Go forth and speak English

Dec 06 2007 by Derek Torres Print This Article

The British Council, long known for their promotion of proper English skills the world over, is taking a bold new initiative, which could have quite an impact across Asia. The new challenge is to improve the standard of English in the-workplace in India and Sri Lanka (among others).

My first reaction was to suggest that they come to where I live straight away, because there are plenty of folks here who need help, too. Then I started to think about it, and it seems to make sense.

Like it or not, English remains the language of the international workplace. With so many technology and service jobs exports to countries like India (where English is widely spoken to various degrees of fluency), improved English skills would increase the value of these jobs to American and European corporations that hire Asian companies.

While noble, one still has to wonder what the results of the British Council's efforts will be. Re-enforcing the use of English in a non-native English speaking country still smacks of colonialism.

Though a long shot, what affect will this have on remaining service jobs in the US and UK? If Indian call centers manage to speak fluent English that minimizes any hint of accent, what business reasons are there for maintaining any type of local presence?

Questions and paranoia aside, it looks like the British Council has a tall order ahead of them. Moving an entire nation or nations towards fluency in a language that is not their own is hardly likely to occur over night or even in a few years. Perhaps it's all more a case of wishful thinking than anything else.