The Language Problem in Sri Lanka

This is a small scale look at it.
In Sri Lanka your National ID is in Sinhala but your driving license is in English. My dad who hasn’t bothered getting his ID done since he got back from England 25 Years ago uses his license to identify himself in our mango country. The problem is when we get stopped at check points he shows his driving license. Most police officers cannot read or speak English. When my father hands his license over i always see the same look of strain and confusion on the officers face. Some officers try to bully my father since they cannot read it and probably let their frustration out on him. They ask him why he doesn’t have his ID why, why he wont get it made etc etc. Its sad to witness the look of confusion and strain on an officer when he is to read the license created by the same department he works for.

Another issue :
A while back my father got a girl to work at the shop who is Tamil and speaks Tamil and Sinhalese. She works at the shop with another girl who has worked for my father from day one. She is a Sinhalese girl who only speaks Sinhalese. My father knows all three languages of this country but if someone knows Tamil he speaks Tamil as that is the language his father spoke (old fashioned Muslims). When the two girls are together in the shop and my father is also present. He will always address the Tamil speaking girl as he is more used to speaking Tamil than Sinhalese. Every time he does this i see the other girl looks a bit hurt. She was here first, who’s pushed and pulled for this company from the beginning but just because she doesn’t know Tamil she is shunted.

After seeing these two incidents i find it very sad that language differenciates us causing problems small problems from work, on the road to a full scale war. It depresses me knowing that we are all in the end people.


3 thoughts on “The Language Problem in Sri Lanka

  1. I always thought this was a major reason why things went downhill from way back. You fear what you dont know, you cant know what you dont understand, you cant understand when you cant communicate. One of the good things about the “Sudda”s education was that everyone spoke in a common language: English. Everyone knew or could know everyone regardless of ethnicity or background.

    I’m all for todays system of learning in the mother tongue. It’s just that, as a Sri Lankan, I believe we have more than one mother tongue.

  2. Dili: While I agree with you about the link language aspect of English, it is a fact that the Sudda’s education did not reach “everyone” and alienated the rural majority, leading to the Kaduwa phenomenon that persists even today.

    I seriously think it should be compulsory to learn a second language properly (either English or SInhala/Tamil). And it should be enforced by making language proficiency a requirement for career advancement.

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