New Delhi, Oct. 5: The Delhi auto drivers image as a tough nut, prone to break out into street-Hindi curses, could see a makeover in a couple of years.
If everything goes to plan, the citys taxi drivers, autowallahs, security guards and hotel waiters will turn into polite speakers of English by 2010, just in time for the Commonwealth Games.
The Union tourism ministry is devising a scheme to teach them good English keeping in mind the expected invasion by English-speaking visitors for the Games. The ministry plans to approach English-language experts to prepare a training module tailored to the learners backgrounds and requirements.
We expect more than 1 lakh visitors during the Games and almost all of them will be English-speakers. Its imperative that those interacting with them know the basics of the language if not good English, a ministry official said.
The ministry will need to open many English-lesson centres for the tens of thousands who must be trained, free of cost, if the scheme is to be successful. Training will also be given in etiquette and manners.
Officials hope the trainees will pick up enough English to be able to have decent conversations with the visitors and act as tour guides.
Good communication skills are an incomparable asset in the tourism industry. If we can arrange a slew of hospitality providers who speak good English with good etiquette, we can make a good impression on visitors from across the globe, the official said.
Auto drivers were divided in their opinion. I always wanted to speak English. Its good the government will teach us, but when shall we get the time for all this? asked Shyamlal, who plies his auto in central Delhi, mindful of the long grind and lost business the lessons entail.
Some were even more sceptical. All this is just talk; nothing is going to happen. Rather than teaching us old men, the government should try to teach proper English to our young ones in schools, said the elderly Rajaram in west Delhi.
The Delhi government, however, has already launched a communicative English teaching programme in municipal schools with help from the British Councils English Language Training team. Part of the objective is to have an army of good English-speaking volunteers for the Games.
With the same aim in mind, the Union tourism ministry is fine-tuning a scheme under which a select group of college students, aged 18 to 25, will be trained by the Institute of Tourism and Travel Management.
Tilak, a teenage auto driver from Uttar Pradesh, cannot take the institute course but is eager to attend the classes for drivers, guards and waiters.
If it gets us more customers, Im all for it, he said, excited. Well be able to speak to the foreigners….