Who’s on the line? Indian call center agents pose as Americans for the US – outsourced firms
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One of the major effects of globalization has been the amalgamation of major corporate houses across the globe. The simultaneous advancement in communication technology has further opened new avenues for companies all over the world, as much as they have started employing workers from countries like India, China, etc. The reason behind this is the readiness of workers from developing countries to work for lesser salaries. During the years, the trend of companies having call centers has developed rapidly. This has made communications with customers easier, faster, and cost-effective. In order to save more on the cost, companies from developed countries such as the USA and UK have opened their call centers in developing countries. But this has affected the quality of service being provided and moreover, “Moving call centers offshore may be an effective way to increase service productivity by lowering costs, yet recent research suggests that customers associate offshore call centers with lower service quality” (Walsh, Gouthier, Gremler, and Brach).
It is understood that American and British customers prefer the customer service executive to be a native so that communication is easy. To overcome this challenge, companies have started giving training to their overseas employees to behave and speak as the Americans do. Even their official names have been changed. This might be a cause of concern regarding the self-esteem of the employees because their individuality is lost amidst posing as American. On the contrary, if the name is left aside, the American accent, behavior, etiquettes, and the mannerism that an employee learns can definitely be of great use once the employee wants to hunt for a job in America itself.
Language problem or language conflict? Narratives of immigrant women’s experience in the US
Immigrant women in America, mostly from Latin American countries, experience severe language problems while at work or otherwise. Immigrant women face such problems either due to the difference in their accent or less fluency in the language. “Identities as well as social relations are constituted through conflict narrative” (Briggs vii-248). There have been numerous instances where such women were humiliated. There are some people who feel that the problem is not the language but the ethnicity. The natives of America feel that the immigrants are not part of them and hence they don’t have any emotional attachment towards them. This has led to group formations. People of different ethnicities have formed their own groups and are happy within those groups. They feel as if they are among their own people. They don’t have to face any language problems or barriers.
It should not be interpreted that such groups have been formed out of choice. On the contrary, immigrants were forced to form such groups due to language and ethnicity problems. But anyhow, it’s not possible for a person (in this case an immigrant woman) to totally cut off from the outside world. He/she, at some point in time, have to venture out for some or the other work. And this is when the problem arises. There have been instances where, due to the language problem, immigrant women weren’t been able to communicate properly and ended up getting the wrong deal. One of the reasons why immigrant women don’t encourage learning the American language is that they think by doing so, their individuality will be hampered. They wish to be accepted by American society for what they are. They don’t want to change themselves.
The accents of outsourcing: The meaning of “neutral” in the Indian call center industry
As has been discussed, American and British companies outsource their call center requirements from India and other countries. It is also understood that the main expectation of such companies from their overseas employees is that they should be proficient in their accent. The employees need to be trained well in this field. So the companies arrange training sessions of a month or so, prior to putting them on calls. “The demand for globalized speech has led to the creation of specialized institutes for accent neutralization” (Nadeem). During the training, the employees are trained in an accent as well as mannerisms and behavior. Once the training is complete, their personality is totally changed. It has been observed that such employees become so engrossed in the taught accent that even at their homes they prefer speaking that very language. It is noticeable that in some call centers, the employees are required to converse in the learned accent all the time, whether they are in the office or at home. As such, there is a sort of identity crisis. The employees lose their originality and start behaving like foreigners.
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Most American companies prefer that their overseas employees should have a neutral accent while conversing with their customers. The word ‘neutral’ means the normal accent of the Americans. The companies don’t want their customers to feel that they are talking to some foreigner. If the employee speaks in a neutral accent, the customer will be of the opinion that he/she is talking to a Native American. This way, the feeling of ethnicity will not be there and the employee will be able to handle the customer easily.
The interpreter as institutional gatekeeper: The social-linguistic role of interpreters in Spanish-English medical discourse
The medical profession is one such profession where the interpretation of the scientific terms should be perfect. Due to the increasing number of multi-linguistic immigrants in America, it has become indispensable for American medical professionals to have interpreters while conversing with an immigrant patient. It is very important to properly understand a patient and his/her problem before any diagnosis is done because, “There has long been evidence that a failure to communicate between medical staff, emergency services personnel and patients, can lead to the provision of inappropriate or even harmful treatments” (Fulcher). It is understood that maximum literature in the field of medicine is available in the English language. So it becomes all the more necessary for the doctors and other concerned people to be proficient in English. Given that most of the immigrants in America are Spanish, there are excellent opportunities for Spanish-English interpreters. Most of these interpreters are Spanish themselves. So it becomes easier for them to understand what the patient wants to convey. Being proficient in American English as well, the interpreters are able to communicate to the concerned person, the exact dialogues of the patient. Moreover, being from the same ethnicity, the patient and the interpreter can relate to each other and the patient feels comfortable and secure.
It has been observed that in order to curtail the expenses of an extra interpreter, hospitals have come up with an innovative idea. They hire such nurses who can act as interpreters as well when required. This is a very innovative and fruitful idea in the sense that in the case of an interpreter from outside, he/she may not be able to understand the technical terms. But if a nurse is acting as an interpreter, he/she can very well understand all the medical terms and in turn, can explain the same to the patient.
Ideologies of legitimate mockery: Margaret Cho’s revoicing of mock Asian
The topic pertains to the mockery of Asians that is made due to their indifferent accent or pronunciation. From school-going children to office going people, all immigrants, especially Asian, have to bear the brunt of such mockery. Moreover, the grammar used by the Asians also leads to mockery. Several examples of conversations can be cited where Asians make mistakes in grammar. Actually, it’s not their fault. They have been taught that way. Moreover, their mother tongue has a different accent than that of American English. Actually, this is a problem that not only bothers the Asians but other immigrants as well. “Mock Asian is a clearly racializing discourse with indexical links to both ‘Asian’ and ‘foreign’ (‘non-American’) identities” (Chun).
Margaret Cho is herself an Asian and a comedian by profession. It is possible that she makes use of the difference in speech as a mockery just to entertain her audience. But due to her initiation, Native Americans have also started making a mockery of the immigrants. The Natives have gone to the extent of using the issue in order to promote their businesses as well. According to one of the instances, an American company engaged in the manufacture of clothes printed some objectionable material on its t-shirts. In the text printed on the t-shirts, ‘wong’ was used instead of ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ was used instead of ‘’white’.
Communicative behavior and conflict between African-American customers and Korean immigrant retailers in Los Angeles
“The economic factor in the merchant-client relationship is no doubt, one of the main sources of the problems between Korean Americans and African Americans” (Chang). It is understood that Koreans and Africans both are immigrants in America. Both the communities want to establish their supremacy among the immigrants as far as social status and economic factors are concerned. Most of the Korean-American immigrants are shopkeepers in Los Angeles and African-American immigrants come to their shops for buying merchandise. Both of them have different versions of the conflicts. The Korean-American immigrants have an objection to the way the African-American immigrant children and youth behave with the aged shopkeepers. The African-American immigrants complain about being treated with disrespect by the shopkeepers. These small misunderstandings and conflicts took an ugly turn in 1992 when riots broke out between the two communities.
The Korean-American immigrant shopkeepers normally disregard the ill manners of African-American customers. They confront them only if it’s too much. On the other side, African-Americans feel humiliated if the Korean-American shopkeeper doesn’t respond or react. The Korean-American immigrants follow the ‘immigration theory’ in order to mingle with the Native Americans and benefit from the outcome. They are very hard-working and never want to be idle. On the contrary, African-American immigrants seldom work and mostly depend on government aids.
Briggs, Charles. “Disorderly Discourse: Narrative, Conflict, and Inequality.” Anthropological Linguistics 41.4 (1996): vii-248. Print.
Chang, Edward. n.d. Los Angeles riots and Korean-African American conflict. n.d. Web.
Chun, Elaine. 2004. Ideologies of legitimate mockery: Margaret Cho’s revoicings of mock Asian. 2004. Web.
Fulcher, Glenn. n.d. Language assessment in medical contexts. n.d. Web.
Nadeem, Shehzad. 2011. Accent neutralization and a crisis of identity in India’s call centers. Web.
Walsh, Gianfranco, Matthias Gouthier, Dwayne Gremler, and Simon Brach. 2011. What the eye does not see, the mind cannot reject: Can call center location explain differences in customer evaluations? Web.