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Can Indians teach English?

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.

Indian Teacher

Teacher Helping Kids – Image by Michael Prince/Corbis

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 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.

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..

Comments (13)

  • Oliver

    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.

    • Dhati

      Actually, I believe that an Indian can do that just as much as anyone else. Those natural tendencies are just not consistent even between Native English speakers. The American or the British or the Australian teachers would each do that completely differently. So how can you argue that the Indian one is the one that does it wrong? Not to mention that English is a constitutionally recognized language in India and it mandatory for education whereas it isn’t in many places in Europe; however, students may even prefer a French-born English teacher over and Indian-born English teacher.

  • Lilith

    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.

  • Lilith

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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..

  • le

    Hello ! I have a question. I came to US when I was 16. iS It possible for me to teach English in SK if I have a degree when I get older ?. Lets say 8 years in US.

  • Bjoern

    As long as they can actually LEARN something they should go ahead.

    btw, it’s not kinder garden but “kindergarten” 1:1 as in German.

  • Jill

    Actually, I find Lilith’s comments somewhat ignorant and slightly xenophobic. Who is she to tell the world what the preferred accent is? Is she a linguist? I think the key is teaching international English. Yes, a native speaker can teach a preferred accent (and I would highly argue that this is an American midwest accent) and can teach culture, idioms, slang, etc., more easily, but in an inernational culture, people should become accustomed to hearing English with a variety of accents. While traveling, even within Asia, I hear Asians communicating with each other with different skill levels, accents, etc. But they are communicating with each other and doing a goog job at that. I am American, but strongly advise thinking about what Lilith is saying. It might take a few days, eve weeks, but you become accustomed to new accents as long as you are speaking the same language. I wish Lilith the best. Certainly she’s putting her argument across intelligently – it’s just a little too narrow-minded for my point of view.

  • Jill (different one)

    I’ve found all the comments useful, but definitely agree with Jill in the need to study international English. But I wonder if the hesitation towards hiring Indian teachers may be more racially based. I hope not, but just sayin’.

  • Sebastian

    This is a very contested topic. I’m American but because we lived in different non-English speaking countries since I was a small child my English has a very slight British inflection and some other “foreign nuances” that make Americans think that I’m not a “native speaker” even though I grew up speaking, reading and writing English. When I tell people that I’m American they usually say something like: “Well, we mean “real” American, you know? You have a slight accent.” Ironically, because I spent so much time abroad, I actually got an excellent education in English including grammar, phonetics and linguistics. I also speak other languages, therefore I have a better grasp of language learning and instruction than most so-called “native speakers”. Still, I had been turned down for English-teaching jobs (by the US-based management) because I didn’t sound “100% American”. Is this discrimination or a justifiable reason? I don’t know. I did get a teaching job when I applied directly in the country. The school did not care about a “slight accent” or “subtle, different intonation”. They understood that – unless I was a terrible teacher – the results would not be radically different from those of a so called “non-accented” teacher. The subtle accent that Americans claimed to hear, was completely imperceptible to the foreigners. To them I was as American as any of the other Americans they had heard and seen on the streets and on TV. So, I think there’s a level of misconception and perhaps discrimination when it comes to non-US and non-Canadian applicants. I know a lot of Indians (from India) who grew up speaking nothing else but English and their pronunciation and accent is perfect. In fact their knowledge of vocabulary is superior to that of many so-called “native speaker” teachers that I have met from the US, Canada and the UK.

  • Dhati

    I was wondering if you have any resources for teaching English as a second language resources for college students who are looking to do this as a program or a summer job.

  • nicky

    im looking to move to seoul , im an indian , rather persian , speaking with an accent for me is natural as i work for an american company its not unnatural for me , however i want to teach english in seoul , can anyone guide me throught this as i really want to permanently move there or any other options currently planning on doing a tefl course and also wanted to know what opportunities are there for a graduate as well



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