Saturday, October 29, 2005

not only spanish translators but also spanish knowing managers

Anil Sivakumaran was one of the promising young Language Ambassadors i had met in the Translators Meet few months back. He is working with The Bosch Institute of Language and Culture in Bangalore.

I am putting here in public domain, his two emails, which are of interest to Spanish language speakers and business in India.
Those interested are welcome to share their views or do something

His contact

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at Pune's Ranade Institute on the subject of Spain-India intereconomics. It is clear that there will be a growing demand for Spanish speaking professionals in our services industries and in MNCs needing Spanish language skills, not only as translators and interpreters but also as project managers and business managers.

However, the supply and quality of supply is not keeping pace with the demand due to past lack of investment in language education countrywide. The proliferating private institutes are too small in vision and ability to meet the need for skilled professionals.

Does the MEA have any initiatives in concert with academia/UGC and chambers of commerce to address this growing gap in our ability to meet the potential for closer interaction with the Spanish speaking world - which will soon also include a critical player like the USA as well?
agree with you that pvt sector is better positioned in terms of resources but it may not have the perspective, skills and long term vision/ patience/indepth understanding to start developing such resources from scratch - despite the fact that industry generates the jobs and needs these resources badly in the long term .

This is because the process of education in language, just as in any other domain, is in years rather than months and even the best of corporate managers don't quite understand this and rarely plan or are able to plan and visualise for timelines longer than the next financial year or financial quarter. By that yardstick, we have already been quite adventurous in terms of our initiative of setting up an inhouse Bosch Institute of Cultures and Languages (BINOCULUS) - which is quite unique in the software/engineering world. Yet even an institute needs many excellent teachers and trainers and academic knowhow and this is not in abundant supply either.

The main drawback in the pvt. sector is that decision makers are engineers or managers from an science and technology background, etc and not those with a professional training and an intellectual/scientific or even common sense understanding of the humanities. In industry, the gap in understanding of the language domain is now too large and too pervasive for the pvt. sector to respond nimbly to the challenges of the supply-demand disparity in this domain. In other words, pvt. sector may be no less a dinosaur than the govt. or academia in such matters. In terms of vision, perhaps the govt. - or at least, individuals in govt. - may even be avant garde compared to academia or the pvt. sector.

The supply-demand mismatch in really well trained language professionals, teachers etc is a major gap in India right now and we are already getting behind in the race that we are running. The majority of economic opportunities are being missed rather than met. Strong skills in communication and language area will have a geometric multiplier effect for the country in terms of the economic opportunities that can be seized and the strategic positions we can occupy in trade, security etc.

At best, visionary companies may function as finishing schools but will not be able to provide the right 'soil' or 'subsoil' for a teaching and learning environment. There need to be more institutions that must take as input the students who are 17-18 and have finished Std XII and then three-four years later turn out sufficient numbers of really well trained highly skilled language professionals with the motivation and desire to pursue careers in this field. Currently each major foreign language has probably no more than 50 or so really effective people joining the professional ranks each year. There are not only far more jobs, but far more companies than this number wanting to employ them. So existing institutions with the academic knowhow like JNU, Ranade, etc also need to increase their capacity effectively, hire/train more teachers, pay competitive compensations, etc. Ultimately, in the next two years we need at least a tenfold increase in the number of effective language specialists we turn out. German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Korean and to some extent French are the critical languages in this respect.

The broad solution may lie in the direction of upgrading the status, faculty, facilities, programs, infrastructure etc of major national language institutions which provide the comprehensive degrees and programs in this domain. Institutions like JNU's language school, Ranade Institutes in Mumbai and Pune, Delhi Univ., Karnatak Univ. Dharwad, etc need to be really revitalised. They will need to be enabled/encouraged/pushed to start functioning more like the IITs and IIMs in terms of the number, quality and compensation of faculty, program development, industry partnerships and outreach for funding etc. Starting language/linguistics departments as nurseries - and competitors to the JNUs and Ranades - within the cultural environs of the IITs and IIMs may be another way to kickstart this. IIT Mumbai and IIT Kanpur with their strong Comp. Sc. and Humanities depts and IIT Chennai which I believe already has a German language study program inhouse might be good places to begin such initiatives. In fact, with linguistics becoming a recognised technical field in terms of developments in machine translation, speech recognition, character recognition etc, it is already a candidate for inclusion in the list of subjects offered within the IIT curriculum.

I am just sharing some thoughts to begin a discussion. Clarities might come more slowly.

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