Aims and Problems of Teaching English in India Today

Before discussing the problems of teaching English in India today, it is better to look at the status English has been enjoying in political, social, and educational fields in India. Despite anti-English movement that emerged in India after the independence, English functions along with Hindi, as one of the two official languages accepted by central government and English has the only accepted language of the supreme court. It is also the state language of Meghalaya, Mizoram as well as Nagaland. Moreover, in southern India, English functions almost as second language. It is also used as medium of instruction in the higher educational and professional institutions. Thus, we roughly conclude that the place pf English in India today is somewhere between second language and first language.

Teaching English in India has five major factors including intercommunication.

  • English as a link language:
    India is multilingual country. Almost each state has its separate language. As a result mutual exchanges in message, information, talks, and wishes between two people of two states depend on a link language. In many southern and eastern states, Hindi is not understood. In such cases, English serves as the only link language. Thus, India needs English to unify herself.
  • English as a library language:
    Kothari commission(1964-66) recommended English to be taught as a library language by noting: “ English should be the most useful library language in higher education…” In fields like law, medicine, engineering or agriculture, the medium of instruction is English because the students have to supplement their knowledge by reading books and journals in English, If they want to make their degree valuable. Thus, the knowledge of English is necessary for getting across to modern scientific and technological knowledge.
  • English as a world language:
    with a continual increase in the number of the native speakers or speakers who it as second language or first language it has also become a language of international trade; commerce and politics. Therefore, our building diplomats; thinkers and interpreters in international field have to study the compulsory as well as optional courses in English.
  • English as a window to the word:
    “English is our major window to the modern world.” Said by Jawaharlal Nehru. It would be ash to cut ourselves off a language which keeps us in continuous contact with the latest thought in Europe in every field of life and culture.
  • English as a source language:
    English is the main source of knowledge from world literature. Almost each distinguishing piece of literary art written in  other language. Then that literary art has been translated into English. So, if we know English, we can not only read and understand Tolstoy’s work originally written in Russian language. But we ca understand that translated work. And also can know our own Tagore written in Bengali.

There are certain problems of teaching English in India today as listed below:

  • A very significant factor in language learning is motivation. Because of the lack of proper background or homely atmosphere for the study of English, the students are not motivated for it as for their mother tongue.
  • The teacher has a problem to tackle when he is faced with the task of teaching a class of students, who show varying capacities of assimilation. In India, even the college level, a large number of students have to be given elementary lesson in English. So, they as well as the students who have a better standard, feel that the lesson and methods adopted are not appropriate to their age or status. The result is a kind of general resentment.
  • One of the reasons why teaching English in India does not leave the desired impact on the students is that class is too big for the teacher to do any worthwhile job. No individual attention can be paid to students in such an over-crowded class.
  • Audio-visual aids are an integral part of the language learning situations and are as important as blackboard and chalk. In India, teaching of English suffers as poor availability of these resources.
  • In India, the main problem is to have competent teachers of English. A large number of present teachers are relatively ill-taught and are noted for their lack of professional skill in their understanding of the language and in their awareness and command of methods and techniques of language teaching. For example, unfortunately, even after more than fifty years of acquaintance with the structural approach teaching of formal grammar is much stressed. Also the teachers are weak in spellings and poor in pronunciations. Wilkins is right when he observes, “A teacher who himself has difficulty in speaking the language he teaches is not going to succeed in giving his pupils a command of spoken language”.
  • Like every second language, the teacher of English in India also has serious problem to cope with the student’s bilingualism. For example, Hindi or Gujarati speaking student is likely to say, “Though I gave the examination, yet I failed” on the analogy of the linguistic pattern with which he is already familiar in his first language.
  • Our examination system concentrates on reading comprehension and written expression only. As a result, two very important aspects of language learning, listening and speaking are very much neglected.

However, some worthwhile teaching is possible if the right relationship is established in the attitudes of the learner, the teacher, the learner’s parents and if through this relationship, the listener is properly motivated.

Jigar Makwana

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