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Mind your language: Home Guards get ready for 2010

Delhi Home Guard Surender Singh sceptically looked at the outstretched hand of a younger colleague,Ajay Kumar,who was sitting next to him.

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | New Delhi |
November 4, 2009 12:27:45 am

Delhi Home Guard Surender Singh sceptically looked at the outstretched hand of a younger colleague,Ajay Kumar,who was sitting next to him. Then he smiled,extended his hand,and forced a smile. “How do you do?” he said in English. They stared at each other. End of conversation.

With an eye on the 2010 Commonwealth Games,the Delhi Home Guards on Tuesday kicked off a month-long pilot project to teach 60 of its personnel spoken English.

British Lingua,a Delhi-based English language training institute,has designed the course and is providing the trainers.

The course is intended to be interactive. Ideas are put across by simulating situations and the Home Guards are asked to respond to enquiries that a foreign visitor might have.

“The objective is to avoid a communication gap among personnel while interacting with foreigners visiting during the Games,as Home Guards are expected to man traffic junctions,” Junior Staff Officer Rahul Sudan,in-charge of the course,said.

“Of almost 8,500 Home Guards,almost 8,000 are on duty with the Delhi Police on most days. One of their main assignments is traffic regulation,” he added.

“Most of them have not spoken English all their lives. We have therefore planned an interactive course that will help them get over their inhibitions,” Monica Gaba,trainer with British Lingua,said.

“We approached the Home Guards,along with the Delhi Police and the state Tourism Department,with the proposal to prepare the personnel for the Commonwealth Games,” Birbal Jha,Managing Director of British Lingua,said.

On Tuesday,no one showed up on time for the course,which was scheduled to start at 8 am. After noticing that only five had turned up by 9.30 am,orders were given to get 60 “well-dressed” people from the parade ground. In 10 minutes,the lecture hall was brimming with khaki-clad men.

“If the programme is successful,we will start a course in January next year to train around 1,000 Home Guards in six months,” Sudan said.

Any individual under 60 who has passed matriculation is eligible to join the Guards,making any batch a diverse group of people.

A survey conducted by British Lingua among 100 Home Guards this February had indicated that 30 per cent of the force had passed graduation,Jha said.

The men sat through Jha’s speech in English in silence. As soon as he spoke his first Hindi words —“Hameim interest hona chahiye” — the whole room nodded in approval. After instructing his students that it was “ill-mannered” not to say ‘thank you’,‘please’ and ‘excuse me’,Jha taught them the words and the intonation. “Say ‘sorry’ when you think a request is irrational. After all,you cannot give them everything,” he said to laughter.

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