English then and now
Teaching of English began when the British had brought almost the whole of India under their subjugation. At first, the teachers were all English because no Indian was yet competent enough to teach the subject.
After a few decades, there were a large number of Indian teachers of English. They were competent because they themselves were taught by English teachers.
People like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekanand, Pt.Moti Lal Nehru, and Poet Rabindra Nath Tagore were all products if that age. Their English was impeccable.
Conferences and meetings were all conducted in English. All our heroes of freedom struggle used English as they belonged to different states and their native languages were not known to each other.
After India gained independence, continuance of English as the official language was debated all over the country. Some people were of the opinion that English should be driven out of country along with ‘The English’. Then commonsense prevailed and English held its place as the second official language.
During the past few decades, importance of English has grown manifold because of the development of information technology world trade, inter depence of the countries due to many political and economical reasons and it was realized that people could not make progress unless they knew good English.
The need to know English grow manifold but the standard of teaching English went down and down. The teachers themselves could neither speak nor write good, intelligible English. They came to know that ‘Grammar’ but they did not know that teaching of grammar as a separate subject is not desirable as the students should first acquire the ‘Language skills’ i.e.
1. They must listen and understand.
2. They must speak in a way that other people may understand that.
3. They must be able to read and comprehend.
4. They must be able to write good, informal English but they do need grammar in a different way.
Grammar should be taught with the help of the language and not the other way round. The teachers themselves should know grammar very well otherwise they will not be able to tackle the mistakes committed by the students. So the teachers should know grammar and use it himself when necessary.
So what is needed is to build up an army of teachers who can speak English well. No particular ‘approach’ or ‘method’ will be needed if the teacher is good in English himself.
If he speak in English in the class of the students will be compelled to listen to him and understand what he is saying. If the teacher insists on using English when they answer the questions put by him, the students will be able to speak. Similarly if the students are given some topic for writing, the teacher should guide him all the way, this way their mistakes will be fewer.
So what we need is a posse of teachers who can speak and write correct, idiomatic English used in everyday life. We need competent people to teach and train such teachers over a period of time.
That is the only way to raise the standard of English in India which is destined to become a world power in near future.
Mrs. Roma Chakraborty
P.E.S. Retd.Associate Professor
English Language Training Institute