An English teacher writes...

Dear student,

You are eagerly awaiting your class XII exams results. Throughout your higher secondary course at your government school, your performance has been remarkably good and you have always topped the class. The school authorities have been proud of your academic performance. Their only regret is that they could not provide you with the facilities and the exposure that you needed to holistically develop your skills.

You must be dreaming about your future and your next course of action. Though you have been good at all subjects, your level of proficiency in English is not good. You cannot be blamed for it. The medium of instruction in the school is Tamil. You have never heard your teachers, classmates or friends converse in English. Many students of the school are first-generation learners.

You did not have many opportunities to develop your English language and communication skills. You were asked to memorise answers to questions. There was no one to motivate you to learn English as a life skill or a survival skill. I do understand your background and anxiety.

Culture shock

I can visualise how your first week or month in the university/college is going to be. The transition from school to college is not going to be smooth. Your class will have students from various places and mostly from cities. You will be sitting amidst English-speaking students who will introduce themselves saying that they studied in XYZ CBSE school and their hobbies are painting, watching Hollywood movies, and their favourite stars are Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey, Angelina Jolie and so on. You may feel uncomfortable being in their company. Your professors may use only English in the classroom.

You may hear English everywhere on the campus. Everything they say in English may sound like gibberish to you and you may feel that you have been thrown into an alien world. You may experience ‘angloshock’. You may think “others know English but I don’t know the language and so I am not part of the group.” Some of your professors and classmates, instead of empathising with you, may ridicule you for not responding to their questions in English and may pull you down. You may have a dilemma whether to continue or discontinue your studies. You could be on the verge of breaking down and your dream, on the verge of getting shattered.

I am sharing this with you not with the intention of frightening you, but with the intention of preparing you for a battle. I underwent this struggle, and many of my colleagues and students have been soldiers in the battle. Yes, it is going to be a battle.

I know your goals are clear, and you will go to any extent to achieve your goal. As a teacher, I feel that it is my responsibility to show you the right path and encourage you. Here are my ten commandments to help you learn English and master it.

Mastering English

Be passionate about learning English. This is the first step in the journey to mastering the language. If you have the desire to learn the language, no one can stop you from doing it. I am reminded of our former President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who faced many hurdles when he was a student but overcame all of them and went on to achieve success. I’m sure you can do this too.

Be positive. Say to yourself that you can do it. Have an “I-am-okay-and-you-are-okay” attitude. What you didn’t have and couldn’t do during your school days, you can have and can do now.

Buy a standard dictionary with CD. For example, Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary are good resources for learners of English and help them learn the language naturally with confidence. The CD can help you practise pronunciation of words.

Read newspapers regularly. You can start with news items of your choice. Make it a habit. This will help you improve your vocabulary and develop your reading skills. It is said that a good reader is a good leader.

People who speak and write good English attribute their success to reading newspapers, magazines and books.

Write a diary of what you do every day. Write 10-15 sentences in a coherent way. You can also summarise a news item that you read that day. This will help you develop your writing skills.

Listen to good speakers of English. A good listener is a good speaker. Exposure to good English helps a learner acquire good pronunciation. Watching English news channels 10-15 minutes every day also helps in developing listening skills.

Speak in English whenever you get an opportunity. Befriend those who speak English fluently and converse with them in the language.

Get a smartphone. Several free English learning apps are available. Learning English through these apps is fun, as they are very interactive.

Practise your English regularly. Mastering a language is just like learning to swim. By reading a book on swimming, you can’t become a swimmer. You need to throw yourself into a pool of water to learn. Initially, you will be frightened, but the outcome will be pleasant. Similarly, to acquire communication skills you need to practise speaking. You will make mistakes but it doesn’t matter. Don’t be frightened or discouraged by negative comments made by your classmates. Throw away negativity and discouragement and march forward.

Treat challenges as opportunities and not as problems. Yes, some of your classmates speak English fluently, and your professors teach only in English.

These situations are blessings in disguise. These are opportunities for you to get exposed to an English-speaking environment and learn the language.

The writer is Professor of English and Head, Higher Education, at KCG College of Technology, Chennai.

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 13, 2021 3:17:29 PM |

Next Story