India there are millions of people learning the English language. In schools they may speak it during science lessons. On the street they speak English to ply more foreign trade. In the world of business they do it to increase communication links with other Indian states and the world beyond.
I came to India, to Calcutta to be precise, to gain my Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification. The Tefl certificate is accepted all over the world as a qualification for teaching the language to non-native English speakers. At the moment it is particularly in demand in South-East Asia.
So why India? I chose to study in Calcutta largely because of cost. The price of a one-month Tefl course tends not to vary much from continent to continent. But the price of food and board does, of course. Two to three pounds buys a restaurant meal in India and as part of Tefl International's course they offer a month's accommodation for [pound]50.
The accommodation may be a cell-like affair with few of the luxuries of home, but it's a fraction of the cost of living while studying for a Tefl course in London. And my room - in Garia, 12 kilometres outside the city centre - is a world away from the improvised tents on the centrally-located Sudder Street, crammed with infants and adults driven to begging even in the monsoonal rain. The best thing about being outside the city centre is the respite from the continual noise of car horns - though the centre is still only a two-pound cab ride away.
This is worth knowing as the course allows plenty of time to experience the sights, smells and sounds of Calcutta. If you want Bengali kebabs and beer from pewter tankards, you can find them easily. If you want to wrap yourself in fabric, from loose kurta pyjamas through hand-loomed sarees to hand-stitched bedsheets, there are huge open markets for these too.
The key benefit of this course is the time spent teaching in schools. Those Britons, Australians, Americans and Indians who take the Tefl International course will, every day, experience six hours of teaching in small, sweaty and often overcrowded classrooms in the sprawling city, teaching students with a wide range of abilities. …