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Home / India News / Lok Sabha officials to learn foreign languages

Lok Sabha officials to learn foreign languages

“It has been decided to conduct beginner level learning courses in different foreign languages as well as scheduled Indian languages for the officers of Parliament. The duration of the programme would be three months with two classes per week,” an internal circular Lok Sabha circular, a copy of which was accessed by HT, said.

india Updated: Aug 07, 2020 06:42 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Parliament’s secretariat is a mini India in its profile, comprising officials from different corners of the country.
Parliament’s secretariat is a mini India in its profile, comprising officials from different corners of the country.(Mohd Zakir/HT Photo)

Amid a debate over what should be the medium of instruction in schools, the Lok Sabha secretariat is encouraging senior officials to learn foreign languages, citing Parliament’s increasing engagement with overseas counterparts and international institutions. They are also being told to learn, at least at a basic level, local languages.

“It has been decided to conduct beginner level learning courses in different foreign languages as well as scheduled Indian languages for the officers of Parliament. The duration of the programme would be three months with two classes per week,” an internal circular Lok Sabha circular, a copy of which was accessed by HT, said.

Courses will be offered in four foreign languages—German, French, Russian and Spanish -- and may be expanded to cover other languages depending on the level of interest among officials in the Lok Sabha secretariat, according to speaker Om Birla. The French language course started on August 4.

An official enrolled in the French language course said, “It will be very useful for us in our interactions with international hosts. French is a widely used language in Europe and also in Africa.” The linguistic exercise comes amid a debate triggered by the new education policy approved by the Centre last month that stressed the need for students to be taught in their tongue although it stuck to the three language formula -- English, Hindi and a regional language. The policy said that since children learn and grasp non-trivial concepts more quickly in their home language, which is often the mother tongue, it should preferably be the medium of instruction.

“Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language, mother tongue, local language or the regional language. Thereafter, the home or local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. This will be followed by both public and private schools,” the policy stated.

This, however, led to concerns over the existence of thousands of English-medium schools across India. To ease the concerns in a country that has 22 official languages , officials said the policy does not aim to impose any language on anyone.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla wants senior officials in the lower house secretariat to hone their foreign language skills keeping in mind Parliament’s increasing international exposure and its multilateral engagements, officials said. The French course is open to officers who are at least executive assistants. Fifty-seven officials have enrolled themselves in the course.

Parliament’s secretariat is a mini India in its profile, comprising officials from different corners of the country. But with most day-to-day work being done either in Hindi or English, officials have had little incentive to learn new languages. Over the past few years, Parliament has been increasingly engaging with its international counterparts.

Apart from participating in multilateral forums such as Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Commonwealth Parliamentary Union, legislative delegations make overseas visits on goodwill missions and receive guests from other countries.

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