Get that accent right with Bangalore’s English teachers (Feature)

October 15th, 2008 - 11:38 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Oct 15 (IANS) At first glance, one would mistake Sadhana Govindraj, 32, to be practising English pronunciation with a headphone attached to a computer assisting her at her home in the uspscale Jayanagar neighbourhood of south Bangalore. She is, in fact, teaching her students miles away to speak English the way it should be spoken.Govindraj is among the growing tribe of online English teachers in India’s tech hub. Her students are a motley group of IT professionals, marketing executives, job hunters and college-goers from various parts of Bangalore who want to improve the way they speak English to better their career prospects.

From her online classroom, Govindraj provides her students spoken English and accent training sessions for two hours a day in the evenings. With the help of headphones, mikes and net-enabled computers, students get to view and interact with their teacher to hone their English-speaking skills.

Govindraj’s online class is an indication of the increasing interest in India’s Silicon Valley to learn to speak English immaculately for career advancement. In turn, this desire to speak English well has led to the emergence of a new “tribe” of teachers and instructors busy conducting spoken English classes across the city.

With the boom in the IT and bio-tech sectors, Bangalore is catering to a global market, thus making it imperative for all to know English, experts say.

“In a global city like Bangalore, knowledge of spoken English is a must for everyone. Otherwise no amount of degrees or diplomas is going to help a job hunter. Even those who are employed have to speak proper English to rise in their career ladder,” D. Jeevan Kumar, professor of political science in Bangalore University, told IANS.

Echoing Kumar, Govindraj said: “When I started giving classes in spoken English from my residence some six years back, I had no inkling that one day I would take it up as a full-fledged career. The demand to learn English is on rise among all in Bangalore. Thus, many convent- educated people with a good command in the language have opened up institutes where they are providing short-term courses in spoken English.”

Along with teaching 25 students at her residence every morning, Govindraj has 15 students enrolled for her online evening classes.

There is no official figure for the number of such teachers, but unofficial estimates put it at over 1,100, both part-time and full time. There are also a number of commercially run English teaching centres and academies.

The duration of the courses vary from two to four months and the fees range from Rs. 2,500 to Rs.8,000.

The profile of the students too is varied - right from a tenth grader who wrote his exams in the Kannada medium and is in search of a job as a housekeeper to an IT professional who wants to hone his English to deal with his foreign clientele.

Thus, the course modules have been designed to meet the varied needs, with most of the institutes and individual teachers focussing on teaching the nuances of spoken English, along with basic grammar.

Further, accent training is given to students who have a mother tongue influence while pronouncing English words.

“I also teach students to write and construct correct sentences in English to help them speak English easily. Reading and writing skills are also taught to students to improve their command over the language,” said Govindraj.

Says Sathi Chakraborty, who founded the Tagore English Institute at Domlur, about 10 km from the city centre, in 2004: “Ours in an organisation which aims at training more and more people to speak proper English and also to become self learners even after the formal training is over.”

“Learning the language from experts helps to hone our skills in speaking English without any inhibition. I have recently completed my spoken English course after my graduation and am planning to join a call centre. With my strong hold over the language and a wide vocabulary, I am confident of getting a job,” said 22-year-old Venky R.

It is not just Indians who are queuing up in these institutes. Even expatriates, mostly from Iran, France and Germany, are enrolling themselves in these institutes to learn English.

Kavita Jain, a homemaker and mother of three sons, is also planning to get herself admitted to one of these institutes to brush up her English.

“I want to speak the language impeccably as at times I find myself embarrassed in front of people due to my lack of fluency in English,” she said.

The rush for the right accent looks set to grow in the city as it continues its rapid pace of growth fuelled not by just IT and bio-tech but also by the realty and retail sectors.

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