Sunday, December 02, 2007

Accent Requirement is "Discrimination"?

We read:

"A British Asian sent to work in an Indian call centre only to be dismissed because his accent "wasn't English enough" has won a racial discrimination case against his employer. Chetankumar Meshram, 27, a call centre trainer from Northampton who has spoken English since the age of 2, was awarded 5,000 pounds compensation after being sent back to England just three weeks into a two-month post at the telecoms firm Talk Talk Direct's Delhi office.

Mr Meshram, who was born in India but moved to Britain in 2005, said: "I was called into a meeting with my boss, who told me I was to be replaced with a better English speaker.


I am certainly not anti-Indian. I have four Indians living in my house. But I do find foreign accents hard to understand on the phone so I think it was perfectly reasonable for a company in the business of communication to require the accent that was easiest to understand for most of its customers.

I remember a sign I once saw over a shop in Bombay: "Indian English only spoken here". Was the shop owner a racist? Not at all. Indian English can be almost a different language from the King's English and the guy was simply admitting that he could understand one and not the other.