Master Your Working Language

I've been working on a junior position recently for a Technical Customer Service Rep. A lot of people have been referred to me who were engineers in their homelands and are now looking for work in Canada after having attended school here for about a year.

Recently, I spoke to a guy who was similarly employed overseas. From a technical point of view, I know he is probably capable of doing the job (even though he was working for a distributor rather than a manufacturer). But, look at his resume:

- Prepared quotations of different machineries and products for customers
- Solved different types of complaints from the customer by convincing them
- Satisfied customers by explaining the advantages of the products
- Was responsible for meeting the targets
- Ensured the deliveries on time

You can tell that he understands English fairly well. But, isn't it telling that he didn't have his resume reviewed by a native English-speaker before he sent it out to me - for a job that is 90% communication by phone?

I don't believe that he didn't know any Anglophones since he is attending a Canadian school and I know his ethnic community well. Everyone in it has a relative or a friend with grown Canadian children.

His spoken English was the same as his resume. I could tell he was a smart guy but he had an accent, spoke fast and mumbled. And, it wasn't just nerves.

I told him, quite frankly, that his communication skills were not up to par for this job. He begged to differ but it was clear to me that our conversation did not flow naturally. I couldn't understand some of his words and found myself speaking slowly so that I would be sure he could understand me.

This guy hasn't been here long. And, his English is pretty good for someone who is new to the country. I assume that it will improve soon and that he will be very successful. But, I'm also well aware that most immigrants, including some who are very, very well-educated, do not see the importance of mastering English.

Last year I spoke to a Russian designer who has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. He was earning $60,000 a year. Sometimes, a bit more. He's worked in Israel, Toronto and California, always for other Russians.

I told him that if he learned to speak English properly he could be earning a lot more money. He replied that he was more interested in maintaining his technical knowledge by reading about new developments in his field.

He had a philosophic attitude but most people are more concerned about money. And, if that's a main concern they should realize that managerial jobs, certainly, have to go to those who are easy to understand. And, the same is true in most other jobs, as well.

It's obvious, however, that many people - who are otherwise very disciplined, hard workers - don't care about this too much. I, myself, have relatives who have been here for fifty years and still have fairly strong accents. And, a major reason is that they don't speak English at home.

I'm as lazy as the next guy and when I come home I wouldn't want to have to struggle to speak to my family in English when I could do so without effort in some other tongue. But, it's a plain fact that this is going to hold you back.

Indians have a major advantage here because English is common in their homeland. But, even so, my impression is that very few have gone to any pains at all to reduce their accents beyond what might come automatically in the course of learning English in Canada.

Certainly, English-speakers from England don't try to develop Canadian accents. And, most Canadians don't make any effort to improve their communication skills. And, this is proof positive that most people place a very low value on communication skills -- when these can, in my opinion, be a major factor in one's ability to sell oneself for a job.

And, they probably contribute to one's ability to sell your ideas in a job, as well. And, the ability to sell yourself and your ideas can be very important.

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