Language Challenges Faced by Minority Undergraduates: An Exploration of the Sri Lankan Language Policies on Higher Education
ABSTRACT:Language is a system of communication which consists of a set of sounds and written symbols and used by people of a particular country or region in order to talk or write. Thus, it should be a tool for communication, not a barrier. However, in a multilingual country like Sri Lanka, the minority language speakers face a lot of problems in several domains. In the Sri Lankan state universities, the situation is the same. Sinhala being the language of the majority, they encounter many challenges in academic and non-academic settings. The present study focused on the challenges faced by the undergraduates who speak Tamil as their “mother tongue”. In most cases, the medium of instruction is not the same in the tertiary as it was in the secondary levels. Therefore; this situation has negatively affected their academic performance and also caused communication problems when they interact within the university community on daily basis. This research attempted to investigate whether the authorities have implemented necessary policies and taken steps to enact those in order to prevent any psychological burden the undergraduates would face. The participants of the study were 100 undergraduates from state universities of Sri Lanka who speak minority languages. The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods to obtain data. The quantitative data gathered from the questionnaire were analyzed using SPSS whereas qualitative data from the interviews were analyzed thematically. The findings indicated that the undergraduates face problems in both the academic and non-academic settings. Although the constitution demonstrates some policies which are supposed to provide assistance to prevent such circumstances, a mismatch between the policies and practice exists. The data obtained from this study are of relevance to policymakers, researchers, and instructors.