Careers killed because of English?


Mr. R. Ganesh
National Chief Trainer

A recent newspaper report said that out of every hundred candidates called for job interviews, only five were qualified for the jobs. It is not that they were technically not sound but that they lacked in communicative skill in English. Is English killing their careers?

Many a CEO would agree that it is indeed a sorry state of affairs that young men and women who walk out of colleges and universities speak little English. For them, it has been a subject to pass, not a language to master.  And  the focus was more on the technical subjects.

If things continue this way, India may lose out on the BPO and software industries, feels Mr. R. Ganesh, National Chief Trainer, Veta.

What's wrong?

The pressure today on youth is to complete a BE or an MBBS and become a professional. The subjects that they have to study to obtain these degrees are many and vast. They hardly find time to complete the recommended books of their subjects—forget reading general books. Reading for pleasure is becoming a rare thing. And the text books are not a good source material for acquiring skills in spoken English.

Demographic patterns too are changing. A lot of youth from small towns and villages are moving to cities to study or work. Only when they come to a professional environment do they feel that their communicative skills in English need a total dressing up.

TV and movies offer no help. The language they dish out is Indianised English, and sometimes downright, hybrid English that you find in popular music channels and Bollywood films.

With exposure to such kind of language what kind of English can you expect from the youth?

The ghost of 'Raj English'

English as it is spoken and written today in India is not free from the British who left us six decades ago. We still find phrases and usage such as 'residence', 'government servant', 'for your kind perusal' and 'my superior' in every Indian English. Surely, these are not good examples of English as it is today.

The mother tongue influence

Not just in pronunciation, the mother tongue also influences the idiom of English we use. 'Why do you get angry for small small things?', 'I told you that day itself', and 'What are you?' are examples of how we think in our mother tongue and use English to express the thoughts. As many mother tongues, so many kinds of Englishes—no wonder that we are divided by the very English we speak.

Careers do not even take off just because of this variety of English or non-English that our youth is exposed to in colleges, universities and the media. This is compounded by reluctance to make reading a habit.

Schools and colleges

Teachers and lecturers are bound by the pressures of completing the syllabus, conducting revisions and preparing the students for scoring better marks. After all, it is the top marks that define a school or college as successful. Constrained by time, pressure and rules of the management, teachers and lecturers  neither have the mind nor the occasion to work on the communicative skills of the students. In some institutions, the teachers themselves need to work on their communicative skills in English.


Many a youth who rushes to a spoken English institute at the eleventh hour wants fluency in English overnight. It must be remembered that whatever comes easily, goes away easily too. Fluency is a matter of thinking than speaking. How many of these people are fluent in their mother tongue, let alone English?  For the very first question at a job interview—tell me about yourself-- you hear replies carrying erm, hm, matlab, I mean and so on. It is clarity of thought that brings fluency of speech, no matter which language you speak. And which school or college teaches you to think clearly and cogently?

An aptitude for language

In order to master a language, you must have an aptitude for the language in the first place. Many people want the benefits of speaking fluent English, but they don't want to go through the slow and tedious path of learning it. Whether it is English or any other language, you must have a love for the language. And such an aptitude does not come to order.

If the youth today want to catch up with a fast moving world and catch up with what they call global English, they have to transform from inside. As they take to changing fashions in garment and style, so should they take to speaking a language the world speaks. And this means keeping abreast with the world of information and technology. An inquisitive mind, a willingness to put in extra effort and a constant awareness of the changing world will go a long way in making you the citizen of the world. Career then will be made as if by default.

Academies and institutes that teach communicative skills in English are good as long as the youth seek their help early in their college years. Joining an institute just before the day of the interview is not going to help. And merely enrolling for a course is not enough to get you the communicative skills. Active participation, an inquisitive mind and persistent effort are the real ingredients of success at any course, not just the one for fluency in English.

Mr. R. Ganesh
National Chief Trainer

Source: E-mail March 11, 2008


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