BITS Pilani conference on English language aims at fostering cross cultural friendships

 | October 12,2012 05:30 pm IST

English can help develop friendship and understanding; it can foster cross cultural friendship, people can collaborate, work together , understand better and solve common problems through the medium of English. This was stated by Prof Diana Millar, Regional English Language Officer, American Embassy, New Delhi.

She was speaking as the Guest of Honor at the inauguration of Third International ELTAI Rajasthan Conference held at Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani, on 8th October 2012. The two days conference being held on 8-9 October has the theme, Interfacing Language, Culture and Technology. Prof Millar stressed that English will be of great help in lifelong learning at personal level.


Prof Millar added that she full heartedly agreed with the Secretary of State, Mrs Hillary Clinton who said, English can help foster cross-cultural friendships, because when people from different countries are able to speak the same language, they can better understand each other, avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations, and try to find ways to collaborate to solve common problems. They can exchange ideas more easily about local, regional, and global trends and learn more on a personal level about each others lives and circumstances . Its about building ties of friendship, learning, co-operation, and partnership among peoples.


Chief Guest on the occasion, Prof. Steven Hutchinson, Director, Oxford University TESS Project, British Council, Delhi, said that interface between Language, Culture and Technology is very powerful. Stating that new technologies develop new ways of thinking, Prof Hutchinson said that we need to deliberate on how we can increase the quality and capacity of education by using the new technology.


Director of the Pilani campus, Prof. G Raghurama, while appreciating the role of technology in language learning, also spoke about the limitations of technology. He said that technology alone cannot lead to human transformation, but the society and culture have great influence on the development and absorption of technology. Giving examples of Microsofts computer operating systems which have now come up in all important languages, Prof. Raghurama said, mere translation of operation systems did not help in its adoption. To be adopted in a large scale, operation systems had to be re-written in all languages. To reach globalization, we need to integrate with localization, he added. While speaking about the changing nature of language teaching materials which, in future, will have more of pictures and audio visual materials, Prof. Raghurama, asserted, technology is an enabler, and not leveler since many of these technologies might not be affordable to the have-nots since they come with pre-packaged options which are beyond their reach.


Prof Rajul Bhargava, retired Professor of English, University of Rajasthan and Central University of Haryana, while delivering the keynote address, said, Language is a prestine gift that enables one to develop and manipulate. Technology is not possible without language , she said. And culture is a bridge between technology and language. Language is a quest for betterment, mitigating the communication barriers, she added. Culture, she said, rests on the motto that nothing human is alien. She also spoke about English as the global language, a discourse which is used by two thirds of the worlds population. Cautioning against the over emphasis on technology in learning, Prof. Bhargava said that it should not be forgotten that technology is a double edged sword used both to defeat and capture culture and language.


Convener of the Conference, Prof. Pushp Lata of the Department said that there is an increasing use of technology in language pedagogy and we need to change the methods in order to improve quality of teaching. Techno-culture is all pervasive and this has changed the teaching of language. An understanding of the socio cultural use of language is essential, Prof Pushp Lata added.


Two days conference has over 140 papers and the technical sessions include Intercultural awareness in Language Learning and Teaching, Social and cultural contexts of language teacher education, ICT based language teaching/learning etc. It is organized by the Department of Humanities and Languages, BITS Pilani in association with British Council and Regional English Language Office, US Embassy, New Delhi.