T Nation

ESL Help


My current girlfriend is a recent immigrant from India. She has been here (Canada) for 1 year. I'm looking for ways to help her improve her English and do so quickly, effectively and efficiently.

Back in India she went to a Private Catholic school from the age of 8/9 onwards where she was schooled in English( all subjects ). Somewhat to my surprise though her English is really not that great. For example - I would say that her vocabulary is very close to as good as my 10 year old sister's and her sentence structure/grammar quite a bit worse.

This is making things quite difficult for her in University here and I have ended up having to help her extensively with all of her written work.

She is taking 3 classes as well as working full-time so taking English courses is out of the question. I'm looking for ways for her to improve her vocab/grammar and pronunciation at home.

One thing that I know would help is for her to get out of the Indian culture. It's really holding her back as she hangs out with all Punjabi speaking people and works at a Punjabi restaurant. Essentially she only speaks English at school and with me.


Advice appreciate.


Have you looked into any of those Rosetta Stone programs? I know they're a bit pricy but I hear they're quite effective.



Other than that, practice.


Stop helping her so much with her school work. You are essentially letting her circumnavigate around the problem.

Watch English television with her, preferably with the caption on so she can see how words are spelled.

One she completes her current set of courses get her to enroll in ESL classes.

If you live in a big city, chances are she can enroll somewhere for free.


I took Spanish classes in high school and had a OK grasp of the language, I could get by if needed, much like your GF. Then I worked construction for 1 summer and at the end of 3 months I was damn near fluent.

They key to learning a language is immersion. You can only learn so much from books, the only way to become fluent is to speak with native speakers.


Punch her in the face every time she fucks up.

Just kidding, Christine.




Look into LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada).


Keep in mind that she is not trying to learn English from scratch. Like I said - her speaking/writing is at the level of about someone in 4/5th grade. You can have a fine, somewhat in depth, conversation with her just as you would a native speaker this age. She needs refinement, not the basics.

Obviously though there is a serious problem when she is expected to write and read at the university level.


As native English speaker who is fluent in a language very similar to Punjabi (Hindi) I would agree.

The differences in English and Punjabi are too drastic to learn exclusively from textbooks and software.

The syntax used for these languages are quite different.


I'm curious, care to explain?

The way she speaks is kinda strange in that her vocab is much much better than her sentence structure. She tends to drop "a" "the" "one" "only" "but" etc. All the small connecting words.


For example say someone says "What is your name?" in Punjabi. If you were to convert that sentence to English by translating each individual word instead of looking at the sentence on the whole you would get "Your name what is?"

Just to be clear syntax = the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language.


A lot of managers at my company are 1-5 years in America from S Korea. One thing I do is always correct their English, spelling, pronunciation and a little grammar (but I'm not a dick about it, they appreciate the help)