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Author Topic: When it greatly matters what English accent we've acquired  (Read 7739 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: September 03, 2010, 09:27:03 PM »

Does it really matter what English accent we’ve acquired? For our day-to-day spoken communication with our own countrymen, not really that much. It’s anything goes for everybody, from primary-school teachers all the way to the movers and shakers in the corporate world, in the halls of Congress, and in the higher echelons of government. We all can get by with our own variety of Taglish, Ilocano English, Bicol English, or Visayan English in the same way that many Chinese get by with their Chinglish, the Japanese with their Japlish, the Singaporeans with their Singlish, and the South Koreans with their Konglish.

In the more demanding outsourced call-center services industry, however, great premium is placed on what’s called “USA 101” for the North American market and “Aussie 101” for the Australian market. Both require a clear, neutral English accent, which means none of—or the ruthless elimination of—the distracting peculiarities of the nonnative spoken Englishes I enumerated earlier.

Indeed, the accent-neutralization of one’s English is the hefty price of acceptance to a call-center job, and in the following essay that I wrote for my English-usage column in The Manila Times in 2008, I describe what it takes to acquire a globally understandable, acceptable, and bankable spoken English. (September 4, 2010)  
  
On English accents and globalization

I recently mentioned in my column in The Manila Times that prospective Filipino call-center agents are trained to acquire a neutral American English accent to communicate more effectively with the North Americans they have to deal with over the phone. In response, a US-based reader, Celso Madarang, wrote me that he couldn’t imagine how a school or a seminar can teach people a particular English accent.

He might find it surprising, I told Celso, that there are now a good number of language institutes in the Philippines that specialize in teaching people how to acquire a desired English accent. In addition, most of the call centers themselves have in-house accent training departments that drill prospective call-center agents on the English accent the call center specifically needs.

In fact, my eldest son Eduardo underwent one such English accent training the other year when, on a lark, he tried applying for a call-center job. He got accepted and worked as a call-center agent for two months. He eventually quit because as a working student, he couldn’t take the “graveyard shift” from 10:00 p.m.-7:00 a.m. anymore, but the accent training certainly gave him a very pleasant American English accent. It served him very well in his job as part-time instructor in computer basics and web programming in a leading Metro Manila computer school (and, if I may add as a postscript, in his current job as a call-center technical support representative).

I also told Celso that lately, I had also been pleasantly surprised to learn that American English accent training is being taught in an even more massive way in India, particularly in Bangalore. India, having been colonized by the British for almost 200 years, has a strong English-language heritage like the Philippines, but most people in India happen to have such a pronounced natural singsong accent when speaking in English. That accent therefore needs to be neutralized for globalization’s sake, and I told Celso that I had come across a detailed account of how this is being done. This was in an early chapter of Thomas Friedman’s bestselling book on globalization, The World is Flat, that I am currently reading.

Friedman recounts that English-language trainers drill the Indians with stupendously complicated English-language phonetic drills. Among them is this mean tongue-twister: “Thirty little turtles in a bottle of bottled water. A bottle of bottled water held thirty little turtles. It didn’t matter that each turtle has to rattle a metal ladle in order to get a little bit of noodles.” Indeed, when I tried enunciating this particular phonetic drill, my tongue got so hopelessly tangled inside my mouth. I suppose, though, that the drills are doing wonders to the Indians, for I understand there are now tens of thousands of them serving as call-center agents for North American target markets.

These thoughts that I shared with Celso drew the following rejoinder from him:

“About my interest in how someone develops accents, I want to tell you about an experience I had when I was in Sydney, Australia, in 1966 when the ship I was with was on rest and recreation after a three-month tour in the Tongkin Gulf war zone in Vietnam. For the two weeks that the ship was in port, it was designated as a visiting ship. This meant that civilians could come on board to mingle with the crew and see how the sailors lived; our living quarters, of course, were understandably off-limits.

“Anyway, a group of Filipinos came on board one day. We got into conversations that alternated between Tagalog and English. In one of those conversations, a female Australian among the ship’s crew told me that I had ‘such a beautiful accent.’ Now, that remark really surprised me because I knew I didn’t have an accent; indeed, it was she and the others who had an accent—an Australian one—that they seemed not to be even aware they had. Isn’t that funny?”(August 09, 2008)

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From the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, August 9, 2008, © 2008 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2013, 10:51:00 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

kanajlo
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« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2010, 01:53:50 PM »

"The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick."
"Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy; kids'll [young goats] eat ivy too -- wouldn't you?"
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Joe Carillo
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« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2010, 09:03:32 PM »

Does it really matter what English accent we’ve acquired? For our day-to-day spoken communication with our own countrymen, not really that much. It’s anything goes for everybody, from primary-school teachers all the way to the movers and shakers in the corporate world, in the halls of Congress, and in the higher echelons of government. We all can get by with our own variety of Taglish, Ilocano English, Bicol English, or Visayan English in the same way that many Chinese get by with their Chinglish, the Japanese with their Japlish, the Singaporeans with their Singlish, and the South Koreans with their Konglish.

In the more demanding outsourced call-center services industry, however, great premium is placed on what’s called “USA 101” for the North American market and “Aussie 101” for the Australian market. Both require a clear, neutral English accent, which means none of—or the ruthless elimination of—the distracting peculiarities of the nonnative spoken Englishes I enumerated earlier.

Indeed, the accent-neutralization of one’s English is the hefty price of acceptance to a call-center job, and in the following essay that I wrote for my English-usage column in The Manila Times in 2008, I describe what it takes to acquire a globally understandable, acceptable, and bankable spoken English. (September 4, 2010) 

A United States-based reader, Mr. Juanito T. Fuerte, e-mailed me this response to the above introductory essay and the full-length essay that followed it:

Hi, Joe,
 
I've talked in English to some of our countrymen working for a Manila-based call center concerning a problem I was having then with my international long distance telehone plan with a U.S. based company. Having lived in the U.S. for over 50 years, no one has to explain to me how an American English accent sounds like. l can honestly tell you that those in the Philippines who are teaching the art of acquiring American accents must be doing a good job. To their credit, and except for some mispronounciations and negligible traces of Pinoy accent, those call center customer representatives I've spoken to sounded almost like they've been conversing with Americans for a good many years of their life. 
 
The people from India?  Unless they learn how to get rid first of their native accent, they'll always have a hard time communicating with Americans. I've talked to a couple of them ábout a problem that developed concerning my plane reservation I had previously arranged with an online travel agency.  Joe, try to imagine someone talking in English in a heavy, heavy (major, major?) Indian accent. They spoke good English but, their Indian accents made it so hard to understand what they were saying.  In my frustration, I had to finally insist on talking to their supervisor. 
 
Incidentally, words like "inventory", "alimony" and "colleague", tend to be mispronounced by our otherwise American-sounding English speakers.
 
All the best,
Juanito T. Fuerte
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Joe Carillo
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« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2010, 07:58:16 PM »

Does it really matter what English accent we’ve acquired? For our day-to-day spoken communication with our own countrymen, not really that much. It’s anything goes for everybody, from primary-school teachers all the way to the movers and shakers in the corporate world, in the halls of Congress, and in the higher echelons of government. We all can get by with our own variety of Taglish, Ilocano English, Bicol English, or Visayan English in the same way that many Chinese get by with their Chinglish, the Japanese with their Japlish, the Singaporeans with their Singlish, and the South Koreans with their Konglish.

In the more demanding outsourced call-center services industry, however, great premium is placed on what’s called “USA 101” for the North American market and “Aussie 101” for the Australian market. Both require a clear, neutral English accent, which means none of—or the ruthless elimination of—the distracting peculiarities of the nonnative spoken Englishes I enumerated earlier.

Indeed, the accent-neutralization of one’s English is the hefty price of acceptance to a call-center job, and in the following essay that I wrote for my English-usage column in The Manila Times in 2008, I describe what it takes to acquire a globally understandable, acceptable, and bankable spoken English. 

A Facebook friend of mine, Russel A., e-mailed me last September 4 the following note regarding my posting above:

So true. I once applied for this call center job in a job fair held at Peso Lipa City and in their remarks, they said that I still have the Batanguenyo accent in my English.
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alexis1003
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2011, 10:59:01 AM »

For me yes, because once you are fluent in english and can speak it with good accent, you already have an edge with others who just know how to speak it. Accent sometimes matters.

Call Center Companies Philippines
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emenacinc
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« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2011, 10:44:33 PM »

It is highly recommended for the agent to have the accent like the people where you are calling , if you want to succeed in the call center industry. People will only rely if you show yourself like the native people . So it is necessary for the agent to have accent which look like real .
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emenacinc
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2011, 10:23:19 PM »

If you are working for a call center then it is very important for you to have accent same like english people. Most of the call centers preferred to those have have good English accent .
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johanwales23
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« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2012, 08:02:22 PM »

I am wishing that someday or maybe I have the ability to have an English accent to communicate easy.
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adamlevine76
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« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2012, 12:38:07 AM »

I've discussed in British to some of our countrymen operating for a Manila-based answering services organization concerning a issue I was having then with my worldwide international calls telehone strategy with a U.S. centered organization. Having resided in the U.S. for over 50 decades, no one has to describe to me how an United states British feature appears to be like. l can genuinely tell you that those in the Belgium who are coaching the art of obtaining United states accessories must be doing a excellent job. To their credit score, and except for some mispronounciations and minimal records of Pinoy feature, those answering services organization client associates I've verbal to appeared to be almost like they've been communicating with People in america for a excellent many decades of their lifestyle. 
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cateespimsleur
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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2012, 06:22:37 PM »

As English has become the global language, more and more people are using English as their medium of expression. But it's really difficult to ward off the effect of native accent. Yes, the process of communication really becomes very difficult then. One needs to practise hard to acquire get a meticulous accent.
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randolfy
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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2012, 11:59:03 AM »

Accents are like characters - you have it or have it not Grin I think everybody has it's own accent. I met a lot of people in the United States they habe an accent that nearly nobody can understand them - may be only their wifes...
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pipesdaddy
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« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2012, 06:52:42 PM »

It will be unjustified to expect a universal accent. But if the accent hinders the communication, then it will really be a problem.
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niks
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« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 01:10:56 PM »

Speaking English and writing english both are different.It's easy for writing English but when it comes to speaking english some people feel shy or nervous to talk in English.To speak perfect english we should read newspapers,watch english movies,read books,watch online video conversations like this one http://youtu.be/ixG2hewznNo I am practicing speaking english i really enjoy english learning.
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2013, 04:42:36 PM »

It’s anything goes for everybody, from primary-school teachers all the way to the movers and shakers in the corporate world,

thanks for sharing.

Kreg Jig
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ohenries
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« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2013, 03:21:17 PM »

For me yes, because once you are fluent in english and can speak it with good accent, you already have an edge with others who just know how to speak it. Accent sometimes matters.
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