Mumbai: Students look beyond schools to learn foreign languages | education | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai: Students look beyond schools to learn foreign languages

Students are not just looking at schools to learn foreign languages; cultural institutes like Max Mueller Bhavan and Alliance Française are also much in demand.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2015 16:38 IST
Apoorva Puranik

Students are not just looking at schools to learn foreign languages; cultural institutes like Max Mueller Bhavan and Alliance Française are also much in demand. According to an official from Max Mueller Bhavan, they have witnessed at least a 30% rise in the number of students taking up training in German. With Indians now comprising the second- largest group of international students in Germany — more than 11,000 students studying there — the popularity of the language has increased exponentially.

Other languages also are not far behind. InChin Closer, a private China-India business consultancy, has tied up with more than eight schools and other organisations for tailor-made language programmes. It conducts interactive and personal teaching by native Chinese professionals with a structured syllabus. In fact, in 2013, the central government started a pilot project to introduce Mandarin as an optional subject in 500 CBSE schools for Class 5 students. The project has taken off well, with several schools reporting strong student enrolment numbers.

While experts said Indian students have an edge over others while learning a new language since most are already multilingual, schools said learning a foreign language apart from the rigorous academics also puts a burden on students’ mental health. “Even in the lower grades, the syllabus these days is expansive — not to mention extra-curricular activities and after school classes. With all this, a foreign language like German or Spanish becomes difficult to cope up with. There are students who switch back to Hindi as their optional language in higher classes, “said Father Bosco D’Mello, former principal, Don Bosco School.

The trend has also caught the fancy of the city’s civic body representatives. Last month, Trushna Vishwasrao, Shiv Sena leader in the BMC, proposed that civic-run schools should also start teaching foreign languages such as Spanish, French and Japanese. A similar suggestion was also mooted by party leader Aaditya Thackeray.

French, a regular foreign language option in government schools instead of Hindi, has many takers, as its exams are considered high scoring by students. However, academicians also question its use for them. “Most international schools have students who are either expats or have clear idea of going abroad for further education and it is therefore very beneficial for them to learn European or other Asian languages. However, I also do believe that learning a new language helps children in developing greater cognitive abilities,” Avinash Pandey, professor, department of linguistics at Mumbai University.