Problems facing students from India. English is one of the most commonly


English is one of the most commonly used languages in India, especially by the urban Indian. Almost every Indian, even if he/she has had no formal schooling, uses at least a dozen English words in day to day communication. However, this 'In-glish' doesn't suffice in an international scenario, and one can see that language schools here in the UAE have a larger percentage of Indian students than others. Interestingly, an Indian student finds it easier to write English than speak. This may partly be due to cultural reasons. Similarly, an Indian learner has a larger receptive vocabulary than a productive one. As an Indian EFL teacher, I find these aspects intriguing.

Problems with grammar:

All EFL students find it difficult to understand ' and use -- perfect tenses. They usually confuse the past simple with the present perfect. Perfect continuous tenses are more challenging, even for higher level students. Where Indian students are concerned, this could be because perfect tenses don't exist in Indian languages, or if they do exist, are hardly ever used.

Indian students tend to overuse the progressive. They use the present progressive instead of the present simple. For example, instead of saying, 'I get up at 6 o' clock,' they say, 'I am getting up at 6 o'clock'. The reason, I understand, is because they feel that the addition of ''ing' denotes that the action still takes place, that it is not something that happened in the past. Students find it a little unsettling to use only 'I get up / She gets up' to mean something that is being done everyday. They also find it difficult to understand non-progressive verbs; even people with a reasonably good knowledge of English use 'If you are wanting / knowing''' instead of 'If you want / know''' A surprising number of students use past progressive in the place of past simple too; for example, 'I was going there yesterday', instead of 'I went there yesterday'.

Subject ' verb agreement is another major problem for an Indian. The simple present, especially, is anything but simple here. It is difficult for an Indian to understand why 'have' is used with I, you (even when the 'you' is a single person), we and they; and 'has' with he, she and it. More confounding are the negatives and imperatives. (Why is it 'Does he have' and not 'Does he has'') Other grammar problems include the use of correct prepositions and construction of complex sentences.

Problems with pronunciation:

Pronunciation is one of the most difficult areas for an Indian student. All Indian students find it difficult to produce certain individual sounds, both vowel and consonant. For example, the pronunciation of 'a' as in 'apple'. People from North India usually pronounce it as 'a' as in 'ape' and people from some parts of South India pronounce it as 'a' as in 'arm'. The pronunciation of 'z' is also difficult for an Indian. A North Indian pronounces 'zoo' as 'joo', whereas a South Indian pronounces it as 'soo'. They also find it difficult to differentiate between 'v' and 'w'. All these problems arise because there are no such sounds in any of the Indian languages.

A minority of Indian students also find it difficult to differentiate between voiced and voiceless consonants. I find it more among students whose mother tongue doesn't have separate voiced and voiceless consonants in its alphabet.

Another major challenge in pronunciation is word stress. Indians invariably stress the wrong syllable in a word, which makes it difficult for a native English speaker to understand them and vice versa. Indians usually say 'psychological' or 'office' (-eece) or 'photography'. Some students find it difficult to get the right intonation as well.

Dealing with the problems:

Most of the grammar problems can usually be sorted out with explanations, a good grammar book and enough practice. Controlled reading and writing help students understand and use grammar better. Guided speaking activities can help improve their spoken language.

Pronunciation problems can usually be sorted out through constant and continual drills. However, some of the pronunciation errors are very deeply ingrained and at times it may take specialized accent neutralization classes to get rid of strong accents.