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The Mandeville-based Northern Caribbean University (NCU) yesterday (March 3) hosted its first International Language Conference, which brought together language teachers to discuss and explore issues relating to research and practice in the teaching of languages in Jamaica and the wider region
Organised by the NCU’s College of Humanities, Behavioural and Social Sciences and the Department of English and Modern Languages, the one-day conference provided a forum for debate and discussion of ideas surrounding the teaching of reading, writing, composition and literature; created opportunities for collaborative efforts among colleagues for research and publication with a view to national development; and enabled participants to gain better insights into the best language teaching practices.
Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen in a message delivered at the opening ceremony, stated that the discussion forum, which “encompasses Jamaican Creole, English, French and Spanish, and deals with themes of socio-cultural issues, curriculum development, and pedagogy, is a huge stride in the right direction.”
Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, in his message, stated that the conference was important in highlighting how language imparts knowledge as it nurtures, inspires and awakens the mind.
He said that teachers today must teach language in the context and purpose for which it was invented “to communicate with others, to express one’s ideas and feelings, and to understand and interact with the ideas and feelings of other native speakers of a target language.”
He noted that the significance of the event was embraced by the Ministry of Education as there is recognition of the interconnectedness of languages for global understanding.
“We all have to prepare ourselves with marketable skills to grasp the opportunities when they present themselves and being multilingual will foster exchanges and co-operation,” he added.
In delivering the keynote address, Special Advisor to the Minister of Education, Ruel Reid, remarked that the dynamism of the Caribbean linguistic situation has always posed a challenge for educators whilst at the same time fascinating them.
He said that although Jamaican Creole has no official status as a national language, it is nevertheless, spoken by the majority, and language practitioners have been exploring the nature of the language, how it is used and learnt.
He urged the participants to use the opportunity to share knowledge, skills and experience in ways of enhancing educational practices through modern innovations and strategies.
“Most importantly, we must take advantage of and engage in the worthwhile networking and consultation opportunities that will abound,” he added.
The conference, held under the theme: ‘Un-Babel-ing Language: Engendering Global Understanding’, was part of the NCU’s Language Awareness Week activities from March 1 to 5, which gives local artistes, academics and talented students an opportunity for creative linguistic expression.