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The teaching of English as a foreign language: A report on the British Council summer conference held at Government House, Mahableshwar, India, 3–13 May 1950

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This unique, blow-by-blow account of the 11-day 1950 conference records not only the presentations Professor EV Gatenby, Linguistic Adviser to the British Council, made at Mahableshwar, but also the follow-up discussion sessions.


The Mahableshwar Conference was convened to address concerns about the future of English teaching in India following independence from Britain and the ‘elevation of Hindi’. Although the discussion is recorded in reported, not direct, speech, the reader gains a sense of the individual concerns and voices of the 30 Indian participants, some of whom challenge the guest speaker strongly.

The publication records Gatenby’s summary of the different methods of teaching English of the day, including those of Dr HE Palmer, AS Hornby, Berlitz, and his own approach. Among topics of discussion and claims which would be contentious today are the ‘threat’ of ‘Indianisms’ to English, and claims of gender differences in adult language learning.

Concluding ‘general recommendations’ which strongly reflect Gatenby’s perspectives, are balanced by reports from various sub-committees of participants relating to specifically Indian concerns.

This book is free to download below as a pdf file.