Published 24th September 2019

India is a fascinating country with surprises around every corner, and it’s a firm favourite with tourists who want to experience a different side of Asia. As for a TEFL destination, it’s an interesting choice. It is possible to teach English as a Foreign Language in India but the market is not very big. How is the state of English in India?

How did English come to India?

English was introduced to India in the 1830s, during British rule. It was introduced by the British to improve trade and communication. English-medium schools and universities were opened and the British were able to rule the country through the use of English.

Fastforward 200 years and India currently has the second largest English-speaking population in the world, as a first language and as a second or additional language. Considering the number of countries in the world who speak English as a first language, this is an impressive statistic. Of the 840 million people who speak English all around the world, 125 million of those are in India.

What English do they speak in India?

Of course this does not say anything about the speakers’ levels of English. Indeed Indian speakers of English are said to speak a language which is more Hinglish (a hybrid of Hindi and English) than anything else, or Indian English, which can be any level of English. 

While Hinglish is barely intelligible to speakers of English, Indian English is undoubtedly English, but with a distinct Indian flavour. Just as with any English, Indian English is changing. Regional varieties are becoming more apparent, as are regional accents. 

English enjoys a unifying effect in India, between the Indo-European north and the Dravidian south. It has special regional status in India, meaning that it is used in all public institutions of the country – parliament, law courts, the media, the press and in education – but also that it is widely used in daily life. If you walk the streets of India, no matter where you are, you can know that you are never far from someone who can speak a bit of English. 

What is the TEFL market like in India?

What all this means is that the English as a Foreign Language market in India is not very well-developed. There is a need and demand to upskill the general level of English but there are many Indians who are more than qualified to do the job. Students learn English at school so most people have at least a good grasp of the language if they are not at an advanced level. What’s more, the Indian students who really need tuition in English do not have the resources to be able to afford a TEFL teacher.

Because of this, there are not many positions for TEFL teachers at state schools. Instead, TEFL teachers can teach at a private school or an international school.

TEFL teachers need to have a TEFL certificate and a Bachelor’s degree to teach English as a Foreign Language in a private language school. Private language schools are able to pay decent salaries as they cater not only to Indian students but also to foreigners who come to India to learn English. To teach in an international school, which would pay very well, a teaching degree is preferable but not essential.

On the other hand, volunteer positions are located throughout the country. It is possible to find a volunteer position from within the country, but if you are looking for a position from home you might have to pay a company to join a volunteering programme.

Once you are on a programme, everything is taken care of for you, from airports transfers to accommodation and even food. You might be living with a local family or with other volunteers. Even though you won’t get paid you will have an incredible authentic Indian experience at the same time as helping out the local community, which is worth more than dollars in the bank. 

India may not be your typical TEFL destination but it most certainly is a country worth considering. If you are looking for a TEFL position which will give you the experience of a lifetime, then India is for you. 

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