Relations Directorate