Covid-19: The importance of English, as a medium of communication, will only increase
The Covid-19 pandemic, and the resultant change in the world of work, he says, means the importance of English, as a medium of communication, will only increase.
Enguru, the self-learning spoken English app, currently has 1.3 million monthly active users, and two-thirds of those are from outside tier-1 cities. “This highlights the wide appeal the language has even in smaller cities,” says Arshan Vakil, founder & CEO of enguru. “English is not just a medium of communication; it is more of a life skill. Candidates looking for jobs in sunrise sectors like IT, hospitality, retail and academia are expected to communicate well in English.”
The Covid-19 pandemic, and the resultant change in the world of work, he says, means the importance of English, as a medium of communication, will only increase. “The pandemic has propelled concepts like remote work and online learning, and businesses will soon realise they can tap into a global pool of talent instead of just local ones. With this, English is bound to grow into even more of a global language as the willingness to hire across borders will increase,” Vakil says. He adds that India is uniquely positioned to grab this opportunity and offer a strong talent pool, provided this talent can communicate well. “The need of the job market is to have a workforce proficient in modern communication and interpersonal skills. Having command over English empowers both jobseekers and those in jobs to have better prospects of earning more.”
According to a 2012 survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 70% executives said their workforce will need to master English to realise corporate expansion plans. Even then, only 4% of men and 2% women in wage employment in India reported speaking fluent English. Rahil Rangwala, director, India Programs, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF), says it is critical for the youth from low-income families to have access to learn to speak English. “In a country with paucity of qualified English teachers, technology is essential to solving this problem at scale,” he says.
MSDF was the first institutional investor in enguru, and continues to work with it to help the youth from low-income families get quality access to English language training.
“I’ve seen first-hand how the ability to speak well in English has transformed the confidence of young men and women. Yet 66% college graduates do not speak the language, and with the rush in digitisation due to Covid-19, more and more jobs will need knowledge of working English,” Rangwala says.
One of the better ways of learning a new language, experts argue, is immersing oneself in the language as much as possible. “However, we want to ensure users feel comfortable with enguru and are not overwhelmed. So we have designed enguru to support 20 languages (12 Indian) to provide easy-to-understand context to all the users. Actual classes are not language-specific, and Hindi or Tamil or Bengali speakers are all in the same class. We encourage users to speak in English, even if they make mistakes, and that is the best way to improve,” says Vakil.
While enguru was initially launched as a self-learning app that used advanced speech recognition to give users feedback on their speaking skills, it has since evolved to also include interactive live classes where users get an option to join a class of 25, 12 or six students and interact with peers and teachers. “Classes are conversational, in line with our goal to help users improve their ability to articulate themselves and subsequently help in their careers,” adds Vakil.