27th February 2000
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Talking on 'how to speak' 

By Alfreda de Silva
Visiting Sri Lanka from February 15 to 16 was Dr. Roger Bowers, Chief Executive of Trinity College, London. This is the International Examinations Board which assesses attainment standards in the performing and communicative arts in 55 countries around the world.

He had consultations with the Sri Lankan Representative, Mano Muthukrishna - Candappa and the Deputy Representative Ramola Sivasunderam, teachers of speech and drama and other Trinity alumni.

The highlights of his visit were two workshops for teachers of speech and also English for speakers of other languages (EOSL), which he had kindly offered to conduct free of charge .

Some 80 teachers gathered at the Magenta Room of the Lanka Oberoi for a valuable exchange of questions and answers. There was also some role-playing for the teachers in the preparation and delivery of short talks of a few minutes duration, suggested by Dr. Bowers. They worked singly or in groups. The proof of this exercise was in the listening. How was the theme presented? Was it meaningful in language and content? Audible, clear, projected effectively in rhythm and volume, and did it convey feeling? Was it communicated effectively? This preliminary exercise and all the two-way communication in learning and teaching and what followed, were aimed at building confidence among the impromptu speakers, who, in turn, had to inspire this quality in the students in their classrooms.

Dr.Bowers veered their collective thinking towards getting away from teacher - dominated learning to student participation, in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. 

Effective communication with the emphasis on 'effective' was what this exercise was about.

Scholarship, humour, ideas on new methodology and easy, relaxed communication between lecturer and teacher widened the scope of the exchange between them as Dr. Bowers related the discussion to today's world and everyday life.

He focused on language skills, planning of talks and presentations, with or without visual aids, and the need for the teacher to have a grasp of language patterns and interpretive style. 

And there was that word 'confidence' looming large again and again. The Trinity College of London speech and drama and English examinations are internationally recognized, and confidence is one of the important requirements.

Dr. Bowers refreshed my memory of the time when 'Elocution', a word not commonly used in this context today, was the fashionable word for speech and drama.

But then those were elitist studies associated with the arts and literature mainly for personal enjoyment. 

Today speech, and most important of all, effective communication have moved into the realm of the everyday. The 'Englishes' from various parts of the world cover all sorts of practical job-oriented activities like business, industry, banking, tourism, shipping and conferences and public events to which the new syllabuses are geared. Add to this the number of countries whose populations have seriously taken to the learning of English to keep pace with modern life and we have a veritable Tower of Babel with English being spoken in a number of native accents, influenced by a variety of origins.

In the conversation I had with Dr. Bowers after his workshop with the teachers, I asked him whether there was a certain measure of acceptance of these accents from places as far apart and different as Australia, America, Africa, India, Sri Lanka and other parts of the world, at the Trinity examinations. His answer was that there were indeed quite a number of students from different parts of the world, Sri Lanka included, whose examination work was entirely in keeping with the standards set by Trinity. And this included accent and pronunciation. 

Naturally these students qualified for high marks; while those with markedly 'different' accents did not achieve that level of success, although they did not fail if their work met with all the other examination requirements. The highest levels of performance were expected from advanced students and diploma candidates.

Teachers of course were expected to be examples of correctness in the theory and practice of the subjects they taught. Dr. Bowers commended the Sri Lankan Centre for the meticulous way in which it conducted the examinations.

He touched on the desirability for teachers and students to have a knowledge of phonetics, both for imparting accurate pronunciation and for the purpose of checking it in a phonetics dictionary. Since a single symbol denotes the exact pronunciation of a letter or sound how useful phonetics would be in this country where the Sinhala alphabet has no equivalents for such letters as o, as in 'hot' or f or z, to name just a few. 

As a workshop speaker Dr. Bowers fielded questions tirelessly and graciously with such good humour. 

Mozart's requiem - A tribute to Lylie

March marks the birth anniversary of Lylie Godridge, a name synonymous with music in Sri Lanka for many years. Lylie epitomized western choral music and crossed all barriers to touch many with his work. Whether it was in the simple act of worship at the YMCA, Colombo; as a voice in one of the numerous choirs he directed, or, as a participant in the weekly sing-along in his home, both the young and old benefited from the talent Lylie shared so generously. 

It is indeed fitting that the Merry-An Singers, one of Sri Lanka's premier choral groups, has chosen to mark the anniversary of his death with perhaps, the first performance of the Mozart's Requiem in Colombo. Popularly called the Mass for the Dead, the Requiem was written in the last weeks of the great composer's life. Classical music buffs may be familiar with the detail of the impromptu sing-through of the Requiem at the bedside of the dying Mozart, and then with his widow's attempts to have the score composers expeditiously by composers from Mozart's own circle. 

The Merry-An Singers with some guest singers who had been associated with Lylie, will perform the Requiem on March 25 at 7.00 p.m. at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour at Bauddhaloka Mawatha. Entrance to this charity event will be by programme, available at the door.


Good start for cinema

Sinhala readers now have a host of new magazines to browse through. Among the latest journals is 'Sadisi', a quarterly from the National Film Corporation (NFC). The inaugural issue (January/March 2000) has a good mix of articles devoted to serious cinema and well- known film personalities. 

It begins with a note from the chief editor, Tissa Abeysekera, NFC's chairman, outlining the Corporation's stand on handling the present crisis situation. He analyses how new capital is fighting shy of the film industry and how television has provided another avenue to view films. Let us face these problems straight, he suggests. In a lengthy interview later on, he discusses the strategy of the NFC. 

Few may remember Dr. Lester James Peries' first cinematic creation, 'Soliloquy' in 1950. His recollections of the 14-minute short film made when he was in the UK is interesting reading. Equally interesting are the diary notes of veteran film journalist Sunil Mihindukula (incidentally, he is the editor of 'Sadisi') who was recently in South India looking for little known facts on the early days of Sinhala cinema. He has been fortunate in being able to meet several persons who have had dealings with pioneer producers of Sinhala films. 

One of the interesting facts brought out in these notes is that at the beginning, Sinhala cinema was not only influenced by South Indian cinema but was dominated by Sri Lankan Tamil producers. The pioneers were all Tamils and the need to acknowledge their contribution is convincingly brought out by Tambiaiyah Devadas, a well-known Tamil writer who has translated three popular Sinhala novels ('Golu Hadawatha', 'Bamba Ketu Heti' &'Charitha Thunak') into Tamil. 'Kadavunu Poronduwa', the first Sinhala film was produced by S. M. Nayagam who also set up the first sound studio - Sundara Sound, Kandana while Chittampalam Gardiner and K. Gunaratnam helped to build up the Sinhala film industry. The first Tamil director of a Sinhala film was T. Somasekeran ('Seda Sulang'). He was responsible for the box-office hit, 'Sujatha'. Among the host of talented actors he picked was Joe Abeywickrema.

- Ranat

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