Friday, November 04, 2005

RP sailors' English sounds Greek to Norwegian firm

By Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer News Service

When a Norwegian shipping company complains that it can no longer understand the English spoken by Filipino recruits, the country has a big problem.

Labor Undersecretary Danilo Cruz said new job markets were not hiring Filipino workers because they failed in basic English proficiency. Their spoken English, he said, was also too throaty for the world of business.

Cruz shared this information on Thursday with a batch of students training for jobs in call centers and medical transcription firms here.

Major reforms are needed to address the inability of Filipino students to be understood overseas, according to the labor official.

"This is a long-term process for change because we can only replenish the labor force with [better skilled English speakers] after 10 years," he said.

Cruz said MalacaƱang was planning a summit to establish a uniform policy on the use of English in schools and in the workplace. The summit will seek to evaluate the instructional materials and the business impact of Filipino English on the world markets.

"We used to be the third largest English-speaking nation" but outsourcing industries like call centers and medical transcription operators failed to even hire the 100,000 they expected to employ from the Philippines in 2005, Cruz said.

American firms stationed in India, a former British colony with a big English-speaking work force, have been tapping Filipino workers because they expected them to have an American accent, according to the labor undersecretary.

"Indian speakers just can't remove their accent," he said.

But feedback from the job markets shows that "we are disappointing" new employers, he said.

"This is not only true of the outsourcing industries. It's the effect we have on other job markets."

Because of the complaint of the Norwegian shipping company, the government is looking into the teaching methods and curricula at more than 3,000 merchant marine schools in the country.

"Many of these schools are actually of poor quality," Cruz said. He noted that the complaints involved recent graduates

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