My initial assumption that all Indians are fluent in English was turned upside down in the Bangalore airport. Some Indians had no clue what I was trying to say. I quickly learned that the mastery of English was usually dependent on socio-economic status. People who had the luxury of a private education could speak fluently while those who had gone to public school were less adept. In 2010, I accepted a job in Bangalore. I would be teaching English in India to a class of 5th graders. I erroneously assumed that my private school students would be on par with American kids.
I observed that many of my Indian students either learned English simultaneously with a dialect of Hindi or were exposed to English shortly after learning Hindi. As a result, these students were learning English as a second language rather than as a primary language. This obviously affected the manner in which I taught English. I adjusted my lesson planning in order to utilize second language acquisition methods. Additionally, I focused on writing organized paragraphs rather than the piecemeal approach taken by my Indian colleagues who focused heavily on grammar.
Additionally, I was also under the false belief that my students would have access to a vast array of Indian literature. Instead, most of my students were reading books written by British authors sprinkled in with a select group of American authors. The list of Indian authors was limited. The bookstores were filled with books authored by Ruskin Bond and Enid Blyton. I, on the other hand, explored the local bookstores for titles written by contemporary Indian authors and also accumulated a fair number of used American Newberry Prize winning books from Blossom, a popular Bangalore used bookstore. I wanted to expose my students, who had never been in the U.S., to American literature. Our sharing of books promoted literacy.
In the coming weeks, I will review books that either have India as a setting or Indians as characters. Some of the books I purchased in India while others I obtained from the Boulder library system or Amazon.
I hope these books will enrich your kids’ understanding of Indian culture.
Please feel free to share additional books and authors.
The book chronicles Sandra’s teaching adventures in Bangalore, India.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, and the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards.