Spoken English :Some problems encountered.

Hello, it would be  interesting to know how one can correct  the  contamination of  English  by  the  MT sounds.Every  state  in  India  has its  own language. For example, in the  state  of  Kerala  we  speak  Malayalam,  and  the  Malayalees  have a defenite  problem with  their O's, minimal  pairs to name a few. Despite identifying and  correcting  the  faulty  'place  and  manner  'of enunciation, I have not been able to get my trainees  to  imbibe  the correction  and  apply  it  in  their  speech. Any suggestions?English  Speaking  Club  is  a  social  gathering  which  has  been  organized  for  the  sole  purpose  of  getting  people  from  all  walks  of  life  to  get  together  on  alternate  days, for  a couple  of  hours, and  communicate  in English  only. I  find  this  an  effective  way  to  get  my  trainees to  speak  naturally.

Harsh Kadepurkar's picture
Harsh Kadepurkar


I am Harsh Kadepurkar from India, the first guest teacher on this website.

I do not propose to offer any advice on improving pronunciation. However, I would like to share my experience. I have realised that pronunciation is not a problem of  Indian students alone. It's a universal problem of all the second language learners. Yes, we need to overcome it. One of the ways is to first clearly understand and to list down the differences between the two languages, the learner's language and the target language and focus on those aspects. Luckily a lot of work has been done in this area and is available either in the form of books or dissertations in university libraries. Unfortunately most of these dissertations are gathering dust, at least in most libraries in India. Next thing would be to give them as much of listening experience as possible, using authentic sources. I mean the BBC or any such source.Thirdly, try to change your approach. Your learners are not wrong in their pronunciations, they are just different. There's nothing wrong in being different. Tell your learners that if they want to communicate with their own people their variety of English is just fine. But if they want to communicate at the international level, they will have to minimise the differences. We are not native speakers of English and we can never be. At the most we can go as close as possible. Tell them that even in the UK there are four major varieties of English: Irish, Scottish, Wales and British. And within them there are a large number of sub varieties.

I said I won't give any advice. And I did just that. Sorry about it. But can't help it. Have been a teacher for a long, long time!

girishseshamani's picture

I can fully relate with you since I relocated to Kerala from Mumbai 4 years back. As you know the educational system here does not encourage students to speak in the English Language. Moreover even if some students have the desire to bring about a change within themselves they are alienated from their group apart from being mocked and ridiculed. It is only after they finish their graduation they realize the hard fact when they get rejected at all intrviews. This really hits them hard and shatters their confidence.
I am a trainer for Voice and Accent and I tell them very bluntly that the only way to ensure their employability is to start communicating only in the English Language. I also make it mandatory for all students to speak only in the English Language when they are in the class. I also have telephonic conversations with them thrice a week and talk to them on any subject. The major problems down here are with the vowel O , the consonant P being pronounced as B and the consonant P pronounced as D apart from other issues.
I come down on them ruthlessly during the training process. I also make it clear to them that I am not here to be popular with them. My job is to ensure that they develop the requisite skill sets in the English Language without which their career will never take off. 

anupkumarr's picture

As a teacher trainer I advise my students to speak naturally. When I was doing PG diploma course at CIEFL(EFLU), Hyderabad, I heard one of my teachers say:speak naturally. Since then I have been speaking naturally, and insist on my students'speaking natural English without affectation, though I regularly listen to BBC, clearly and imperceptibly internalize their articulation.In eastern India we have some difficulty in S/ Z/sh sounds. Some have gliding qualities in uttering some vowel sounds as the root of many Indian languages is Sanskrit. Some cannot distinguish between aspirated sounds. Still with natural free from fault English we can make ourselves understood. So instead of imitating it is better to listen to standard speech and go on practising in a natural way. But at the same time it is important to know that apart from separate sound-production, an idea about intonation, stress, falling, rising, fall-rise tone helps students to speak better. But in indian context vernacular medium schools do not encourage ss to speak English. That is why the part of India where I belong to oral examintion is compulsory. Since the introduction of oral tests ss are forced to speak English.Another aspect of teaching is important here. Don't try to correct ss. Encourage fluency;accuracy will come soon after.