Dubai: In a city of accents, where many struggle to understand each other, it may be best to find a Filipino to intermediate.
Two new surveys done by BBC and IBM show that the Filipinos have the most "accent-neutral language" in the world. And it shows in the number of call-centres cropping up all over the Philippines. Earlier, the Indian accent was considered the most neutral, in that most people from most countries can understand when an Indian speaks English. The Filipinos have now claimed that title, according to recent research by IBM, which shows there are now more call centre agents in the Philippines - 350,000 - compared to 330,000 in India.
In Dubai, most front desk, hospitality, reception and telephone operator jobs are given to Filipinos, headhunters say. "Any position which requires the employee to have clarity of voice and an accent that is neutral to most ears, is being filled by Filipinos," Adrian, an HR manager for an international firm in Dubai, told XPRESS.
"If you look at the staff that man the Metros, the telephone operators for a majority of five-star hotels, receptionists at international corporations… they're all Filipinos," he adds. "Ten years ago, those positions were held by Indians. Today, the Indian accent has been put in second place to the Filipino accent."
Mark Nevaro, a 28-year-old call centre agent from Manila, told XPRESS his background in learning the Americanisms of the English language have helped him secure his job of executive secretary in Dubai.
"To an American, the Filipino accent is very clear and neutral," says James G., general manager of a trading firm in Dubai. "To our ears, a Filipino answering the phone is more understandable than an Indian accent."
As Nevaro says, "Filipinos can easily adjust to different accents. We can talk to just about anyone in the world, from the British to the Americans, Australians and Canadians, and we'll be understood. We may sound a little different from them, but at least they'll understand what we're saying. The accents of some of the other nationalities are so strong and harsh that the rest of the world may find it hard to comprehend what they're saying."
Lawrence Anderson, a secretary from Ilo-Ilo in the Philippines, says it was his background as a call centre agent for a Canadian service provider that helped him land a job where he could be coordinating with a team of people from all over the world. "Although there may be others who have similar qualifications to mine, I believe it is the clarity of my accent that landed me this job. That and the fact that Filipinos have a knack of being able to blend in just about anywhere. We don't wear our national dress to work, and we're very Westernised in the way we dress and speak. Naturally, it makes us the easiest people to deal with for people coming from all over the world."
Having read the article, I doubt if the team from the BBC or IBM really knew English. The Filipinos might have a fairly reasonable accent. However, their grammer is horrible. They fail to understand the difference between ‘come’ & ‘go’. They always seems to expect you to ‘go’ when in fact you have to ‘come’. On the other hand, the Indians mainly from Central & Northern India who originate from metropolitan cities like Bombay or Delhi have a better accent that is more appealing to the ears as well as grammatically correct.
Dealing with Filipinos is always easy because of their openness and culture. And the way they present things to customers is very encouraging from other nationalities. Being an Indian, I always prefer to speak with Filipinos at the reception than Indians. They are usually helpful in giving proper information in a business-like and ethical way.
No doubt about it ... also the friendliest and the most helpful, not to mention usually beautiful and sweet smelling :-) What a pleasure to be dealing with kabayans.
Not at all. Filipinos in the first place and then the Indians? Are you serious? You just made me laugh loudly.
Sami, Abu Dhabi
For themselves, I think yes. But to compare them with other nationals? No. But for me, every nationality has their own accent which suits them. So it’s not that they are so special accent for Filipinos. I would say that they have a polite accent -- because thay are polite people. Bye.
No, I disagree. Indians have the most neutral accent, but of course only the trained ones. I’m tired of hearing “My prend!!!!!” calls from some of my friends. But Filipinos are the most presentable people, much much better than Indians.
IT’S NOT BCOZ FILIPINOS HAVE GOOD ACCENT. IT’S BCOZ THEY ARE READY TO WORK FOR LESS, AS MOST OF THEM ARE INDEPENDENT TO THEY CAN SURVIVE WITH LESS SALARY. LABOUR IS ALSO CHEAP IN PHILIPPINES COMPARED TO INDIA. MOST INDIANS LIVE WITH THEIR FAMILIES AND THERE IS ONE BREADWINNER FOR 3 – 4 PEOPLE, SO THEY NEED A HIGHER SALARY ON AVERAGE. DUE TO GLOBAL DOWNTURN PEOPLE CAN’T AFFORD INDIANS, SO THEY HAVE FOUND OTHER WAYS TO RUN THEIR BUSINESS.
Yes, I agree to the statement. In fact, I used to prefer Filipinos over the others when it comes to hospitality type of jobs because of their pleasing personality.
Filipinos are even more understandable compared to “native” speakers. I can’t understand Indian or African accent.
Pengyou, Wuhan (China)
Filipino people can easily adopt the accent of any nationality as they mingle with them. If Filipinos get better education, this will help them succeed since they have a strong will power as well as communication skills. Since the Philippines is a poor country, we are getting humiliated by others. But reality that these surveys show is what we always knew from the heart ...Go, go, go... Proud To be Pinoy!
Oh my gut! I cannot beliepe this. I was just eating my plabourpul pood and I saw this surbey. Congratulayshorns to all the pilpino mapia.
It could be right that Filipinos have this neutral English language accent due to the American English being the medium of instruction in Philippines schools ...also due to accommodating and hospitable nature of most Filipinos.
Daniel, Abu Dhabi
Also apart from everything else, which may or may not be true, it is CHEAPER to hire an agent in the Philippines than any part of the world where you can find the general population that speaks English! If you really speak to a native Filipino, you will barely understand them. Living in Dubai, you will adapt.
I differ from this opinion. With all due respect to the Filipinas, the way they speak English is akin to the quack of a duck. By interviewing few persons, one cannot generalise and publish an article. Listen to the majority of Filipinas speak in English and then come to a conclusion.
AA Sheikh, Al Khobar
Having more call centre agents doesn’t support the theory here. More call centres are shifting to Philippines mainly due to the cost factor. I believe a citizen from any country whose native or primary language is English would have an easy-to-understand accent.
I definitely agree. It's mainly because the medium of teaching is English in our schools. In this way, we are trained at an early stage to speak English. Thank you very much for this note on us Filipinos.
I agree and firmly believe that Filipinos are articulate in the English language. They can express themselves either by writing and speaking properly with the correct grammar and conjugation. English is the 2nd mother-tongue in the Philippines.
Yes and it is proven around the world and not only that, we Filipinos have strong analytical skills and we can manage to work and deal with people from any nationality.
Aileen, Abu Dhabi
Although the Pinoy do speak clearly, many of them certainly do not talk in an accent-neutral manner, especially because their native language does not have the letter “f” and they end up saying “priend” instead of friend for example. It is also difficult to make out if they are saying “valve” or “bulb” and both sound the same. I am in no way trying to make fun of them as I have many good friends from their community, just a constructive criticism.
“Earlier, the Indian accent was considered the most neutral, in that most people from most countries can understand when an Indian speaks English.” That’s totally wrong. It is very hard to understand an Indian when he/she speaks, especially in call centres. My vote is for the Filipinos.
Mohamed S, Abu Dhabi
Definitely and exclusively! Filipino people are the best being so humble, friendly, hospitable and easy to mingle with. I've been to the Philippines once, and I felt overwhelmed the way they treated their visitors... It's really amazing.
Ruby, New Jersey
No! I disagree. Most of them are not technically sound about a product they deal with. Moreover, their lack of grammar and poor vocabulary fail to convince.
I agree. Filipino accent is very flexible that we can adapt to, if not all, most of the world's accents.
I totally disagree to this report. I am an Australian employed with DIFC and we really struggle to understand the Filipino accent. Above all, there is absolute zero grammar. Please only print such reports after validating your facts.
I don’t think this is true. Filipinos can’t speak English well at all ... My age is 59 and I am a teacher of English, worked in 14 countries. I thought Indians are most fluent in English, but mostly from Mumbai region. Except in this city, there is nothing special in other areas. Thanks for publishing my view.
That’s why you find Filipinos everywhere. Hardship drives them out of the Philippines, but I guess Filipinos are adaptable and friendly by nature.
I have no doubt in Pinoys’ ability in combating difficult situations where they have to face customers from different nationalities. I have always had bad experience, though, as I had to face quite unfriendly customer service from Pinoys. Once I decided to dig into the subject and tried to find the root of such unprofessional attitude of Pinoys. I came to know that most of the time, they are not friendly with Asian customers. Whereas if Pinoys face Arab/local customers, they tend to be more friendly ... That’s my personal experience and might differ from others.
English spoken by Pinoys is not accent-free. In fact it is much more rhyming to their language. Indians or any other nationality will have their own accent speaking English as this is the way they learnt it. The fact is the slower and clearer you speak, the more understandable you will be and that is the only value of language. Pinoys “look” younger and probably have fairer skin than others, but what keeps them in these positions are their happy smiles and ever pleasing talkative nature.
Filipinos accent-neutral and easy to understand? All over the world, educated people, who listen carefully, speak clearly and think creatively are easier to understand and deal with, especially in the service sector. Also, how can Indians, formerly the most accent-neutral, be overtaken by Filipinos, based on this report? Shows it’s not about cultural or national origin, but education and training. Call centres in the Philippines may be due to cheap/exploitable labour and lax regulations, pure and simple.
Yes, I agree. The mixed cultures plus the fact that Philippines itself has more than 80 minor and major languages and dialects, Filipinos are naturally adept in making oneself clear and at the same time listen carefully to what others say. Aside from that, Filipinos mimic the accent, which makes the conversation easier for both sides.
I don't agree. Filipinos never say five fifty -- they say pive pipty.
Abdul Rafeek, Abu Dhabi
Filipinos do have an edge in terms of overall presentability and grooming when it comes to jobs like front desk and are Americanized to an extent. However, the reason behind them replacing Indians due to better English may not be completely correct. The reason why an average spectator used to the predominantly Indian presence of the late 1990s feels like Filipinos are replacing them here is due to higher wages in India especially in booming cities like Bangalore for similar jobs. There are also policies being implemented locally and in the region to bring about a more balanced and mixed demographic structure within the GCC.
Yes, I agree with that and most in America prefer to hire Filipinos ... who are flexible, talented and fast-learners.
Marc Tan, US
Yes, I agree. Aside from the accent, Filipinos are resilient, dynamic, hardworking - world class.
It’s not only the neutral accent but their attitude. They have a corporate-oriented culture and are presentable.
Gopal Krishnan, Dubai
Effective communication is not only achieved through accent but also through non-verbal communication. Filipinos are very friendly and easy to assimilate other cultures.
I've seen that the Filipinos do a good job but can’t agree that their accent is neutral. The Indian accent isn't neutral either.
D Ramapriya, Basra, Iraq
I definitely agree with the poll results and highlighted by the writer about Filipinos having the clarity in speaking English. The fact is that we have the soft tongue that is flexible to acquire the accent of any English-speaking county. English is the medium of instruction in Philippine education from pre-school to university, a system built and reinforced by the Americans. Cheers Pinoys!
Francis, Abu Dhabi