MIND YOUR LANGUAGE: Voice trainer Anil Mani (left) helps students get rid of their accents
There is a huge increase in Indians who are enrolling in classes that teach the correct way to speak English, says Ketan Tanna
It is not just the Malayalee who has the problem. Most Indians speak English with the peculiar sounds of their mother tongue. â€˜Whenâ€™ often sounds like â€˜venâ€™ and â€˜vineâ€™ becomes â€˜wineâ€™. We also tend to speak fast without stretching the vowel sounds. In Orissa and other parts of eastern India, b is freely used for w and v, while across the south, prize sounds like price, and rise sounds like rice. Gujaratis and Rajasthanis make â€˜wisâ€™ out of wish and their â€˜shirtsâ€™ are â€˜sirtsâ€™. And a marriage hall is, poignantly or prophetically, â€œmarriage holeâ€. Maharashtrians threaten to become â€˜voilentâ€™ and not violent. And those from MP and UP have a perpetual problem with starting a word with â€˜sâ€™ even if they have been to the â€˜eskoolâ€™. There is, however, a cure. And increasingly, Indians are seeking it.
In the last few years, it is not just BPO employees who have been learning to speak correctly but also scores of housewives businessmen, senior citizens, middle-level executives and many more who cannot be described. They are taking the help of voice trainers to get rid of various flaws in the way they speak English.
Forty-eight-year-old Vijaya Sailopal, a Punjabi housewife who lives in Mumbai, and mother of two, is an affluent upper middle class social worker who volunteers with a non-governmental organisation. Her job profile entails holding various meetings and events where she needs to communicate with a small audience. Nobody has mentioned it to her, but Sailopal was keenly aware of her Punjabi accent.
She enrolled in a voice-training class conducted by Anil Mani, who is a professional voiceover artiste. Her classes lasted seven weeks and came at a price tag of Rs 7,000. It has been two years since she attended the classes and she says itâ€™s worth it because it has given her confidence a tremendous boost.
Pratap Sharma, who is a veteran in this field, says that an 86-year-old Parsi woman, Jeannie Naoroji, landed up at his classes. Naorojiâ€™s aim was to speak to small groups and audiences effectively. All kinds of people are coming to him these days, says Sharma, to improve the way their English. There are scores of middle-level and even senior corporate chieftains who attend classes because even though they have achieved a lot in life, their accents work to their disadvantage. Dr Sadhana Nayak, a Dadar-based voice and phonetics specialist, says that 42-yearold Murli Nair (name changed), a graduate from IIT and IIM and a regional head in a pharmaceutical company, came to him to cure his heavy Malayalee accent. â€œHe was ribbed about it throughout his student days. His 10-year-old daughter studying in an English-medium school often corrected his pronunciation. He was professionally on the rise and looking for a highlevel position in another firm. He felt his accent came in the way. During the break between jobs he came for accent training.â€
Then there was the case of Mahesh Iyer, a 49-year-old Dubaibased professional working with an oil major. â€œHe felt very self-conscious during presentations and meetings as he was often asked to repeat himself. Also he had developed an inferiority complex due to his accent. In fact, he said he was better than most of the others at his work, but they communicated with greater confidence than him,â€ says Dr Nayak. Maheshâ€™s vacation was spent correcting his pronunciation and diction.
With the boom in the economy and the rising aspirations of Indians, there has been a steep rise in the number of people enrolling in such classes. Each one has a different purpose for enrolling. Some want to get rid of their accents, some want to modulate their voices and some want to make a career as voice artistes. Not surprisingly then, Mumbaiâ€™s voice trainers are raking it in.
â€œI have seen a 100% rise since last year in the number of executives coming for accent neutralisation or modification training, and an almost 300% rise in the number of inquiries I get on my website,â€ says Nayak. TNN