Jul 172009

“Hi, would you like to come and see our flick”
An innocuous line, you would think, but one which got K fuming I could see the fumes coming out of her ear.

“That stupid child doesn’t know how to handle the client.” Said K, “ I should sack him and get a secretary’ she added.
“Kya Hua ?” I asked. And she let loose a litany of gaali’s gaalis. (Thank you shefaly )
Her fully qualified MBA MT (management trainee) had written a mail to their company’s leading client asking them if they wanted to invest monies in their film after watching it – hence the line “would you like to come and see our flick”. K has now issued a directive that no mail will leave the company to a client unless vetted by her. She is also wondering whether to replace her well paid MBA with a secretary who will take dictation and type out a letter.

This is not the first time I have heard that. My client RR asked me to find him an intern. I teach – and interact with students in the BMM programme run by the University of Mumbai. But, RR is from my father’s generation; a perfectionist who will not put up with shoddy work – and I have been hesitant to recommend people to him. Rightly So.
He called me up two days ago.
“I need a new EA” he boomed.
“What happened to the old one” I asked.
“Kya bolon, don’t you teach them how to send and receive mails” – he asked ?. His principals are in the USA and they don’t appreciate mails that go “v hv recd yr mail. Ta”

And, if you think that I am exaggerating, here’s a letter I received from a student:
“Hello mam ther’s a personal query nt on behalf of clas. V wanted to know if v can reduce d number of ad agencies bt tak many ads as examples. Like from 1 ad agency we can give 3-4 examples. Will that be fine? Waiting 4 ur reply.”

You don’t even want to know my response. There is only one line that can be used to explain what happens when I read stuff like this – “mera dimag satakta hai ”

I have been in the media for 15 years, and each subsequent year – I lose a bit of my vocabulary and more of my grammar. And, each year I see the level of language declining.

Part of the problem is SMS and the fact that if I send a message such as “whr r u” – most people will understand. However, when I send that kind of a message as a part of a formal letter, then it looks shoddy. The other part of the problem is that in a world dominated by the visual medium – reading skills are non existent. Therefore, writing skills become more problematic. If you haven’t read enough – and don’t know good style from bad – then its’ not really your fault. It’s the problem of a system that brings up students – from the KG level to be functionally illiterate .So maybe two things that people ought to inculcate to write better is to turn on the dictionary function on their mobiles and write full sentences – and the other is to read. Also, check on the net for letter formats – the net is not just about hanging out, it has a fair bit of useful information.

Most colleges in this city don’t stress on language skills or on syntax. They don’t want the risk of someone taking them to court for failing their exams. Our instructions are do not cut marks for poor language skills. But remember that those who make the rules have full time jobs, very often they are confirmed employees of the state with a pension. You aren’t. Nor am I :)

The world is not Orkut. Nor is it Facebook. In this world people don’t poke you. They fire you.. And, the worse your language skills, the greater the chances of you not getting ahead.