Forty years ago, when we started learning English language at the Intermediate School, our wacky classmates used to make things quite amusing sometimes and come out with funny phrases like “my neck with the sky” to mean “my neck is aching”. Many of those funny phrases stuck in my consciousness and still make me smile whenever they come to mind. Surprisingly what they used to say for joking has now become a reality. Was that a prediction? Certainly “not” because they were foolish and couldn’t think ahead. It was probable that they became policy makers and decision makers and then were assigned to set the education curriculum of the country.
I thought for a long time about the level of decline that English language has reached in Sudan. Both in general education and higher education our pupils or students cannot express themselves in correct English. Teachers of English or even professors are no better than their pupils and students. If you pay a short visit to the Marking Center of English language -Sudan Certificate -at al-Zuhoor School for Girls located east of Public Services buildings, you will feel sorry for English language in Sudan. I have targeted a number of post graduate degree holders inside the Center to survey their opinion on some issues and aspects related to English language. The majority of those I surveyed gave evasive answers as they don’t know or lack confidence. Even those who dared to express their opinion on some aspects made me feel sad and embarrassed upon listening to their bad English. Bah! They are holding papers more than holding degrees. Some of them were honest and frankly told me that their degrees have become albatross around their neck as they fear to be faced with a real challenge that reveals their ignorance of their specializations. Most of them said the degrees they had obtained added nothing to their knowledge as their post graduate supervisors focus on material gain rather than giving support and help that boost their study. Once you pay your fees you have your certificate in the bag. Really the situation needs reconsidering and revising all the certificates awarded during the past couple of decades.
Three decades ago the situation was totally different. I attribute all this deterioration to our own doing. Our policy makers thought English language was one of the ills of the colonials that had to be eradicated from its roots. They were in a hurry to openly announce their hostility to it. The role of English language in spreading Islam all over the world speaks for itself and cannot be just expressed in words. Translations of the Holy Quran in English have helped millions of people around the globe to read and understand the Quran and then confess Islam. No one can deny the contributions of these translations to the religious and spiritual life of the Muslim communities in Europe, Australia and America.
The Arabicization process implemented in higher education institutions was the final nail into the coffin of English language in Sudan. There is no room for students to know and be familiar with the English terminologies of their study field. Thus to do further studies in English has become a difficult mission. Students use machine translation when they are asked to present a paper of research. Graduates of media colleges face difficulties in their career associated with covering events where the medium of communication is English. Moreover, they miss their chance to be recruited by press and media organisations in English-speaking countries. Even those hired locally by newspapers issued in English do a double job. They write their reports and articles in Arabic language and then translate them into English language using machine translation in order to keep abreast of what is happening around the clock. Human translation, of course, is a hard task that requires endless patience and a great deal of effort and knowledge. I have focused mainly on the graduates of media because they have a huge influence on shaping the public opinion. Global issues relating to health, education and politics require excellent command of English as it is the dominant language of science and technology across the world.
Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is responsible for all this deterioration in English language. I suggest here in this article omitting the phrase “Scientific Research” unless they move to boost the position of English in all universities and institutes. English is the language of scientific research and I believe to be the solution for our education system. It is shame on a Ministry entrusted with educating and enlightening people to be the subject of jokes and sarcastic comments. Sudan Voices published on 9th August 2018 an article written by Hassan Abdel-Radi entitled “The Deterioration of Education ..English Subject as an Example ”.I quote these lines from the second paragraph “A good example of this deterioration was the cynical comments on social media, as the activists circulated a picture of a signboard, affiliated to the Ministry of Higher Education -the National Fund for Students Support -reading “Inside the Zahra” as a translation for “Al-Zahra Hostel”.Al-Sudan al-youm dated 1st August published an opinion article written by Haider al -Mikashfi entitled “The Decline of English and Arabic”. The first lines of the article read :- A friend who was present at the Scientific Conference of the Sudanese Association of Ophthalmologists, held in Khartoum last July and attended by a number of foreigners, spoke bitterly of the shameful weakness of the English language used by many speakers. It was rumoured that an undersecretary in the Ministry of ….repeatedly declined invitations to participate in foreign conferences. His colleagues thought that he had a phobia of planes. To their astonishment they discovered that he had no knowledge of English language and that was why he turned down invitations.
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