On the subject of English. Yes, it does matter. No, it’s not the end of the world if you have an accent or less than perfect grammar.
This article is follow-up 5 Tips to Improve your English Writing and Speaking Skills
First, the good news. The US is full of immigrants.
If you live or work in a large metropolitan area, everyone you meet will be used to speaking English with an strong (strange) accents, and no one really cares that much.
Spanish, Chinese, Jamaican, Indian, Nigerian.. you name the country, and there’s likely to be someone with that accent. As long as you’re polite and smile often (not too much though, you don’t want to look like an idiot), you should get along fine.
If you’re in a less cosmopolitan area, I’ve heard it’s different. I’ve never lived in such places, so I can’t comment.
Now, the bad news. If you have a strong accent, you WILL be seen as an outsider, and there are various ways in which this works against you.
For example, when you go for an interview, you will be fighting the stereotype of the typical Indian who nods his head too much. People may not take you seriously if the job that you’re applying for involves a lot of communication (marketing jobs, sales, that kind of thing).
Also, when you’re on conference calls or presenting before an audience, people may not fully understand what you say, and are mostly too polite to ask for clarification, thereby lessening the efficacy of your presentation.
Good news again: Indians are seen as being really smart, especially if you’re in IT or medicine.
If you’re in these fields, your accent matters far less than your ability. I think Raghu can testify to this, since he’s in IT (I’m not, I’m in marketing and communications).
Bad news: If you’re single (and a guy), you definitely need to work on your accent. I’m not talking about hitting on women or being sleazy; the simple fact is that hanging out with co-workers is where a lot of networking happens, and in social scenarios, the Indian accent is unfortunately not the best.
If we sounded like the French, on the other hand, you better believe we’d be doing FAR better
It’s a little less pronounced if you’re an attractive lady, but that’s reverse sexism at play, and you may not want to be judged on the basis of how you look.
The bottom line is that English matters. Heck, forget about the US. North Indians make fun of South Indian accents, and vice versa. It’s the same thing on a larger scale.
It’s just another hurdle to cross. Work on your English, and things are just much easier. You don’t have to put on a fake American accent; a neutral accent is far better than trying to mimic people. But do try to remove the heavy accent if you have one, and work on pronunciation. You’ll just feel more confident.
At the end of the day, it’s just a language. You can’t let a language get you down; it’s not what defines your intelligence and your character. If you can learn how to bowl an outswinger, or dance kathak, or fly a kite, or drive in Bangalore traffic, or pass your 12th boards while deeply in love… you can learn a language.
You just have to want to.
Guest Blog Post by Aditya Nag. New Video Interview with Aditya is coming soon.