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‘Romanagari’ can form system for language learning

Romanised transliteration of a language can facilitate native language teaching among bilingual children in an English-dominated environment

Written by Ananya Banerjee |
April 21, 2013 12:43:15 am

Romanised transliteration of a language can facilitate native language teaching among bilingual children in an English-dominated environment,reports a new study by the faculty of the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) in Manesar,Haryana. The NBRC is an autonomous institute under the Department of Biotechnology,the only such institute dedicated to neuroscience research,education in the country.

The research paper,titled ‘Cost in Transliteration: The neurocognitive processing of Romanised writing’,published in the journal Brain and Language,a journal of neurobiology of language,has suggested that incorporating early formal instructions in Romanised transliteration could form a new system of teaching for children. The study cites the emergence of languages such as Romanagari (Romanised English),Greeklish (Romanised Greek) and Aralish (Romanised Arabic) across the globe owing largely to the absence of native language keyboards.

“Our study could form the basis of a possible teaching method where Romanised transliteration could be used to teach another language without having to know the script of that language. For example,say,I can learn to speak Bengali if I know what the words sound like by writing them in English. Of course,this is a preliminary study and there needs to be be further investigation of such text processing,” said Dr Nandini Chatterjee Singh,associate professor at NBRC.

As part of the research,15 students aged 18-27 years who were proficient in English,Hindi and were frequent users of Romanagari,were subjected to tasks such as reading texts in all three languages while the process of neuro-imaging of their brains went on simultaneously. Participants’ mean reaction time and accuracy were also measured for each language.

The results showed that reading transliterated Romanised text induces additional cognitive demand from the brain. This was largely due to the fact that the brain has to extract sense from conflicting forms of language i.e. Roman text and Hindi phonetics.

“Texting Hindi words in the English script is a fairly common practice which percolates through all classes irrespective of a person’s educational background as long as there is basic knowledge of the English alphabet. However,we know very little of its behavioural and neuro processing. For example,Bahut shor hai (There is a lot of noise) could also be written as Bahut shore hai thereby inducing a possible interference between Romanagiri and English stimuli ,” Singh said.

The study also highlighted that decoding a cross language showed a heightened neural activity as compared to that of reading the language in its pure form with reduced chances of accuracy.

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