Management education in India lays a lot of stress on English Language training, to enhance the employability aspects of students. With the rise of the BPO sector, in the era of outsourcing, language training, with special emphasis on accent, has assumed special significance in the Indian business scenario. This has also led to a need for English language trainers and a learning opportunity for those aspiring to master the language quickly in order to pursue jobs in this area.
India has always been ahead of other developing nations in its collective ability to imbibe the English language. Owing to its traditional schooling system, there has been an almost religious adherence to spelling and grammar and the correct use of ‘subject-verb agreement’. As for the spoken word, the emphasis was on expansion of vocabulary and correct pronunciation. A language teacher takes utmost pleasure in sounds rolling effortlessly off his/her tongue, a similar pleasure as a mathematician takes in solving a complex problem.
Patricia Kuhl in her research (2014) points out that babies in their crib learn language by imitating the sounds of adults around them, even before they are able to speak a language. This creates patterns of speaking in their brains which forms the foundations of the first language learnt. Changing these patterns at a later age becomes very difficult. This is the reason why second language learners face difficulty in abolishing their primary accent and learning foreign sounds or accents.
Dennis Nickson et al (2005) points out, employers during the management college placement processes lay stress on dressing, looks, voice and also accent. They weed out the candidates who do not sound good as they do not fit into the company image. The globalization of Indian businesses has led to more people traveling abroad for business and therefore a rise in training on accent. In these cases, the focus on accent becomes crucial as the business demands exposure to intercultural issues.
So how do we deal with this problem? One solution can be development of a strategic approach to language training by breaking up words into learnable units. Another could be allowing students to mingle freely with people who are proficient in global accent. All these could help address issues of intelligibility and employability of management students.
Prof Anuradha Pandit