The study. They emphasise the importance of English in

dynamic communicative landscape of contemporary times presents challenges to English
language teachers and students. In India, as elsewhere, increased mobility,
migration, and social reformation, combined with developments in technology and
online communication, have brought in significant changes in English language
use and practices. The young-adult learners are by far the most receptive to
and also most affected by such changes, with potential implications for English
language teaching. The needs of Communication skills in English for 18–24 year
olds in the present context of increasing English language use, emergent forms of
English, and ubiquitous use of new technologies for communication are to be
taken serious cognizance, in order to hone their professional competencies to
suit the global standards and their local lived realities. The young-adult
students and their teachers share generally similar attitudes towards English
recognising the need for English language proficiency for employment and study.
They emphasise the importance of English in online communication – perhaps the
most notable use of English in young adults’ current non-academic and personal
lives – while also noting evident differences between ‘classroom English’ and
‘online’ or social English. Young adults and their teachers especially in urban
parts of India identify a tension between learning English for real-life use,
and teaching/learning English to pass a test in order to take up further study
or for future employment. Hence this paper is a sweeping analysis of the contemporary
needs and priorities of Indian young adults living in urban pockets of India in
the acquisition of English communicative language from the perceptions of students
and English language teachers.




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            The wide ranging changes in the contemporary communicative landscape
of urban India present challenges to ELT professionals and students alike. Due
to increased mobility, migration and societal transformations, combined with
expansion in the use and capabilities of electronic communication, there have
been radical changes in English language use and practices, making ELT
approaches and materials date quickly. As a consequence, a generation gap may develop,
in which the practices of teachers, testers and curriculum designers no longer
match the needs and wants of students – especially young-adult learners, who
are inevitably most receptive to change. This demographic group is most likely
to move into new communicative environments, speak new forms and varieties of
English, engage in multiple language use and make heaviest use of new
technologies and the new forms of communication they enable. These
possibilities make it necessary to revisit the ELT practices in India and understand
how teachers and young-adult learners perceive the role of English.


Language in India


is a multilingual country, with one hundred and twenty two languages spoken
across the length and breadth of its land as per the 2011 census report. The
colonial encounter and the resultant British rule in India for around two
centuries has left behind the legacy of English language, which is extensively
spoken today by the majority of Indian population. The spread of English as a
global language (Crystal, 2012) and also of the world trade has further made
English learning and teaching a lucrative profession, which has resulted not
only in opening many English medium schools, but also has led to the
mushrooming of many English language training centers in India. Most
contemporary accounts of this spread note the links between English and
globalisation (e.g. Graddol, 2006; Pennycook, 2007; Seidlhofer, 2011), a
continuing process in which there is a ‘widening, deepening and speeding up’
(Held et al., 1999: 2) of worldwide interconnectedness in the social, cultural,
economic and political realms of present-day life. Such interconnectedness is
realised through ‘flows’ and ‘networks’ (ibid.: 16) of goods and money, of people
(as migrants and tourists) and of information (through online technologies).
And implicit in these flows is English, in its role as a global lingua franca, consequently
making the language ‘like no other in its current role internationally due to
the extent of its geographical spread, the enormous cultural diversity of its
users, and for the huge range of domains in which it is deployed’ (Dewey, 2007:
333). In the urban pockets of India, English is used in both formal and institutional
domains, and also in social and informal realms of communication today. According
to Graham Hall and Guy Cook, English fulfils four broad purposes for its users:

e.g. creative English language use in advertising, but also in popular music,
films and games, and online blogs and chat, or messaging

e.g. travelling, socialising; using English might also be seen as prestigious, apparently
demonstrating educational achievement

e.g. in the development of an English medium education to attract students from
all sections of society

(or administrative), e.g. as an unacknowledged official language of the
government, and as the default language in inter-governmental, private and
third-sector meetings.


purposes make English use in India entails more than face-to-face contact and
involve mass communication and media. Indeed, the extent to which English is
spoken (and written) in public, professional and private lives prompts to ask
whether English is ‘no longer a foreign language in India’. However, it is
hoped that the learning and use of English should be an ‘additive’ process,
‘one which increases the competence of individuals and the society’ in a
multilingual world, rather than ‘subtractive’, whereby English ‘threatens’
other languages or hinders multilingualism.


                Given the statistics, India now
claims to be the world’s second-largest English-speaking country. The most
reliable estimate is around 10% of its population or 125 million people, second
only to the US especially because English is now, more than ever, an essential
passport to white-collar jobs. The dwindling numbers of vernacular medium
schools and the rapid growth of English medium schools indicate clearly that English is one
of the most useful languages for the future of the citizens. It is the language
people ‘need’, and is seen as the ‘language of opportunity.’ The Supreme Court
decisions in several states including Karnataka State regarding the medium of
instruction in schools did not favour mother tongue against English, which gave
the necessary boost to the unhindered learning of English language.   


 ELT in the Contemporary Indian Context: issues
and dilemmas


trends outlined above, of globalisation, widespread English language use in the
urban India, and the increasing recognition that English is almost become the
most commonly used language as the lingua franca across the states. Here,
English as a lingua franca (ELF) can be defined as ‘any use of English among
speakers of different first languages for whom English is the communicative
medium of choice, and often the only option (Seidlhofer, 2011: 7). ELF
communication facilitates successful communication while accommodating language
variation and the manifestation of speakers’ linguistic and cultural identities.
The necessity of communicating through technology, especially via internet
across the boundaries of countries has mandated the goal of ELT to be
cross-cultural communicative competence and that learners are no longer
learning English primarily to speak with native speakers. Yet while there is an
understanding that English is now ‘a heterogeneous entity’, few practitioners
have as yet been able to devise methods and curricula that can act as a basis
for teaching with such an understanding as a guiding principle. There is a lack
of consensus as to how English should be taught and learnt, and certainly less
agreement over which educational norm is best suited to represent English in
the new era. (Modiano, 2009: 59).


as part of the India’s multilingual strategy, and with particular relevance to
debates surrounding the teaching and learning of English, attempts need to be
made to form  a common basis for the
development of language syllabuses, assessment and materials by outlining the
skills and knowledge learners need in order to able to ‘act effectively’ on a
‘life-long basis’. As Leung (2013) points out, it is difficult for a single
framework to accommodate the psychological and pedagogical challenges posed by
the spread of English in the early 21st century as well as the accompanying
changes to the language. More over questions about the relationship between
classroom practices and the young-adult students’ perceptions of English
language needs and priorities in the changing context of language use also need
to be considered. The extent to which the ELT classroom should be a
multilingual speech community (Blyth, 1995; Edstrom, 2006) that might replicate
the way English language learners use English and other languages beyond the
classroom also must considered. What might this mean for English language
syllabi, materials and classroom pedagogy, including the accommodation of new
forms of English and the use of learners’ own language(s) in class? And what
might the consequences of increasingly rapid change beyond the ELT classroom be
for ELT practitioners and other stakeholders?

there is a gap, possibly generational, may have developed in which the practices
of teachers, testers and curriculum designers no longer matches the needs and
wants of students – especially young-adult learners, who  make the heaviest use of new technologies and
the new forms of communication they enable.


Our Traditional Texts and Contexts VS Language Needs of
Young Adults:


            The most commonly practiced ways of
teaching English across the universities in different states of India, is
within the framework of certain texts devised in teaching a random selection of
certain literary pieces and certain grammar topics. Those who favour training
students in the functional aspects of English language rather than a literary
flair have at the most included certain practice exercises on situational
contexts directed towards inculcating spoken skills. Almost everywhere
knowledge of Phonetics of English language is introduced as essential practice
in the pronunciation and intonation of English. The British RP is the ultimate
standard that is aimed at, but the whole exercise ends up in varied ‘englishes’
across different states in India, because of the regional and mother tongue
bearings on their English. This handicap is further complicated with different
varieties of English that are spoken across different nations in the world,
like American English, Canadian English, Australian English etc with their own
typical versions. This diverse set of englishes makes the whole notion of
fixing ‘the English’ as a standard to be attained very complicated.

            Also, the whole exercise of
contextualizing English to suit Indian situations itself ends up in artificiality.
For instance, instead of examples like John, Jack, Mary going to market to buy
Hot cross buns or a fat hog, which would be completely unrelatable to the
children in India, the examples of Rama, Sita going to forest is equally out of
context today.  The examples of Om,
Aaryan, Sadik going to a shopping mall and eating pizza would again not suit
the English classes in rural pockets of India and we cannot think of Hanuma,
Savitri, Girija buying vegetables and transacting with the sabji mandi wallahs
in English. They do not get frightened of spiders like Miss Muffet. So the
framework of the English texts and contexts is fraught with multiple problems
to begin with. Along with nativising this foreignness, the additional
complication of foreignising the Indian English is the pressing problem of
today. The urban located young adults who have the world at their fingertips
today need to be trained in a different lingo of English language to make them
get along confidently and comfortably with the fast evolving global populace.
The very process of merging not just the rural-urban language divide, but also
the local global hiatus is equally to be catered to urgently.


Digital Classrooms: a recourse


            With the tsunami of technological
revolution which is bringing in floods of changes in all fields of our
existence, the very methodology of classroom set up and the dynamics of
teaching have undergone a paradigm shift.  Teaching language does not require to take
place within the four walls of the classroom any longer, for today’s classrooms
are not walled, they are spaces where the learners apart from gaining the
instruction from teachers also have an access to the huge world outside. The audio-visual
multi- media material available at their finger tips through the internet can
help overcome the hitches of teaching English to suit the different needs of
multifarious students. In fact, the English syllabi need not be restricted, but
can be broken up into skeletal modules, which can be customized and tailored to
the urgent requirements of the students. This requires the English language
teachers to don a different kind of role, attitude and wield a different set of
techniques and strategies of training in English. The teachers should educate the
students to be digitally proactive so they can take control of their own
learning. They should teach them English and educate them in how to learn
English for themselves and apply it to their lives. For instance, in rural and
semi-urban contexts in which students have few opportunities for communication
in English outside the classroom, whether face-to-face or online, the teachers
can facilitate the students  in getting
more practice on communicative and spoken varieties of English. The internet
can be worked to get many drill exercises for the students than in class.
However, in those contexts where young adults from metropolitan cities who often
communicate in English outside class online or otherwise and  hence may be more familiar with emergent and
non-standard aspects of the language, the classroom time may be expended by the
teachers in providing more formal language instruction in areas where
young-adult students are less competent than their teachers, to reduce attempts
to reproduce contemporary, informal communication in materials and activities
and instead to draw on students’ own knowledge of these aspects of English
language use.



            The digital ELT classroom can thus
be made into a two-way exchange in which students and teachers can bring
together complementary sources of English language knowledge. The young adults
who are tech savvy and are caught in the inevitability of using technological
interface for all their communication can hence be taught English through the
same medium. The challenges of harnessing the so called digressive
paraphernalia which are pulling the young adults away from serious language
study should be accepted by the present language teachers. The way out would be
mould the means of entertainment into tools of language education, make
learning edutainment.



Carr, Nicholas. (2010). The Shallows: How the internet is changing the way
we think, read and remember. London: Atlantic Books.

Webliography: accessed on 2/10/2017 accessed on 5/10/2017


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