Learning and acquisition are two different things in the teaching learning process although they are used synonymously by some educationists.



 Learning and acquisition are two different things in the teaching learning process although they are used synonymously by some educationists. We acquire the first language but learn the second language like English in the class room. But most teachers and the academicians don't discriminate between these two aspects of teaching learning process. That is the reason why most students in the schools in India where the medium of instruction is the mother tongue are not able to acquire English. They are not able to write or speak a sentence in English even after becoming graduates or postgraduates. There is something wrong with the system of teaching English in the Indian context. I feel that there should be change in the methods, materials and the mindset of the teachers who teach English. I think that we should switch over from out dated structural and behaviorist approaches to the constructivist approach.

Unless the students learn and think in English as they learn their first language like Telugu or Hindi, they will never acquire English. The Teachers of English should create some simulated English atmosphere in the class room and they should embrace discourse oriented pedagogy. Because language exists only in the form of discourses. Unless the teaching of English becomes a natural non-conscious entity acquiring English becomes a distant dream for most of its aspirant. In spite of their learning English for nearly 12 years their command of on English is negligible.

I think the British Council should ponder over this issue and impress upon the best English teaching institutes like central Institute of English and foreign languages (English and foreign language university) Hyderabad, India and the regional institute of English South India, Bangalore which prepare textbooks provide in-service and pre-service training to the teachers of English in south India and all over India to prepare textbooks which are based on constructivist approach and train the teachers so that they adapt themselves to the constructivist approach. Unless and until that is done Indian students acquiring proficiency in English is like a mirage in a desert.


I think that language is not just a means of communication. It is thought itself. Because we can’t think of language without thought and there is no thought without language. Language and thought are inseparable. Some linguists like Krashen feel that language is a biologically triggered off mechanism like walking and sleeping. A child who is born will eventually walk and he or she will naturally speak unless he/she is mentally or physically retarded. So I feel that even language acquisition is knowledge based rather than skill oriented. We should rely on the whole language philosophy in which we move from the whole to the part. It is just like going to the forest and then looking at the trees. If we look at trees one by one we can’t see the forest. In the same way if we separate language into different parts like vocabulary, pronunciation, the skills like speaking, reading, listening and writing, semantics and the like,we can not see the forest of language. Some constructionists like Anandan from Kerala, India feel that we should move on to discourse oriented pedagogy because language exists only in the form of discourses. Discourse means inter connected speech or writing. He feels that it is not proper to label some vocabulary into passive and some other into active and the remaining into ad hoc vocabulary. Language acquisition process is spiral rather than linear. But what is happening in most Indian schools regarding the teaching of English is like a bricklaying process in which one brick is placed on the other till the building that is the language is constructed. But language construction is not a material growth which can be measured instantly but it is an organic growth like our body which grows but its measurement is possible only after sometime. The teaching of English begins with the learning of the alphabet and proceeds from word to sentences and sentences to paragraphs and finally to the stories and so on. In fact it is an unscientific and unnatural learning process. If we think of the way in which we learn our mother tongue the process seems quite ridiculous and extremely conscious. We learn our mother tongue from our mother through motherese in which mother never tries to correct the child nor the peers try to teach the child any thing consciously and laboriously. What I want to stress is that English can never be acquired by the students unless it is supplied to the student like the mother tongue. The teacher should be like a mother but not like a master in the classroom. What is actually happening in the classroom is pseudo teaching and pseudo learning.   

Dear Sir,I felt really elated when I saw your comment under my blog entry. I read some of your entries and observed that our opinions sinc with each other. I'm a research scholoar in English Linguistics at Dravidian University Kuppam. My topic is related to Universal Grammar proposed by Noam Chomsky. I work with ANURAG Engineering College; Kodad as a Lecturer in English. I teach English to undergraduate students. I have a personal website www.pensivecitizen.webs.com. Please do visit my website so that you get to know more about me. In my site you find links to my write-ups published in various web versions of the newspapers like The NewYork Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Sun and The USA today. You will also find donload links to the PP Presentations I made for the benefit of my students.I really appreciate your views. They reflect your learning and experience. As I have been teaching undergraduate students in an Engineering College, I observed that most of the students, when they are prompted to speak out, don't open their mouths. The reason behind this is, they came from rural areas and are clueless what to speak and how to speak. So language Immersion Programme may not yield any result with such students. Instead, we need to give them some interesting, comprehensible input to them, either orally or in text form, so that they get an opportunity to catch the basics of usage. Once they catch some rudimentaries they may be more forthcoming to speak and participate in discourse. As I mentioned in one of my blog entries acquisition should start with listening and reading, as they give inputs to the students, whereas speaking and writing requires the generation of output by using the skills one acquired.The problem is, there are so many methods and many a time we remain clueless which method is appropriate to train a particular category of students. As each and every trainee is unique, may be we need many strategies and methods to train them. For that purpose we need to devise our own strategies to train studens in such a way that they cater to their specific requirements.I want to keep in touch with you as the guidance of a learned person like you is invaluable to me. Hope our interaction would continue.               with regardsRamachandra Reddy. Vemireddy  

Dear Ramachandra reddy, Thank you very much for going through my blogs and adding a comment to my blog Teaching English as a second language. I am really delighted to find your comment as a response to my blog. It really soothing to hear the words indirect negative evidence, comprehensible input, universal grammar and so on. I have been requesting the scholars like you to comment on my blogs for the last 2 months but in vain. I would like you to go through my professional profile. You seem to me a gift of god. Nobody seems to be interested in constructivist approach. I am the state resource person on this approach. Recently I was selected as a text book writer by SCERT. We have to write text books based on this approach on the guide lines of NCF, 2005. I was really delighted when I saw your blog. It appeared as though it had been written by me. The reason is you are working on this approach as a research scholar and I have been working as a state resource person, observer on this for the last 4 years.I  have already visited your personal website and tried to contact but the power broke down. I hope our friendship go a long way in enriching each others mission. I do hope you will read my other blogs and add comments. The silence of the scholars has really pained me very much for the last 2 months. You seem to be the person of the right kind. I think the birds of the same feather fly together. I AM THANKFUL TO THE BRITISH COUNCIL FOR CONNECTING US with kind regards, YOURS SINCERELY, JVL NARASIMHA RAO

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