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Teaching English in India?

John Simkin

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I really admire the people from Language field. They know to understand the word. Rest of the people just know the meaning, they know the understanding that has to be perceived by learning a word. My colleagues of Punjabi department are really a very enjoyable company.

How are languages taught in India? It is obviously very effective. I have been reading stories in the newspapers how people in India are able to answer phone inquiries as if they are resident in England.

I have also heard that people in “call centres” are paid more than doctors. Is that true?

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There's an article here at the BBC website that is relevant to this topic:


It highlights the importance of call centre operators being able to speak with an intelligible accent over the phone. Getting pronuncation right - UK English when speaking to people in the UK and North American English when speaking to Americans or Canadians - is considered very important. Most complaints about call centres focus on being understood by the operator and not being able to understand his/her reply. This applies to call centres based in the British Isles too. Certain regional accents in the British Isles come across as "friendly", especially Scottish, Northumbrian, Irish and Welsh. Ireland has done pretty well, training young people to handle calls in French, German, Spanish and Italian - you need a university degree level of language training, topped up by specialist training.

To quote from the above article:

The industry has also opened a new window of opportunity for linguistic instructors in India. But it is not just about accent and grammar, according to English language instructor, Douglas Breckenridge:

"Here in this call centre, we are focussing on both, culture and linguistics.

"Now from the culture side, we don't want to give them the fake way of thinking American because that is not enough. We want them to understand why Americans think the way they think.

"On the linguistic side, we teach them two things - firstly how to speak like an American. Now, the goal here isn't to make them become Americans, it is to make them understandable to Americans because Americans can't understand an Indian accent.

"We modify a few things in the accent as well to because not all Americans talk like me. There are over 226 different dialects in America."

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I have also heard that people in “call centres” are paid more than doctors. Is that true?

I have also heard that people in “call centres” are paid more than doctors. Is that true?

The Call Centre Business is definitely new field in IT sector. The BPO is definitely the new Buzzword here. The leading software companies like Infosys (known for its Banking Software and Engineering software but basically a BPO company completely surviving on orders from America) , Wipro under Wipro Spectramind, TCS ( multinational Indian Company of TATA Sons known for its architecture and Accounts software) and its subsidiary CMC (mainly a software company) and the leading business house of Reliance are investing huge amounts in range of billion rupees in this field. For the last one year, Infosys, which was facing competition on margin earned has smoothly entered into BPO Call centre business. In its latest third quarterly report, it has shown 41% jump in profit which now includes Call Centre profit also.

What I have been able to learn from Business Today a leading Business Magazine, Outlook Investment and articles by Usha Albreque, a consultant and columnist, that the cost factor in India is quite less than what it is in America.

If I remember it right, in America a Call Centre Executive, a person to attend to the complaints and requests on Phone is paid around Rs. 500 for an Hour. Whereas in India it is Rs. 50 to Rs. 80. If we take into count the conversion rate then, one Dollar is around Rs. 43, one Pound is around 80 and one Euro is around Rs. 58. They are the near about rate for the last one year. The overall cost factor obviously in favour of India. No doubt, when some American states had come up with legislation against outsourcing before the President election, I remember to have read somewhere about a statement of a foreign company that it was not the question of national interest but simple business factors which would continue to out sources the process if it was profitable. Well, Is not a question of American Business practices and the development in the field of technology?

In the middle of last year, a survey of business scenario in above mentioned journals had warned that China and some other Asian countries could give competition to the Indians companies in the field of Business out souring processes but in the field of Call Centre business, India would definitely score above them because of her English knowing population. Well being a historian you can understand the legacy and background of India. Somewhere Macaulay had done a great thing when he laid down the policy that they wanted Indian in Blood and Colour but English in taste, in intellect and in opinion. The credit should also go to Raja Rammohun Roy and Hindu College experiment of 1817 and Dorezio contribution which had laid the foundation for such a large supply of English knowing Indians. (Pardon me for such comments. You know, I am a student of history and when you start living history reading, you try to take an organic whole view of your present.)

I think the rest of aspects have been taken up in the posting of Graham Davies.

As far as the payment is concerned, what I remember is that an executive at a call centre who has undergone a training of three months is paid between Rs. 8000 to Rs. 15000. A team leader or the manager of the team, who is expected to have experience of one year and some added Computer knowledge or multiple languages can draw nearly 20000 to 25000 rupees. The job environment in the most of the companies is as per the international centres. The job timings are in shifts. There was another article on BPO Call centres, which emphasized that the facilities to the workers were far ahead than what could be made available in America. Similarly, a recent news and photograph of Reliance industry gave a very forward looking picture. Reliance is already having ten million subscribers for its Reliance Infocomm covering sixteen states of India.

According to another article, such call centres are mainly based in metropolitan cities and IT savvy cities. The leading names are Mumbai (Bombay), Banglore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Pune etc. These are the cities in which you find good educational institutions in the field of technology and languages. The leading language institute CFL is in Hyderabad. It was a news to me that Jalandhar, a major city in Punjab is also an important city of call centres for second rung companies. Recently Quartz ( a foreign company) and Infosys had also opened up their Call centres in Mohali (another Punjab city) and Chandigarh. Chandigarh is another city where you find well educated people and quite good at speaking English.

As far as the stuff which is joining them is concerned, in the same report, which was mainly about Mumabi Centres, they are the people who are either MBA or Engineering graduates who are working for some higher courses, or additional courses or waiting for some better opening in their field of specialization. Therefore, there is a high rate of attrition in this industry which is adding to the cost. The people from Engineering background and with Management qualification definitely acquire good command over English. Therefore, they use their earning from Call centres as stop over arrangement and some pocket money.

However, the working timing pattern is not as per the Indian culture. The people do not like that their daughters should leave their homes in evening and return in morning. Yesterday, there was a report in Times of India, that some Radio Jockey in America misbehaved with a girl of a call centre India on telephone and then aired it in a boastful manner. The person played this act in the name of her daughter and was feeling very good that she had insulted a girl who is also a daughter of someone. I do not apologize for bringing in such talks on the forum but I see it from different angle. I hope I am among serious people and talking to meaningful human beings.

Well, as far as the payment to doctors are concerned, well it is really frustrating. But this scenario should be taken up with some qualification.

First, I would like to direct your attention to the latest news about medical admissions in India. It is available on the following link.


A fresh Medicine graduate, which we MBBS, gets hardly Rs. 4000 as a house job if he joins some private hospital. Yes, it is true. But, we must get the complete picture before making some fixed view about it. If the Medicine Graduate is having more than 55%, he definitely gets good payment. But before that, he must get some experience which is generally acquired by joining some private hospitals or nursing homes which have cropped up in large numbers all most all the cities. Even in my place of residence, which a small town, some nursing homes are doing roaring business. But, a professionally managed and a specialized hospital, pay a starting salary of Rs. 18000 to a fresh Graduate with above 55 % with one year experience. IN case of metropolitan cities bit more. Such hospitals are now being started by Ranbaxy under the brand name Fortis, by Escort, Apollo and some other companies. No doubt, this is another out source process which is coming up. There is now talk of Health Tourism as the cost of health services is far less than Western countries. I hope you might have read reports, that when relations between Pakistan and India improved, the Pakistan nationals came rushing to India for her world class services.

The second cause of less payment is that every year, nearly forty thousand clears the graduate course. But there are hardly three hundred odd post for Post Graduate courses. Therefore, the competition is very tiff. IN addition to that, the cost of acquiring MD degree of a Post PG degree is very high which not every Indian can afford.

Thirdly, Indians have strong family ties. After getting the degree there is great pressure on every MBBS to get married soon. But the person is more interested in improving his qualification. But, the competition is very hard. They prefer to shift to their family homes and accept whatever payment they get in order to prepare for their higher courses. It is just a compromise on their part. No doubt, many of them start preparing for MLE or PLAB after two or three attempts at PG entrance in India.

About the first paragraph, I seek some time.

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How are languages taught in India?

How are languages taught in India?”

As far as teaching practices of English or for that any course is concerned, I can only say after just look at the activity which is going on your site and its related sites, you people are far ahead and we stand no where. I will give you more concrete view after fully understanding what you have ask for. As far my admiration for the language people is concerned, it is just that I sometime find some answers to my queries. But, You people are far ahead. As compare to you people, we are just not doing anything. I do not what view you will develop about me, but I just share a view and pain with if you permit.

You know, I still use black board and that is the only technology I use in my teaching practices. I have read that some schools are using Bacculla ( I think I have not have the right word here) and wire less lap tops but in my college we do not have even projector for transparency display. Just forget about Powerpoint presentation on ones own laptop. For me, it seems highly futuristic idea or a work of fiction. I just feel frustrated when I read and watch what you people are doing in the field of social sciences. I fear to look into the activities of the people in the field of general science and technology. I just visited one site when my wife, who is post graduate in zoology and working as the teacher with a private school, asked for some information, I was just amazed. She wanted to learn about some deformity to some kind of cells. The information which I acquired for her, she just remarked, who will learn about it. They may doubt if she is having the right information. I just said that it was factual knowledge and it is from authentic source. She retorted in sarcastic manner that if she would to explain such things in her lectures, her students would start doubting her credentials and many would not even understand what she would be explaining. Secondly, the school management had picked a book and she was supposed to teach only out of that book. I just asked then why she asked for such highly level search. She revealed her frustration, the same frustration from which I am suffering.

You know that it is only with two of my colleagues, I share whatsoever I am able to write and do through internet. We are just hated for what we do in addition to playing to their gallery. If I start talking about such things, I will by snubbed. They just want to talk about how many land plots we can bought and how to ensure that other group may not become dear to the management.

You people are far ahead. You people respond. If I just take this thing to university professor, his first reaction would be that what this person college could learn. Then, if he some how talk to me, he would make me feel that I am an illiterate person who does not know anything. But if I am able to spent some money or I am well connected, I would get a Phd degree just like that. My simple write ups, the one I am posting on your forum or with H-Net, would be declared the best research paper. You know that what so ever I placed before you is mere opinions based on reading of secondary sources. Now just buy new books, read, write my own views about them, and if some fine day some student come with query, I try to pour out my learning on him. Some of them just run away but few stay back. I now do not want to write any paper. I enjoy reading and writing. If some one like to use it, I readily share with him. This is what I am doing now.

I am learning more from you people. I am thankful for that. It was just a general query in response to which you brought me here. I am thankful for that.

You have touched the wrong chord in me. any how, thanks.

But see I am not using any emoticons!!!

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I think Sumir Sharma brings out an important point. In spite of the high use of technology in language teaching in the UK and in Ireland, both our countries remain at the bottom of the language competence league in Europe. In India, however, motivation is the key factor. Most immigrants from the Indian sub-continent to the UK have a respectable level of English when they arrive. Professionals, such as doctors, usaully have a high level of English. And those whose English is a bit shaky learn very quickly. The young lad (a Sikh) who works in my local corner shop arrived here around a year ago. To begin with his English was a bit difficult to understand and he often did not understand me. Now I can have quite "normal" conversations with him.

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I'd just like to add a personal note to Sumir:

Thanks for giving us insights into your world. One of the aspects of Internet use which interests me most is its role in 'democratizing' interaction between people. What we say has to judged entirely on the merits of its content, not on those of the people making the statements. I find this to be a tremendous relief - and I hope that you continue to both teach and learn on this forum!

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"Most immigrants from the Indian sub-continent to the UK have a respectable level of English when they arrive. Professionals, such as doctors, usaully have a high level of English. And those whose English is a bit shaky learn very quickly. The young lad (a Sikh) who works in my local corner shop arrived here around a year ago. To begin with his English was a bit difficult to understand and he often did not understand me. Now I can have quite "normal" conversations with him."

Here you have touched another fact about teaching in India.

whenever, this question arises in general discussion or due to moral pricking, that why is it so that the level of education and teaching not high in our colleges and schools.

there are always two answer. "What can we do? The school people do not work hard and we have to teach donkeys."

The second stock answer is, "The stuff is not good. And there is no incentive in teaching them. They want degree. What is the use of this degree? It is meant only for matrimonial purpose so that they can tell that I son "Munda" is B.A. or B.Sc. or B.Com"

I have nearly 150 students in my Post Graduate Class. they are there only to show continuity to Embassy people. They are there with dream to fly out to America, Canada. England has lost attraction for them.

If I try to narrate some incidences, or make them to remember some facts and in between I speak in English, some would definitely remark in hidden manner, "Sir ji, PUnjabi vich Bolo. Speak in Punjabi.

I am amazed how these people make it good in America or Cananda or England when they are showing such miserable picture in India. May be your teaching methods are good.

I never accept this version of my collegues that stuff is not good.

You have yourself developed an impression about the boys coming from Punjab.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have also heard that people in “call centres” are paid more than doctors. Is that true?

It has reference to the issue of lesser payment to doctors in India about which I have shared my views on the forum.

Yesterday, I was talking to a young doctor who belongs to my place of residence. He has settled here and joined a hospital started by an NRI ( Non Resident Indians) from UK in Doaba ( Jaladhar Bist Daob; Doab is a Persian word which means a land between two waters/Rivers; Do means Two and Aab means water and here it is Satluj and Beas.) region of Punjab. This is a region from which a large number of people had migrated to UK in 60s, to USA upto 90s and now these days to Canada.)

It was general talk which wandered around the Consumer Forum established under Consumer Protection Act of 1986 having judicial and punitive powers and recent role of Medical Council of India concerning the terms of working and education quality of Medicine in India. He was referring to new requirement for those graduates in Medicine who had acquired their Medicine degrees from the states of erstwhile USSR. I picked up the issue of lesser payment to the doctors especially to the fresh graduates holding simple degree of MBBS.

The young doctor passed a highly pricking judgement which has meaning for other fields of professions also. He says that it is not that they are paid less. He remarks that it is the professionals of their own field who are paying them less and exploiting them. Their seniors expect it from them that a fresh but a fully qualified doctor should work free of cost for them whereas they demand that they should be paid well for their services. It is exploitation by their own professionals. They themselves have suffered earlier at the hands of their seniors and now they are doing same with us. It is just like a mother-in-law is abusive with here daughter-in-law because she herself was abused by her own mother-in-law!!!

This remark left me wondering that how far it is true for other field of profession also. May be it is like that in India!

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