GOVERNMENT efforts to teach prospective female household service workers the Arabic language for jobs in the Arab world seem to be in a deplorable state. Training in languages — mostly Arabic, Japanese, Korean and Cantonese — has been made mandatory for prospective migrant workers for a few years as the knowledge of the language, as the first step, helps the workers to get accustomed to the culture in the foreign land easily, be it in Arab countries, Korea, Japan or Hong Kong. The case of especially the Arabic language is more important as more than a 1,00,000 females are reported to have been on jobs as household service workers in the Middle Eastern countries in 2016. With the Saudi Arabia taking female household workers from Bangladesh, the importance of learning the Arabic language for prospective migrant workers has only increased. But the situation as has been described is deplorable as no people learn foreign languages, especially when they are grown up enough, if they are huddled into classrooms and the language teachers, reported to be inexperienced and untrained in most of the cases, utter the foreign language words over loudspeakers and expect the learners to pick up the phrases by rote memorisation.
The government arranges for the training for a month in technical training centres that have been set up across the country although the ones in and around the capital Dhaka face the pressure as most of the recruiting agencies operate from the capital city. Cases are reported that some of the learners have failed to pick up even a single Arabic word in a half of the duration although a handful of them could and that, too, because of the individual efforts that they put in. The teaching of Arabic has also become, in the case at hand, difficult as most of the learners are educated below the primary level. Many of them can hardly read and write Bangla and some of them can, but with difficulty. And if the case with training in the centres set up in and around Dhaka could be this bad, the situation with other centres, especially set up in outlying districts, can be anybody’s guess. All in all, it seems that officials responsible for the job are just giving it a short shrift as the learning of the language, enough to get by in a foreign country, has been made mandatory.
The government, under the circumstances, must employ trained teachers and work out a syllabus, although for short-duration courses, fitting it in with the context of adult learning for the teachers and learners to follow. The government must also reduce the class size so that the training becomes effective and at least most of the participants can pick up basic phrases and use them in context. Efforts to teach prospective migrant workers foreign languages will be meaningful only when the government becomes serious about it.
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