Culminating Project Title
Date of Award
Culminating Project Type
English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.
College of Liberal Arts
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Keywords and Subject Headings
Intelligibility, Unintelligibility, Relative Functional Load, Call Centers, India, Outer Circle, Communication Breakdowns
Worldwide, most multinational companies have outsourced their call centers in India, the premiere outsourcing destination of services. However, some U.S. companies have brought back their outsourced services in response to U.S. customers’ complaints of communication breakdowns in their phone interactions with Indian call agents.
This thesis researches English intelligibility issues of outsourced telemarketing and call centers in India. The observations made in the thesis extend to all call agents originally from the Outer Circle of English countries, part of the three Concentric Circles of World Englishness model developed by Kachru (1975). English in Outer circle countries serves as lingua franca, though still spoken as a second language.
This thesis primarily focuses on Indian call centers’ interactions with customers. Essentially, it examines issues at the interface of English as lingua franca and business communication. It addresses the following research questions: 1) what are the intelligibility issues that consumers face when interacting over the phone with Indian accented English? 2) What are the specific features in the Indian accent that cause intelligibility issues for American callers? 3) What are outsourcing companies doing to meet these challenges?
The first question is regarding the types of intelligibility issues that consumers face when they interact with Indian English speakers over the phone. The second question examines the specific features in the Indian-accented English which cause intelligibility issues for American callers. The third question considers some specific training strategies, such as accent neutralization, that U.S. outsourcing multinationals have implemented to address issues of intelligibility as well as communication breakdowns.
Before tackling these questions, a brief background on outsourcing and call centers is presented. Next, economic ramifications of U.S. call centers in India as well as why some U.S. companies have brought back their call centers are examined. The main part of the thesis will focus on segmental issues that impede intelligibility. Confusion and phonological data will be presented and discussed.
Gyamerah, Eunice, "English Intelligibility Issues in Outsourcing of Marketing and Call Centers" (2018). Culminating Projects in English. 148.