Words : Sirohmi Gunesekera Walk into the Colpetty market and be greeted in English, Chinese, Korean or Japanese by the vendors. Their purpose may be to sell you pineapple, kiwi fruit or broccoli but they are ready to bargain with you in your mother tongue. Have these Sri Lankans gone for language classes or passed their GCE (Ordinary Level) exams? Who knows and who cares? They are profit-oriented and they have learned the languages from the foreigners who come to the market. I am a language teacher and have taught French for many years mainly to Sri Lankans and have found that we pick up languages easily because we don’t have a strong accent of our own. For instance, most Americans have a drawl and this hampers them from learning another language. Anyway, one cannot generalise because a nation usually consists of inhabitants who speak different languages. It is a few countries like Japan where the majority speak only Japanese. In Sri Lanka, the majority speak Sinhala while those in the North and East speak Tamil. In the tea plantations of the upcountry, the estate Tamils are spoken to in their mother tongue of Tamil by their bosses.
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