In the past few years, east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar Phase-3 has emerged as a major educational hub. Coaching institutes of all kinds flourish here, especially the dime-a-dozen language schools that promise to get you speaking fluent English in three months flat.
I enter the reception of one such ‘School of Language’ and am greeted by the ‘director’ who claims they are a private limited company with branches all over north India. (Not fly-by-night, at all). I express my wish to start immediately. The director helpfully says that there will be a lesson in the next half hour. He also gives me their card. It has a grammatically-challenged tagline: “Do you want to improve you English”.
In the classroom, I find only three others: a middle-aged lady who works as a technical officer in the Ministry of Textiles, and two boys with BPO ambitions. Before I learn any more about them, the English teacher, a swarthy young lad, arrives. For a while he looks uncomfortable in my presence — perhaps I don’t fit the profile of the students he’s been teaching. After I introduce myself — and once he’s convinced that I know nothing about the language — he gets on with the teaching. He starts with tenses — present, past and future — using Ram as noun. The first sentence he scribbles on the board is: “Ram go to school”. I don’t point out that ‘es’ is missing from the verb. He chalks another on the board: “Ram going to school”. Almost all the sentences he writes on the board are incorrect.
Fifteen minutes into this grammar run through, and he wants all his students to practise spoken English. His first question is to me: “What will you be do if your friend get an accident?” I keep mum, hopefully displaying my earlier-confessed discomfort with spoken English. But he is persistent. “Do not worry when you give to reply in English,” he commands, and now poses the same question to his other students. One mumbles something very fast. The English teacher immediately tells her, “Give to break, do not be go speed.”
I tell him his English is good, and his eyes sparkle. He proudly tells me how and when he learnt the language. The 20-year-old from Meerut, after finishing school, applied for a job as a computer operator with several companies but was rejected because he couldn’t speak English. “But I wanted to make rich person,” he says. And so he enrolled at a school that taught spoken English. A few months later, he joined a call centre, four months into which, he got bored, resigned, and went on to become an English teacher. These past few months he has found his calling in life, and has been teaching his version of the English language full-time in several English language schools in Delhi and Noida.