What’s wrong with the English Classes?

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English Coaching

The less exposure of Indians to English language makes it difficult to master the nuances and gain fluency. This is where the role of a good English speaking course comes in. But, are these courses fulfilling their promises, explores Dr Vasanthi Vasudev, Author- New Images Next and Magic Strokes, Pearson India, for Elets News Network (ENN).

Dr Vasanthi Vasudev

Dr Vasanthi Vasudev, Author- New Images Next and Magic Strokes, Pearson India

The other day, I ran into an old friend at a cocktail party. The conversation meandering into my experiences as an‘edupreneur’ and author of English language teaching books. “What wrong with the English class?  Most of the kids can’t even speak good English at the end of it all?” he asked with concern and vehemence. Before I could come up with an explanation, the conversation was interrupted and the question hung in the air, unattended.

That night, I could not sleep.  The question haunted me and I wished that our discussion had prolonged.  What ails the English class? I pondered for a while and then it hit me like a bolt. Yes, there are many reasons why proficiency in the language remains where it is.  But if I were to the get to the bottom of it all and identify one singular problem, I would say that is the absence or oral fluency and practice. Simply stated, it is the inability of students to speak fluently. How else can we justify the mushrooming of so many tin pot joints that sport banners” Spoken English classes”  “ “Learn to speak English in 100 days “ in the crowded market places of small and big towns and metro cities?  Why do we need specific training on interview and group discussion skills? What has been happening in the English class?

The fact of the matter is that for the most part, the English class has become a place where answers to questions are drilled, where grammar is rote memorized and practised and some forms of writing– writing of composition, letters and the like is learnt.  Students practice answering question papers and the whole emphasis is on accurate recall of what has been memorised as opposed to being able to think, speak or write creatively or fluently, using a large bank of vocabulary and grammatical facility which has been acquired and reinforced  in various  English classes.

Speaking and Listening are considered to be as secondary or no options when compared to the time and effort that is dedicated to developing reading and writing skills.  It is apathy or antipathy?  Probably neither, but missing the wood for the trees kind of situation. The English class is a reading and writing oriented class and the zero tolerance to noise speaks volumes about what’s wrong!  English language teaching books don’t pay much attention to developing listening and speaking skills and even if they did, nothing stops the teacher from ignoring them and homing to the comfort of reading and writing activities.

Don’t these give tangible proof of all the work done in the English Class? That the silent, reading and writing studentneither gains confidence in speaking, nor is he / she comfortable in an environment where there is English all around and contribute to it is not a matter for the English class.  Someone else can look into the problem and fix it after the English class!! (Views expressed are a personal opinion)


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