Read to exercise your mind
H. Kalpana
eading assumes a central space in the process of learning in colleges and universities. It is a vital process to read independently and effectively, and also means gaining a significant amount of knowledge. 

An ode  to primer  English
A. K. Loathta
very complex statement can be expressed in simple language with respect to rudimentary needs of mankind. Dr R. Dixit, an Indian successor grammarian to the late S. Bindra, defines primer English as one having simple, short and choppy sentences. 

How do I go about becoming an interpreter?



Read to exercise your mind
H. Kalpana

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
— Richard Steele

Reading assumes a central space in the process of learning in colleges and universities. It is a vital process to read independently and effectively, and also means gaining a significant amount of knowledge. Unfortunately, due to inaccurate teaching methods in the English language classrooms, many students read passively, failing to comprehend and to think critically. The result is that most students do not pay attention to the skill of reading and view it as another task in the general process of learning. In order to avoid passive, insipid and mechanical reading, an active approach to reading will probably be more productive and interesting for the students.

Although a major part of our day-to-day activity is to read, still it is a difficult concept to define. It could, however, be explained as a process wherein one associates symbols with previously experienced meanings. It is a two-part process involving two activities — mechanical and mental. The mechanical process involves the relationship between the reader’s eye and the printed page, while the mental one involves the connection between the reader’s eye and his/her mind.

Reading is thus a means of communication that initially develops as a form of deciphering and decoding the written word and then extends into the skill of interpreting meanings and making sense of the written word.

The purpose of reading as we all know, in simple words, is to get the message. But getting the message itself could be a simple or a complex process. Thus, one reads a phone directory and a prescription label on a bottle in different ways. Reading could also be extensive reading or intensive reading. Extensive reading is normally reading to scan details while intensive reading is the ability to understand intention, point of view, attitude, etc. The intensive reading programme is to be achieved through the help of the teacher for it is the ability to grasp in detail what the text means and also figure out the process through which this meaning is constructed. Thus, every written word has to be interpreted by the reader so that the task of communication is complete. This is the activity that helps initiate a critical and analytical mind. Yet this is easier said than done for most often even at the end of the school/college education, readers have not developed this acumen. This lacunae arises mainly because the reader may not be trained to comprehend the written word.

In this context, the classroom assumes great significance. It is in this setting, with the help of a teacher, that students learn to read and more importantly, to comprehend. A text normally contains different tasks such as defining, describing, classifying, explaining, and commenting.

All these tasks work interactively to produce meaning. It is the duty of the teacher to make students realise the varied nuances and train them. The best method one can follow is to discuss the text using good comprehension questions. This does not mean necessarily that one deviates from the class text, but supplements it with additional questions.

The teacher has to frame questions, which test the awareness of students and make them learn how language displays meaning and also the methods one needs to employ to get answer to the questions. The best way to begin is to motivate students to participate in the act of reading.

Critical reading indicates the act of thinking intensively, that is, reading with a view to understanding and relating the information to other readings, ideas and themes from lectures, and to the goals of the course and learning. It involves checking one’s understanding, monitoring for difficulties, and checking for ways to correct difficulties. It should be clear from these aspects of critical reading that it is brain intensive; that is, it involves thinking as one reads and directs that thinking to achieve certain reading goals. Critical reading also saves time for it helps to eliminate the waste ful and often mindless repetition that is necessitated by forgetting what one has read. Moreover, such an approach to reading would involve selecting information relevant to a purpose. Therefore, students will be reading only a percentage of what others might be mindlessly reading and that too with better results.

Critical reading also involves thinking about what is read rather than simply trying to memorise it. One should remember that active reading does not mean easy reading. No strategy can guarantee that reading will proceed without difficulty. In fact, having difficulties could indicate that one is trying to grasp meaning. The important point is that one has to remain flexible in the approach to reading, for different kinds of information as well as for different purposes.

It is relevant to state some of the words of Coleridge in this context: “Readers may be divided into four classes: Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied; Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time; Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read; Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also”. In conclusion, the end result should culminate in the development of a graduate/postgraduate, who like Coleridge’s diamond will not only profit but more importantly will become an active, flexible, effective and critical reader.

The writer teaches English in Pondicherry University.


An ode to primer English
A. K. Loathta

Every complex statement can be expressed in simple language with respect to rudimentary needs of mankind. Dr R. Dixit, an Indian successor grammarian to the late S. Bindra, defines primer English as one having simple, short and choppy sentences. In my view, primer language, too, is a kind of simple and idiomatic language, though it uses preferably idioms made from very mundane words like ‘do’, ‘get,’ ‘go,’ and ‘have’ ‘take’. This article has nothing to do with simple, compound and complex sentences of English grammar.

Non-British and non-American people using English may be quite efficient in complicated or non-primer style, but only a few of them perhaps have command over the primer syntax, as available in Longman New Pocket English Dictionary, Six Stories of Horror by Arthur Conan Doyle and Mills and Boons popular romances. Doyle’s fiction pre-states that it is fairly intelligible to every reader who is familiar with some 2,000 basic English words.

Simple and idiomatic English has special exclusive merits. It is easier to understand. It is intelligible to a larger number of readers or listeners.

A larger part of English syllabus for classes below BA and BSc should be that of primer English. Equal attention should be paid to grammar as well. Syllabus in lower classes should be such that every student must have studied in detail J.C. Nesfield, Wren and Martin, Roger Fowler, E.E. Speight, T.L.H. Smith Pearse, F.T. Wood, Hugh Jarrett, Randolph Quirk and E.R. Ram Kumar by the time he or she passes the class XII examination.



How do I go about becoming an interpreter?

Q I want to work as an interpreter in the UN. How should I go about it? Please also tell me about the interpretation courses at Geneva and Paris.

Kuldeep Negi

A Working in the United Nations Organisation (UNO) as an interpreter calls for proficiency in more than one foreign language. However, you can apply for the post of a translator/ interpreter only upon successful completion of the Simultaneous Interpretation Course from either of the schools in Geneva or France.

At the UNO, interpreters are recruited after qualifying a test, which is administered individually. They usually work for six months in a year and get paid around $600 per day plus overtime.

Besides a university degree, you must possess extensive general knowledge to make the grade.

An interpreter’s job is one of the most highly paid yet the most difficult to qualify and train for. Your job is to put across the real sense of what is being said in one language to those listening in another language while making it as alive and spontaneous as the original. You may use one of the two methods:

In simultaneous interpretation, the speech is translated as it is delivered, while in consecutive interpretation, you take notes while the speaker is speaking and then, after each statement, translate the message in full in the other language.

Conference interpreting is generally limited to a small number of languages — English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic at the international level, and the languages of the member countries of the EU.

Conference Interpreters usually have a degree in a language as well as a special degree in translation or interpretation. Proficiency in at least two languages is essential. 

Territorial Army

Q I am interested in joining the Territorial Army as an officer. Please guide me in that direction.

Harjeet Khurana

A All working graduate male Indian citizens and ex-service officers between 18 and 42 years, who are medically fit, are eligible to join the Territorial Army Infantry as officers.

Short-listed applicants have to take a written exam. Successful candidates are screened by a selection panel of the Services Selection Board (SSB) on the basis of an interview.

On being commissioned, you will receive a month-long basic training in the first year, and a two-month training the subsequent year. Further, post-commissioning training (75 days) will be given within the first two years.

The Territorial Army, commonly known as citizens army, is composed of 31 infantry battalions and 19 departmental TA units such as the Railways, Engineers, Oil Sector, Ecological, Signals and General Hospital units. Besides supporting the Army, the TA carries out operational tasks, internal security duties and assists civil authorities.

As a TA officer, you may even be called for military service for longer duration, depending on the requirement.

The pay, allowances and other facilities in this force are the same as that for regular Army officers when called for training or military service.

You can be promoted up to the level of Major on passing the required promotion exams. Promotion to Lt-Colonel, Colonel and Brigadier is on the basis of selection. Applications can be obtained from the Commander, TA Group HQ of the Eastern, Western, Southern and Central Commands, respectively, depending on where you are residing.

The present strength is over 40,000.


Q I am currently doing BSc — Zoology (Hons). Could you please tell me about the future prospects in biotechnology? Please also explain the admission procedure.

Neha Sharma

A Biotechnology is all about exploiting of biological processes for industrial and other purposes, especially genetically manipulating micro-organisms for producing antibiotics, hormones, plants, etc.

Growing at an accelerated rate, the size of the biotech industry in India is estimated at Rs 1000 crore. And growing. Projected as the next big wave after IT, it is a “happening” field of work with excellent future prospects. Now that the chemical composition of the human DNA has been successfully mapped, genomics is set to dwarf infotech within 20 years.

Mounting environmental concern and the increasing demand for safer and better eco-friendly products has prompted governments round the world to spend billions of dollars to find appropriate solutions to related problems. Many avenues of employment, ranging from research and development to production, bioinformatics, and marketing, exist and many new ones are being added daily.

Pharmaceutical companies, chemical industries, agriculture and allied industries, textile and horticulture industry, research laboratories run by the government and the corporate sector are the major recruiters. Multinational companies, with the chemical industry in close lead, offer the best remuneration packages.

A BTech/MSc in the subject is a good starting point for most jobs, although higher qualifications are needed for cutting-edge R&D.

Eligibility for MSc (Biotechnology) is a Bachelor’s degree in biological/physical/agricultural/veterinary sc/engineering/medicine/forestry/fisheries, with 55 per cent (aggregate). However, many universities fix higher qualifying aggregate marks (60-70 per cent). Generally, admission to PG courses in biotechnology also requires clearing an entrance exam.

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, will conduct a combined entrance exam on May 18 for admission to MSc courses in biotech at 29 universities across the country.

By Pervin Malhotra, Director, CARING

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