By Isaac Jason Usi on June 6, 2015
To be hired in a call center, you must possess this crucial basic skill: English proficiency. There are other skills required, of course, but if you are unable to speak English well, you’ll have a hard time setting foot in one of the most progressive industries in the country.
If you are aspiring to get into a call center but are unsure of your English skills, worry not. We asked April Ibay, a Training Specialist from a BPO admissions training company, to help identify the most common problems of call center applicants. To help you further, Ibay also provides some self-help tips for these weaknesses, drawn from her experience in English as a Second Language (ESL), as a module developer for an ESL company, online teacher to Japanese students, and English instructor in Thailand. For this article, we’ll focus on the grammatical weaknesses of BPO hopefuls, as well as the ways to overcome them on your own time.
Grammar Nazi time
This is a broad topic, and there are many subject-verb agreement rules, but the crux is clear: the verb must agree with the subject, both in number and in tense. Of course, no one is always perfect when it comes to grammar, but a lot of call center applicants do not seem to be aware of the rules. Or if they are, they have a hard time applying them once the sentence structures get more complex.
Below are the usual problems Ibay mentioned she encounters:
- I goes to...
- I/ you/ we/ they will going to
- She going to
- I listening music every day
- I did not went/ heard
- I woke up every day at 7:00 AM in the morning
- We visiting our relatives...
Articles and prepositions
In the Filipino language, there are only few articles and prepositions, but they abound in English. So, the tendency of call center applicants is to miss or misuse these words. Some examples are below. In all of them the articles and prepositions should not be in the sentence.
- I listen to a music
- I like running to a park
- I cook a lunch for my family
- I eat a dinner
- I don’t know to you.
- To whom do I speak to?
To improve your grammar, Ibay suggests to spend extra time doing the following:
Familiarize yourself with the parts of speech. Know what they are and when to use them.
For example, what are nouns? What kinds of nouns are there? When do we use articles? What is the difference between an adjective and an adverb? Where do they fall in a sentence? Knowing what these are would make you aware of your weaknesses and is the first step in correcting them. For a handy guide, here's a website that breaks down the rules.
When it comes to verb tenses, there is no shortcut to mastering all of its rules.
Ibay advises to look out for certain keywords that would indicate whether a question that you have to answer is in the past, present, or future. Then take note of the auxiliary verbs: am, is, are, do, and have.
- "How do you get here from your house?" ‘Do’ = present, which means you answer in the present tense. “I ride the MRT every day from North Edsa to Ayala.”
- "Why did you leave your last job?"-- 'Did' = past, so you answer in the past tense. “I left my last job because…”
Just take note, this isn't a set rule for everything. During your interview, you'd probably encounter questions like: "Where do you see yourself five years from now?" which, while technically is in the present, is asking about your future. Being attentive to the question and your statements is important.
Here are some websites that break down the verb tenses into simpler forms. They also have quizzes for you to test your understanding.
Write, write, write.
While most call center agents do their work over the phone, there are some that do their work behind a keyboard, and these jobs require strong language skills. With that said, writing can also be pretty helpful in refining your spoken grammar, and it can help in your thought organization process. Ibay suggests that you write a blog or keep a journal, and practice writing at least one paragraph daily.
Some suggest copying whole passages and articles, just so you'd be more familiar with the flow and get you better acquainted with proper grammar, punctuation and syntax.
Read. Read more.
Like writing, reading also helps you become more familiar with the usual patterns in constructing sentences, and can help you expand your vocabulary.
Read a book, or an article daily, but Ibay warns to be careful of your sources. If you prefer reading blogs, it is better to read something that is either linked to a news website, or is published by a well-known writer. Personal blogs usually haven't gone through a strict editing process and may contain some grammar or syntax errors.
Jot down unfamiliar words and guess their meaning through context.
Study the other words surrounding the unfamiliar word or simply getting a dictionary. Try using that new word in your own sentence to better remember it.
These are just some ways to overcome your grammatical weaknesses. If it becomes a bit overwhelming, relax and take it one step at a time. To further increase your chances of getting hired, check out these self-help tips to improve your speech and build your confidence.