The Influence of Linguistics in a Call Center Environment

The Influence of Linguistics in a Call Center Environment

The age of technological advancement has taken over many aspects of the world known by many. Information comes in all forms, all languages and is also available at the click of a button and freely distributed among the millions of inhabitants of this earth. With information comes assistance, and with assistance, comes support.

The call  center agency, otherwise known by many as the ‘Business Process Outsourcing’ (BPO) industry, has thrived with its numerous sites, accounts, and agents catering to clients around the globe 24/7. What many assume about the industry, however, is that the job requires an excellent command of the universal language – English. While this may be true, this growing industry actually caters to clients in all corners of the Earth in all available languages.

In recent times, there has been a demand for bilingual or multilingual employees to increase productivity in the ever-growing workforce of the Philippines. There are TESDA courses specializing in Linguistics for potential hires to learn the language they wish to specialize in and train for fluency. As demand for language versatility grows, more and more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) take special training to improve their ability to speak the language of their employers abroad.

The notions of being fluent in multiple languages also apply heavily to employees in a Philippine Call Center setting. The market for clients around the world continually expands and the numerous issues requiring assistance grows more and more complex. In order to better accommodate these clients, an agent that is able to speak two or more languages other than English is seen as a huge asset to the company and the industry as a whole.

Having a concrete understanding of what linguistics is can be greatly beneficial for those who wish to pursue an endeavor of language-related work. However, there is actually more to linguistics than what is perceived to it.

What is Linguistics?

What is Linguistics

Linguistics is the scientific study of languages and the structures that make it what it is. Many understand the concept as merely having a brief knowledge of the notions of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and other English related ideas. However, the difference between that and linguistics is that the latter delves deeper into each language’s structure and analyzes how that structure forms the language itself.

Aside from the study of structures, linguistics can also be affiliated with other studies to better aid learners in understanding linguistics in different aspects and fields. Some of these studies are the following:

  • Sociolinguistics – the study of linguistics in relation to Sociology
  • Psycholinguistics – the study of linguistics in relation to Psychology
  • Dialectology – the focus on dialects used
  • Anthropological Linguistics or Ethno Linguistics – the study of linguistics in relation to Anthropology and Ethnic Studies
  • Computational Linguistics – the study that gives focus on the language used by computers and its relation all together

What are the Branches of Linguistics?

Like any form of learning and knowledge, the study of linguistics is made up of several branches that aid its agenda to provide a thorough understanding to people who wish to learn it. The branches of Linguistics are as follows:

  • Phonetics

This branch focuses on how the words are supposed to sound when spoken. The notions of diction and enunciation play a vital role in this branch.

  • Syntax

This branch gives focus on sentences in general. The essential for this branch of Linguistics are diction, proper punctuation, capitalization, and analysis on the formation of the words (Morphology) itself to form a proper sentence.

  • Morphology

This branch specializes in the formation of words. This is essential for technical and vocal purposes to ensure communication is understood.

  • Pragmatics

This is the study of language use and it can prove beneficial when involved in talking to another person. Moreover, this branch of Linguistics is also advantageous for those who wish to venture into the BPO industry as it tacks on the ethics and customs observed in contemporary and technical conversations.

  • Phonology

This is the study that correlates with Phonetics as it focuses on how words should sound when thought of. This greatly pays attention to the mental use of language and how to think before speaking.

These branches make up the foundations and structures the acclaimed study is known for today. With what it has to offer, one must wonder when all this started.

How Long Has Linguistics Been Around?

The study itself has made an impact not only in the present BPO industry and other fields but also to the world in general since its inception of the modern structure in the early 18th to 19th century. Before that, one of the earliest known forms of written linguistics were shown through a series of pictures in a system known as cuneiform.

This form of linguistic text was invented by a civilization known as the Sumerians and was used for more than a millennium before the eventual introduction of the alphabetical text in the Roman Era. This was actually a period known as “proto-literacy”, an era preceding modern literacy, both written and spoken. However, the languages spoken in these historic eras were almost predominantly adapted into modern languages spoken today, particularly English.

How is Linguistics Being Practiced Today?

In modern times, scholars have continued to analyze the structure and form new modes of communication to be used on a daily basis by the people. They also mold new lessons on their respective languages to uphold the structures it was based upon.

With regards to the workforce, linguistics is heavily applied to the corporate aspect of communication. Written communication is ultimately relied upon the proper transactions. But the most important aspect, especially in a call center environment, is the verbal and oral communication.

How is the Study Seen in Call Center or BPO Agencies Today?

You may have noticed that most  call center agents’ dictions and enunciations are heavily emphasized while they are working. The reason behind this is because of the company’s outsourcing to a majority of countries which English is spoken as a second language, particularly the Philippines.

Many of the branches of linguistics apply to these agents, right down from the Phonetics, Phonology, and the Syntax. This is because of the language barriers between two countries and the fact that English is considered as a universal language, it is important for the agent and the client to have a mutual understanding on a number of things, especially when reaching a consensus on a certain issue.

In multilingual terms, the same branches of linguistics apply as well. When you are communicating to a client in a foreign language, a careful comprehension of the language must be observed at all times and must be corrected from time to time.

How Can One Effectively Communicate with a Client in Any Language?

Communicating with Clients and Customers

As mentioned before, an effective and precise communication is essential in all fields of any industry, most particularly in the BPO world. Since the is to provide over-the-phone assistance to clients and customers, it may be a bit difficult to maintain proficiency, not only just in English, but in any language that may be required of you as well due to the number of hours you’ll need to speak it.

In order to speak English continuously without losing bravado, here are some basic tips that may help you to abide by:

  • Practice Speaking What You Hear

This is an easy way to learn English. All you have to do is to just listen to anything you hear in your surroundings and take the time to practice verbalizing it. It will definitely help you in speaking the proper diction, enunciation, and accentuation with any word you may speak. Moreover, you also get to learn new words to add to your arsenal as an agent. Just remember to practice speaking in moderation to avoid over-emphasizing the sentences you speak.

  • Don’t Focus Too Much On Grammar

Unless you are providing support via email, you don’t really need to focus on this aspect of the English language. You just have to remember how the words should come out and deliver it with a tone that exudes professionalism and quality service.

  • Practice Your Tone

It is true when they say that your “work voice” is different with your normal voice. This can be achieved without having to put extra emphasis on your tone of voice. One effective way of practicing this is to record yourself speaking a line you would normally say to your clients and customers such as how you would normally introduce yourself to them and then re-recording it as many times as you wish.

Moreover, you can practice your tone by having mock conversations with yourself or a friend. This particular step can also serve as your training when you start working in the BPO industry. It is all about listening to yourself and deciding how you’d want to sound like to your client or customer.

  • Keep Reading

Reading plays a big part in one’s verbalization skills. If one is well-versed in reading, he/she will be able to have a more complex understanding on many structures of the English language and be able to comprehend what they read or hear from another person that is speaking.

In the BPO industry, reading will help in your research and benefit you in terms of providing assistance to your client. You will be able identify the client’s issue and provide a proper solution to them whether via phone call or email.

  • Practice Proper Modulation On Your Voice

With regards to the tone you wish to use when speaking to your client, it’s important to know how to modulate your voice in terms of volume. If it’s too loud, the connection over the phone may be compromised or if it’s too soft, your client will have difficulty hearing and understanding what you say. Either way, communication between you and your client may prove difficult.

By practicing modulation, you’ll be able to assert yourself in a certain tone that exudes eagerness to assist a client or customer while assuring that you will do what you deem is necessary to make sure your client and customer is met with satisfaction.

In multilingual terms, while most of the tips mentioned may be applied here, it may be a different story of a sort considering you’re speaking to clients in a language other than English or your native tongue. When talking to different clients and customers for a certain amount of time for the duration of your shift, maintaining fluency in any language for that long can prove difficult, though it doesn’t have to be.

Try these tips if you ever want to expand your expertise with any language you specialize in:

  • Learn the Phonetics of Every Word

When it comes to speaking in different languages, the words will sound foreign and very much different to others’ ears. With regards to this, it is important that you are aware of the words’ basic phonetics and stick to that knowledge.

The best way to practice it is to learn and re-learn the language you’re fluent in. Refresh yourself with the basics and listen to how the words in that language should sound when spoken.

  • Study the Syntax of that Language

Aside from the phonetics of any language, you must also be aware when you speak a sentence in a foreign language. When speaking a language like French or Japanese, the words and sentence formations may interchange and differ depending on how you want to address things to your client. It is also important to know how to form coherent sentences when speaking in a foreign language to ensure proper communication across the globe.

This is also in relation to the client’s country’s customs and traditions, especially countries like Spain or Japan. By learning the syntaxes of those languages, you’ll be able to show respect to your client from that country and uphold the values their countries represent.

  • Learn from Audio Observation

As much as possible, learn from listening to how people of that country speak. That way, you’ll be able to keep up with them in terms of communication and expound your knowledge on how to speak the language and/or the different dialects that come with it.

How Much of an Impact Has Linguistics Made in the BPO Industry?

Linguistics in the BPO Industry Today

The study itself applies heavily into the industry as it enables constant communication between multiple companies in multiple countries, whether it be written or spoken in English or other foreign languages. Linguistics helps in expanding the global market and, in turn, plays a major role in ensuring that agents and clients from around the world gain mutual benefits and establish strong professional bonds with one another.

In today’s world of BPO, there are numerous agencies that specializes in providing assistance to international clients in various languages. One of those agencies is Piton Global, one of the leading companies of the country’s industry.

Piton Global, aside from specializing in providing assistance to clients in English, also specializes in offshore accounts assisted in various languages around the world. Its agents aim to provide world-class quality services while breaking the various language barriers present.

For more information about Piton Global and its multilingual services, click here.