Syed Saad Andaleeb
of written English in various media in Bangladesh seems to
reflect a deteriorating trend. Articles in newspapers, magazines,
academic journals, or even simple letters to editors bear
imprints of distinctively poor writing. Such writing, marred
by errors and inconsistencies, is not only disturbing and
distracting; it also diminishes one's interest in reading
on. In addition, it evokes a variety of negative emotional
reactions toward the writers, as well as toward those who
publish such writing.
true that we are not an English-speaking nation; hence errors
are likely to find their way into our writing easily. This
problem may have been exacerbated by diminishing the importance
of English in our education system, thereby substantially
weakening our ability to express ourselves correctly and clearly.
Reluctantly, and perhaps controversially, I must admit that
I often find even the intellectual community of academics
and researchers in Bangladesh demonstrating substantial deficiencies
in the art of clear communication. Many in academé
write so poorly, I wonder what their protégés
write and whether their correctly written work is being mutilated
by their gurus! I can attest to this deficiency, being an
editor of a journal. Without naming names, here's one of numerous
examples of poor writing that I routinely encounter: "Due
to the non-accessibility into the Internet not only marginalization
problem is being created in the society but also economic
development of the country is hampering tremendously."
And this expression comes from an exalted seat of learning!
it so difficult to express ourselves clearly in written English?
two conjectures. Primarily, our education system does not
promote the growth and advancement of the English language
(I suspect the high failure rate in SSC, HSC and degree examinations
may be ascribed to failure in the English papers). The quality
of the language that is imparted at these stages evokes the
question, "Should these students even be taught English?"
For years, when these hapless students continue to fail in
English, finding it an insurmountable challenge, who is to
blame? I believe their performance should be seen as an indicator
of where our education system needs a fresh look. Perhaps
the subject ought to be dropped for the vast majority of students
and made optional. By doing so, resources could be concentrated
on producing fewer but better calibre students armed with
a foreign language skill they would be able to use. As long
as English continues to be compulsory, given the abominably
poor quality of teaching of this subject, we continue to waste
resources by trying to reach students who neither comprehend
the language, nor make minimal use of it. But, as a global
medium for communication, the importance of English cannot
be ignored. Hence, if its teaching is to be continued, it
is vital that a periodic teacher certification program be
instituted to ensure that teachers of the English language
have the requisite qualifications. Eventually such certification
should be extended to all subject areas. If we cannot certify
the quality of our teachers, how can we certify the quality
of our students?
conjecture about poor writing, I believe, lies with the writers.
Many of them simply do not seem to care about the reactions
they are likely to elicit in their readers through inaccurate
or poor writing. Some of these writers may even be assuming
erroneously that their readers will not be able to discern
good writing from bad. Such cavalier attitudes, where they
prevail, do immense harm, especially to those who really cannot
differentiate between good and bad writing. In fact, writers
should recognize the inherent role they play as educators.
For example, people who read flawed writing may adopt similar
styles and replicate the flaws. On the other hand, when writers
pursue the art of lucid and vigorous communication, it can
go a long way in helping readers develop the gift of good
of writing is one that must be practiced diligently and crafted
with care and patience so that the purpose of communication
is achieved with ease and grace. It may surprise many of us
to learn that even native writers in English-speaking countries
spend enormous amounts of time evaluating their work consciously
and conscientiously before placing it for public consumption.
Writing, to them, is not only an art form, it is everything.
Here are two quotes from writers, nay celebrities, that I'd
like to share:
is very easy. All you do is sit in front of a typewriter keyboard
until little drops of blood appear on your forehead."
~ Walter W. "Red" Smith
am an obsessive rewriter, doing one draft and then another
and another, usually five. In a way, I have nothing to say,
but a great deal to add." ~ Gore Vidal
luminaries are so obsessive, how much effort should we devote
to clear writing? How much pain should we endure to get our
thoughts across accurately?
of writing this piece is to try and inspire those who write,
especially in English, to do so correctly, simply, and gracefully.
That requires writers to adopt the mantra of CQI (continuous
quality improvement) introduced in the quality literature
to help them in their quest to be the best they can be. Effort
and determination do produce good writing. These qualities
also enable writers to conform to global standards. Many foreign-born
writers (some of them from our neighboring country), today,
write lucidly and with superb clarity, earning prestigious
awards and acclaim. When more Bangladeshis begin writing flawlessly,
precisely and incisively, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with
the very best writers in other countries, it will be a source
of great pride and inspiration for all of us.
Syed Saad Andaleeb is Professor of Marketing at Pennsylvania
State University, The Behrend College. He is also the Editor
of the Journal of Bangladesh Studies.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004