English for Call Centres

Barry Tomalin & Suhashini Thomas (Macmillan Publishers India Ltd 2009)
ISBN 023-063-896-1
On the face of it a book intended for use by speakers of Indian English working in call centres may not seem relevant for use with other non-native English speakers. However, the sub-title of the book is Language, Culture and Empathy and it is this focus of the book that will appeal to any speaker who is attempting improve their communication in International English. The book is written in an engaging, conversational style and packed full of cultural information about the UK, as well as plenty of practice exercises and advice on how to improve your pronunciation.

Intriguing chapter titles include Stressful Stress which emphasises why stress matters when speaking (particularly to native speakers), Irritating Intonation, Terrifying Speed (focusing on rhythm and intonation) and East Enders, Innit Mate! – which suggests techniques for understanding British cultural references and building cultural awareness. This aspect is not surprising since one of the authors is Director of Cultural Training at International House, London. One chapter is entirely devoted to video and tele-conferencing skills, which is an area often requested by professional people these days.

The book is accompanied by a CD which contains all the practice and test exercises in the book and, contrary to what you might expect, the majority of examples are given in British English and not Indian English, thus enabling teachers to use the material with any non-native English
speaker. It could be used effectively in class or as a self-study resource. On the other hand, it could also be usefully read by practising teachers as an enjoyable way to brush up their knowledge of British pronunciation.
Laura McKinlay
ECS Scotland
(February 2012)