Educon Interview: Is Maths the Most Important Subject for your Child? (The Etymology Revolution)
Question – What is Etymology Education?
Dhruv– Etymology Education is a system of education in which students learn the concepts of various academic disciplines from their word origins or roots. Words are the most fundamental units of knowledge, and a rich understanding of words directly correlates to strong knowledge- acquisition ability. The method involves experiential facilitation, with a focus on the logicality of word construction, so that students do not use rote memorisation but use understanding as a vital part of their leaning style.
Question – Is Etymology Education different from Etymology?
Dhruv– Yes. Etymology is the study of the origins of words. Every language has its own history (or etymology). There are several books written on Etymology (“Word Power Made Easy”, by Norman Lewis, is one of the most popular examples). What I have been developing for the past 7 years is a methodology to impart essential Etymology awareness to students of different ages, within classroom settings. In this method, we do not teach words one-word-at-a-time: we invest effort in learning the process of word construction itself, so that language can be understood logically, and without a debilitating dictionary-dependence.
Question – Why do you say that Maths is not the most important subject?
Dhruv– It is important to realise that Maths is just one subject: it has implications for only those subjects which involve “logico-mathematical intelligence” (e.g. Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science). English Vocabulary is not just any subject, but it is the code in which knowledge itself is expressed. Be it the Humanities, the Natural Sciences, or the Behavioural Sciences, everything is written in English words. Therefore, before we make an assessment of a student’s intelligence, we must make sure that she/he has enough Vocabulary awareness to be able to cope with the demands of the subjects she/he reads. It is extremely unfortunate that schools do not teach vocabulary as a separate subject anywhere, while a disproportionate emphasis is provided to the acquisition of numerical ability.
Question – How did you get inspired to design Etymology Education as a methodology for learning vocabulary?
Dhruv– At university, I studied Psycholinguistics, (the study of how the brain uses and learns languages). At the same time, I started teaching English Vocabulary to graduate students. While studying for my lessons, I noticed that most of the vocabulary books I was reading were either from Greek or Latin. My students found the application of these two languages extremely useful in learning new words. My practice soon grew into a passion, and set me thinking. At the end of two years, I went to Ireland to study Ancient Classical Latin in depth, and upon my return I founded Logophilia Education.
Question – How did u convert it into teaching practice?
Dhruv- I pilot-tested my methodology with 600 middle school students. The results were incredible! This gave me tremendous belief in the method I had created. I found that I was able to provide answers to age old questions of Education, like: why does ‘Psychology’ have a silent ‘P’; why is there a difference in pronunciation of ‘put’ and ‘but’; why are there double consonants in a lot of words, and so on. Suddenly, English was not a “funny language” at all: not to me, not to my students.
Question – How old is the system of Etymology?
Dhruv– The study of Etymology is very old. The Sanskrit linguists and grammarians of Ancient India are considered to be the first to make a comprehensive analysis of linguistics and etymology, tracing back to the 6th – 5th Centuries, BCE.
Question – How does Etymology Education impact the way a student studies?
Dhruv- Students (of most age groups) seem to devote a large amounts of time to rote memorisation. Students memorise word meanings, spellings , and pronunciations, without being able to notice the underlying patterns which would make this process redundant.
Etymology Education helps students to “Etymologise” (trace the origins of) words by “breaking them” up. Once a word has been etymologised, not only does the meaning become obvious, but so does its spelling and pronunciation. The Greek language, for example, makes “P” silent before a consonant; also, “psych” in Greek means mind. If a student knows this when processing words like Psychology, psyche, psychiatry, she/he would not have any difficulty remembering their meaning, spelling, or pronunciation.
Further, we have heard so many students complain that what they memorise cannot be retained for more than a week after their exams: forgetting is such a common student-problem that people develop silly mnemonics, memory pills, and crude learning aids.
We feel that memorisation is effectively the opposite of understanding. We find that when students learn through Etymology Education, their learning is deep, and more permanent. Etymology allows them to see the logicality of language, and make learning a pleasurable experience.
Question – Is Etymology Education relevant across all age groups, including Higher Education?
Dhruv– Yes. Etymology Education is important for absolutely anybody and everybody who intends to understand and learn what he/she is reading. Memorisation begins in school, when students start cramming simple word definitions; this moves on to full paragraphs and pages; and finally in higher education, students often resort to learning up entire chapters (sometimes even books). We ask how long this mindless practice can be tolerated, when students can be trained in actually understanding what they read!
Take the case of Medicine. A regular Medicine student is required to invest 4 years in putting to memory thousands of complicated medical words (body parts, names of diseases and pharmaceutical products). It is common knowledge in Linguistics that most words in Medicine come from either Greek or Latin. So, the question is, if all of these words can be understood, why should so much time be wasted in memorising them?
Question- How many languages can this system be applied to?
Dhruv– The practice of Etymology Education can be applied to a large number of languages. With specific reference to the languages related to English, there are 3 dominant language families: the Helenic (Greek), the Romance (Latin), and the Germanic (Old English). A very large number of Modern European languages are derived from these language families. For e.g. Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. are all Romance languages, which means that studying Latin etymology can be very helpful to students when they study these languages, because of their common origins.
Question – Can Etymology be read or learned through a book?
Dhruv– Theoretically, yes, Etymology can be studied through a book. That is how I trained myself in the discipline; but that took me 7 years, and it is difficult to imagine that students would have that kind of time or devotion. Further, there is no single book that can be considered a comprehensive reference point for self-study. We took a lot of pains to consolidate Etymology knowledge from a vast variety of old and new books, to structure experiential programmes that fit well to the requirements of the Modern classroom.
Question – What’s a good age to start learning etymology?
Dhruv- While at Logophilia we aspire to create Etymology Education programs for junior school, we presently believe that the study of Etymology Education requires a basic cognitive maturity which middle school seems to have more than junior school. Therefore, we find 12-years onwards to be the appropriate age to start.
Question- Your last word on how and why Etymology Education should be adopted and adapted to as a part of our education system.
Dhruv- To answer the “why” first, we believe that: (a) words are fundamental to knowledge; (b) a student with a weak vocabulary = a weak student; (c) a really large number of words can be easily understood, and remembered, using a functional understanding of Etymology; (d) it is entirely ridiculous that students should have to waste time memorising words or concepts.
Hence, we are preparing Etymology Education curricula for different academic requirements, so as to empower students with the vocabularies necessary for their respective requirements. We insist that every subject, for every class, should begin with an Etymology Education supplement, so that students never have to resort to rote memorisation as a learning style.
Concluding lines for closure.
Dhruv- Teach a word, you will help for a day; teach Etymology, you will help for a lifetime!
About Dhruv and Logophilia
Dhruv Raj Sharma is the Founder and Chief Ideator of Logophilia Education Pvt. Ltd. – an organisation dedicated to the development, promotion, and imparting of “Etymology Education”. Possibly the only Etymology Education organisation anywhere, Logophilia was founded in August, 2010 by Dhruv, and strives to create global awareness about the fundamentality of Etymology Education in school curricula across different levels of academic advancement. Their activities include: a. Teaching: through Experiential Vocabulary Programmes; b. Writing: books, blogs, and online applications; and c. Quizzing: Logophilia organizes the Logophilia Gala – War for Words – an National competition where schools and colleges compete on-stage in Etymology-based English questions. Logophilia started their Etymology Programmes with a small workshop in IIT Kanpur, and now run across many states in India.