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Journey of enjoyment and discovery

By Alfreda de Silva

The British Council's Young Learners Programme in which its representative Susan maingay takes an active interest is an active and ongoing one. Ranmalie de Silva as its dynamic coordinator.

Its focus, right now, on Saturday afternoons, is on English through the enjoyment of poetry and drama.

I had the pleasure of being with this group recently. Twenty seven young people, their ages ranging from eight to twelve, trooped into the British Council children's library and sat on cushions on the floor.

Earlier I had made it known that I'd like them to bring some home -made rhythm beaters to the class, such as pairs of well-cleaned coconut shells or neatly whittled pairs of sticks about ten to twelve inches long. The children also brought in some spoons, a couple of percussion rhythm beaters and a rabana.

There are many ways of making poetry exciting and attractive to a child. One of the most important of these is through the music of its words. Other aspects that hold young minds are the movements or rhythms of poetry, and of course its imagery.

The rhythm-beaters served us well, falling on the ear along with the voice in stressed and unstressed syllables, and in changing the speech tunes.

The children beat the rhythms of marching, skipping, walking, galloping and others, sometimes varying the orchestration - shells only, sticks only, then all together with spoons and other 'instruments' coming in.

In this way, making rhythm listening to rhythm and seeing its relevance to easy-to-absorb jingles and verses added meaning to the learning of verse.

We also talk about moods and this is where the opening of a child's inner eye to 'see' a poem came in: Was it happy? Was it sad? Was it funny? They listened to a selection of poems, not merely listened but did so purposefully to hear the rhythms to see the pictures.

We had some of the poems of R.L Stevenson, Walter de la Mare, Edward Lear, A.A.Milne and several others.

Children participated with me while I recited, by beating appropriate rhythms where they were very marked as in "Windy Nights" by Stevenson:

"Whenever the trees are crying aloud,

And ships are tossed at sea,

By on the highway, low and loud,

By at the gallop goes he.

By at the gallop he goes, and then

By he goes back at the gallop again"

The young ones were encouraged to see the soft beautiful images in de la Mare's 'Silver' and 'Nod,' the wonder in 'The world' by 'W.B. Rands and the humour in Milne's The King's Breakfast.

I watched the expressions on their faces. They understood. They laughed at the appropriate places. They asked questions.

Then I switched onto an experiment I had tried with poetry for the young, when this subject was not taught in English in the schools.

I had written poems with folk rhythms in Sinhala scripted in English together with couplets in English.

The one on 'Trains' drew laughter, while it was being read, because of its rhythm and its mixture of words, where the Sinhala rhythms were used as jingles like eenie, meenie, minee, mo or hickory dickory, dock. I was delighted to be given an opportunity to talk to a bright young boy about the difference between this usage and Singlish - the latter being a literal translation from Sinhalese to English like: "I'll go and come, ah!"

All the youngsters in the group were Sri Lankans and the Sinhala jingles they were listening to were made up of sounds familiar to them.

Here's an example in Trains. The train going to Kandy sings "Bala, balapang kalu kalu dhang". The train going east roars

"Mata, mata rang rathu rambutang"

One of the youngsters had brought a small rabana, and it seemed a pity not to use it. So we had a poem for two voices and different rhythms.

First voice (to beat of rabana)

" Beat a tune, a raban tune,

Beat me two and beat me three,

Tunes to make me dance and sing,

Come now, beat a tune for me.

Second voice (to beat of rabana)

Climb the waving masang tree,

Climb the flowering kitul tree,

Bring me honey from the masang,

Honey from the kitul tree."

Poetry, for young learners can be entered through many exciting doors. The ear, the voice and the inner eye combine to make it a worthwhile journey of enjoyment and discovery for both pupil and teacher.

An eye for form and colour

By Passanna Gunasekera

"While visiting a British friend in Kandy we toured the hill capital, down South and the many historical cities," says British artist Robert Sedgley enlightening me as to how he was motivated to present an exhibition of Sri Lankan scenes.

"My impressions of the ancient temples, the mountains, the old houses in Galle, the tea plantations and the landscapes were so vivid that I put them into art form. Some watercolour paintings were executed in front of the subject, some by developing sketches and photographs and the others are simply interpretations," Sedgley said.

This is Sedgley's third visit to the island, the first being in 1998, after which it became an annual trip.

Opening Robert Sedgley's exhibition at the studio of S.H. Sarath last week, British High Commissioner Linda Duffield said Sri Lanka offers much potential in terms of history, culture, colour, tradition and landscape. "He has evidently been inspired by the mountainous regions, the tea plantations, the dancing trees one finds in Peradeniya, the Kandy Lake and the Temple of the Tooth," she said.

The hill country series of paintings depicting details of landscape: sky, trees and foliage, was based on a journey from Kandy to Nanu Oya by train. Impressions of Galle, of the old houses along Church Street, are also captured and his interest in the human figure is evident in the depiction of "Cloud Dancers". Form and colour are the mainspring of his choice of subject and his paintings demonstrate a keen sense of design and a concern for proportion and space.

Sedgley first trained as a silkscreen printer and poster writer, then embarked on a four-year professional training in fine arts, followed by a course leading to the Art Teacher's diploma. He then taught in the art departments in various schools. His move to Spain in 1992 has allowed him to work as a full-time artist.

A taste of Sinhala -8

What apabbransa are you jabbering?

By Prof. J.B. Disanayaka

People do sometimes talk gibberish and so do the Sinhalese. When a Sinhalese speaker sounds incomprehensible or unintelligible, the listener would be tempted to ask, "What kind of Apabbransa are your talking?"

'Apabbransa' is a term that denotes any kind of incomprehensible or unintelligible language. The term, however, is a word that refers to a language or dialect that was in use in ancient India.

According to Sir Monier-Williams' Sanskrit - English Dictionary, 'apa-bhransa' refers to 'the most corrupt of the Prakrit dialects'. Prakrits were a set of languages or dialects spoken in ancient India in contrast to Sanskrit, the language of written discourse.

'Apabbransa' was considered one of the six languages ('shad-bhasa') that were mastered by men of letters of Sri Lanka, such as Ven. Totagamuve Rahula of the 15th century. He was thus given the epithet 'shad bhasha parameshvara' (the lord of the six languages) The other languages of this set were Sanskrit, Prakrit, Magadha, Paisachi and Sauraseni.

However, 'apabbransa' also refers, in a derogatory way, to 'a corrupted form of a word' or 'ungrammatical language'. The prefix 'apa' in 'apa-bransa' denotes inferiority.

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