Can Indians teach English?

14 06 2010

Yes, Definitely!

Its not that we can.. but we do…

But there are many a native speakers who have certain misconceptions or doubts about Indians and their ability to teach English.  And I do not blame them because they are more or less speaking from their experience or their interaction with the Indians they have met so far.

But a mere percentage of Indians one would meet would not represent the whole of India. With this article I would like to clarify that there is more to India than meets the eye.

So what are those misconceptions…

“If I wanted to learn Chinese, I’d much rather learn it from someone who grew up in China (even if they were white!) than from someone who studied it in school for a couple of years.”

Let me clarify, Indians do not study English in some school for couple of years. It is rather the only language in which they study, finish their degree and later work. The corporate world in India does business in English. From media to publication everything is printed in English most of the time. Yes an Indian may not be qualified to teach languages like French, Chinese, German etc. because as rightly pointed out above they study it only for a few years. But that is not the case with English. All the subjects are taught in English from the time a kid starts attending kinder garden.

“Are  Indians are more qualified to teach English than their current E-2-qualified counterparts? Do you think most people would agree with that mindset?”

An average Indian would not be qualified enough to teach English. But I am talking about that section where a) They have majored in literature / English b) Have been trained in a call center to interact with natives c) Are working as writers, journalists d) Have cleared their TOEFL, IELTS, CPE, ESOL etc. or e) Are qualified to teach English via TESOL, TEFL, etc.  A teaching certification or degree (along with experience) is a must for non-natives. They should have an aptitude for teaching English. Also from what I understand Korean Government is testing out this approach of hiring Indian Teachers and depending upon their performance they may or may not hire more teachers. It is more like an experiment so people will agree after they see the result for themselves.

“So would a student prefer learning English from a native or an Indian?”

It is true that the vox populi of the students in Korea is that Natives can be better English Teachers. But to a great extent the belief is more to do with the exposure. Students here are more exposed more to the native English speaking teachers as compared to Indian teachers. Also, the Indians which they (and I) have met here do have problem with their fluency. But that is just a small portion of India that the Koreans are exposed to and the very reason they (including me) are here is not because of their English Speaking skills but their technical or Business skills.

But then the Fluent English Speaking junta of India would normally prefer working in any native country, Singapore, Malaysia, Middle East or India. India offers a lot of opportunity for them to work as writers and journalists. Writing has created a lot of job opportunities in India – copy writing, content writing, technical writing, instructional designers and so on. And with the demand for education abroad a lot of Indians also work as English Teachers in India to help students clear their TOEFL and IELTS.

Given an opportunity, any of these guys with considerable experience in teaching and writing will take the initiative to teach English to non English speaking countries like Korea and in a few years put (or rather push) India in the list of preferable countries for teaching English.

It is all about awareness. And with this and my previous post here and here I m doing my bit to create awareness about the English Speaking junta of India.

This is just the beginning..




5 responses

14 06 2010

The problem with this, is that yes many Indians speak English very well and are very qualified teachers, in many cases significantly better than their native speaking counter parts however so are many Koreans.

Native speakers on the other hand, are just that, native speakers. No matter how inept they are as teachers they have an advantage that no Korean, Indian or other non-native teachers have. They know instinctively what is right and in which occasions it is applicable, thus they fill a niche (whether or not it is a useful one is debatable) that Korean teachers cannot fill. Unfortunately Indian English teachers, no matter how much exposure they have had to English cannot do this.

20 06 2010

I’m sure many Indians can teach structure, grammar and even writing styles in say, essay or letter forms, perhaps as you point out, better than some NETs. But what non-native English speakers can not teach is native pronunciation and the Korean government prefers American English with an American accent. Even British-NETs and Irish-NETs are asked to speak with subdued accent while teaching in Korean schools and Hogwans. I don’t have a source to site on this, but I would bet that business as well as media, i.e., news and entertainment, seek the American accent, more specifically, the Midwestern American accent, because it lacks heavy accent and has a more monotone intonation. So, I don’t think its necessarily an issue of not wanting Indian teachers, but wanting a specific accent that is popular in business and media globally.

20 06 2010
Brijesh Bolar

Lilith, I do agree about your comment on the accent preference. Even I had heard some time back that students and specially hagwons had some problems with teachers from New Zealand. Again I don’t have the source too.

About the Midwestern American Accent preference I was not aware of this. But after you pointing it out it makes a lot of sense. Even we Indians find it easier to follow American accent as compared to Brit or European English.

20 06 2010

Well, I would challenge that you couldn’t follow the hardcore New York accent, or the Boston accent from the North East. Or, perhaps the deep southern accent from Mississippi and no doubt New Orleans. I had trouble understanding the Irish and Scottish and even at times the Brits, while in their countries. The Mid-Western accent has dominated American television for decades and some of the best communications programs were born out of the Mid-western colleges like North Western and Chicago U, and strangely, Omaha, Nebraska. These are where the earliest tv reporters were sent to alleviate any heavy regional accents and teach them the Mid-Western accent. I think because of CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg, etc., those programs have popularized this accent, and also because its easiest to understand. Which is why the American English is in demand everywhere perhaps, including SEA and China.

21 06 2010
Brijesh Bolar

Alright. I get your point. As compared to Korea we don’t have a direct exposure to Native Speaker in our country on a day to day level. Our exposure is mostly indirect. Through television and movie shows. And now the Internet. But for people who work in the corporate sector they interact with clients regularly based in US. So yes, through my interaction in my previous job I too have faced the problem of heavy accent with certain clients.

So that makes me curious about the accent of an average American..

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