In a management training program, the trainer started by saying, “we asked the employees (of non-managerial ranks) about the challenges faced in workplace, many people said – language”. As soon as the trainer said the word language, one of the managers attending the training, strongly interrupted, “that happens everywhere”. His reaction was strong enough for the trainer to change the topic.
An important point that was about to be made was lost due to the unnecessary interruption of that manager. Some positive solution should have been sought instead. Although more and more people going English these days, yet the importance of local language can't be entirely overruled in India.
Some people safely assume that every Indian knows English which, in my opinion, could be a dangerous assumption if such people are involved in decision making, particularly at occupancies such as hospitals, shopping malls, hotels etc. This may be one of the reasons why National Building Code of India requires Hindi, English and Vernacular language for voice evacuation systems. Vernacular language is the one that is not specially learned.
Republic of India comprises twenty nine states and seven union territories with twenty two languages (English is not one of them however; one of the official languages) recognized in the Constitution of India. One can find fifteen languages on an Indian rupee note. This is just a glimpse of diversity India has in terms of languages. With so many languages, one can imagine the challenges that people might face while moving from one state to the other.
With increasing globalization, Indians are moving to different states more than ever. Wherever there is an opportunity for job, most people don’t think twice. This includes labor class people (most of who don’t know English). Another major set of population moving to different states is of students. There could be more reasons for moving to other states although for shorter duration such as business travels, better healthcare facilities etc.
Hindi can be understood in most parts of India however; in rural areas there could be challenges if someone does not know the local language. English does not help either (at least not helped me with rural people). There are many people in India who understand only the local language. In fact in some job requirements, you will find that it is a must to know the local language.
Therefore; three languages become important to survive in other states in India:
There are many organizations doing charities for those in need. Over the years most corporate organizations in India have only improved in facilitating their employees. They introduce entertainment activities (basketball, table tennis etc.), health clubs, yoga training, good schooling facilities (mostly where facility is in undeveloped area), shopping areas, etc. but unfortunately language barrier is one area which has not been so seriously considered on large scale by large organizations. Some might be doing it but I am not aware of their efforts.
I know a person who joined a government run manufacturing unit in Haridwar but decided to go back to Trichy as he could not manage with Hindi. Depending from person to person, language could be one of the reasons for job change. Also, language could be one of the reasons employee might not want to join at particular location if given a second option.
English works in many companies but it is the local language that prevails in manufacturing units. Even in offices, not all office boys/girls properly understand English.
Workplace is not the only space where employees spend their life. Social life is equally important. Most employees have families and friends. They go to market, movies, hospitals where they (employees and their families) are expected to find challenges due to their inability to speak local language.
A simple solution that I can think of is – organizations that have a diverse workforce may arrange a teacher (free or paid) for those who want to learn the local language. There could be employees who just don’t want to learn another language, so, employers may or may not make it mandatory depending on the requirement and other factors.
If family members of the employees show interest in learning local language, it might be a good option to making them a part of this program as well. Remember, family members can play an important role in employee retention or job change.
Similarly, for students in other states there should be local language sessions so that they find easier to mix with others in the college and also manage their social lives relatively better. Mandatory or non-mandatory would depend on several factors.
Arranging a teacher may sound simple but the teacher should be mature enough to manage his/her students. Grown up people are not easy to manage. Those having little knowledge often spoil the program by their unnecessary (off-topic) questions during the class. Also, there are people who love to make fun of languages. Teacher should be able to appropriately deal with such people so that those, who are genuinely interested in learning the local language, are able to learn.
लाभस्तेषां जयस्तेषां कुतस्तेषां पराजयः I येषामिन्दीवरश्यामो हृदयस्थो जनार्दनः II