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Friday, 11 March 2011






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Government Gazette

Erroneous English publications - a crime

As an English teacher, I always encourage my students to read good books. I step into a leading bookshop in my town to see whether there were new arrivals. While I was just glancing through the innumerable books that were exhibited on the shelves, a sales girl brought one particular book on essays for primary grade and said, “This is a new arrival.” Though I was looking for new language activity books, I just went through the book offered.

Judge the book

Though we do not encourage anyone to ‘Judge the book by its cover’ the wordings on the back cover of that particular book was as follows;

‘I would like to thank with happy to Mr........ who is the owner of .......... Publishing Institute, gave me this opportunity to publishing my first children’s book in his institution. He always encouraged me to writing this book and showed me the way how to write it.

On the other hand I must admire and thank to the staff of ........ for their dedication to success my book.

My dear sons and daughters of Grade 1, 2 and 3, I wrote this book for you. I have used here a simple language and systems to getting understand for you these essays very easy.

See, while you are reading this book, its pronunciation style is very simple. I have taken the pronunciation of the words from a dictionary.

Here I have supplied the pronunciation and the meanings of the difficult words at the end of the book. So you can take a great help from it to getting understand these beautiful and meaningful, simple essays.

Dear parents give your ideas and suggestions about this book get this book and develop your children’s essay ability.’


I asked for a photocopy of this cover page, corrected all the mistakes and sent to the publisher in Dankotuwa along with a letter requesting him to be more responsible in publishing books especially for children. Further, I requested him to get the books edited before printing them.

I was really concerned over this matter because the children and especially the parents who buy such books assume any thing is English as long as there are English letters and words. Since it is a national crime, I rang up the publisher to ascertain the receipt of the letter and his opinion of this publication. His answer stunned me. ‘I received your letter and showed it to the teacher who wrote that book. He said he used simple language for the little children to understand but not for adults like you. More over we have been publishing this type of books over the period of time but no one except you pointed out such mistakes. If there are so much of mistakes how can there be such a good sale of books?’ The publisher’s question is forwarded to you learned readers.


If this is the reality behind English education in Sri Lanka how can the expected level of English education be achieved? How can we boast of our English education? Innocent children who do not have an English speaking background at home and even at school learn from their textbooks and the supplementary readers bought by their parents. If the parents are also uninformed, how can they provide their children with opportunities or organize learning situations with such books at home? The responsible authority who implement new strategies in achieving the target of English education should pay attention to all the forces that weaken their tremendous effort in re-awakening an era of English educated English speaking generation again in Sri Lanka.


If shoddy publications hinder the standards of English education in Sri Lanka, why does the authority remain silent allowing them print books and earn money according to their whims and fancies? The book I have brought to light could be one of thousands that are not of the standard or of poor quality. Such publications destroy the English taste and education of the innocent little children who learn what they read.

Though the saying goes ‘Reading maketh a full man’ how can such books make the readers full? Such books easily fool the innocent children. Books nourish the minds of the reader. How can such careless erroneous writing nourish the tender minds of little ones? Their language acquisition will also be hampered. Helen Keller says, “Truly each book is as a ship that bears us away from the fixity of our limitations into the movement and splendour of life’s infinite ocean.” Can this kind of books stand firm with Helen Keller’s statement? Such poor quality books are sinking ships. They destroy the little minds.

The writers’ and publishers’ main intention could be to make money by hook or by crook. If they are not afraid to do what is wrong, why should we be afraid to do what is correct?


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