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Why Do Malayalees Struggle With English-Some Tips to Improve

Updated on February 2, 2018
sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

Literature is a passion for Sunilkunnoth. He also loves writing blogs, enjoying music and a frequent traveller.

Combined flag of U.K. and U.S., the two major English speaking countries in the world.
Combined flag of U.K. and U.S., the two major English speaking countries in the world. | Source

Some Helpful Videos to Speak Good English

Malayalees (The people of Kerala in the Southern part of India) are smart though not hardworking. They learn languages easily. Millions of Keralites or Malayalees are working outside Kerala and millions outside India. They learn the language of the land they live in easily and communicate with the local people fluently. But when it comes to English, the Keralites do so badly. Why? A lot of reasons can be attributed to this failure. Let’s examine.

Though Kerala has 100% literacy and a decent educational set up, they are unable to speak fluent English. At the same time, people from other states of India such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, to cite a few, speak good English. The basic reason for this ‘tragedy’ is the lack of a metro or cosmopolitan culture in Kerala. The cosmopolitan atmosphere of big cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Chandigarh, and Delhi helps or forces the people of these cities to learn and use good English. Moreover, these cities have a thick population of people from all places of the country. Naturally, they all have different languages and so to communicate with each other they need a common language like Hindi or English. Living in a metro city, thus naturally helps one to learn English quickly. They are naturally learning English because of the situation or compulsion.

Kerala, sadly, has no such cosmopolitan life here. The Keralites mostly live and engage with their own people, that is Malayalees. But there is some change in the scenario now with the large influx of migrant people to Kerala from other states. Most of the migrants are from the North Eastern states. But here also English won’t help as these people are mostly illiterate and don’t know English. Though their mother tongues are different, they use Hindi widely.

Another factor which hinders Malayalee’s English proficiency is their own negative attitude. Malayalees, though well-educated people are very conservative, may be the most conservative society in India. This conservatism can well be seen in their dress code and body language. They are shy to speak English at public places for fear of lack of fluency. Whenever one tries, he is not encouraged by others. They reply in Malayalam and sometimes even mock those who converse in English.

Similarly, when one reads an English book or paper in a train or bus, he is being watched as a strange man or as if one just descended from an alien world. They have a wrong notion that this is to ‘impress’ others that the fellow reads an English book. It sometimes dissuades one from reading English books or dailies at public places.

What we need is a strong usage of English as far as possible. Since Malayalam is our mother tongue, we need not put much effort to excel in the language. Just with a high school level of education, we can become experts in Malayalam. That is not the case with English, which is a foreign language and is very different from Indian languages.

We need to read more, write more and converse more in English. The key point is ensuring maximum ‘application’ of English in everyday life. What can we do to apply the maximum usage of the language? Plenty of avenues and options are available. Some drills I shall suggest here for easy learning of English.

Daily read at least one English paper. The Hindu, The New Indian Express, The Times of India or Deccan Chronicle, whatever it may be. make it sure you read it daily.

Intensify your reading on weekends. All newspapers carry rich contents on Sundays. Apart from the news, you get good features, travel tips, health tips, religious discourse, etc on the weekend editions. So read at least two News Papers on Sundays. I recommend Hindu and Indian Express as it is the best choice available.

Start writing a diary every day. Change your writing to English. In the initial days, you will have difficulty. Forget it, you will soon find a style and flow, which may even surprise you later. Within one or two years time, you can improve your writing skill tremendously. (Tested successfully by myself).

Listen to a program in English from TV. Listening to English programs on TV allows you to hear good English and it does improve your pronunciation and speaking capacity.

Attend (just hear) an English news bulletin daily from Radio or TV. Times Now and BBC are the best choices. Doing so can help correct bad pronunciation.

Try to write letters to your friends in English. You need not send the letters, just write them. Why not try writing some ‘mock’ love letters? Let your imagination fly high. By doing so, ideas will flow and so will your fluency.

Mingle with people who are good at speaking English.

Be a regular visitor to your local library. You should choose good English fiction and periodicals. The Women's Era and The Reader's Digest are wonderful options.

Avoid the conservative Malayali approach (like criticizing one who reads English books while on travel).

Always keep a book handy (fiction or nonfiction) whenever you travel.

Travel time, as well as some waiting moments (like a queue), can be best used by reading books. It helps with two things. It helps you get rid of the boredom as well improving your language skills.

We Malayalees need to be bold, confident and must try to use an elite language like English neatly and beautifully as far as possible. Nothing is impossible. But you have to plan and work accordingly. Then, hurry and polish your language skill. Please do leave your comments/suggestions after reading this post, which may help me to give you more action plans in the coming days.

Good luck!

© 2015 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth


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    • profile image

      Shamsu Vallapuzha 

      13 months ago

      This is a very good article that enumerates almost all important factors behind the struggling of Keralites to acquire proficiency in English.

      The lack of cosmopolitan culture,that provides plenty of natural situations to use English, is the most important factor that leaves us far behind.

      The remedies that you have suggested is very useful to learn any language artificially where one has no more practical situations to apply what is learnt.

      Anyhow I think,it is desirable to suggest some more modern techniques to tap the technology in its entirety in this digital era to acquire the efficiency in English so that it will be very helpful to the new generation.

      For example, translate the real conversations one has made every day with friends using the automatic call recorder.This will ,in turn,enable one to speak in real situations without any hesitation.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hello Paul Sir,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments here. You are right that the interference or influence of Malayalam is very much hinder the proper deliverance of English language by the Malayalees. Malayalm has a thick accent and naturally our people suffer here. Love to hear what further you can suggest in this regard since you are an expert in mastering languages. Thank you for voting up and sharing this post.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This hub is awesome! I find it very interesting and useful. Your analysis of why Malayalees struggle with English is very good and your suggestions for learning to speak and read English better are also very good. Do you think interference from the Malayalee language plays a big part in the difficulties of Malayalees learning English well? Voted up and sharing with HP followers.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @Mellyunplugged, thank you so much for reading my hub and leaving some insgihtful comments. You are right that often we can easily identify when a Malayali speaks in English. I admit I too have to improve a lot in this regard for I know well that my spoken side is not as perfect as my writing style. It seems you have some good idea on the topic and I request you do certain works in this connection here like publishing some hubs or blogs, etc. Thank you for your nice comments.

    • Mellyunplugged profile image

      Melvin Augustine 

      3 years ago from India

      Good one! Malayalis meed to overcome the problem of 'mother tongue influence' though. Often we can easily identify if the speaker is a malayali or not. Pronunciation and intonation plays a vital role in effective communication. However, when a malayali speaks english it often sounds like malayalam. Simbly, seero, soo etc are some examples of such weird pronunciations. Fluency can be achieved only by consistent practise. Like you said one needs to shed out the inferiority complex. Fillers and foghorns will be there initialy but definitely practice will make one perfect. Feedbacks and criticisms will definitely help to improve. Just that one should take them positively. Very good Hub!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @thumbi7, I am glad to hear that it is of helpful to anyone who wants to learn English. Your visit and comments are highly appreciated.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 

      3 years ago from India

      This is a very helpful article for anyone who wants to learn good English.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @Jodah, thank you so much for reading my post and leaving your comments frankly. We, in India, have several languages and most of us are unable to speak to a fellow Indian, if he happens to come from a different state (we have 29 states in total) on this language diversity. Luckily Hindi helps us to a great extent for communication. But the problem again here is even Hindi too won't help us people like me who are living in South India, where English can take that role to some extent. I have done a couple of hubs of the linguistic as well religious features of India. Hope you will find them and read, if you wish to learn more about it all. Thank you once again for your visit, comments and vote. God bless you.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Sunil, I am sure this hub would be invaluable to Malayalees and others wishing to learn English which is one of the most difficult languages as well. Your English (writing at least) is better than most, with just a few minor errors in the entire hub. Your advice that practice makes perfect and to read as much and often as possible, a well a writing a diary in English is perfect. Very good hub, voted up.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @RonEIFran, thank you so much for reading and commenting on my post. It is interesting to note that 'Malayalees' is a new word for you. The Malayalees (jokingly call Mallus) are the people of Kerala, a state on the southern part of India. FYI, I have done a couple of hubs on Malayalees and Kerala. Hope you will find them and read. Keep on writing and reading. All the best.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      This is an interesting analysis of the differences between the various Indian states when it comes to learning English. I hope many Malayalees (a new word for me) follow your lead.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @travnaj, Thank you for your comments. You said it right that learning English as a second language is tough for most of the people. My mother tongue is Malayalam, which is said to be one of the toughest languages in the world and it will be tough task to learn it by a non-native like you.

    • travmaj profile image


      3 years ago from australia

      You have made some very relevant points to help with the speaking of English. I hope also hope your suggestions are adopted. I have to say English as a second language must be difficult - and I would be hopeless at learning your language. Very sound advice hear from you.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)


      Thank you for the visit and comments. Let's hope they benefit from this post to some extent at least.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Obviously, I am not a Malayali, but you have give some good counsel here. Hope they adopt your suggestions to read and keep reading. It can only benefit, not hurt, them.


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