Created :
September 12, 2021
|Updated :
May 19, 2023
Written By :
Rohit Wankhade

6 Difficulties in teaching English to Indian students

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    Only 10% of the Indian population can speak English.

    And the truth is 80% of these ten percent Indian speakers don’t speak fluent English.

    But here comes the irony - India is the second-largest English Speaking country after the United States.
    In India, people learn English as a second or third language.

    For a long time, Indians considered English speaking as something only elites do.

    We all have heard phrases like, “Angrez Hai Kya?” if someone mistakenly spoke in English.

    So, teaching English to Indian students can be challenging due to unique linguistic, cultural, and educational barriers.

    In this blog post, we'll explore the 6 most common difficulties in teaching English to Indian students. By gaining insights into these challenges, you’ll be able to develop effective strategies to overcome language issues in education.

    So, let's dive in and explore the challenges of teaching English to Indian students!

    Problems of teaching English in India.

    1. Translation difficulties

    Translation Difficulties

    As mentioned earlier, most students learn English as a second language in India.

    They might be coming from a Hindi medium background or speaking any other regional language for communication.

    Translation difficulties refer to the challenges that Indian students face when translating words and phrases from their mother tongue to English.

    When learning new English words, students directly translate them into their native language. And this often results in confusion.

    Also, since the students are accustomed to thinking in their mother tongue, they struggle to express their thoughts in English.

    This leads to errors in grammar, syntax, and pronunciation.

    For example, a student may try to say,

    "I am feeling unwell today," but instead say, "I am not feeling good today.”

    To overcome these translation difficulties

    • Encourage students to practice using English in real-life situations.
    • Use context-based teaching materials instead of direct translation.
    • Explain difficult words and phrases with examples.
    • Encourage questions and provide constructive feedback on language use.

    2. No English-speaking Environment

    English Speaking Environment

    The second problem of teaching English in India is the lack of an English-speaking environment.

    Many students come from households where English is not spoken regularly, which limits their exposure to the language.

    Kids learn through interaction, and the lack of an English-speaking environment becomes a significant issue. They do not develop speaking and listening skills in English, which are crucial for effective communication.

    And since they don’t have many opportunities to practice and make mistakes, Indian student lack confidence while speaking in English.

    Teachers must create opportunities for students to practice speaking English in the classroom. They may encourage group discussions, debates, and role-playing activities in English.

    Teachers can also use technology to connect students with native English speakers.

    Overall, creating an English-speaking environment is essential for students to develop their language skills.

    3. Limited Vocabulary

    Importance of Vocabulary

    India has over 19,500 languages and dialects, out of which 121 are recognized as major languages.

    While this linguistic diversity is a strength of India's cultural heritage, it also poses challenges for English learning students.

    The regional languages in India are very different from English, with different grammar rules, syntax, and vocabulary. These languages may not have a direct translation for certain English words or phrases.

    So, due to a lack of commonalities between their mother tongue and English, Indian students face limited vocabulary.

    They keep switching between two languages in their communication. And that’s a major reason Indian students cannot develop fluency and proficiency in English.

    However, by actively seeking out opportunities to learn new words & practice English, students can overcome these challenges.

    4. Grammar issues

    Grammar Issues

    English grammar is complex, and its rules and structures are different from those of Indian languages.

    The Indian education system often emphasizes memorization and rote learning. So, students tend to focus on grammar rules rather than the practical use of language.

    Students often struggle with proper word order, subject-verb agreement, tense usage, and the correct use of prepositions and articles.

    English is a constantly evolving language, and the rules of grammar can vary depending on context. So, simply learning the rules of grammar from a textbook is never enough.

    Without regular exposure to natural language use, students may struggle to internalize the nuances of grammar.

    Addressing these issues requires a shift towards more interactive language learning approaches.

    5. Peer pressure

    In India, there is often a strong emphasis on the importance of learning English.

    Students feel pressured to learn English due to societal expectations and the competitive nature of the job market.

    So, students see English learning as a means to an end rather than something to be enjoyed or appreciated for its own sake.

    Peer Pressure

    This mindset makes the learning process feel tedious. If a student is surrounded by peers who do not enjoy learning English, they feel embarrassed to express their own interest in the language.

    To address this issue, English should be taught through engaging activities that make learning fun and meaningful.

    It is essential for teachers to create a supportive classroom environment where students feel comfortable making mistakes.

    6. Mother Tongue Impact

    Mother Tongue Impact

    Mother Tongue Influence (MTI) is a major challenge when teaching English to Indian students.

    This is because Indian languages and English have different phonetic structures.

    In India, there are many different dialects and languages spoken, each with its own unique set of sounds and pronunciation patterns.

    So, students have a hard time adapting to standard English pronunciation.

    You must have heard some individuals say,

    “Eskool” instead of “School”

    “Phail” instead of “Fail”

    “Plazure” instead of “Pleasure”.

    Students feel self-conscious about their accents or dialect, especially if they have been criticized for their pronunciation in the past.

    This impacts their confidence, and they feel discouraged.

    Students believe that they will never be able to speak English well, which can lead to a lack of engagement in the classroom.

    Overall, the mother tongue impact can be a significant obstacle to effective English language learning in India. (Check out 4 tips to overcome your accent here).

    Final Thoughts

    To overcome problems faced by teachers in India, we need a joint effort from various stakeholders such as educators, policymakers, and the students.

    It is important to address cultural differences and biases that may impact the learning of the English language*.* This helps in overcoming the challenges of teaching language in a diverse classroom.

    It’s essential to focus on enhancing teacher training programs, as teachers play a critical role in shaping students' language skills.

    Effective teacher training programs should provide teachers with the necessary skills to teach the English language in a way that is engaging and interactive.

    Students should be provided with opportunities to practice their language skills, such as through conversation clubs, debates, and group discussions.

    In addition, it is crucial to create a supportive and inclusive learning environment that is conducive to learning English.

    BBR English is one such platform designed by IITians for English learning. We offer 1:1 live sessions with a communication expert to target your individual needs and problems. These interactive sessions provide a supportive environment to learn and practice English.

    Daily practice helps you build your confidence and feel more comfortable expressing your thoughts.

    Book a counseling session today and get a detailed assessment of your English level as well as a customized learning plan.

    Our several success stories and case studies show that supportive learning environments in presence of a personal coach make a significant difference in the language skills of Indian students.

    Thank you for reading!

    Table of Contents
      Want to improve your Communication Skills?
      Get a Personal Coach and Speak Fluent English in less than 3 months. Start by taking a 60 minutes Private Counselling Session to know your current English level. (Counselling session costs Rs 499, but the fee is 100% refundable if you don't like the session - No Questions Asked)
      Book Counselling
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