The Last Lesson
Think As You Read
Question 1: What was Franz expected to be prepared with for school that day?
Answer: Franz was supposed to prepare for a test on participles but he was not prepared. So, Franz was ready to get scolded for not doing his homework.
Question 2: What did Franz notice that was unusual about the school that day?
Answer: On any normal day the school was full of buzz of activities. The cacophony created by closing and opening of desks, turning the pages of books and recital of lessons by students spilled on the streets. One could tell from the street that the school was open. But there was a strange calm pervading the air on that day.
Question 3: What had been put up on the bulletin board?
Answer: There was a notice on the bulletin board which said that the French class was to be stopped with immediate effect.
Question 4: What changes did the order from Berlin cause in school that day?
Answer: The order from Berlin caused many changes in school that day. There was eerie calm pervading the school. Mr. Hamel was not asking for homework or test. He announced that it was going to be his last class for the school. People started to realize the impact of a foreign language being imposed on them.
Question 5: How did Franz’s feelings about Mr. Hamel and school change?
Answer: Earlier Franz loathed studying French. But on that day, he began to love French because he understood the importance of one’s mother tongue for ensuring freedom. Franz developed a sense of respect for Mr. Hamel who had carefully nursed a garden around his home, through all those years he had spent at the school. Franz also began to develop a respect for his school because he could understand the importance of education.
Understanding the Text
Question 1: The people in this story suddenly realize how precious their language is to them. What shows you this? Why does this happen?
Answer: We take certain things in life for granted until such things are lost forever. Hairs on a man’s head are good examples of this. It is said that only a bald man knows the true value of hairs. Mother tongue is the language a person learns since his childhood. It becomes an integral part of life of a person. So, people seldom understand the true value of the mother tongue. But when some political development snatches the language from a people, they end up realizing how precious their language is to them.
Question 2: Franz thinks, “Will they make them sing in German, even the pigeons?” What could this mean?
Answer: Animals are immune to political machinations of human beings. They cannot be even forced to follow the dictates of a ruling dispensation. But as any young child would react, Franz is dreading the thought that even the pigeons would be forced to sing in the newly imposed language. This shows the shock which Franz has got from the latest development.
Talking About the Text
Question 1: “When a people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language it is as if they had the key to their prison.”
Can you think of examples in history where a conquered people had their language taken away from them or had a language imposed on them?
Answer: There are numerous examples from history where a conquered people had their language taken away from the key to their prison. In the lesson on Nationalism in Europe, you must have read about imposition of language on people of Prussia and Poland, and about their own languages being snatched away. India too had suffered the imposition of English language during the colonial era.
Question 2: What happens to a linguistic minority in a state? How do you think they can keep their language alive? For example: Punjabis in Bangalore, Tamilians in Mumbai, Kannadigas in Delhi, Gujaratis in Kolkata.
Answer: It is not easy but not impossible to keep one’s language alive in alien settings. Bengalis show very good example of keeping alive their language and culture even when a Bengali is living at a place far from Bengal. Let us take an example in which some Bengalis live in a housing complex in Delhi. You will notice that whenever a Bengali meets another Bengali, both talk in their native language. They make elaborate arrangements to celebrate Durga Puja according to their own traditions and rituals. This is a good way to keep the language alive even in alien setup.
Question 3: Is it possible to carry pride in one’s language too far? Do you know what ‘linguistic chauvinism’ means?
Answer: There is a thin line between linguistic pride and linguistic chauvinism. If a group takes its linguistic pride too far, it turns into chauvinism. Linguistic chauvinism is often manifested by isolating people who speak another language, looking down at people from another linguistic identity, and in the worst case imposition of a language on other people.
Working With Words
Question 1: English is a language that contains words from many other languages. This inclusiveness is one of the reasons it is now a word language. For example:
Find out the origins of the following words: tycoon, barbecue, zero, tulip, veranda, ski, logo, robot, trek, bandicoot
|Japanese (taiku meaning great lord)
|Spanish (barbacoa meaning wooden frame on posts)
|French and Italian
|English (logogram or logotype)
|Czech (robota meaning forced labour)
|South African Dutch (trek and trekken)
|Telugu (pandikokku meaning pig-rat)
Question 2: Notice the bold words in these sentences and tick the option that best explains their meaning.
(a) “What a thunderclap these words were to me” The words were
- Loud and clear
- Startling and unexpected
- Pleasant and welcome
Answer: (ii) Startling and unexpected
(b)“When a people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language it is as if they had the key to their prison”
It is as if they have the key to the prison as long as they
- Do not lose their language
- Are attached to their language
- Quickly learn the conqueror’s language
Answer: (i) Do not lose their language
(c) Don’t go so fast, you will get to your school in plenty of time.
You will get to your school
- Very late
- Too early
- Early enough
Answer: (ii) Too early
(d) I never saw him look so tall.
- Had grown physically taller
- Seemed very confident
- Stood on the chair
Answer: (ii) Seemed very confident
Question 1: Write a notice for your school bulletin board. Your notice could be an announcement of a forthcoming event, or a requirement to be fulfilled, or a rule to be followed.
Answer: The Annual Day function is scheduled to take place on 15th December 2022. The function will start at 5 PM and end at 10 PM. The function will begin with the address by the Principal. It will be followed by music and dance performances by students from different classes. Participating students have to report to their class-teachers at 3 PM on that day. Remaining students are expected to be in their seats latest by 4:30 PM.
Question 2: Write a paragraph of about 100 words arguing for or against having to study three languages at school.
Answer: Some schools have started teaching an additional language, apart from English and mother tongue. The additional language can be chosen from a list which comprises languages of other countries. It is good that students are getting an opportunity to learn a third language that may help them in their future endeavours. Learning a foreign language can help those who are planning to become interlocutors or to go abroad for higher studies. It is also said that learning more languages immensely helps in developing cognitive skills. But there is a drawback to this policy of three languages. Learning an additional language will put pressure on already overburdened students. It may not be good for young minds. Moreover, finding good teachers for some languages can be an uphill task. Teaching by a half-baked teacher can prove to be counterproductive.
Question 3: Have you ever changed your opinion about someone or something that you had earlier liked or disliked? Narrate what led you to change your mind.
Answer: When I reached middle school, I hated studying mathematics. I found the subject quite complicated and never enjoyed the drudgery of calculations. But things began to change when I met our math teacher, Mukherjee Sir. He knows how to ignite interest for math even in those who hate math. Mukherjee Sir explained the concepts so nicely that I began to fall in love with math.
Things to Do
Question 1: Find out about the following:
(a) Linguistic human rights
Answer: Linguistic rights are all about choosing one’s preferred language for communication in public and private space. Linguistic rights include the right to use one’s language in legal, administrative and judicial processes. It also includes the right to use one’s language for education and for consumption of media. The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (known also as the Barcelona Declaration) is a document signed by the International PEN Club, and several non-governmental organizations in 1996 to support linguistic rights, especially those of endangered languages.
(b) Constitutional guarantees for linguistic minorities in India
Answer: The Constitution of India (Article 350 A) provides that every state must provide primary education in a mother tongue and also provide for the appointment of a ‘Special Officer’ for linguistic minorities (Article 350 B), who is responsible to investigate matters relating to linguistic minorities and report them to the President. This article also advocates education in one’s mother tongue at the primary stage. But the reality indicates otherwise. More and more people prefer English as the medium of instruction because English language is viewed as a ticket to upward mobility.
Question 2: Given below is a survey form. Talk to at least five of your classmates and fill in the information you get in the form.