Our most fundamental technology, the technology behind all our other technologies, is language. You cannot carry out today's business with yesterday's language and be in business tomorrow. Yet, thanks to the windbags in bureaucracy, academies and industry, language is frequently used more as a baffle wall than a means of communication. Corporate English intends to take the fog and fizz out of business writing. The author virtually declares a war on clichés, jargons, redundancies and buzzwords to restore the pristine spontaneity of the language. He pleads fervently for making corporate English user-friendly. "Professionals as well as the general reading public will benefit greatly from Corporate English," says Prof. Suranjan Das, former Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University and currently, the Vice-Chancellor of the Jadavpur University, in his scholarly foreword.
Subir Ghosh (b. Sept. 9, 1945) is, at present, the Principal of Bharatiya Bhavan's Asutosh College of Communication and Management in Kolkata and Professor Emeritus of the TM University. Earlier, he had been the Dy. General Manager of the state-owned Hindustan Paper Corporation, CPRO of the Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation, lecturer in English with the Bhairab Ganguly College, Kolkata and Staff Reporter with The Statesman and The Hindustan Standard in various phases of his career. He is currently associated with the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, St. Xavier's College (COP) and the Kalyani University (IMCFTS). Ghosh has written a number of books and monographs on mass media and public relations in English and a biography of Brambhobandhab Upadhaya in Bangla. He is a member of the London-based Chartered Institute of Public Relations. Ghosh is an alumnus of the Scottish Church College and the University of Calcutta.
The amusing confusion that foreign speakers of English occasionally create is best illustrated by a story about three Poles. They had migrated to England during the World War II and were, among various other activities, trying to learn English. A few weeks after their arrival, the local squire invited them to tea. When the hostess asked one of the guests whether he had any children, he replied: "No ma'am, my wife, sorry to say, is unbearable. The second gentleman quickly intervened to clarify his friend's statement: "What he means is that his wife is inconceivable. Not to be left out, the third gentleman promptly added: "No ma'am, what he means is that his wife is impregnable".
Such hilarious faux pas (why couldn't they think of a simple word like childless?) are not peculiar to the Poles alone. It is widespread among the Indians too. If we are complex and pompous in our writing, and we are, why are we? For close to fifty years, I have come across official letters, reports, notes, memos and news releases that academic and corporate bodies produce, apparently in English. Too often, I faced difficulties in deciphering what is being said or, worse yet, had to conclude that nothing is being said.
Today many bureaucrats, business honchos and technical experts struggle to carry on the world's most complex business with an outdated approach to the English language. Perhaps their archaic fashion worked well in the nineteenth century. Those relatively simple days are long gone. Back then you could finish a job without much paper work. Much of the vast working force in our country did not have to know how to read and write to finish a job. Business, technology, democracy and mass media had not yet reached their present stage of development. There are many other reasons, of course, for their convoluted style. They range from slavish imitation of poor models and woolly thinking to a failure to realise that wisdom goes arm-in-arm with simplicity.
Slowly, it dawned on me that language is not an abstract construction of the elite. It is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, sorrows, tastes, of long generations of humanity.
At a time when in India we are debating the importance and relevance of English in our nation-building process the publication of the present book has been timely and relevant. Certainly the introduction of English in our country was inextricably linked to the introduction of western education, which again was an effective instrument for the intrusion and consolidation of colonial rule in the subcontinent.
But for a country, characterized by linguistic diversity, English language developed during the freedom movement itself as a link language that not only facilitated communication across the provincial boundaries, but also the negotiations between the colonial authorities and nationalist leaders. Besides, it was through English language that the subcontinent became a cultural meeting point between the East and the West, which in many ways shaped the making of modern India.
In this age of globalization and information technology when no state can afford to lead an isolated existence, the utility of English as an effective language of communication has become a reality. Yet, our national life continues to be affected by the controversy whether vernaculars and Hindi should gain precedence over English.
The choice should not, however, be between English and vernaculars, or between English and Hindi. Instead, to preserve and strengthen the cultural pluralism of our society, there should be flowering of all the three: Hindi, vernaculars and English. Jawaharlal Nehru himself realized the importance of English in India when he noted:
If you push out English, does Hindi fully take its place? I hope it will. But I wish to avoid the danger of one unifying factor being pushed out without another unifying factor fully taking its place. In that event there will be a gap, a hiatus. The creation of any such gap or hiatus must be avoided at all costs. It is very vital to do so in the interest of the unity of our country. It is this that leads me to the conclusion that English is likely to have an important place in the foreseeable future. (Jawaharlal Nehru, Selected speeches (Vol II Page 12) Publications Division. 1973)
Subir Ghosh has effectively argued against the use of clichés and buzzwords and unfolded the manner in which the use of simple and unimposing words can make language a tool for meaningful dialogue and communication. This is particularly true for business and technical writings in English so that the discourses can become easily intelligible for the general public.
Ghosh succinctly demonstrates the importance of common sense in business writing, arguing that effective business writing does not require the use of 'extraordinary clever words’, but calls for the use of 'ordinary words to communicate 'extraordinary' messages and ideas. He enlightens us how the expedient use of communicative English can excite the readers, and keep them attentive to a topic which may be 'dull'.
Ghosh correctly notes that "essential success in business communication is to simplify complications”. Our management students should realize the significance of this maxim to become employer-friendly. In driving home the need for developing a 'culture of clarity', Ghosh appropriately takes recourse to illuminating quotations from eminent personalities, including that of Mahatma Gandhi, whose simple but forceful writings had unnerved the British Raj and stirred millions of Indians to rise up to fight for a just cause. The author aptly sums up the main argument of his work thus:
Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and use the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them. (Chapter VII Page 104).
Professionals as well as the general reading public will benefit greatly from Corporate English. Subir Ghosh deserves to be complimented for showing how English can b
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