The Guyanese language does not have to be excluded from schools in order for children to learn English

Dear Editor,

I feel that I have to write this letter because of Mr Haseeb S. Yusuf’s letter in your paper of December 8. He says that he wants all the schools in Guyana to become “English speaking zones.” He says that the country is an English-speaking country and thinks that it is the children’s environment that prevents them from passing their English examinations. He says he is ashamed about this. I would very much like to understand what he is ashamed about. And who is he embarrassed about. Usually, when someone is ashamed, it is because somebody has made them feel ashamed. Somebody has made them feel that they are not good enough, or that they have done something wrong. So, I am a little puzzled, and I would like Mr Yusuf to explain this matter of shame a little better.

The other thing Mr Yusuf says is that only the teachers talk English in the classroom. So what does he really mean then when he says that this is an English speaking country? If the teacher is the only person speaking English in the classroom, then he means that another language is being spoken by everyone else at school! That means, this is definitely not an English-speaking country! I think that Mr Yusuf means that some people speak English and many others speak Guyanese. (He calls it ‘Creolese’.)

But Mr Yusuf wants to exclude the people who speak Guyanese from the schools and only allow English speakers to remain. That means Mr Yusuf will be excluding almost all the children, all the cleaners, all the canteen staff; even some principals, and I think some of the teachers themselves will have to be excluded, so that Mr Yusuf can have space to create this English zone. So, who will remain in the schools to help Mr Yusuf set up his zones?

I do wonder sometimes about our Guyanese people. Mr Yusuf wrote this letter in very good English.

I hope that he can read my letter written in reasonably good Guyanese (see editor’s note). And finally, for now, editor, I wonder what other people think about what Mr Yusuf says about this business of an English zone. I am confident that all those people who were raised in the Guyanese language want to learn English too. But why does he have to exclude their language from the schools or prevent them from speaking it in order to get them to learn English? Which country in the developed world does Mr Yusuf think he can go to and get the people’s permission to exclude their language from their schools or prevent them from speaking it? China? Venezuela? France? I definitely do not think so. Truly, Mr Yusuf should be ashamed of himself.

 

Yours faithfully,

Charlene Wilkinson

Lecturer

University of Guyana

 

Editor’s note

Ms Wilkinson submitted her letter in “Guyanese”. What appears above is an “English translation” which she supplied. Below we reproduce the first paragraph of her letter in Guyanese:

“Mi fiil mi ga fu rait dis leta bikaaz a di wan wa wan Mista Haseeb S. Yusuf rait in yu peepaz Septemba 8. Ii se ii wahn aal di skuul dem in Gaiyana ton ‘English-speaking Zones”. Ii se di konchrii a wan “English-speaking” konchrii an ii tink se a di plees wa di pikni dem de liv mek dem kyaahn paas dem Ingglish egzam. Ii se ii sheem bout dis. Bot ii na reeli ekspleen wa reeli mek ii sheem. Mi wuda reelii laik fu andastaan wa ii sheem bout. An huu ii sheem fu. Moos taim, wen a badi sheem, a bikaaz sombadi mek dem fiil sheem. Sombadi mek dem fiil, aida dem no gud iinof; ar dem duu somting raang. So mi lil pozl, an mi wuda laik Mr. Yusuf fu ekspleen dis sheem ting lil beta.”

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