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English is a universal language of high prestige and a lot of time and energy is spent in teaching it as a second language in Indian schools. Our mother tongue is the language we grew up speaking. Literally speaking, it means the language our mother taught us: the language we speak since childhood. It is a popular saying that in India, language changes every ten miles. This makes it difficult for us to speak in a standard accent as all of us have our way of speaking English. This is what is called Mother Tongue Influence- when the effect of mother tongue on English becomes evident.

Mother tongue influence varies from place to place. For example, Punjabi people can’t pronounce words that end with z, like pleasure, measure and, the most common mistake of people from Hindi background is, “school” is pronounced as “ischool”.

Effects of Mother Tongue Influence

  • Lack of confidence in speaking English
  • Embarrassment in communicating with others publicly
  • Inability to speak English properly due to internalization of sounds from the mother tongue
  • Slow career/academic growth

Mother Tongue Influence And Its Impact On Spoken English

English is valued highly in Indian society with a lot of prestige being attached to the language. A lot of time and energy is dedicated to teach or learn English in Indian schools. Despite this, not much attention is given to enhance speaking skills in the average Indian classroom. That the learner will pick up the skill from general classroom activities and instructions over a period of time is a false assumption made. As a result, the learners are not able to develop this skill and hence lack confidence while conversing in English.

In regular Indian classrooms, the importance of a native-like accent is not given due to stress. One strong reason that could be attributed to this is that the number of dialects found is so large that it is practically impossible to address all the accents in a classroom. This is a serious challenge in Indian classrooms. The areas of sound relating to spoken English and to pronunciation in the Indian context needs to be consciously addressed to counter this challenge and to make a native-like accent in Indian learners more plausible.

The importance of pronunciation in communication cannot be denied. It is as important as grammar and vocabulary. Yet, the evidence of mother tongue influence on English is very obvious. This manifests in the form of incorrect pronunciation. Pronunciation errors may be due to many issues. Guesswork or vagueness of the correct form of a word or sentence or a general ineptness of the language could be the reason for mispronunciation. The most common reason is transfer or interference from the mother tongue. Generally, errors made in pronunciation are due to differences in the sound system and spelling symbols between the mother tongue and English. As a regular practice, the teacher is seen as a model for correct speaking in class.

How to overcome MTI?

  1. Time and practice will help you out from MTI. Listen to English TV channels regularly, especially the news bulletins. Note down unfamiliar words, idioms, and phrases.
  2. Your smartphone is another powerful tool for practicing a good accent. Use it to record your speaking and listen back to see how your English sounds. Check with an online dictionary the correct pronunciation of the keywords you use in the classroom regularly. Gradually your pronunciation turns better and the confidence level becomes improved.
  3. The importance of correct pronunciation and accent in your classroom communication cannot be denied, especially when you deal with students from different geographical locations. It plays a major role in creating impressions about you to your students. Practice varying your accent depending on the geography of the student in your class.
  4. Practice tongue twisters to improve focus while speaking English.
  5. Read text aloud and note down the words that you pronounce incorrectly to practice later.
  6. Listen to podcasts to observe and understand the correct sound of each syllable.
  7. Listen to an English news channel every day to improve pronunciation.
  8. Watch English movies and listen to English songs to find out how native English speakers speak English.
  9. Join Spoken English classes and have your trainer correct you on the spot as you speak.
  10. Record yourself speaking English to find out which words you pronounce incorrectly.

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