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English has had a tumultuous history in India. In which class must it be introduced to children has been debated for hours in various state legislatures. But political brouhaha aside, students with Indian languages as their base seem to be pretty good at their English skills.
Indian students outperform their global counterparts in science and math. But if you speak Tamil or Assamese at home, chances are that you are better at English, too, than most others in the world. Recent analysis by Educational Testing Service, or ETS, which conducts Toefl (Test of English as a Foreign Language), shows that candidates whose mother tongue is an Indian language raced past those whose native language was English. Although Toefl is taken by a minority of middle-class and higher-income group students who fly out for an education, it is yet a litmus test which shows that Malayalis and Kannadigas from around the world beat the English on their own language turf; they are better at reading, listening, speaking and writing English: Skills that Toefl tests them on. Toefls internet-based test was launched in September 2005-06 and since then, while Gujaratis have bettered their average mean score from 78 to 84, most others have slid down the charts. Those speaking Hindi registered 96 then, Kannadigas had scored 97 and Maharashtrians bagged 97. Linguist Peggy Mohan explained how Indians have improved at English by drawing a distinction between bilingualism and diglossia. While the former is merely a duplication of thoughts in two languages, the latter is about one language slowly gaining more power over the other. An English-speaking Indian has native-like intuition in English, unlike a Chinese for whom English is assembled by a more academic thought process. We do some of our thinking in our Indian language and other things in English. No wonder we do so well in Toefl.
Courtesy: Times of India
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