English Pronunciation and Accent Reduction Become Part of Basic Training for Indian Call Centers
English pronunciation is a known issue for call centers in India. What can Indian call center workers and employers do to reduce accent in English for non-native English speakers?
Many of us have struggled with English pronunciation from a call center employee, and likewise, many call center employees in India and other countries have struggled to understand various dialects of English, from Texan to Californian, New Englander to New Yorker, and beyond.
But the fundamental error in thinking among native English speakers who have interacted with Indian call center employees is that because their English pronunciation is not good, this means that they don’t know or understand English. Quite to the contrary, most Indians who speak English as a second language speak with excellent grammar, and often with an extensive vocabulary. The issues they face are primarily a thick Indian accent, and challenges with American English pronunciation.
To this end, many call centers in India have started to make English pronunciation classes part of their basic training for call center employees. In this way, a lot less time on phones is wasted, more customers can be dealt with in a more timely fashion, and more work gets done in less time. It’s an issue of efficiency as much as it is an issue of communication.
According to a recent CanIndia article, “Accent reduction is the need of the hour.” Author Prapid Rodrigues writes on, “foreign-born professionals working at blue chip companies voluntarily sign up for such [pronunciation] classes. It is seen as a way to move up the corporate and social ladder. Accent reduction is actually a misnomer, because it means learning an accent.”
In other words, for those Indians trying to improve an accent in English, many working even within very limited budgets are still doing what they can and must do to reduce Indian accent in English and create more intelligible spoken English—not just to get a call center job, but with the aim of learning how to speak English like an American in order to one day leave the call center behind.
In Mumbai, getting a call center job is an accomplishment, and can be worth a lot when pitted against the alternatives worth far less income. But when an Indian native has done accent reduction training, if he or she does ever end up in the US, Canada, or the UK, the odds at landing a job are much better, and the odds of landing a higher paying job are also much better.
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