As a Music-based Learning Coach, I visit different centers to engage and interact with students. Most of our students are first generation learners of English language and have little or no opportunity to practice the language outside our center. Therefore, our facilitator are expected to maintain an English-only learning environment in the centers.

As with any policy, making it is the easier part, implementing it is the more difficult part. Both the facilitators, despite being well-intentioned, and students often breach this. The habitual comfort of the mother tongue or vernacular prevents both the facilitators and students from maintaining an English-only environment in the centers.

I tried a trick to enforce the policy. I explained the trick with help of the question. I asked the students, ‘Who is your good friend?’ I got answers such as, ‘One who helps us’, ‘One who tells us when we are wrong’, ‘One who is happy with our progress’ and ‘One who understands us.’ Thereafter, I joined the dots for them saying, ‘A person who uses Hindi with you does not understand that you need to practice English or maybe is not happy with your progress because if you use more English, you will learn English. He/she is not telling you that using Hindi in the center, will not help you learn English. Therefore, that person is not your good friend! So, don’t respond to that person.’ Students seemed to like the trick, but, it was not very effective in preventing the use of Hindi in the center.

Thereafter, I asked students the reason for speaking Hindi in the center. I overruled reasons like problems in expression, not knowing how to say a word in English and hesitation stemming from embarrassment of speaking incorrectly. I concluded that speaking Hindi was a habit and came naturally. Even in a completely controlled environment, when asked something in Hindi, students would respond in Hindi, as it by reflex action. It was this cycle of input-habitual processing-output that had to be disrupted for students to overcome this habit.

So far I had been out-focused with little success. Now, I decided  that it is the input of Hindi that needs to be stopped. To do so, I developed a new trick and tried it in one of the centers.  I explained to students that they are free to speak in Hindi. But, starting that day, they must stop listening in Hindi. They need not ask the person using Hindi to switch to English, neither remind nor reprimand.  Simply ignore that person , student or facilitator, by putting hands on their own ears, showing that they are not being listened to. I explained that listening is input and speaking is output. So, if we stop input of Hindi and the output will be stopped automatically. I figured that gesture of putting hands on ears was funny and explicit and so would work – non-verbal communication of a powerful message

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 I asked the facilitator to enforce this consistently. After a few days, the facilitator informed me that the trick was working like magic. Students have started using the trick without reminder and speaking in English more often. Encouraged by this response, I tried the same trick at a few other centers and, so far, I have received positive feedback.

Thus, another alternative to ‘Don’t speak in Hindi’ can very well be ‘Don’t listen to Hindi.’


Chintan Parekh

 Coach (Music-based Learning)