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AN INTRODUCTION TO

PROFESSIONAL ENGLISH
AND
SOFT SKILLS

TEACHERS’ MANUAL
PART 2

(FOR SEMESTERS 2 AND 3)


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PART I

ORAL COMMUNICATION
IN
ENGLISH

(LISTENING AND SPEAKING)


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INTRODUCTION
ORAL COMMUNICATION IN ENGLISH

In Part I of the Teachers’ Manual (which was intended for use in Semester 1) the focus was on
the “General Principles of Communication”, which are applicable to all kinds of communication –
in any language, or even without the use of language.

We move now to a different level of communication, involving the use of a particular language –
in this case, English. (Please refer to the diagram on page 7, Part I, Chapter 1.)

The general principles remain valid when one communicates through English, but something
more is involved now. One requires knowledge of the English language, as well as the ability to
‘apply’ this knowledge during communication.

What must one know about English in order to communicate through the language ?

Each language forms a ‘code’, or a system of rules, which has to be observed during
communication. Many of these are ‘universal’ rules, shared by many, if not all, languages. In
addition, each language has some rules which are unique to it and are not found in other
languages.

In Chapter 4, Part I, we referred to the different kinds of rules that exist in language. They are :

i. semantic rules, which enable us to communicate different kinds of meaning by attaching


meanings to words ;

ii syntactic (grammatical) rules, which allow us to form sentences by combing words ;

iii discourse rules, which allow us to combine sentences together to form larger blocks of
language called ‘discourse’, through which we generally communicate ;

iv pragmatic rules, which allow us to communicate different intentions and purposes through
language ; and

v phonological rules, which allow us, while speaking, to combine different sounds together to
form words. Phonological rules are also used, during listening, to ‘interpret’ the sounds that we
hear and recover meaning from them.

Rules of the first four kinds (semantic, syntactic, discourse and pragmatic rules) are utilized for
all kinds of linguistic communication, written as well as spoken. But phonological rules come into
play only in oral communication and do not apply to written communication.

This section of the Teachers’ Manual is devoted to oral communication, which has become
specially important at the present time, particularly in the professional world. No oral
communication is possible through English unless you know (and can use) its system of sounds.

In Part I, we described the sounds of English. Chapter 1 of Part 2 is devoted to Listening and
Chapter 2 to Speaking.
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CHAPTER 1
THE SCIENCE AND ART OF LISTENING

‘PASSIVE’AND ‘ACTIVE’ LISTENING

Some people refer to Listening and Reading as ‘passive’ or ‘receptive’ language skills, while
Speaking and Writing are called ‘active’ or ‘productive’ skills. On the surface, these labels would
appear to be valid. It is true that the speaker/writer produces language while the listener/reader
merely receives it. The speaker is clearly active while speaking ; on the other hand, the listener
does not appear to be doing anything. Much more importance was therefore attached to
speaking than to listening: people were trained to become good speakers, but until recently, no
one was trained to become a good listener.

The attention being given to Listening now is largely because of the interest in ‘Business
Communication’. We shall discuss later in this chapter why the skill of Listening has great
importance in the world of business.

HEARING AND LISTENING

People who think of listening as a passive skill forget that the English language has two different
words to refer to this activity : ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’. ‘Hearing’ refers to the physical/mechanical
process by which sounds are picked up through the ears. Hearing is an involuntary activity : you
cannot choose not to hear (unless you block your ears).

Listening, on the other hand, is a deliberate activity. You can choose not to listen while someone
is speaking, by allowing your mind to wander away, even though your ears can ‘hear’ what is
being said. We listen with our minds as well as with our ears.

While hearing could be described as a ‘passive’ activity, listening is very much an active skill. In
fact, some people believe now that listening plays a more important part in communication than
speaking. Ultimately, it is the listener who controls the process of communication : all
communication ceases if the listener chooses not to listen.

What is involved in Listening

Sound perception

In spoken language, messages are communicated through sounds. If these sounds are not
heard, the messages are lost. So, at a basic level, the listener should be able to hear the sounds
that the speaker produces. If the listener has a hearing impediment, or is unable to hear on
account of noise etc., communication suffers.

Sound differentiation

An important fact about spoken language is that meanings are signalled through contrasts in
sound. Take, for example, the words ‘scene’ (/si:n/) and ‘sin’ (/sIn/). These words carry very
different meanings, but the difference in meaning is signalled by only one small change in sound
: /i:/ is replaced by /I /. The contrast may be so slight, in some cases, that it becomes difficult for
the listener to hear it.
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Even a person with normal hearing may miss a sound contrast if it is not significant in his/her
mother-tongue. In languages such as Bengali and Oriya, for instance, there is said to be a ‘long-
i’ as well as a ‘short-i’ sound, but in actual practice, the difference between these two sounds is
often neutralized. As a result, a person whose mother-tongue is Bengali or Oriya is quite likely to
hear (as well as pronounce) the word ‘scene’ as ‘sin’ (or ‘sin’ as ‘scene’). The perception of
sounds is as much psychological as physical : the Listener hears what he/she expects to hear,
and does not hear what he/she does not expect to hear. In fact, as we shall see, expectation
plays a very important part in Listening.

Ear- training

Some people have greater powers of hearing than others, just as some people have better eye-
sight than others. However, a listener’s natural ability to hear sounds as well as the contrasts
between sounds can be enhanced, to a large extent, through training and practice. This kind of
practice, which is focused on the accurate perception of sounds, is known as “ear-training”.

‘Minimal pairs’

Two words which have different meanings but almost the same pronunciation, with a difference
of only one sound, are known as minimal pairs. For example, the words “scene” and “sin” form
a minimal pair, the difference in pronunciation being created by a difference in only one sound –
/ i:/ and /I /. Similarly, ‘full’ and ‘fool’, or ‘sea’ and ‘she’, form minimal pairs.

In ‘ear-training’, listeners are given practice with minimal pairs. They listen to either one of a pair
of words, which is repeated several times and are asked to write down which word they heard.
For example, what the listener hears may be :

full fool fool full fool full full fool

The listener should not be able to predict or guess which word he/she is going to hear next, but
should be forced to depend entirely on hearing.

Activity 1

1 Write down each of the words that your instructor reads out.

i bin bean bean bin bean bin bean


ii cot cot caught caught caught cot caught
iii dean din dean din din dean din
iv fit feet fit feet feet fit fit
v pull pool pool pull pull pull pool

2 Write down the sentences which your instructor reads out. (The instructor will read out the
sentences below, using either of the two words given in brackets to fill up the blank space.)

i You should be careful, or you may be …….. (beaten / bitten)


ii You should have taught her how to …… (write / ride)
iii He deserves to have a clean ….. (seat / sheet)
iv Tell us how your hand was ….. (caught/cut)
v I don’t want you to …… on the ice. (slip/ sleep)
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When sentences are used for ear-training, it should be ensured that the context is neutral and
does not provide any clues to the listener. A sentence such as the following is not useful for
listening practice :

You should …… his glass at once. (feel / fill)

Here, the obvious choice is ‘fill’, as ‘feel’ does not suit the context at all. Even if the listener has
not heard the word accurately, he/she can make the right choice easily.

Listening involves more than hearing

It is important for listeners to ‘train their ears’, so that they can hear and perceive sounds
accurately. But the listener does not depend only on sounds to recover meaning from an
utterance. There are other sources of information which he/she makes use of.

Very often, some of the sounds contained in an utterance cannot be heard by the listener. This
may be because the speaker does not produce the sounds clearly (on account of some speech
problem, such as stammering) ; or, the sounds may not be audible because of noise etc. Still, we
find that the listener is able to understand the intended meaning. How is this possible ?

Activity 2

1 Write down the sentences read out by your instructor. Some of the words are missing. Supply
the missing words. (The instructor will say “blank” to show that some words are missing.)

i “Indians do not eat much meat, but their blank contains a lot of blank, such as rice, wheat or
maize, as well as a good quantity of blank.”

ii “ India is one of the world’s leading producers of two wheelers. Last year,it produced 6 lakh
blank and 3 lakh blank.

iii To set up an IT company in India one needs good hardware as well as blank. An IT
professional should have a good blank which can be easily carried while travelling.

iv “ I remember that I wrote a letter to my friend yesterday, but I do not remember (blank).”

v The terrorists blank the hotel with AK 47 blank and other sophisticated blank.

2 What helped you to recover the missing words ? (Discuss the answer.)

Let us look at a different example now :

Imagine that you are standing, together with a friend, in a crowd. Suddenly, your friend says to
you : “He’s coming ! ” What is he/she trying to tell you ?

In this case, none of the words are missing. But you have to go beyond the words to arrive at the
meaning. You must know the context in which this utterance is made.

What is the nature of the relationship between your friend and you ? What are you two doing in
that crowd ? And, most importantly, who is the “he” that your friend refers to? Why is his arrival
worth reporting ?
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It could be that your friend and you have gone to the airport to catch a glimpse of a celebrity – a
famous cricketer or a filmstar. You have waited a long time for the celebrity to come out of the
airport building and are growing impatient. Finally, the moment arrives !

The intonation that your friend uses will indicate whether he is excited or bored, and influence
your response to the utterance.

As you can see, the activity of Listening depends on many more factors than just having ‘good
ears’. Several different kinds of information are used in order to interpret an utterance.

Listening is an active skill

The common misconception about Listening is that the listener is only a ‘human tape-recorder’,
picking up the sounds (words, sentences etc.) which the speaker produces, recording and filing
them away in his/her memory and ‘replaying’ them afterwards to retrieve the message that was
received.

As a matter of fact, the listener is more like a computer with a built-in program. While the speaker
is speaking, one part of the listener’s brain may be recording the data, but another part is busy
analyzing, sorting, re-arranging and re-organizing the data for easy retrieval. This is very much
an active process, although it cannot be observed.

The sub-skills of listening

Listening is a composite skill, made up of a large number of sub-skills. We will describe the main
sub-skills below.

i. Global comprehension

When a speaker speaks, there is usually a central theme or idea which holds everything
together. If there was no central idea, we would not be able to understand what was being said.
Most people do not think ‘in a straight line’ : we tend to follow several different lines of thought,
moving away from the central idea but generally coming back to it. The pattern of thinking is
reflected in the way we speak or write : there are digressions and distractions, but there is
usually a ‘central thread’ running through the message. Moreover, we tend to use more words
than is strictly necessary. The superfluous words clutter up the message, adding to the
confusion.

In the well-known Mahabharata story, Arjuna, the supreme archer, won the prize by
concentrating on the eye of the fish, ignoring everything else. The good listener is similarly
focused on the ‘essentials’. No matter how many superfluous words the speaker uses, no matter
how many distractions there are in his/her speech, the good listener is able to keep the central
idea in focus, re-arranging the speaker’s ideas mentally and filtering out what is not necessary.
The good listener listens with a purpose, which is to understand, first of all, the ‘gist’ or ‘meat’ of
what is being said. The details follow.

In both Listening and Reading, two different kinds of ‘comprehension’ or understanding are
involved. The first is called global comprehension, which means understanding the total or
over-all meaning of what is said (or written).

Here is an example.

Activity 3
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(The instructor reads out the passage below and the students listen.)

Many Americans feel that the eight years of George Bush’s presidency form an unfortunate
chapter in their nation’s history. The war against Saddam Hussain, which started as a search for
weapons of mass destruction that never existed, was a severe drain on America’s resources.
The economic crisis that has hit America in 2008 may largely be the result of bad political and
economic decisions taken during the Bush years. The U.S. presidential election is only a few
days away. The Republican candidate, John McCain, is receiving strong support from
conservative Americans who are die-hard believers in free enterprise. But McCain’s chances of
becoming the next President have suffered because many people think he is likely to continue
the policies of President Bush, although he is on record as having opposed Bush on several
important issues. Barrack Obama had managed to build up a substantial lead in the presidential
race by persuading voters that he represents change, unlike McCain. However, over the last few
days, McCain seems to have reduced Obama’s lead. The latest opinion poll shows Obama
leading by only 5 points: 49 percent of American voters say they will vote for him, as against 44
percent for McCain. The latter now seems to be playing on American fears that a President with
no experience of administration will not be able to pull America out of the crisis. Whether this
mood will last remains to be seen.

1 How many of the ideas suggested below were actually present in the passage ?

(Put a tick mark against any idea which was present in the passage.)

i President Bush is still very popular in America.


ii The war against Irag has contributed to America’s present economic problems.
iii There is not much support for Mc Cain.
iv McCain has said that he will continue the policies of George Bush.
v Obama has a very big lead over Mc Cain.
vi People believe Obama will make a good president

2 What is the central idea in this passage ?

Several different ideas have been expressed here, but it is fairly clear that the central idea is the
2008 presidential election in America and the changing fortunes of the two candidates, Obama
and McCain. The other things are only ‘side issues’. In fact, some of the things in the passage
may be irrelevant to the main theme.

The good listener should be able to ‘home in’ immediately on the central theme and to perceive
the relationship between the main theme and the sub-themes. He/she must first get the ‘over-all’
picture before the details can be picked up.

The central theme is generally introduced at the beginning of a speech (or piece of writing), to
help the listener/reader. But you will find in the passage above that the opening sentences are
not directly related to the main theme. This passage is not about Bush : it is about Obama and
McCain. Bush is introduced only as a ‘sub-theme’.

Here is an example of a passage in which the central idea is introduced at the beginning :

Sachin likes to help his dad every week with the work at the farm. He picks up any twigs that
may be in the way so his dad doesn't run over them with the mower. He also helps to rake the
grass into small piles when his dad is finished with mowing. Sometimes his dad lets him ride on
the tractor, sitting by his side. This is what Sachin enjoys most.
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ii Local comprehension

While the listener is trying to identify the central idea, he/she also has to identify and remember
some details. For example, it may be important for the listener (of the passage above) to know
by exactly how many points Obama is leading McCain. The ability to pick out and remember
important details is called local comprehension. Although local comprehension is necessary, it
is less important in listening than global comprehension.

Listening for supporting details

The text below includes a main idea and two supporting details. Tick the sentences that give you
the supporting details, leaving out the main idea.

Specialists predict that the world will be a very different place in the 21st century. New
technology will allow people to live longer and healthier lives. New means of transportation will
make our jets look old-fashioned.

(Answer: sentences 2 & 3)

Extracting detailed information

Activity 4

Listen as your instructor reads out the following ‘recipe’ :

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the chicken,
chopped onions and ginger for about two minutes, stirring frequently. Add the juice from one-half
of the orange. Sauté for another minute. Add the chopped lemon grass and continue cooking for
a minute or two. Add spinach and the juice from the remaining half of the orange and cook for an
additional minute. Add the cilantro and sauté for one additional minute. Serve over rice or pasta
and sprinkle with rice noodles. Bon appetite!

Questions :

i. What are the ingredients used in this recipe ?


ii. How much oil is used ? what kind of oil ?
iii. How much time is needed to cook this dish ?
iv. What can it be eaten with?

Listening for specific information

Activity 5

Pick out the important details in the passage below :

The volcano on Mount St Helens is located in the northwest part of this island. It is 40,000 years
old. It last erupted on 18 May 1980. Some signs that the volcano might be becoming active again
were seen in the fall of 2004: the earth started rumbling and a large jet of steam burst out from
the mouthy of the volcano.

Tick the correct answer as you listen to the text:

i Where is the volcano located?


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a to the west of the island


b to the northeast
c to the northwest

ii How old is the volcano?

a 14,000 years old


b 40,000 years old
c 24,000 years old

iii When did the volcano last erupt ?

a 8 May 1980
b 18 May 1981
c 8 May 2004

Inferencing (Listening between the lines)

A speaker does not always state his/her ideas explicitly. Very often, things are left unstated. It is
assumed that the listener will be able to guess what the speaker intends to say, as clues are
available to guide the listener in making an inference. For example :

Activity 6

Listen to the following passage :

Talking about alopecia areata, Professor Polansky said “ You come across it maybe once in a
lifetime. If you talk to dermatologists, they will tell you they have read about this disease in their
textbooks, but that’s all.”

Questions

i Which part of the body is affected by alopecia areata ?


ii Is it a common disease ?

iii How were you able to answer these questions ?

Making predictions

The listener is often required to anticipate or predict (mentally) what the speaker is going to say
on a given topic. What makes prediction possible is the listener’s background knowledge of the
context. An example is provided below :

Activity 7

Listen to the sentences which your instructor reads out. The last sentence is incomplete. Can
you complete it ?

Politics is full of surprises. Who would have thought Kennedy would come out on top in 1964?
So, in 2008, we may expect …

Most probably, the speaker intends to say that the presidential election of 2008 is likely to
produce a surprise, just as it did in 1964. But to understand what the speaker is saying, the
listener has to be familiar with the context.
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Guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words from the context

Look at the following sentence :

Activity 8

Listen to the two sentences read out by your instructor.

“My old diamond necklace had lost its shine, so I sent it to a lapidary. He did a wonderful job and
now it looks as if it’s new !”

i What does the word ‘lapidary’ mean ? Can you guess the meaning ?

A ‘lapidary’ must be someone that you send your diamond necklace to when it loses its shine –
someone who works with precious stones and knows how to make them shine : a kind of
jeweller. There are enough clues in the sentence to help you to guess the meaning.

THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING IN PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION

According to several estimates, people in the business world spend about 45% of a typical
working day in listening. If you are a senior manager in a company, all kinds of people will come
to you with inquiries, suggestions, proposals, comments, complaints etc. – all of which you will
have to listen to. In fact, the higher a person is on the corporate ladder, the more time he/she
spends in listening to others. Managers who are rated most highly by their subordinates are
invariably good listeners. On the other hand, many a promising career has been cut short by the
unwillingness or inability to listen.

Most people are poor listeners. When we interact with people, we do not always give them the
attention which they deserve. We may be distracted or thinking about other things.

Another common fault with listeners is that they lack the patience to allow speakers to finish
saying what they want to say. When the speaker has completed only a part of an utterance, the
listener may think that he/ she knows what the speaker is going to say next. Instead of listening,
the listener is busy thinking of the reply that he/she will give.

Listening is severely hampered when individuals are in a conflict situation. Individuals in conflict
often contradict one another stubbornly without paying attention to what the other person is
saying. Each party keeps repeating their own point of view, and neither is prepared to listen. On
the other hand, when one develops the willingness to listen, it becomes possible to appreciate
the other person’s point of view. An ambiance of cooperation is created, and the possibility of the
conflict being resolved is much greater.

Active Listening

Active listening is ‘listening with a purpose’. The active listener enters into every interaction with
a strong desire to understand the other person’s point of view, not allowing personal feelings,
perceptions, likes and dislikes to come in the way. No issue is pre-judged ; judgement is
suspended until the listening process is complete.

Think about your most recent conversations. If you can remember what you said better than
what you heard, you have probably developed some bad listening habits. Instead of really
listening, you have been allowing your mind to wander while others talk.
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Faulty listening habits can cause misunderstandings several times a day. Many serious mistakes
and organizational mix-ups arise from someone failing to listen. Poor listening can cause such
mishaps as missing an important appointment, misunderstanding a direction, misinterpreting a
suggestion or addressing the wrong problem.

Activity

Take the listening quiz given below to determine your LQ (Listening Quotient).

The Listening Quiz

1. I try to anticipate what people will say next as they are speaking. Yes No
2. I judge the merit of what people say from the very first sentence. Yes No
3. I mentally reject what others say if they don't agree with my opinions and values.
Yes No
4. I rarely pay attention to a speakers’ body language and facial expressions.
Yes No
5. My own opinions affect my ability or willingness to listen to what others say.
Yes No
6 While someone is talking to me, I am thinking of the reply I am going to give.
Yes No
7. I often interrupt people to speed a conversation along or to present my idea/
opinion on the topic. Yes No
8. If I disagree with people, I tell them immediately and set the record straight.
Yes No
9. Most of the time, I am ready with a response as soon as the other person stops
talking. Yes No
10. If the other person is long winded or boring, I stop listening. Yes No

Mastering the art of active listening

If you want to bring about a change in your behaviour, you should first understand your own
shortcomings without blaming others for your problems. So, first of all, become aware of your
deficiencies as a listener and make a conscious effort to overcome them.

The following guidelines are useful in raising your listening efficiency:

Do not interrupt Interrupting and completing a speaker's utterance for him/her damages
communication. Check the temptation to interrupt. Make sure the speaker has finished saying
what he/she wanted to say before you speak.

The most effective way to break the habit of interrupting is to apologize each time you interrupt.
After a few apologies, you will think twice before jumping in while a person is speaking.

Look interested Show through your body-language that you are genuinely interested in what
the speaker has to say. Your posture should encourage the speaker to speak : look alert, make
eye-contact and lean a little forward. Radiate interest by nodding your head or raising your
eyebrows and offer encouragement with comments and questions such as, "Is that what you had
in mind?" or "Correct me if I am wrong, but I think what you're trying to tell me is . . ." followed by
a paraphrase of the speaker's remarks.

Don’t appear to be in a hurry The speaker feels rushed if you indicate, by looking frequently
at your watch etc., that you are pressed for time. Help the speaker to relax and open up by
conveying that you have time to listen.
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Don’t be distracted Don't be engaged in another job, e.g. writing/reading something, while
someone is speaking to you. Put aside whatever you are doing.

Poor listeners are easily distracted by sounds, objects and people, such as the
ringing of a telephone or a person passing through the corridor. Good listeners
position themselves to avoid distraction and concentrate harder on what the speaker
is saying.

Adapt your ‘thinking speed’ The mind is much faster than the tongue. A listener can think
three to four times faster than a speaker can talk, which is why listeners tend to lose
concentration. Impatient with the speaker's slow progress, your mind wanders off until you hear
something that interests you. Then you realize you've missed something, and you don't really
understand what the other person is saying. When the temptation to take brief mental excursions
becomes irresistible -- this frequently happens while listening to long-winded speakers -- your
listening efficiency drops to near zero.

To use your thinking speed to advantage, keep analyzing, in your own mind, what the speaker is
saying as he/she talks. Mentally sum up what's been said. Weigh the evidence by considering
whether the facts are accurate and the viewpoints are objective, or whether the speaker is only
trying to prove a point.

Don't get too involved. If you become too involved in the speaker, you'll lose track of the
message. Force yourself to concentrate on the message rather than the speaker's accent or
style of speaking, speech impediments etc.. Ask yourself: "What is he or she saying that I need
to know?"

Listen between the lines. Concentrate not only on what is being said but also on the attitudes,
needs and motives behind the words. Remember that the speaker's words may not always
contain the entire message. The changing tones and volume of the speaker's voice may have
meaning. So may facial expressions, gestures and body movements. Being alert to nonverbal
cues increases your total comprehension of the message.

For example, sometimes the speaker’s words and the auditory and behavioral cues carry
different messages. The speaker may say that he is excited about an idea or project, while his
lack of spontaneous movement, wandering or downcast eyes, uninterested tone of voice,
masked face or hunched posture may indicate the opposite.

Practice Active Listening

You can learn to practice active listening if you take the following steps :

Be attentive. Be interested. Be alert. Create a positive atmosphere through nonverbal


behavior.

Focus on what the other person is saying. If you don't understand, ask the speaker
for clarification.

Observe the speaker’s body language. Body language provides more clues to meaning than the
words used.

Do not assume that you already know what the person is going to say. Wait patiently
till he has finished. He may have something which you
might not know!
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Indicate that you are listening by :

providing brief, noncommittal acknowledging responses, e.g., "Uh-huh," "I see."

giving nonverbal acknowledgements, e.g., nodding of the head, facial


expressions matching those of the speaker, open and relaxed body expression,
eye contact.

invitations to say more, e.g., "Tell me about it," "I'd like to hear about that."

Restate in your own words what the person has been trying to say to ensure your
understanding.

If the speaker seems agitated for some reason, rather than merely repeating what the
speaker has said, describe the underlying emotion (“You seem to be upset” or “ You
seem to be disappointed, is it because…?”). This would express your empathy for the
speaker and improve the process of conversation.

If you disagree with something that has been said, keep a mental note of it, and return
to it when the conversation is over. Bringing it up immediately can sometimes cause
friction.

Do not interrupt while someone is talking. It makes them hostile or frustrated and you
may break their train of thought.

Avoid folding your arms or crossing your legs as these postures can come across as
closed off, rejecting or angry. Keep an open and receptive body posture.

Follow the "ground rules" of good listening :

Do’s

Encourage: "Can you tell me more...?"etc. Use neutral words and varying tone of
voice.
Clarify: ask questions / restate.
Validate: “You seem very upset ”. Acknowledge the value of the other person’s
words and feelings. Show appreciation of their views.

Don’ts

Don't interrupt.
Don't change the subject or move in a new direction.
Don't interrogate.
Don't give advice before listening.

SOME PASSAGES FOR PRACTICE IN LISTENING

Five short passages have been provided for practice in Listening. The instructor will read out
these passages and get students to listen. The listening activity is to be followed by the
comprehension exercises given below.
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Please note that these passages are not to be used for practice in Reading. They should not,
therefore, be given to the students.

Passage 1

When you are writing something in English and you want to refer to yourself, you have to use a
capital ‘I’. English is the only language in the world which requires you to do this. There are no
capital letters at all In Arabic or Hindi. In French, all pronouns are written with small letters, while
in German, only the word for ‘You’ is spelt with a capital letter.

For a long time, the word for ‘I’ in English was ‘ic’, borrowed from the German word “ich”, which
is spelt with small letters. It was only in the 15th century that the capital “I” was born.

The word “capital” is associated with importance, wealth and power. Is that the reason why we
use a capital letter to talk about ourselves in English ?

The capitalization of the first-person pronoun “I” may have had a powerful cultural influence on
the English-speaking countries of the world. Britain became the world’s leading power in the 19th
century and America in the 20th, making English the dominant language. Perhaps Western
society would be less focused on money and success if we thought of ourselves as small people,
spelt only with small letters.

***

Exercises on Passage 1

1 In this passage, the speaker appears to be :

a. an admirer of the English language


b. a critic of the English language
c. an active supporter of the English language

(Choose the correct answer.)

2 What similarity between English and German is mentioned in this passage ?

3 When was the ‘capital I’ first used in English ? What effect has the use of the ‘capital I’
produced on the people of English-speaking countries ?

Passage 2

In many languages of the world, ‘baby-words’, used by babies to refer to their parents and other
close relations, have syllables that are repeated. For example, in Italian as well as English, the
most common baby-words are “papa”, and “mama” ; Hindi has “baba”, “dada” and “nana”, while
the Hungarian word for “grandfather” is “tata”.

Can this be a coincidence ? A group of Canadian scientists has recently come up with some
research which suggests that this is not the case. There seems to be a natural reason, based on
biology, behind the use of such words.

Using the latest brain-scan techniques, these scientists recorded the brain activities of 22 new-
born babies, who were exposed to the sounds of several nonsense words through loudspeakers.
When the babies heard words like “mubaba” and “penana”, in which syllables are repeated, their
16

brain activity increased. But listening to words like “mubage” and “penaku”, in which there is no
repetition of sounds, produced no effect at all.

In another experiment, scientists measured the oxygen levels in the blood and brain areas of
another group of newly-born babies, who were exposed to repetitive sounds. It was found that
when the babies listened to recordings of the words “papa”, “daddy” and “mommy”, the oxygen
levels went up, showing increased brain activity.

These experiments confirm the theory that the human brain is specially adapted for the learning
of languages. The repetition of sounds stimulates certain centres in the brain which have
become specialized for language learning.

***

Exercises on Passage 2

1 What is a ‘baby word’ ?


2 What are some of the examples of ‘baby words’ provided by the speaker ?
3 What is common to all these words ?
4 Describe the two experiments which the speaker refers to. What do these experiments prove
?

Passage 3

All over the world, automobile engineers are trying to think of ways to save precious fuel, by
making cars more fuel-efficient. Many different fuel-saving devices have been invented and tried
out in recent years. But now, engineers working for General Motors in America have found that
the hot exhaust gases from a car’s tail-pipe, which are normally wasted and cause high
atmospheric pollution, can help to increase the fuel-efficiency of a vehicle by as much as 10
percent.

The principle that these engineers are using is called “thermo-electrics”, which may be described
as the science of using temperature differences to generate electricity.

In an experimental vehicle, the exhaust pipe of a petrol-powered car was surrounded by a metal
cylinder. The exhaust gases passed through one half of the cylinder, raising its temperature to
over 800 degrees Centigrade, but the other half remained at a much lower temperature as it was
cooled by the air. The difference in temperature in the two halves of the cylinder produced a
strong electric current, which was used to power an auxiliary engine fitted to the car. The main
engine could be switched off for as long as 30 minutes, allowing the vehicle to run on electricity
alone. But the main engine had to be switched on again after 30 minutes as electricity could be
generated only when the exhaust reached a high temperature.

This research could not have come at a better time, as oil prices continue to rise. A 10 percent
increase in efficiency could bring about a saving of 100 million gallons of fuel in America every
year.

Exercises on Passage 3

1. What is ‘thermo-electrics’ ?
2 Describe the application of ‘thermo-electrics’ which the speaker refers to.
3 What is this experiment significant ?
17

Passage 4

The word “curry”, which entered the English language about 200 years ago but is not found in
any Indian language, is said to have come from the Tamil word “Kaari”, which was the name of a
spicy South Indian dish containing vegetables and meat. Some of the British colonials who lived
and worked in India developed a taste for this exotic dish, but most of them resisted it – just as
they resisted other things that were typically Indian. The British in India had one great fear : the
fear of ‘going native’. For most of them, India was a fascinating but barbaric country, which would
trap them into losing their own identities if they were not careful. They kept Indian curry away
from their tables.

But history has strange ways of taking revenge. In the first half of the 20th century, Indian curry
invaded restaurants in Britain and even entered family kitchens – although often in watered-
down forms which could hardly be recognized. Soon, it had crossed the English Channel and
reached France and Germany, taking on different incarnations in each country.

But in the last 20 years, curry has gone ‘global’. Today, it is the most international of all foods. In
2001, the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, caused a sensation by declaring that chicken
tikka masala was Britain’s national dish. The “New York Times” devoted a special supplement to
the glories of Indian curry. Curry has many devotees in America, including the former president,
Bill Clinton. Several Hollywood stars, notably Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson, have
personal Indian chefs who keep them regularly supplied with curry. In Japan, curry is more
popular than Chinese or Thai food, and even the Chinese have become curry-lovers. Curry is
India’s gift to the world.

Exercises on Passage 4

1 What is the origin of the word “curry” ?


2 In which Indian languages is this word found ?
3 “ History has strange ways of taking revenge.” Why does the speaker say this ?
4 “ Curry is India’s gift to the world”. Do you agree with this statement ?

Passage 5

“ Tapan, I wish you’d put out that cigarette.”

“ Why ? Does it bother you ?”

“ As a matter of fact, it does. But don’t you know that smoking in public places is banned ? The
government has recently introduced a law against it.”

“ Well, it’s easy to introduce laws. But can they be enforced ?”

“ This one can. If the Manager of this restaurant reported you to the police, you could be arrested
for breaking the law.”

‘ Yes, but believe me, Minu, I would be out again in just 5 minutes. There’s always a way out, if
one is prepared to spend a little money.”

“ Well, even if you don’t support the idea of a ban, you should be aware of the dangers of
smoking. It can kill you.”
18

“Look, I’ve been smoking for 20 years and I’m not dead yet. Besides, lots of other things can kill
you. The water that we drink, for example. Why doesn’t the government put a ban on that ?”

“ It’s impossible to argue with you, Tapan. If you want to die a slow death, go ahead. But you
don’t have a right to pollute the air that others breathe.”

“ Am I producing more pollution than that auto-rickshaw ? Why don’t you ban that ?”

“ The government is doing its best to control pollution. All motor vehicles have to meet strict anti-
pollution standards.”

“ I don’t see any sign of that in our city. I wish the government would get its priorities right. Why
doesn’t it concentrate on the important things, like removing poverty. If some people want to
smoke, we should let them. After all, it’s my life ; I should be allowed to do what I like with it.
How is the government bothered ?”

Exercises on Passage 5

1 What is the subject of the discussion in this passage ?


2 What are the main arguments put forward by each speaker ?
3 Which one of them would you support and why ?
19

CHAPTER 3
EFFECTIVE SPEAKING

Our aim in this chapter is to introduce you to some important principles of Effective Speaking as
well as to provide practice in speaking English in a variety of situations.

It should not be necessary to convince our readers of the importance of being able to speak
English well. A glance at the advertisements put out by business companies will show that
proficiency in Spoken English is considered a ‘must’ for the business world. On the whole, Indian
users of English are better at handling the written language than the spoken language, mainly
because of insufficient practice in speaking.

What is required for effective speaking ?

In order to become an effective speaker of English, you have to gain control over a number of
different ‘elements’ of the English language. We have discussed most of them earlier but will go
over them again, with a particular focus on “Speaking”.

1 Accent

As we have already explained, many Indian speakers of English are not very “intelligible”,
specially to ‘foreigners’, because they tend to speak English with an Indian accent, to which
people from other countries and language backgrounds may not be accustomed. If English has
to be used by Indians for global communication, we should learn to speak it with a ‘neutral
accent’ which can be understood internationally.

2 Vocabulary

Speakers are often unable to say what they want to say because they do not know the exact
word or words that should be used. The use of a wrong word can often create confusion.

Activity 1

In the following sentences, a word has been incorrectly used. Can you replace it with the correct
word ?

i. My father is an honourable director in this company. He does not get any salary.
ii. He knows his job well. He is highly competitive.
iii Mr. Amlani, the famous writer, was born in our city and is an illustrative son of
the soil.
iv America has a land area three times that of India but a population that is only
one-fifth of India’s population. The two countries are not compatible.
v Our Regional Manager gets 35 lakhs per annum. I cannot hope to earn so much
money in my life ; in fact, I cannot deceive such a thing.
vi It was impudent of you not to save any money for your son’s education.
vii Your report should not have more than 100 words. I want it to be very precise.
viii The patient was brought to the hospital in a crucial condition.
ix The man doubled in politics for some time before he became a lawyer.
x The border between India and Bangladesh is completely pious. People can
walk across easily.
20

You should try to develop your vocabulary and learn the words that you require for different kinds
of communication. In a separate section of this book (on “Vocabulary”), we have put together
some suggestions for enhancing your vocabulary.

3 Grammar

Although Indian learners spend many hours at school and college studying English grammar,
many of us continue to make grammatical errors, specially while speaking.

Grammatical errors do not always block communication ; you may be able to understand what a
speaker is trying to say even if there are errors in his/her speech. But each error tends to distract
you by taking your mind away from the ‘meaning’ that is being communicated to the form of the
error.

Activity 2

Identify and correct the errors in the following sentences :

i. Why you did not come to see me yesterday ?


ii Your father is a doctor, isn’t it ?
iii He asked me when is the train arriving ?
iv He will go Chennai tomorrow.
v We were discussing about this problem for the last two hours.
vi He has been living in Mumbai since five years.
vii He is not knowing the answer.
vii Prime Minister says government is trying to control the inflation.
viii He asked me that where is the station.
ix The leader of this large group of industrialists have been carefully chosen.
x The building has not painted for the last 5 years.

When Indians use English to communicate among themselves, many of these grammatical
errors may not be noticed (since many of us commit the same errors), but when we speak to
someone from a different country, the errors may stand out prominently. Learning to avoid
‘common errors’ should, therefore, be another important objective for students who want to
improve their ability to communicate in English.

4 Style : formal and informal uses of language

You must be aware of the fact that a language is used differently in different situations --
depending on who you are speaking to, when and where. For example, in Hindi, the pronoun
“tum” is used when talking to a friend or a child, but “aap” is used for someone who is older or
has a higher position. With “aap”, we use verbs such as “baithiye” (sit) or “khaiye” (eat), but with
“tum” we use different forms of the same verbs, such as “baitho”, “khao” etc.

Sentences such as “aap baithiye” (Hindi) represent the formal style of speaking (or writing),
while “tum baitho” represents the informal style. The formal style is used in ‘formal’ situations :
for example, you would use the formal style when talking to your boss in the office, discussing
important matters at a meeting or talking to a client or customer. The ‘informal’ style would be
normally used during a chat between friends in the canteen etc.

It would be inappropriate to use an informal style of speaking in a situation which calls for a
formal style (e.g. when talking to the Vice-chancellor of your university) or a formal style in a
situation which requires an informal style (e.g., when chatting with a friend). For effective
communication, you must know which style to use in each situation.
21

Activity 3

Comment on the style used in each of the examples below. Re-write each example if you think
the style is not appropriate.

1 Chairperson (at a company meeting) : Okay, boys and girls. We’ve got a hell of a lot of
things to talk about this morning. Let’s get cracking, shall we ?

2 Teacher (to a pupil of Class 5) : Could you kindly resume your seat, so that the student
next to you can provide a response to this question? ”

3 Salesman (to customer) Well, I’ve told you what all you need to know about this laptop.
You won’t find a better one in the market even if you try. Now make up your mind quickly and
write out a cheque for Rs 35,000, okay ?

4 Client (to the manager of a hotel) I go into the bathroom, wanting to have a quick wash
before my wife and I go shopping, and what do I find ? The bloody taps are dry ! No water at all !
Is this what I am paying ten thousand rupees a night for ?

5 Hari (to his classmate Ram) In my considered opinion, it would be advantageous to both of
us if were to go to a movie theatre for some cinematic entertainment.

6 Wife (to husband) The acquisition of a minimum of 10 grammes of gold – whether in the
form of a coin or an ornament – has become customary in this household on the occasion of
Diwali. But if prices continue to be prohibitory, I may have to contemplate the purchase of a
lesser quantity of the precious metal or think of an alternative object to bring home.

4 Discourse

The term ‘discourse’ refers to the extended use of language over a large number of successive
utterances, which is normal in communication. You must make sure that what you say has some
connection to what has been said before, either by you or by some other speaker. If you are
conversing with another person, you should listen carefully to what the other person is saying
and make sure that you have understood it before you reply.

Activity 4

A. Choose the most appropriate response (out of the alternatives suggested) to each of the
utterances below :

1 “Our company is losing a lot of money.”

a. I hope Barrack Obama will make a good president.


b But our cricket team is celebrating its victory.
c This is a bad time to do business here.

2 “ A very surprising thing happened today.”

a. Life is full of surprises.


b Tell me about it.
c It hasn’t rained all week, you know.

3 “ The doctors tried their best, but the patient died.”


22

a All men are mortal.


b Our hospitals leave much to be desired.
c Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

4 “ Out-sourcing business wasn’t such a good idea. “

a. Not if you are facing rising unemployment.


b. Depends on whose point of view you see it from.
c. I don’t believe a word of it.

5 “ Her day will come, mark my words.”

a. That’s what I am afraid of.


b. Every dog has its day.
c. What’s in it for me ?

B. Continue each of the utterances below by writing another two sentences. (They may be
uttered either by the same speaker or by a different speaker. An example of both is given below.)

Example 1

“Diwali is here again. The children are excited, but I have decided to hide in my room. I can’t
stand the noise.” (same speaker)

Example 2

“Diwali is here again.”


“Yes, we’re all excited. I’m going out to buy some crackers.” (different speaker)

1 “ Our roads are in a terrible state.”


2 “ I’m thinking of going into politics.”
3 “ Summer was really bad this year.”
4 “ Seen any good movies lately ?”
5 “ The Australian team will make a comeback, mark my words !”

5 Speech acts

We come now to what is perhaps the most important element in communication through
language : the ability to use language for different practical purposes. In a sense, this is more
important than speaking with a ‘correct’ accent or using the rules of grammar correctly.

When we communicate, we perform ‘actions’ through words. For example, someone who asks
the following question :

“When will the train arrive ?”

is performing an action : he/she is trying to elicit (obtain) some information which he/she needs
but does not have. Since this action is performed by speaking, we call it a speech act.

There is a correlation between a speech act and the language patterns (words and sentences)
which are commonly used to perform this act. The speech act of “eliciting information” is usually
performed through sentences which have the form of questions, for example:
23

When will the meeting begin ?


Where do you live ?
How did you find out her name ? etc.

But there can be other ways of performing the same speech act. Instead of asking a question,
the speaker may say :

i. Tell me/ Let me know when the train arrives.


ii Could you please tell me when the train arrives ?

Sentence (i) has the form of a ‘command’ and is not, therefore, appropriate for eliciting
information. (You cannot normally order someone to give you information.) Sentence (ii), which
has the form of a request, is more suitable.

We can tabulate the speech act that is performed against the language patterns which are
generally used to perform this act. For example :

Speech act Language patterns

Eliciting information i. Questions : e.g. “ When does … ?”


ii Requests : e.g.“ Could you please…?”
iii Commands : e.g. “Tell me …”

An effective communicator would know that the language pattern most commonly used to elicit
information is that of questions, generally beginning with words such as “why”, “where”, “when”
etc.

In this particular case, the speaker performed a single speech act (eliciting information). But
often, a series of speech acts have to be performed, by both parties taking part in a piece of
communication. We give you an example below.

Activity 5

Read out the dialogue below. (Turn this into a role-play activity. Each role, including that of a
Narrator, can be performed by one student.)

Narrator : Rajendran goes to the railway station to receive a friend who is arriving by the
Coromandal Express. He not sure when the train will arrive, so he goes to the “Inquiries Counter”
to find out. The clerk on duty at the counter is busy talking to someone else. The dialogue
proceeds as follows.

(The exchanges between Rajendran and the clerk have been numbered.)

1 Rajendran “ Excuse me, when is the …”


2 Clerk “ Sir, please wait. I will attend to you in a minute, when I have
finished talking to this gentleman.”
3 Rajendran “ I’m sorry.”

Narrator After a few minutes …

4 Clerk “ Yes, sir ? How can I help you ?”


5 Rajendran “ Could you please tell me when the Coromandal Express
is arriving? ”
6 Clerk “ The scheduled time of arrival is 19.40 hours, but the train is
24

running 20 minutes late today. It is expected at 20.00 hours.”


7 Rajendran “ Thank you very much.”
8 Clerk “ You’re welcome, sir.”

Several different speech acts are performed here. (Each speech act is labelled in “boldface” type
below.)

In (1), Rajendran tries to attract the attention of the listener by saying “ Excuse me…” Other
language patterns commonly used for this purpose are “Hello !” (specially if you are talking over
a telephone), “ Please listen …”, “ I say … ” (informal) etc. This is an important ‘speech act’ as
communication cannot begin unless the speaker has the listener’s attention.

In (2), the clerk defers (delays) his reply by saying “ Kindly wait…”, indicating that he is not
ready to reply to Rajendran immediately. Other sentences used for this purpose could be “ Hold
on …”, “ Please wait…”, “ Give me a minute …” etc.

In (3), Rajendran apologizes for interrupting the conversation between the clerk and the other
gentleman.

In (4), the clerk offers a service to Rajendran by saying “How can I help you ?” This is more
polite than saying “What do you want ?” or “What is it ?”, both of which are quite common.

In (5), Rajendran elicits information or makes an inquiry through the question “When is … ?”.
This is the main speech act performed during this entire exchange.

In (6), the clerk responds to an inquiry by answering Rajendran’s question. Notice that he gives
very detailed information, so that Rajendran does not have to ask any more questions.

In (7), Rajendran expresses gratitude or offers thanks for a service which he has received.

In (8), the clerk responds to an expression of thanks by saying “ You are welcome.” Other
expressions which could have been used for the same purpose are “ Not at all !”or “Don’t
mention it !” Responses of this type are common in English but are not commonly used when
communicating through an Indian language.

For effective communication, speakers should be aware of the speech acts that need to be
performed at various stages, as well as the words and sentences that are commonly used to
perform these speech acts.

Activity 6

Analyze the examples of communication given below.

i. Say what the purpose is behind each piece of communication and what are the ‘speech acts’
that each speaker performs to achieve this purpose. What are the words or sentences used to
perform these speech acts ? Which other words could be used ? Are the speech acts performed
successfully ?

ii Comment on the ‘style’ (formal/informal) that is used in each case. Is it appropriate?

iii How effective is the communication in each case ?

(Each dialogue should be ‘acted out’ by the students in class. Instructors should help students
with their pronunciation, pointing out any errors that may have been committed. A group of
25

‘observers’ should be asked to comment on each reading by students. Names etc. can be
changed to introduce variety as a dialogue is acted out by different groups.)

Dialogue 1a

1 “Good morning, Mr Vishwanathan ! How are you ?”


2 “Morning, Mr. Mehra. I’m fine, thank you. And how are you ?”
3 “Oh, I’m fine too. How are the family ?”
4 “Very well, thank you. My son is working for Infosys.”
5 “Wonderful ! Please convey my regards to Mrs Vishwanathan.”
6 “I will. You must come over to the house one of these days.”
7 “Yes, it’s been a long time since we last met. Well, it was a pleasure
meeting you here Mr Vishwanathan, but you must excuse me now. I’ll have
to rush to the airport to meet my sister who is arriving from Bangalore.”
8 “Oh, that’s quite all right, Mr. Mehra. It was nice meeting you. I hope we
can meet again soon. Good bye ! ”
9 “Good bye, Mr Vishwanathan !”

(We will analyze this dialogue to provide you with a model, but you should try to analyze the
remaining dialogues yourself. You should preferably work in groups for this activity.)

Analysis

The purpose of this conversation is to renew and strengthen a personal relationship through
social contact. The style is formal. A number of speech acts are performed during this
conversation :

1 initial greeting
2 response to the greeting
3 response to (2). [Utterances 1,2 and 3 form part of the extended ritual of greeting.] The
second part of Utterance 3 (“How are the family?”) constitutes “small talk”, which is
important for social contact.
4,5,6 more “small talk”
7 breaking off a conversation politely. Usually, an excuse is offered for breaking off the
conversation and an apology is made.
8 responding to the apology and continuing the ritual of “leave-taking” ( “It was nice
meeting you. I hope we can meet again.”)
8 and 9 saying “farewell”.

The communication seems to be effective as both parties go away “feeling good”.

Dialogue 1 (b)

1 “ Hi there, Munna !”
2 “ Hello, Chhotu ! How you doing ?”
3 “ Oh great ! But where did you vanish this past week ?”
4 “ I’m working, Chhotu.”
5 “ Oh that’s great ! Where ?”
6 “ Wipro.”
7 “ Lucky you ! You’ll have to give us a treat !”
8 “ Any time ! But I must run or I’ll be late for the office. Bye now !”
9 “ Give me a ring this evening. Cheers !”
26

What are the differences between 1(a) and (b) ?

More examples for discussion and analysis

(Each dialogue should be ‘acted out’, to provide practice in speaking.)

Dialogue 2a

“ Oh hello, Mr. Mishra ! Please come in.”


“ Thank you, Dr. Verma. I’m awfully sorry to disturb you at this late hour.
I hope you will excuse me.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right, Mr. Mishra. It’s not that late. I’ve just finished dinner, in fact.
What can I do for you ?”
“Dr Verma, my son is ill. He has high fever. I wonder if I could request you to come over
and take a look at him. I wonder if I should take him to the hospital.”
“ How long has he had the fever ?”
“ Since morning. But the temperature has shot up to 104 degrees now. I’m getting worried
!”
“ It may not be serious. But I’ll come over immediately and examine him. Just give me a
minute, Mr. Mishra. I’ll get my instruments. Please make yourself comfortable.”
“ This is really most kind of you Dr. Verma. I don’t know how to thank you.”
“ There’s no need, Mr Mishra. I’m a doctor, you know. Besides, we are neighbours.”

Dialogue 2b

“ Ram ! I say, Ram !”


“ What’s the matter, Mohan ? Why are you shouting ? Anything wrong ?”
“ Come over and have a look at my bike, will you ? It won’t start.”
“ It’s probably out of gas.”
“ No, no, I filled up the tank only yesterday.”
“ Have you tried cleaning the spark plug ?”
“ Of course !”
“ And it still won’t start ? Okay, I’ll come over. But give me ten minutes. I was
just about to make a phone call.”
“Well, hurry up ! I’m getting late for my class.”
“ Just hang on ! I’ll be there in no time.”

Dialogue 3a

“ Good morning !”
“ Good morning !”
“ I don’t believe we’ve met before. I’m Prema Samant, the
Principal of Maharani College.”
“ Very happy to meet you, Ms Samant. I’m Rajni Sahay. I am
the Branch Manager of the State Bank of India.”
“ How nice ! Have you lived in Indore long ?”
“ Two years. I quite like the place though.”
“ Well, it used to be much quieter. But I suppose we shouldn’t
complain. Everything is changing.”
“ It must be difficult managing an educational institution.”
“ Yes, it can be taxing. But I quite enjoy meeting young people
and trying to understand them. You’ve never visited our
college, have you ?”
“ No, unfortunately.”
27

“We’re having our Annual Day next week. You must come,
Mrs Sahay. I’ll send you an invitation. Most of my staff have
accounts with the State Bank and I’m sure they would want to
meet you.”
“ It will be a pleasure, Ms Samant.”

Dialogue 3b.

“ Hello there ! You’re new around here, aren’t you ? Have you
just signed up for our Music Club ?”
“ That’s right. I’m Shobha. And you are ?”
“ Meena. Nice meeting you, Shobha ! Do you sing ?”
“Sometimes. I’m learning to play the sitar.”
“ Oh,good ! I play the tabla. Maybe we can practice together.”
“ That would be nice. But I must warn you, I’m just a beginner.You
may get bored playing with me.”
“ Well, I’m no tabla maestro myself.”
“We’ll find out ! Bye now, Meena ! I’ve got to go home before it
gets dark or my mother will start worrying.”
“ Bye, Shobha.”

Dialogue 4

“ Morning, Singh. Do you know what the score is ?”


“ No I don’t, Banerji. And I don’t want to. I’ve stopped
watching cricket on tv.”
“ But why ? Don’t you find these 20-20 matches exciting ?”
“On the contrary, I find them silly. In the old days, the game
cricket was an art. You could watch the battle between bat
and ball all day without feeling bored. But now, it’s all ‘slam
bang.’ There’s no art left in the game.”
“I am afraid I don’t agree, Singh. Twenty-twenty cricket isn’t all
blind slogging, if that’s what you mean. There’s a lot of
science in it now. You have to know exactly where to hit each
ball.”
“ It’s the philosophy behind 20-20 cricket that I dislike.
Excitement is all that we seem to want now. Everything has to
be done for kicks. Instant gratification – that’s the name of the
game.”
“Well, what else can you expect? You forget we’re living in
the space age. Time is money. Who has the time to sit
through a five-day test match ?”
“Always rush, rush, rush ! And what do you get at the end ?
Hypertension, diabetes and stomach ulcers. No wonder
these new players burn out after just two years of cricket. I
doubt if they live to enjoy all the money they make.”

Dialogue 5

“Hello, could I speak to the manager of the hotel please?”


“I’m afraid she’s off duty at the moment, ma’am. This is the
Assistant Manager speaking. Can I help you ?”
“Look, the air-conditioner in my room has stopped working
28

and this place is like an oven. How am I going to sleep


here ? And I am supposed to make a presentation in
front of 200 delegates in the morning ! Could you do
something about this ? At once, please !”
“Madam, I am really sorry you have been inconvenienced.
I’ll send our Service Engineer over at once. I’m sure
he’ll be able to fix the problem so you could have a
good night’s rest.”
“And how long will all this take ?”
“I couldn’t say for sure, ma’am. But not more than 15 minutes,
I expect.”
“By which time I’ll be dead from heat exhaustion ! Can’t you
move me to some other room ?”
“I’m afraid all our rooms are booked, ma’am. But we could let
you have the VIP suite.”
“How much extra would I have to pay ?”
“Nothing, ma’am. It’ll be on the house.”
“Sounds good. Thanks for the help.”
“Not at all, ma’am.”

Activity 7

Working in groups, create dialogues to present the situations outlined below. Decide which
speech acts the speakers need to perform, and what words or sentences they should use. Pay
particular attention to grammar and style in writing out the dialogues.

When you have completed your dialogue, perform a ‘role-play’ with one or more partners from
your group.

1 Two friends meet in the college canteen. One of them is unhappy because the other did not
invite him/her to the party which was organized to celebrate his/her success in the college
elections, and expresses disappointment. The friend apologizes and promises to make amends.
The two friends part happily.

2 Mr and Mrs Brown go to their neighbour, Mr and Mrs Johnson, to invite them to their
daughter’s wedding. The Browns accept the invitation and offer to help with the arrangements for
the wedding. Their offer is gratefully accepted.

3 Mr Sharma is looking for the house of his friend, Mr. Roy, but is unable to find it. He asks a
gentleman whom he meets on the road for directions, and is told how to reach the place. He
thanks the gentleman.

4 Rahul calls on his friend Vishnu, who has just lost his father, and offers condolence.

5 Prof Mohan Rao calls up his colleague Prof Sethna on the telephone to congratulate him on
being awarded a prestigious prize for his outstanding scientific research. Prof Setha accepts the
congratulations graciously and acknowledges the help and encouragement that he has received
from colleagues and friends such as Prof Rao.

6 Raman is reprimanded by his General Manager, Gopinathan, for the poor performance of his
sales team. Raman offers some excuses, but promises to improve his performance. Gopinathan
offers him some encouragement and advice.
29

7 A group of students meets the principal of a college to seek her permission to invite a rather
controversial but well-known political personality as the Chief Guest on the occasion of
Founder’s Day. The principal tries to dissuade them but finally gives in.

8 The Managing Director of a company that specializes in the manufacture and marketing of
cosmetic products is worried about declining returns and invites suggestions from Regional
Managers at a meeting. Various suggestions are made and evaluated, and finally one
suggestion is accepted.

Further practice in speaking

The syllabus for “English Communication Skills” which has been adopted by BPUT contains
suggestions for a number of activities which can be used for practice in Speaking. Instructors
can make use of these suggestions.

Students can be asked to create a situation around each activity. For example, for the activity
“Expressing agreement/disagreement”, a situation can be created in which two or more
people have an exchange of views (let us say, about the choice of players for the Indian cricket
team.) Then, working in groups, students can create a dialogue showing what these people
would say to each other in this situation. Finally, students can be asked to ‘role play” the
dialogue.

The attention of students should be drawn to some typical language patterns which are used to
perform different speech acts such as “agreeing/disagreeing” etc. A list of some useful language
patterns, which may have to be used in the activities suggested below, follows.

Speaking : oral communication in social and work-related situations, e.g.:

Greeting an acquaintance/ friend ;


Introducing oneself ; introducing a friend to another friend,
Breaking off a conversation politely, leave-taking;
Making and responding to inquiries;
Expressing an opinion;
Expressing agreement/ disagreement, contradicting/ refuting an argument;
Expressing pleasure, sorrow, regret, anger, surprise, wonder, admiration,
disappointment etc.
Narrating or reporting an event;
Describing people, objects, places, processes etc.
Ordering / directing someone to do something
Making requests; accepting / refusing a request
Expressing gratitude; responding to expressions of gratitude
Asking for or offering help; responding to a request for help
Asking for directions (e.g. how to reach a place, how to operate a device etc.)
and giving directions
Asking for and granting/ refusing permission
Prohibiting someone from doing something
Suggesting, advising, persuading, dissuading, making a proposal
Praising, complimenting, felicitating
Expressing sympathy (e.g. condolence etc.)
Complaining, criticizing, reprimanding

Language patterns commonly used in performing various “speech acts”

1 Expressing an opinion
30

i. I think …
ii. In my opinion/ view …
iii I would like to say that …
iv I must say …

2 Expressing agreement

i. I agree …
ii I quite agree…
iii You are quite right !
iv That’s what I think too !

3 Expressing disagreement

i I am afraid I don’t/ can’t agree.


ii That’s not what I think !
iii I have a different view.

4 Contradicting / refuting an argument

i. I am sorry to contradict you, but …


ii I totally disagree. I think …
iii I am afraid I have to contradict you.

5 Expressing pleasure

i. I’m so happy !
ii I am delightedthat …
iii How wonderful !
iv That’s really wonderful !

6 Expressing sorrow / regret

i. How sad !
ii How terrible !
iii I am really sorry to hear that …
iv I can’t tell you how sorry I am to hear that …

7 Expressing surprise
i Really ?
ii Amazing !
iii That’s most unexpected !
iii You don’t say !
iv I can’t believe it !
v What a surprise !

8 Expressing wonder

i That’s amazing/ incredible !


ii Fantastic / Incredible !

9 Expressing disappointment
31

i What a pity !
ii Oh, how sad !

10 Ordering/directing someone to do something

i This is / Here’s what you have to do.


ii This is what I want you to do.
iii Do as I tell you !
iv Listen carefully !

11 Making a request / asking for help

i Could you please … ?


ii Please …
iii Can I request you to …
iv I have a request to make. Could you please …
v I would be very grateful if you …

12 Accepting a request

i I’ll be glad to …
ii Certainly !
iii By all means !
iv No problem !

13 Refusing (declining) a request

i. I am sorry, but …
ii I am afraid that’s not possible.

14 Expressing gratitude

i Thank you so much !


ii I don’t know how to thank you !
iii I am most grateful …

15 Responding to an expression of gratitude

i You are welcome !


ii Not at all !
iii Oh, that’s nothing !

16 Asking for directions

Could you please tell me how to … ?

17 Giving directions

This is what you have to do.

18 Asking for permission

i May I / Could I …. ?
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ii Will you please allow me to … ?


iii Do I have your permission to …

19 Refusing permission

i Sorry !
ii I am afraid that’s not possible !
iii No, you can’t !

20 Granting permission

i. Certainly !
ii By all means !
iii Of course !

21 Prohibiting someone from doing something

i I am sorry, but I don’t think you should do that !


ii You shouldn’t do that !
iii Should you be doing that ?
iv Don’t do that !

22 Suggesting / proposing

i I think we should …
ii Why don’t you /we … ?
iii Perhaps we should …
iv I suggest we …
v Let’s …
vi How about … ?

23 Advising
i In my opinion, you should …
ii It would be better/best if you …
iii It would be advisable for you to …
iv I would advise you to …

24 Persuading

i I really think you should …


ii It would be in your best interest to …
iii You should really consider …

25 Dissuading

i It would be unwise of you to …


ii I don’t think you should
iii You mustn’t think of …

26 Praising / complimenting

i You’ve done a splendid job !


ii That was really good of you !
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27 Felicitating

i My heartiest congratulations to you !


ii We are all proud of your achievement !
iii This is a great day for all of us.

28 Expressing sympathy (condolence etc.)

i I am very sorry to hear that …


ii It’s really unfortunate that …
iii This is most unfortunate …
iv This is truly a great loss for you.

29 Complaining

i I am sorry to say that ..


ii I am afraid I must tell you that …
iii There’s something I must tell you.
iv I have a complaint to make.

30 Criticizing / reprimanding

i I must point out that …


ii I am afraid I have to tell you that …
iii What you did was wrong !
iv That was a terrible mistake on your part.
v You deserve to be taken to task for that.

SPEAKING OVER THE TELEPHONE

More communication probably takes place over the telephone these days than through the face-
to-face mode, specially with the growing use of mobile phones. Telephonic communication
requires some special skills as well as a ‘courtesy code’ which should be observed by users. You
may find the following tips useful.

1 Many people begin every conversation with “Hello !” – a word which carries no particular
meaning. Both parties in a conversation often go on repeating “hello”, “hello”, “hello” for
sometime. Try to shake off the “hello” habit, which can become monotonous, and introduce
some variety into your conversation.

2 You can start by announcing your own identity or that of your organization. For example :

“ Sukhwinder Singh speaking …” “ Sukhwinder here …” “ Sushil Bajaj from Bajaj Auto Works
speaking … ”

3 It may be a good idea to add a friendly greeting, for example :

“Good morning, this is Anil Kapoor speaking…”


34

But if you are making an international call, remember that the person at the other end could be in
a different time zone. It will be night in New York when it is morning in New Delhi, in which case
a “Good morning” may be out of place.

4 Check to confirm that you have reached the telephone number or the person you want.
For example :

“ Is that Kolhapur 756320 ?” “ Am I speaking to the Manager of the Bharat Bank ?” “Is that Anil
Bordia ? ”

5 If the person on the telephone at the other end is not the person you want to speak to, ask
for him/her. For example :

“ Could I speak to Mr Modi, please ? “ Could you transfer this call to Ms Majumdar please ?”

(The word “please” is extremely useful in telephonic conversation.)

6 Speaking on the telephone costs money. Be brief. Get to the point as soon as possible. For
example :

“Mr Modi, I am calling about the e-mail which you sent me an hour ago. Would you like me to
send you the samples by courier at once ?”

7 Make sure you are audible to the other person. If you can hear him/her clearly, the chances
are that you can be heard clearly too – but telephone connections often become “one-way.” If the
person at the other end indicates that you are not audible, speak more loudly and distinctly, but
do not shout unless it becomes absolutely necessary. If the connection is “faulty” , check to
make sure that you are still being heard. “ Hello, can you hear me ?” is frequently used for this
purpose.

8 If the person you want to speak to is not available, you can sometimes leave a message for
him/her. But first, make sure that the person at the other end is willing or able to take the
message. For example :

“Could I leave a message for Sunil, please ?”

9 If the message has to be written down, give the other person enough time to find pen and
paper etc.

10 Normally, you cannot see the person you are speaking to over the phone (unless you are
using special equipment). Therefore, you are deprived of a very important “channel” of
communication – body-language. You cannot judge easily if your message is being understood
or is producing the desired effect on the person you are speaking to. Various kinds of
“communication checks” should therefore be used from time to time. Invite feed-back from the
other person. For example :

“ I hope you agree…” “What do you say ?” “ I hope that’s clear.”

11 When you come to the end of your communication, announce it. For example :

“Well, that’s all I have to say …”, “That’s it. Bye !” etc.
35

During speech practice, instructors should give their students opportunities to simulate
conversations over the telephone by creating appropriate situations. Speaking on the telephone
is an important art which not many people are able to master.
36

PART II

VOCABULARY

CHAPTER 1
37

LEARNING ENGLISH WORDS

THE IMPORTANCE OF WORDS IN COMMUNICATION

The first step in the learning of any language is the learning of its words. Words are the ‘building
blocks’ of language, without which no use of language is possible. It is by putting words together
that we are able to form the messages which we communicate to each other, in speech or in
writing. If we do not know the words that are needed to form messages, there can be no
communication at all. If you know some words of English you can make yourself understood, at
least partly. For example, if you walk into a restaurant in London or New York and tell the waiter
“Food !” (with appropriate gestures), the chances are that you will be able to get a meal, although
some people may laugh at your English.

It has been estimated that a user of English needs a vocabulary (stock of words) of about 6000-
8000 words in order to be able to communicate satisfactorily in ‘everyday’ situations, whereas
the average Indian student has a vocabulary of only about 3000 words. Although these are
rough estimates, there is reason to believe that one of the most serious problems which students
face when trying to communicate in English is that of ‘vocabulary deficit’ (not knowing enough
words of English). Unfortunately, the teaching of vocabulary is neglected in most schools and
colleges. The learning of words becomes a ‘hit or miss’ affair.

Vocabulary development

Words are usually learnt unconsciously. Learners ‘pick up’ the words which they hear or read,
without realizing that they are being learnt. The greater the exposure to English, in spoken or
written form, the larger will be the stock of English words that the learner acquires. In the past,
most Indian learners of English, particularly those who were educated in ‘vernacular medium’
schools in small towns or villages, had limited exposure to English outside the classroom. Little
reading was done in English beyond the prescribed textbooks and learners rarely had a chance
to hear English being spoken. This gave rise to serious problems of vocabulary deficit.

The situation has changed now. The arrival of television in India has opened up new
opportunities for exposure to the English language. People in even remote places, who seldom
heard a word of English being spoken earlier, now sit glued to television sets, listening to fluent
sports commentaries in English. It has been said that television is responsible for the popularity
of cricket in India ; but today, it is cricket (along with other sports) that contributes not only to the
spread of television but also to the spread of the English language.

For anyone who is seriously interested in building up a large stock of words and thus improving
his/her ability to communicate in English, television can be a valuable aid. Students should
devote as much time as they can spare to viewing English programmes such as news bulletins,
documentaries, interviews, debates and discussions etc., which are available round the clock on
international as well as national channels.

Reading, even more than listening, provides a rich source for vocabulary enrichment. The
language that is used on television is generally ‘diluted’ and simplified, so that it can be easily
understood. There is usually a greater focus on the visual element in television than on the use
of language : words become less important than pictures. On the other hand, print media, such
as newspapers and magazines, have to depend almost entirely on language. Words are the only
tools through which messages can be conveyed and writers, therefore, try to squeeze as much
meaning out of words as possible. In recent years, Indian newspapers in English have
undergone a transformation in content as well as format in order to attract readers and most
reputed newspapers are generally packed with informative as well as interesting articles on a
38

variety of subjects. Learners of English at the college level can be offered no better advice than
to begin (or end) each day by going through at least one English newspaper.

The learning of words, we said earlier, is largely an unconscious process. However, when
learners of English, particularly at the college level, find their vocabulary inadequate to meet
their needs of communication, they should make deliberate and planned efforts to expand their
stock of words, turning the unconscious process into a conscious one. Careful attention should
be given to the meanings as well as use of new words which are encountered in the course of
listening and reading.

Learning words through guesswork

While reading a book, magazine or newspaper, or listening to a talk, one often comes across
words and phrase whose meaning one does not know or is not sure of. Here is an example

Braveheart wracked by survivor’s guilt

This is a headline from a newspaper. Newspaper headlines are often difficult to understand as
they are highly compressed. A headline is seldom a complete sentence; only the important
words are retained in it and unnecessary words deleted.

But what makes this headline particularly difficult to understand is the use of uncommon words
such as ‘braveheart’ and ‘wracked’. Who, or what, is a ‘braveheart’ and why is this braveheart
‘wracked by survivor’s guilt’ ? What does this headline try to tell us ?

The meaning becomes clear when the headline is read together with the news report which
follows it :

Activity 1

Read through the newspaper report below and answer the questions that follow :

Rajesh Lenka became a hero yesterday when he plunged into the raging flood waters of the Kuakhai, on
the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, in an attempt to rescue a drowning youth, Nikhil Nayak. This dramatic event
was witnessed by hundreds of onlookers standing on the river’s bank. However, Rajesh’s valiant effort
proved to be futile and Nikhil was swept away to his death. The would-be rescuer slipped away quietly,
avoiding the media and refusing to speak to anyone.

But when this reporter tracked down Rajesh today, he was disconsolate. “If even one person had helped
me,” he said, looking red-eyed and bleary after a sleepless night, “Nikhil could have lived. Just one person
from that crowd of onlookers ! I could not sleep all night. Each time I closed my eyes I saw the boy’s face
and the way he struggled for life. I would wake up screaming, feeling it was my fault that he died.”

Question

What do the following words/phrases mean ?

i braveheart
ii survivor’s guilt
iii disconsolate
iv bleary

Which clues in the report help you to guess their meaning ?


39

None of the words used in the headline are found in the report. However, the word ‘braveheart’
(in the headline) obviously refers to Rajesh Lenka, who is said to have become a ‘hero’ after his
‘valiant’ (brave) attempt to save Nikhil Nayak’s life. Nikhil died but Rajesh survived : he is the
‘survivor’ (in the headline). A ‘braveheart’, therefore, must be a person who deserves to be
admired for his/her bravery.

The meaning of the words ‘survivor’s guilt’ also becomes clear when we are told that Rajesh
blames himself for Nikhil’s death. The feeling of ‘guilt’ troubles him, allowing him no sleep. He is
‘wracked’ by this feeling. ‘Wrack’ is an old-fashioned word which describes great pain and
suffering. Rajesh’s suffering is caused by the feeling of guilt.

There are two other words in the report whose meanings may not be familiar : ‘disconsolate’ and
‘bleary’. The context, however, helps us to understand that the word ‘disconsolate’, used to
describe Rajesh’s mental state, conveys the sense of deep unhappiness. (‘Disconsolate’ means
‘unable to receive consolation’ – a state of extreme unhappiness.) ‘Bleary’, as we understand
from the context, means ‘looking tired because of lack of sleep.’

Coming across an unknown word during reading or listening is like meeting an obstacle while
going on a journey. For some travellers, an obstacle is a challenge which has to be overcome ;
but others may feel disheartened and want to give up. The same thing happens to some readers
when they meet a new word. They tend to give up the attempt to read and understand. A good
reader (or listener), like a good traveler, does not give up easily. When an intelligent reader
comes across an unknown word, he/she makes an ‘informed guess’, using available clues to
figure out the possible meaning. It is generally not necessary to know the exact meaning of every
word that one meets ; an ‘approximate’ meaning is usually good enough. However, if a reader
needs to know the exact meaning of a word, he/she can have recourse to a dictionary (which we
shall talk about below).

Most new words are learnt through guesswork. In fact, the entire process of reading (or listening)
has been described as a ‘guessing game’. Readers are able, through repeated practice, to
develop great skill in guessing what the writer is trying to say.

Here is another example, also taken from a newspaper.

Chopra brace sinks Middlesborough

What does the word ‘brace’ (used in the headline) mean ? What is the meaning conveyed by the
word ‘sinks’ in this headline ?

Here is the report which follows :

Activity 2

Read through the following report

Michael Chopra put his personal problems behind him to fire Sunderland to a victory over Middlesborough
on Saturday. The former Newcastle striker came off the bench to slot home an exciting goal in the 81st
minute, and then added a second in extra time to seal the win.

This is a report on a sporting event, published on the last page of a newspaper, where sports
news is usually found. (Which game or sport is being reported here ? Which words provide a
clue to the nature of the sport ?)
40

The player named Chopra, we are told, scored two goals in this match. So what does the word
‘brace’ mean ? How did the Chopra brace ‘sink’ Middlesborough ?

There are several colourful words and phrases found in this report, which can become a useful
part of the learner’s vocabulary. For example :

to fire Sunderland to a victory


to come off the bench
to slot home an exiting goal

(Try to find out the meanings of these expressions from the context.)

We have been advocating the use of television and newspapers to improve proficiency in
English because they provide direct and immediate access to the ‘living’ language, which is in
use at the present time. It is this language that we should be using when we communicate – not
the old-fashioned language that is often found in books.

Dictionaries and Thesauruses

In order to learn new words, learners should make the effort to guess their meanings, using the
context in which the words are used as a clue. But there are times when guessing does not help.
What should the learner do then ?

There are two powerful tools for the learning of words which students are, unfortunately, seldom
introduced to at the school or college level. These are (i) Learners’ Dictionaries of English and (ii)
thesauruses.

Learners’ Dictionaries

A ‘Learners’ Dictionary’ is very different from the ‘heritage’ dictionaries, such as the Chamber’s or
Webster’s Dictionary, which are often handed down from father to son. These dictionaries are
intended for ‘native speakers’ whose mother-tongue is English and who are supposed to ‘know’
the language already. But one who is trying to learn English as a second language – like most
Indian learners – needs a great deal of information about the use of words, which is not required
by a native speaker and not, therefore, provided in traditional dictionaries. There are now several
well-known dictionaries specially written for second-language learners. The words ‘Learners’
Dictionary’ are generally (but not always) found in the title and can be a useful guide for the
intending purchaser. Always ensure that the dictionary you buy and use has been produced by a
reputed publisher ; avoid the low-priced dictionaries produced by ‘home-grown’ publishers, many
of which are ‘bilingual’. (A bilingual dictionary can be a useful tool, but it is not a substitute for a
Learners’ Dictionary).

It is advisable to spend some time in reading through the ‘Introduction’ or ‘Preface’ to the
dictionary. Most good dictionaries contain detailed instructions for users, explaining their special
features and the manner in which they should be used. Unfortunately, students rarely take the
trouble to read through the introductory pages and so do not get the full benefits that they could
otherwise derive from such a dictionary.

What a Learners’ Dictionary can tell us

It is commonly believed that a dictionary gives you only the meaning of words. This is not true. A
Learner’s Dictionary provides a wealth of information on the uses as well as meanings of words.
In the following section, we will try to demonstrate how much information one can get from a
good Learners’ Dictionary of English.
41

We will start by providing some examples to show how a very common word – ‘fox’ – is treated
in two well-known Learners’ Dictionaries. The discussion that follows should be useful for all
learners of English

Dictionary A

fox (ANIMAL) / fɒks/ US / fɑːks/ noun 1 [C] a wild mammal belonging to the dog family which has a
pointed face and ears, a wide furry tail and reddish-brown fur 2 [U] the skin of this animal used to make
coats and hats 3 [C usually sing] a person who is clever at deceiving people : He’s a cunning/sly/wily old
fox
foxy / ‘fɒk.si / US / fɑːk - / adj 1 like a fox in appearance 2 good at deceiving people
fox (WOMAN) noun [C] US INFORMAL an attractive woman
fox (CONFUSE) verb [ T ] to confuse someone or to be too difficult to be understood by someone
This problem has me completely foxed.
fox (DECEIVE) verb [ T ] to deceive someone in a clever way
foxglove noun [C] a tall thin plant with white or pink flowers
foxhole noun [C] a small hole dug in the ground during a war, used as a shelter for soldiers
foxtrot noun [C] a type of formal dance

Dictionary B

fox1 / fɒks/ / fɑːks/ n [C] vixen fem.1 a small dog-like flesh-eating wild animal with a reddish coat and a
wide furry tail that is often hunted for sport in Britain. It is said to have a clever and deceiving nature 2 [U]
the skin of this animal, used as fur on coats and other garments 3 [C] infml, usually derog. a person who
deceives others by means of clever tricks. You can’t trust him. He is a sly old fox 4 [C] AmE apprec.sl. an
attractive woman

fox2 v. [ T ] infml. 1 to confuse ; to be too difficult for someone to understand The second question in the
exam completely foxed me. 2 to deceive cleverly ; trick He managed to fox them by wearing a disguise.
foxglove
foxhole
foxtrot
foxy

DISCUSSION

The word whose meaning is being explained (‘fox’, in this case) is called the head-word.
The information given by the two dictionaries (A and B) includes :

a. semantic information : details of the different meanings which the head-word can have. Both
dictionaries list six different meanings for ‘fox’.

Words with multiple meanings often have a ‘primary’ meaning from which the other meanings are
derived. The primary meaning of ‘fox’, which is listed in both dictionaries as Meaning Number 1,
is : “a wild mammal belonging to the dog family which has a pointed face etc” (Dictionary A) and
“ a small dog-like flesh eating animal with a reddish coat etc.” (Dictionary B). Most of the other
meanings are extensions of this primary meaning : for example, Meaning 3 in both dictionaries is
“ a person who is clever at deceiving people” ( Dictionary A) and “ a person who deceives others
by means of clever tricks” (Dictionary B). Dictionary B also provides the information, under
42

Meaning No.1, that “ a fox is said to have a clever and deceiving nature” ; this helps us to
understand why a person who is clever at deceiving people (Meaning 3) is called a “fox”.

Another meaning of ‘fox’, given in both dictionaries, is : ‘an attractive woman’. The reason for
this use is not explained : this meaning seems to have developed over time, although we are
told that it is found only in American English (US). (In Dictionary B, this meaning of ‘fox’ is
described as “Am E apprec.sl.”, which is an abbreviation of “American English appreciative
slang”. Presumably, if a woman was described as a ‘fox’ in America, she would take it as a
compliment, whereas the word would be found offensive in Britain or India.)

Dictionary A carries ‘guide words’ or labels such as ‘ ANIMAL’, ‘WOMAN’ etc. to indicate the scope of
the meaning which is being provided. This is a very useful feature. Both dictionaries use
numbers to indicate the different meanings of ‘fox’.

Notice also that both dictionaries provide ‘illustrative sentences’ or examples showing how the
head-word is used in sentences. These illustrative sentences are extremely important : they give
us several different kinds of information.

We will have more to say below on some of the other meanings which the dictionaries provide
for the word ‘fox’.

b lexical information : English, like many other languages, has many different words which
belong to the same ‘word family’. Different words can be formed from a ‘root’ word: for example,
the root word ‘fool’ (noun) gives us ‘derived’ words such as ‘foolish’ (adjective), ‘foolishness’
(noun) and ‘foolishly’ (adverb).

A good dictionary gives us useful information about the derived words which can be formed from
a head-word. For example, ‘fox’ gives us ‘foxy’ as well compound words such as ‘foxhole’ and
‘foxtrot’, which are formed by combining the head-word (fox) with a different word. Both
Dictionary A and Dictionary B give us this information.

Notice that Dictionary B also gives us the word ‘vixen’, which is used to refer to a female fox.
This is a useful word to know when one is talking about animals.

Word-formation : prefixes and suffixes

A prefix is a group of letters, carrying a certain meaning, which is found at the beginning of
many words, while a suffix is a group of letters found at the end of words. New words can be
formed in English by attaching a prefix to the front of a root word or a suffix to the end of a word.
Thus, we get the word ‘semifinal’ by attaching the prefix ‘semi-’ to the root word ‘final’, and the
words ‘finalist’ and ‘finalize’ by attaching the suffixes ‘-ist’ or ‘-ize’ to the same root (‘final’).

If one knows the meanings of some commonly used prefixes and suffixes, it becomes easier to
guess the meanings of unfamiliar words in which these prefixes and suffixes are found. For
example, the prefix ‘para-’ means : “ close to, or almost the same as, something else”. If one
knows the meaning of this prefix, one can guess that the word “paramedical” refers to someone,
such as a nurse, who is not a doctor but is able to provide medical help when necessary.
Similarly, the word “paramilitary” means : “someone who does not belong to the army but is
trained to fight like a soldier ”.

So also, if one knows that the suffix ‘-ize’, occurring at the end of a word, indicates a certain
action (e.g. ‘neutralize), it becomes easier to guess the meaning of words like “politicize” ( to
make a political issue out of something which is not political).
43

In most dictionaries, the derived words formed by attaching suffixes to a root word are listed after
the root word. You will, therefore, find the words ‘finalist’ and ‘finalize’ (in alphabetical order) after
the head-word ‘final’.

Dictionaries differ, however, in the way they deal with prefixes. For example, one Learners’
Dictionary has the prefix “semi-” as an independent entry (carrying the meaning “half or part”),
and goes on to list a number of words such as “semicircle”, “semicolon” and ‘semifinal”. The
same dictionary, however, lists a number of words such as “preconception” and “precondition” as
independent heade-words, without indicating that these words include the prefix “pre-”.

Here is a brief list of some commonly used prefixes and suffixes, together with the meanings
they carry :

Prefixes

a- (apolitical, atheist) = not


ambi- (ambivalent, ambidexterous) = related to two different things
ante- (ante-natal) = before, earlier than
anti - (anti-social) = against
arch- (arch-rival) = greatest, most important
bi- (bilingual) = possessing two of something
cente-,centi- (centenary) = connected with the number 100
contra- (contradict) = the opposite of something
cum- (Secretary cum Treasurer) = together with, and also
cyber- (cybercafé) = related to electronic communications
de- (deforestation) = to take away or remove
demi- (demi-official) = half or partly
dis- (disability) = not, the opposite of something
e- (e-mail, e-banking) = electronic, connected with the internet
em- (empower) = to make something happen
en- (ensure) = to make something happen
ex- (ex-Vice Chancello = formerly (but no longer)
extra- (extra-terrestrial) = beyond, other than
hemi- (hemisphere) = half
il- (illegible), im- (impossible), in- (incredible) = not
infra- (infra-red) = below, lower than, lesser than
non- (non- transferable) = not
pan- (pan-Indian) = across
per- (percent) = for each
pre- (pre-test) = before or earlier than
pro- (pro-agriculture) = favouring or supporting something
quasi- (quasi-judicial) = almost or partly
re- (re-cycle) = again
sub- (sub-zero) = below, under, less than

Suffixes

-able (washable, questionable) = to which something can be done


-ate (navigate, calculate) = to perform a certain action
-ation (navigation, examination) = the name of an action or process
-er (photographer) = one who does something
-ian (musician, physician), - ist (artist, terrorist) = one who does something or follows a particular
profession
-ify (qualify), -ize (industrialize) = to perform a certain action
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Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

Idioms

Many of the head-words found in dictionaries can be combined with other words to form idioms
which are commonly used. For example, the word ‘egg’ (which is found in most dictionaries as
an independent entry) is followed by the idioms :

an egg-head
a bad egg
to have egg on one’s face
to egg somebody on

(Find out the meanings of these expressions by referring to a dictionary).

Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and a proposition or adverb, which takes on a special
idiomatic meaning. The use of phrasal verbs can make one’s language particularly expressive
and ‘crisp’, and all learners of English are advised to acquaint themselves with commonly used
phrasal verbs. A Learners’ Dictionary is an excellent source for building up your stock of phrasal
verbs.

For example, the verb ‘cut’ can be combined with the following prepositions and adverbs to form
phrasal verbs :

cut across, cut back on, cut in, cut someone off, to be cut up with someone

(Use a dictionary to find out what these expressions mean.)

c. collocational information : In every language, some words are commonly used together
with certain other words. For example, we generally describe a cricket match as being ‘exciting’
or ‘thrilling’, food as being ‘appetizing’, ‘mouth-watering’ or ‘delectable, a film as being
‘enjoyable’, ‘gripping’, ‘well-made’ etc. There seems to be a natural attraction between the head-
word and the words that are commonly used together with it. This is called collacation. (To
‘collocate’ means ‘to be found together, in the same place’.)

It is very useful for a language learner to know which words ‘collocate’ (are commonly used
together). The word ‘fox’ seems to collocate frequently with the adjectives ‘clever’, ‘sly’ and ‘wily’.
You can get this information from the illustrative sentences provided in both dictionaries for one
of the meanings of ‘fox’.

d. grammatical information

An important piece of information which both these dictionaries (A and B) give us is that the word
‘fox’ can be used as a verb as well as a noun. There is a close connection between the
grammatical forms which a word can take and its meanings, and it is important for learners to be
aware of this link.

Most Indian learners of English may be familiar with only the primary or basic meaning of ‘fox’
(used as a noun), which is : “a kind of animal”. The use of ‘fox’ as a verb may be new to many
because (as Dictionary B informs us) it is restricted to informal usage.
45

When ‘fox’ is used as a verb, its meanings as well as the rules for its use in sentences change so
much that it is almost like having two different words. Dictionary B separates ‘fox’ used as a noun
from ‘fox’ used as a verb by using ‘superscripts’ (numbers printed in smaller fonts, above a
word.)

The word ‘fox’, used as a noun, can be countable [C] as well as uncountable [U]. In its
countable form, it refers to the animal or to a deceitful human being ; in its uncountable form, it
refers to the skin or the fur of the animal, which was used (in earlier times) to make expensive
clothing for women. When used as a countable noun, it can take the plural form (‘foxes’) as well
as the singular form, but when used as an uncountable noun it takes only the singular form.

‘Fox’ used as a verb has two meanings, one of which is ‘negative’ : to cheat or to deceive
someone.

We are told also that ‘fox’ is used as a transitive verb : in other words, it must be followed by a
noun or pronoun used as the ‘object’. You can say something like “Don’t fox me !”, but not “ Don’t
fox !”

e. stylistic information

In Chapter 3, Section 1, of this book, we explained the meaning of the terms ‘formal’ and
‘informal’ styles of language. The ‘formal’ style is associated, typically, with the serious talk that
one expects and hears at lectures, conferences, meetings etc. ; it is also the style used in
textbooks and other ‘learned’ publications. The informal style, on the other hand, is typically
associated with non-serious, light-hearted social conversation among friends etc.

Indian users of English are more used to the formal style of English than to the informal style.
This is because many (if not most) Indians tend to restrict the use of English to professional
(work-related) situations ; light-hearted social conversation (with friends etc.) is carried out mostly
in some Indian language. The formal style may be quite appropriate for professional situations,
but it is not appropriate for many social situations. If, for example, you are a software engineer
working in America and are invited to lunch by an American friend, it would seem very odd if you
spoke to him/her in the same formal style that you use in the workplace when communicating
with your boss. If you are not familiar with the informal style of using English, this may become a
social handicap, particularly if you are working in an English-speaking country such as America
or Australia. It is often said that the English spoken by Indians tends to be ‘bookish’ ; this is
because many Indians are not exposed to ‘informal’ uses of English.

A Learners’ Dictionary can provide valuable guidance on the formal and informal uses of English.
Most dictionaries carry ‘style labels’ such as ‘informal’, ‘slang’, ‘derogatory’ etc. along with the
meanings which they provide for words. (If no such label is provided, it means that a word can be
used in all kinds of situations – formal as well as informal.)

As Dictionary B informs us, ‘fox’ is used as a verb only in informal styles of use.(One would not
say something like “ The company’s management has foxed the workers” at a formal company
meeting.)

The label ‘slang’ indicates that a word should be used only in extremely informal situations (e.g.
in a conversation with very intimate friends). On the whole, it may be wiser to avoid the use of
such words unless one is very familiar with the culture of the place where one is living or
working.
46

In some dictionaries, the label ‘taboo’ is attached to some words – for example, the word ‘shit’.
Such words should never be used in any kind of situation as they may cause offence.

Notice that the label ‘derogatory’ (abbreviated as ‘derog.) is used in Dictionary B for the use of
the word ‘fox’ to mean “ a person who deceives others”. This means that such a word should be
used only when it is your intention to criticize or speak against someone.

On the other hand, the use of ‘fox’ to mean “an attractive woman” is said to be ‘appreciative’.

The ‘stylistic’ information which a good dictionary can provide is extremely important for a user of
English and should be carefully studied.

f. phonological information

A Learners’ Dictionary provides essential information on the pronunciation of words in the two
best-known international varieties of English – British and American. Nearly all dictionaries now
use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which has been described in Section 2 (The
Sounds of English).

Users of English who wish to improve their pronunciation are advised to consult a dictionary
regularly. Some of the most common words of English are habitually mispronounced by many
people, who tend to pronounce the words exactly as they are spelt : they are not aware, for
example, that the letter ‘b’ is silent is such words as ‘climb’ or ‘bomb’.

Dictionaries also provide information on the division of words into syllables and the placement of
stress on syllables.

g. spelling

Language learners should develop the habit of referring to a dictionary whenever they are in
doubt about the spelling of a word. Many users of English now seem to be under the impression
that spelling does not matter any more. The increasing use of e-mail and SMS messages sent
over mobile phones, where ‘fashionable’ spellings such as ‘b4’ for ‘before’ seem to be in vogue,
may have contributed to this unfortunate impression. Incorrect spelling should be regarded, as it
generally is, as a sign of incomplete learning and careless use of language.

Thesauruses

A Thesaurus is a book which lists together, in groups, words which are synonyms (have similar
meanings) or antonyms (have opposite meanings to some given word).

Here are some examples :

big : (synonyms) large, great, huge, enormous, immense, gigantic, vast, whopping
(antonyms) small, little, tiny, minute, miniature, wee, slight

No two words have exactly the same meaning. One synonym may, therefore, be more
appropriate for use in particular context than another. For example, one speaks of a ‘large’ or
‘enormous’ house, but not of a ‘gigantic’ or ‘immense’ house. Words such as ‘big’ and ‘large’ are
so neutral in meaning that they are often avoided. The words ‘large’, ‘huge’ ‘enormous’ are
generally used to indicate size (e.g., a huge/enormous crowd); ‘vast’, on the other hand,
suggests ‘extent’ (e.g., the ‘vast Pacific’). Some words are used only in informal language (e.g.
‘whopping’) while others belong to formal use (e.g., ‘minute’). It is important to choose the right
word out of several synonyms which may be available.
47

Language learners are, therefore, advised to consult Thesauruses just as frequently as they
consult dictionaries. Thesauruses follow two different formats : in some thesauruses, words are
listed alphabetically, as in a dictionary. But in some other thesaures, words are grouped together
under different ‘semantic fields’ or areas of meaning : for example, a section of the thesaurus
may deal with different kinds of personal feelings or emotions, such as anger, joy, sorrow etc.,
while another sections deals with different kinds of movement ( run, sprint, walk, amble, shuffle
etc.)

Popular word-processing programs such as MS Word include a thesauraus, which users can
click on when they want to find synonyms or antonyms for any given word. Students are advised
to make regular use of this feature when they are typing out some document on a computer.

Vocabulary-building activities

Activity 3

1 Read through the passage below and try to guess the meanings of the underlined words. If you
are unable to guess, use a dictionary to find out the meanings.

Bring on the Bling !

India’s poor live vicariously through their leaders

1 The poor know well enough that it does not pay to be honest. Households in poor villages are
bursting with honesty, but the people who live in these miserable huts seldom have enough grain
for their next meal. That is why they don’t romance poverty or see any dignity in it. If they had the
necessary gumption, they would happily give up their principles and turn corrupt, but most lack
the stomach to make their dreams come true.

2 So when someone from their ranks eventually breaks through the moral as well as class
barrier and amasses huge wealth, there is reason to celebrate. If this rising star continues to
speak in the name of the poor and returns periodically to the village, a true leader is born. The
poor can live a vicarious life of glamour, as fame and fortune are no longer distant dreams. After
all, one from amongst them has made it to the top and, by all accounts, gone well over it !

3 Given this chance at glitz, why should the poor trade in a leader who lives in pomp and
splendour for a grubby one with a heart of pure gold ? Why should a poor man bow to another
poor man ? Why should failure defer to failure ?

Why should only the privileged classes have successful leaders who live in the fast lane and fly
private jets ? Why can’t the poor have similar aspirations for their leaders? So, when a neta
splashes about in wealth, wearing diamonds to bed and eating IAS officers for breakfast, it raises
hopes among the poor.

2 Use a thesaurus to find synonyms for the following words. (Make sure that the synonym is
suitable for use in this particular context).

miserable, stomach (verb), defer

3 This passage contains the phrasal verb ‘ break through’ (paragraph 2), which is a
combination of the verb ‘break’ and the preposition ‘through’. (What is the meaning of the
expression ‘ to break through a barrier’ ?)
48

Several other phrasal verbs can be formed with ‘break’. Use a dictionary to find out the meanings
of the following phrasal verbs :

(to) break away, break down, break into, break off, break out, break up

4 How many of the phrasal verbs formed with ‘break’ can be used as nouns ? What meanings
do these words have when used as nouns ?

5 An ‘idiom’ is defined as “a group of words which are used together and have a meaning
which cannot be guessed from the meanings of the separate words.” For example, the idiom : “
to pull up one’s socks” ( in a sentence such as “ We must pull up our socks if we want to win the
next match”) means : “to make an effort to improve one’s performance”. The meaning of the
idiom cannot be guessed from the separate words, as one is not physically ‘pulling up’ the
‘socks’ on one’s feet in this case.

What do the idioms used in the following sentences mean ?

i. The government is pumping a lot of money into rural health programs.


ii When he learnt that he had not been invited to the party, he pulled a long face.
iii The police is on edge as the number of crimes has increased tremendously.
iv The Maths teacher received a rap on the knuckles because many students failed in
Maths.
v Sachin Tendulkar hasn’t been in good form, but it’s early days yet !
vi Do you really think you will win ? Come off it, man !
vii It’s a bit much to expect me to do all this work without help.
viii How many people came for the meeting ? Give me a ballpark figure.
ix A fat chance you have of winning this match !
x To all intents and purposes, he has lost the election.
49

PART III

READING
50

CHAPTER 1

The importance of reading


For thousands of years, the knowledge that a society possesses and values has been stored in
books and it is from books that this knowledge is retrieved, through the activity of reading. If
knowledge is power, reading provides the key to knowledge. A learned person is described as
being “well read”. If a piece of information is found in a book, it receives the stamp of
authenticity, but not otherwise. Law courts consider only “documentary evidence” to be reliable.
An important business deal may be negotiated over the telephone, but it can be concluded only
through a written “Memorandum of Understanding”.
Although modern technology has provided us with advanced systems of information storage and
retrieval, books and reading continue to be important. For a time it looked as though oral
(spoken) communication might become predominant, thanks to innovations in
telecommunication technology which made it possible for the human voice to be heard across
vast distances. Contemporary culture seemed about to turn into an “oral culture”, and the skills of
reading and writing were in danger of becoming obsolete. Speaking requires less effort than
writing, and as human beings are constantly looking for labour-saving devices, it was natural for
speaking to gain an edge over writing. But with the coming of the Internet and e-mail, the written
medium may have regained its importance. Reading has once again become an important skill.

A note on reading

Anyone who is preparing to enter the professional world needs to develop the skills of efficient
reading, along with the other language skills (Listening, Speaking and Writing). Business
managers were, at one time, required to go through mountains of letters, reports etc. everyday.
The heavy demands on their time allowed them to spare only a few minutes to skim through the
papers piled up in their ‘In-Trays’, although they were aware that vital information was contained
in some of these papers. They were forced, therefore, to develop the skills of retrieving
information at high speed. Fortunately, people in the business world are not required to do so
much reading today. Most people have become aware of the need to be brief and ‘to-the-point’,
in speech as well as writing. With the coming of e-mail, the volume of paper-work has been
greatly reduced.

Of all the language skills, that of Reading is perhaps the easiest to acquire. However, as it is
taught rather badly in schools, most students remain poor readers even after years of instruction.

We shall begin by examining the nature of the reading process and point out some of the ‘dos
and donts’ of reading. Our aim is to help students to read independently, without the help of a
teacher, and get more meaning out of the books and documents that they read. They should give
themselves as much practice in reading as time will permit. A number of texts, along with
exercises, have been provided in this book for practice.

This discussion that follows is intended for teachers as well as students. Teachers of
Communication are expected to introduce their students to some of the principles of efficient
reading and provide guided practice in reading in the classroom ; but students at the university
level should also be capable of taking charge of their own learning and to do what may be
required to equip themselves with the skills of Communication.

The reading process


51

A common misconception about reading is that when a reader picks up a ‘text’ (e.g., a book, an
article in a journal or a report in a newspaper) for reading, he/she knows nothing in advance
about its contents, but collects information from the text through the process of reading – like a
sponge soaking up water. Reading is imagined to be a one-way process, with information
passing only from the text to the reader.

As a matter of fact, reading is a process of interaction between the reader and the text. The
process of reading depends as much on the information which readers bring to the text, from
their own experience of the world as well as their earlier experiences of reading, as the
information that is contained in the text. As they read, readers make mental predictions about
what they expect to find in the text, basing these predictions upon the information that they have
been able to collect from the text. They are then able to either confirm or reject these predictions
as they read on. If the initial predictions fail, fresh ones are made. Reading thus becomes a
‘psychological guessing game’.

The role of background knowledge in reading


If reading had been merely a process of gathering information from the text, all readers would
get identical meanings from it. But we know that different readers interpret the same text
differently. Therefore we can assume that meaning does not lie in the text but is created through
the interaction between the reader and the text. Readers bring their own experiences of the
world, in general, as well as their previous experiences of reading, to bear on the new text which
they are reading.
Most readers will have at least some background information which can help them to interact
fruitfully with the text – but unskilled readers are unable to make use of this information, firstly
because they are not aware of the importance of background knowledge in reading and secondly
because they get no help in discovering what they already know.
An important part of the training in reading consists in helping readers to review and take stock of
the background information, which they already have. In case the reader does not have any
relevant background information, an instructor can help him/her to acquire it.
Before readers are asked to begin reading the text, therefore, the teacher should engage you in
some pre-reading activity, which will prepare them for reading. We shall describe later the
activities that should be performed during the pre-reading stage.
Relation between reading speed and comprehension
The efficiency of reading is measured by two factors – the speed of reading and the degree of
comprehension (understanding). The two are inter-related. The general impression seems to be
that a good reader is necessarily a slow and careful reader. But in fact we read at different
speeds for different purposes. The purpose for which we read, as well as the type of text that is
being read, has an influence on the speed of reading and the amount of attention with which we
read. It is important to be able to modify the speed of reading to suit our purpose. Flexibility is the
hallmark of a good reader.

Reading aloud and silent reading


Teachers of English at the school level generally insist on making their students read out texts
aloud. Two arguments are normally offered in defence of ‘oral reading’ (reading aloud):
1 When a student reads out a text aloud, the teacher can know whether or not he/she is
actually reading. On the other hand, if a student reads silently, the teacher has no way of
‘checking’ if he/she is reading. The student may pretend to be reading while engaged in some
other activity.
52

2 When a student is reading aloud, the teacher can monitor the student’s pronunciation and
make corrections where necessary. Reading aloud is thus supposed to help in the development
of speech skills.
Both these arguments can be shown to be fallacious, because
1. reading a text aloud does not necessarily indicate that the student is making an effort to
understand the meaning of the text, which is what is important. In fact, when a student is reading
aloud, he/she may be concentrating so much on the pronunciation of words that very little
attention can be given to meaning.
2 Monitoring and correcting a student’s pronunciation during reading is helpful neither in
improving pronunciation nor in developing the skills of reading. Merely pointing out the correct
pronunciation of a word is not enough to ensure that the student will learn it; a lot of practice is
needed, which cannot be provided during a reading lesson. On the other hand, if a student’s
reading is repeatedly interrupted in order to correct his/her pronunciation, this will hamper the
process of comprehension.
Beyond the primary school level, reading should mean ‘reading for meaning’, which must be a
silent and private activity. There are good reasons for insisting on silent reading.
When someone is reading a text aloud, he/she cannot read at a speed of more than 60 to 80
words per minute (wpm). When we speak, we normally speak at a speed of 100-120 wpm, and
‘reading aloud’ is slower than speaking.
When the speed of reading falls below a minimum level, which is estimated to be about 150-200
wpm, the level of comprehension drops. This is because at very slow speeds, reading becomes
‘word bound’. Slow readers read only one word at a time, and as a result they find it difficult to
take in the meaning of an entire sentence. By the time they come to the end of the sentence they
have forgotten what they had read earlier. Efficient readers, on the other hand, are able to
develop a larger ‘eye-span’ and can take in several words at a single glance, reading groups of
words rather than single words.
Imagine that the following sentence is being read:
Modern mothers have the difficult task of coping with their work at home as well as their jobs in
the office.
An unskilled reader would read this sentence word by word, in the following manner:
Modern// mothers// have// the// difficult// task //of //coping// with // their //work// at// home// as /
well // as // their// jobs// in // the // office.
A more efficient reader, however, would take in longer ‘chunks’, as shown below:
Modern mothers have the difficult task // of coping with their work at home// as well as their jobs
in the office.
The slow reader has to deal with more items of information, since each word counts as a
separate piece of information. The efficient reader, on the other hand, has to handle fewer pieces
of information. As a result, comprehension improves.
You should understand the importance of reading fast, without losing comprehension. An efficient
reader should be able to read at a speed of at least 400 words per minute, which is far in
advance of the speed at which most students read.
The sub-skills of reading
Reading involves a number of sub-skills. We will focus here only on those sub-skills that are
important for you at the college or university level.
1. Global comprehension
53

In reading a text for meaning, it is desirable to go from the ‘whole’ to the ‘parts’, and not vice
versa, as unskilled readers tend to do. A poor reader will pick up information from the text in
small bits and pieces, as he/she reads from one word or one sentence to the next, and try to
assemble the bits together. An efficient reader, on the other hand, will first try to form an over-all
‘picture’ of the entire text.
‘Global comprehension’, or the ability to get ‘over-all’ meaning from a text, requires the sub-skill
of skimming – that is, reading through the text at high speed in order to identify and pick up the
main idea or ideas in the text while ‘filtering out’ the unnecessary details.
2. Understanding the ‘plan’ of the text
A good reader usually reads a text more than once in order to understand it adequately. The first
reading is done at speed, with the intention of making a ‘general survey’ of the text. Then the
reader returns to the text as many times as necessary in order to fill in the details.
When visitors enter a large building (e.g. an educational complex or a hotel) for the first time,
they often feel lost because they are not familiar with the ‘plan’ of the building and do not know
how the different parts of the building are connected to each other. But as they explore the
building, they are able to form a mental ‘plan’ or ‘map’ of the building in their minds, which guides
them on subsequent visits.
Similarly, efficient readers are able to form a ‘plan’ of the text that is being read, which helps
them to recover meaning from it. Most texts – unless they are badly written – possess unity of
thought. There is generally one central idea or ‘theme’ in the text, which is most prominent.
There may be other ideas as well, but they are usually introduced in order to provide support for
the main idea. The reader’s mental plan helps him/her to ‘navigate’ through the text confidently
instead of groping about blindly.
3. Making predictions and informed guesses
An unskilled reader plods through a text laboriously, trying to get the meaning of every word. The
skilled reader, after reading a few sentences, paragraphs or pages, is able to form a fairly
accurate picture of what the author is trying to say, and is able to ‘hop’ and ‘skip’ through the
text, omitting quite substantial portions of it without missing important information. Most writers
have a tendency to repeat themselves in order to ensure that their readers do not miss the
significance of what they are saying; good readers are aware of this and know that portions of
the text can be safely omitted.
Making reliable predictions about what is likely to be found in the text is an important sub-skill of
reading.

4. ‘Local’ comprehension

After reading through the text quickly to form an over-all impression, you should focus on the
details of the information provided by the writer, which will generally be located in different parts
of the text.

A reader begins by gathering the ‘facts’ presented by the author in the text. The term ‘factual
comprehension’ refers to the ability to absorb and retrieve factual information contained in the
text -- i.e., information which has been explicitly stated by the writer and is directly available in
the text. Factual comprehension must come before deeper and more thorough understanding of
the text ; unless one understands the ‘plain sense’ of the text, one cannot reach the other levels
of comprehension. The reading texts in this book are followed by some exercises to check
factual comprehension. (Questions 1,3,4,5, following Reading Text 1, are examples of questions
dealing with factual comprehension.)
54

Inferential comprehension refers to the reader’s ability to ‘read between the lines’. The reader
has to understand not just what the writer has said but also what he/she might have said but has
chosen to leave unsaid. This is done on the basis of clues provided in the text as well as the
reader’s own background knowledge. Questions that focus on inferential comprehension are
more challenging in nature and have been used in all the reading texts. Some examples of such
types of questions are Questions 2 and 6, following Reading Text 3.

Evaluative comprehension requires the reader to make a considered judgement on the truth
and value of what the writer is trying to say, and how far he/she has succeeded in saying it. This
is a more sophisticated skill than the two previously referred to since the author has to respond
to the text more critically to identify, among other things, the writer’s bias, force and accuracy of
argument and the effectiveness of what s/he is trying to say. Such questions, focusing on the
writer’s attitude and point of view, have been included with almost all the reading texts.

5. Guessing the meanings of unfamiliar words

Good readers tackle unknown words in a text by trying to guess their meanings from the context.
It is not possible to look up the meanings of all unknown words in a dictionary. If the reader
attempts to do that, the flow of reading is interrupted. When you come across a word whose
meaning you do not know, try to guess the meaning, using contextual clues. However, this is
possible only when the text does not have too many difficult words.
6. Skimming and scanning
‘Skimming’ a text means going through it quickly to get an over-all idea of the content. We are
not interested in details or any specific information while skimming.
‘Scanning’, on the other hand, involves searching the text for a specific piece of information in
which the reader is interested. This may be a date, a specific time, a particular word and so on.
Since we are looking for specific items of information, the reader often ‘jumps’ backward and
forward through the text, instead of going through the text in a ‘linear’ fashion, from one word to
the next.
Since skimming and scanning require ‘speed reading’, you have been given simple texts to read
when these two skills are being practised. It will not be possible for one to read difficult texts at
high speed as well as with a high degree of comprehension. Besides, you may feel insecure if
you are asked to ignore too many words. You are expected to skim through each reading text
quickly at least two times before you start careful reading. Some examples of scanning activities
are Question 9 , following Reading Text 5, Question 6 in Reading Text 7 and Question 2 in
Reading Text 8. Remember to read quickly while doing these activities.
7. Understanding discourse markers

Discourse markers are ‘signposts’ provided by the writer. These are used in a text to indicate
sequence of ideas (e.g. words such as ‘firstly’, ‘secondly’, ‘finally’ etc), logical relationships (e.g.
‘therefore’, ‘as a result’, ‘in conclusion’ etc.) and signal the writer’s point of view (e.g.
‘incidentally’, ‘moreover’, ‘as a matter of fact’ etc.) Understanding the writer’s use of discourse
markers is an important sub-skill of reading. These signposts are helpful because they indicate
to the reader the relationship between two parts of the text. One example of an activity designed
to develop understanding of discourse markers is given below.

Fill in the blanks with one of the alternatives given for each blank space.

For a country whose population has crossed the 1 billion mark, the number of vehicles in India is
ridiculously low. ___1____, there are less than 60 million vehicles in the country. __ 2____
55

there is one area where India’s statistics are exceedingly high, and it is not something to be
proud of. This is the number of vehicular thefts. Each year, more than one lakh vehicles, mostly
cars, are stolen. ____3_______, insurance companies are forced to pay out hundreds of crores
in claims. _____4_______, these thefts have begun to pose a security threat, ___5___ a large
share of the stolen vehicles falls in the hands of militants.
1. But / Also / In fact
2. So/ But / However
3. Therefore/ As a result / However
4. For example/ So /Moreover
5. This is because / as / On account of

8. Understanding the organization of a text

Every text contains a number of different ideas, which are presented in different parts of the text.
For example, the opening sentence of a text may introduce a certain idea, which is supported by
examples in the next two sentences. The second paragraph may, however, introduce a new idea
which seems to contradict the idea introduced in the first paragraph. In the third paragraph, the
two contrasting ideas may be reconciled and a conclusion reached.

The manner in which different ideas are related to each other in a text is referred to as the
‘structure’ or ‘organization’ of a text. This is controlled by the topic, the writer’s purpose, and the
audience that he/she has in mind. When the writer begins to write, s/he has to think of the best
way of ‘opening’ the text, what to say next, which points to highlight or emphasize etc. A good
reader should be able to trace the organizational patterns in the text.

Once readers understand how a text is organized (and you can do this by analyzing the patterns
of different types of texts), they are better able to get meaning from a difficult text. Each time you
come across a different text-type, you should try to identify its structure, with the teacher’s help if
necessary. A narrative (e.g., a report of an incident) is organized differently from a piece of
expository writing (which tries to explain an idea). Reading Text 2 gives you some practice in
analyzing the organization of texts.

9. Note making

Note making is a sub-skill of reading that is highly useful for ‘study’ purposes. It involves
understanding the organization of the text and being able to identify the main points and the
supporting details, in ‘skeleton’ or ‘outline’ form. Notes help comprehension as readers are able
to see, in ‘diagrammatic’ or ‘visual’ form, the relationship between the whole text and its parts.
Several of the reading texts in this book are followed by note-making exercises.

Teaching reading
A reading lesson should be conducted in three stages:
a pre-reading
b ‘ while-reading’
c post-reading (after reading)
56

a. Pre-reading
During this stage, teachers motivate and prepare students for the reading of the text. Pre-reading
activity normally takes the form of oral discussion, intended to help students to review their
‘background knowledge’ of the text and to make predictions about what they can expect to find in
the text.
If the teacher finds that students do not have the required background knowledge, they should
help their students to acquire it, either by providing a brief introduction or by asking students to
read another text which will lead them on to the main text. There may be gaps in cultural
knowledge that require bridging.
Teachers make use of ‘pre-reading’ or ‘preview’ questions, to which students can find answers
when the text is read (during the next phase of the lesson). Such questions, asked in advance,
help students to focus on specific aspects of the text during reading. Examples of such questions
are given at the beginning of Reading Texts 3, 5, 8 and 9.
3. Pre-reading activity can be used also to prepare students to deal with the difficult or unfamiliar
language items (vocabulary and grammar) found in the text. Unfamiliar words are glossed in
advance. (A ‘glossary’ has been provided along with Reading Texts 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10. Students
should read through the glossary. However, not all the new words have been glossed as
students need the opportunity to guess the meanings of some new words from the context.)
b. ‘While- reading’
The following are some of the poor reading habits which many students have, and need to be
overcome :
i reading the text aloud to oneself, even when asked to read silently. Poor readers tend to
‘mouth’ the words of the text to themselves and can be seen moving their lips.
ii ‘pointing’ at the lines of the text with a finger, pencil or some other object and moving the
‘pointer’ along the lines of the text while reading ;
iii moving the head from side to side as one reads.
All these habits slow down the ‘fluency’ of reading and affect comprehension. Teachers should
train students to read silently, without ‘vocalization’ or ‘sub-vocalization’, lip movement, pointing
with a finger, or making movements of the head.
When students begin reading, teachers should ask them to ‘skim’ quickly through the entire text
once, provided it is short enough to be read through in a few minutes. If not, the teacher can ask
students to read through only a part of the text, consisting of not more than 3-4 paragraphs, and
about 250-300 words in length. Students should then be asked to point out the main idea or
ideas which are found in the text.

“ While-reading’ tasks (to be performed during reading)

After the first quick reading, the teacher should make students return to the text repeatedly and
perform a variety of ‘tasks’ or activities, using the information which they pick up through reading.

The teacher should not intervene while students are actually engaged in reading. However, they
have a major role to play during the feedback session that should follow the activity of reading.
This includes collecting answers (to questions) from different students, throwing the answers
back to other students for comments, resolving disputes, modifying or re-phrasing a question if
students fail to answer it, providing clues etc. While the students are engaged in ‘silent reading’,
the teacher may have to help a ‘weak’ student who has a special problem, such as inability to
understand a word in the text, or an instruction given for performing a task. In this book, ‘while
57

reading’ activities follow the actual reading of the text and have been placed under the heading
‘After Reading’.

c. Post-reading

When the reading of the text is complete, students should be asked to perform some meaningful
tasks which require application of the information which has been obtained from the text. This
may be a writing or a speaking task. Post-reading tasks have been provided after Reading Texts
6, 9 and 10.
58

READING TEXT 1
Read twice through the following passage without pausing, spending not more than 5 minutes on
each reading. Provide a suitable title, containing not more than 5 words, for the passage.
(The paragraphs have been numbered for convenience.)

1 Japan was one of the first countries in the world to foresee the problems that would be
created by the unrestricted use of motorcars. Being a small, densely populated country with
many crowded cities, Japan quickly realized that motorcars were not suitable for inland transport,
as they required extensive road networks that take up valuable land space. Instead of investing
huge sums of money on the development of motorways, like other industrial countries, Japan
decided to go in for ultra-modern, high-speed rail links between its major cities. The new trains
became known as ‘bullet trains’ on account of their sleek design, although the official Japanese
name is ‘Shinkansen’, or ‘the new line’. The Tokaido Shinkansen, connecting Tokyo and Osaka,
inaugurated in 1964, was the world's first high speed train. Bullet trains then ran at about 200
km/hour, but nowadays they reach speeds of over 300 km/hour. Indeed many experts say it was
the success of the Japanese bullet train which inspired high-speed railways in Europe. During
the 1980s, France, Britain, and Germany also developed high-speed rail networks that now have
expanded across Europe.

2 A bullet train may sound exciting, but Indians will probably have to wait for many years before
high-speed trains begin running here. The reasons are not far to seek: too many people, too
many level crossings and shanties lining railway tracks. Indian Railways, which is now focusing
on developing freight corridors, does not seem too keen on developing high speed passenger
trains. However, the Railway Minister said recently that plans have been drawn up for five high-
speed passenger corridors: Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Chennai-Coimbatore,
Bengaluru-Ernakulam, Delhi-Amritsar and Howrah-Haldia.

3 Government investment on high-speed trains is ruled out. High-speed trains abroad are
largely a private venture. The construction cost of tracks is about 600-1000 crores per kilometer.
Bullet trains run on special raised tracks, which are screened on both sides by protecting walls. A
number of state governments have, however, evinced interest in public-private partnership
ventures.

Answer the following questions based on the text that you have read.

1. What are ‘bullet trains’ ?


2. Why are they called by this name ? What other name do they have ?
3. What led to their introduction ?
4. When and where was the first bullet train introduced ?
5. In which countries are bullet trains found now ?
6. We are told : “ Indians may have to wait for many years before high-speed trains
begin running here”. Why?
7. What special problems are involved in constructing high-speed rail services ?
8. Which places in India are likely to be connected by high-speed trains ? Why have
these places been chosen ?
9. What does the expression “freight corridor” mean ?
10. What are the advantages that railways offer over motor transport ?
11. Does the author favour the introduction of bullet trains in India ? Which words or
sentences in the passage reveal the author’s views on this point ?

Vocabulary exercises
59

Try to guess the meanings of the following words, used in the passage, from the contexts in
which they occur. If you are unable to make a guess, you can find out the meanings from a
dictionary.

motorways (para 1)
sleek (para 1)
shanties (para 2)
freight corridor (para 2)
evince (para 3)

Note making

In this passage, some of the advantages and disadvantages of introducing ‘bullet trains’ have
been discussed. Sum up the arguments on both sides in the form of ‘notes’, arranged in two
columns (as suggested below). (You should not use complete sentences for writing up notes ;
just use the ‘key words’, which present the main ideas briefly and can be easily remembered.)

Advantages Disadvantages

READING TEXT 2

Six paragraphs of a text entitled “Junk Food” are given below, but they are not in the right order.
Re-arrange them in the order which you find most logical.

What are your reasons for arranging the paragraphs in this order ?

1 Junk food is extremely popular with adults as well as children because of its convenience. It is
easy and cheap to prepare and has a long shelf life. Junk foods such as potato wafers do not
even need cooking or heating.

2 Health experts all over the world are alarmed by the growing addiction of school-going
children to junk foods such as pizzas, burgers, fried potatoes, ice-cream and carbonated sweet
drinks.

3 Junk food is very big business, particularly in America, from which companies like
Macdonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pepsi and Coca Cola make billions. After globalization,
most of these companies have set up shop in India, and home-grown companies such as ITC
and Britannia have joined the competition.

4 The phrase ‘junk food’ was coined by the American dietician Michael Jacobson in 1972 to
describe unhealthy foods that have poor nutritional value but high calorific value. They contain
high levels of saturated fat, salt, or sugar and numerous food additives and flavouring agents
such as monosodium glutamate and tartrazine. At the same time, they are lacking in proteins,
vitamins and fibers, which are essential in a healthy diet.

5 Unfortunately, Indian mothers, unlike their counterparts in America, are poorly informed about
the hazards that their children may be facing when they consume junk food; in fact, it is
considered fashionable to snack on pizzas and burgers, which were unknown earlier.

6 If convenience is one reason that pushes people into eating junk food, great taste is another.
Junk foods get their taste from the lavish use of oils, salts and/or sugar. The same ingredients
60

that make them tasty turn them into health hazards. The fat contents produce high cholesterol
levels. High sugar content can trigger off diabetes as well as cause obesity and dental cavities,
while excessive sodium salts are known to cause high blood pressure and can also affect the
functioning of the kidneys.

Answer the following questions based on the text.


1. What is ‘junk food’? Name some popular items of junk food.
2. Why is junk food so popular ?
3. Why are health experts alarmed by its popularity ?
4. What is the author’s attitude to the growing popularity of junk food in India ?
Which words or sentences in the passage reveal the author’s attitude ?
5. What could be done to check the popularity of junk food in India ?

Vocabulary exercises

1a. Find out the different meanings of ‘junk’ by referring to a dictionary. Why do you think this
name is used to describe certain kinds of food?
b. What could the expression ‘junk mail’ mean?
2 Try to guess the meanings of the following words and phrases, used in the passage, by
referring to the contexts in which they have been used:
shelf-life ( para 1)
carbonated (para 2)
calorific (para 3)
snack (used as a verb) ( para 5)
lavish (para 6)
If you are unable to guess the meanings, consult a dictionary.

Note making
The information which this passage contains could be arranged under the following headings:
Junk food

a. Definition of junk food


b. Some examples of junk food
c. Reasons for its popularity
d. ______________________________
e. Growing popularity of junk food in India.

Notice that one of the headings is missing. Can you supply the missing heading?
61

Arrange the various pieces of information available in the passage under these headings, in the
form of ‘points’. ( Do not use complete sentences, but only ‘key words’, which could be
remembered easily.)

READING TEXT 3
Pre-reading activity
1 You are going to read a passage which has the title “Big Brother is Watching”.
What thoughts or feelings come to your mind when you read this title? Does it remind you of
something? (What feelings do you associate with the words ‘Big Brother’? Do you like the idea of
being watched by a ‘Big Brother’ ?)

Can you guess, from the title, what the passage might be about?

2 You will find two expressions in paragraph 1 which are important for understanding the
meaning of the entire passage :
i. cyber-snooping
ii emotional profiling
What could these expressions mean? Use a dictionary to find out the meanings of the words
“cyber”, “snooping” and “profiling”, and discuss with your class-mates (working together in
groups) what these two expressions might mean.
Do you find a link between the title “Big Brother is Watching” and the expressions “cyber
snooping” and “emotional profiling”? Can you describe this link?
Are you now in a better position to guess what the passage may be about?

Glossary

Here are some other words used in the passage, whose meanings you may not be familiar with.

rattle (verb) (para 1) to upset someone or to make someone nervous (informal)


segregate (para 1) to separate one group of people from others
disgruntled (para 3) feeling unhappy and disappointed because one does not get
something that one wanted or expected
alienated (para 3) made to feel that you do not belong to a group but are an
outsider
flag (para 3) to mark someone or something for special attention
The workplace sucks! (para 3) To say that something sucks is to describe it as
extremely unpleasant (American slang)

Reading

Read through the passage at least twice. Start with a fast reading to form a general impression
of the passage and return to it for a more careful reading. As you read, try to find the answer to
the following question: “Who, or what, is Big Brother?”

Big Brother is Watching!


62

1 It is common knowledge that many business companies cyber-snoop on their staff. But did
you know that they also carry out ‘emotional profiling’? Rattled by frequent cases of data theft,
corporates – especially IT and ITES companies – now maintain a hawk-like vigil on their
employees’ PCs, to segregate potential threat elements.

2 A new software package, aptly named Big Brother, can track under-performers by
automatically scanning e-mails to create a personality profile for each staff-member. The
software scans every e-mail received or sent by an employee and looks for patterns of words or
the absence of words that provides clues about their personalities. Although it is designed to
tackle workplace cyber-crime, the system could be adopted to show whether employees are
lazy, take very frequent sick-leave, or are applying for jobs elsewhere. The program is the
brainchild of computer experts working for the U.S. military and will soon be available in India for
free download by companies.

3 Systems like Big Brother rely on the assumption that the riskiest employees are those who are
disgruntled and alienated. They search their e-mails for specific ‘negative profile’ words such as
“drink, love, depressed, lonely, break-up, divorce, suicide, kill, penniless”, or phrases like ‘the
workplace sucks’. The system also checks if anyone is discussing sensitive subjects, personal or
professional, with those outside. If they do, they may be flagged. People who are seen to be
alienated are seen as risks, and their names are immediately forwarded to the management. The
system can even track those who are applying for jobs elsewhere or taking too much time off.

4 The advantages to employers are obvious. Companies say that one-third of the damage to
their business is caused by insiders. In such cases, Big Brother would be a boon.

5 “ Every bit and byte of data transfer through an employee’s workstation has to pass through
our systems guys, who then pick on suspects and pass on their records to HR and departmental
heads,” explains Sameer Kapur, a technical expert at a call centre in Bangalore. Employees may
be understandably unhappy at being constantly watched. HR Consultant Neelam Bhan says
“Indiscriminate use of spying software could be controversial because it brands employees as
potential threats before they have done anything wrong.”

6 To this, Sanjay Virmani, the team leader at a call centre in Noida retorts, “We are only tracking
computer systems to prevent losses. If employees do not want their personal lives tracked they
should not use office PC’s for personal purposes.”

After reading

1 What is the central idea in the passage? Which sentence or sentences in the passage tell
you most clearly what the central idea is?
2 What does the writer mean by saying that “companies cyber-snoop on their staff’? Why do
they do this?
3 What is “Big Brother”? How does it work? What is it normally used for and how is it being
used now?
4 For whom is the expression ‘potential threat elements’ (in paragraph 1) used ?
5 What is meant by the phrase ‘underperformers’ ? ( paragraph 2)
6 Why does the writer say ( in paragraph 4) : “Big Brother would be a boon” ?
7 Does the writer approve of “Big Brother” and its use? Which words in the passage tell you
what his/her opinion is?
8 What is your own view on this subject?

Vocabulary
63

Explain the meanings of the following expressions;

i. hawk-like vigil ( paragraph 1)


ii. to segregate potential threat elements ( paragraph 1)
iii. workplace cyber crime (paragraph 2)

READING TEXT 4

Pre-reading

Discuss the following question with your class-mates, working in groups.

How much do you know about the history of medicine? In which country or countries did the
science of medicine begin? Who were the earliest doctors?

Glossary

gladiators (para 2) : professional fighters who provided entertainment to the people


of Rome, about 1500-2000 years ago, by fighting and killing each
other in ‘exhibition fights’. They were generally enemy soldiers
who had been defeated in battle by the Roman army and made
prisoners

Reading

1 When we look back at the history of medicine, we think of the clever people who have, over
thousands of years, devised ingenious ways of allaying human suffering. But to find the real
fathers of the healing arts, we should look millions of years further back – to our hairy relatives.

2 Standard histories of medicine tell us that the Greek philosopher Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.),
first introduced scientific methods into the treatment of human ailments. In 65 A.D., another
Greek, Dioscorides, produced the first pharmacopoeia, “De Materia Medica”, which was a list of
600 drugs that could be used to treat illness. The title “Father of Medicine” is conferred, however,
on Claudius Galenus, who became surgeon to the gladiators in second-century Rome.

3 Recently, a research team from the University of Manchester, led by Prof Rosalie David, put
back the birth of medicine by another millennium. They claimed that the pioneers of medicine
were not the ancient Greeks but the ancient Egyptians, in particular the emperor Imhotep (2667-
2648 BC), who designed the pyramids and was elevated to the status of a god of healing.

4 But now, the textbooks of medicine may have to be re-written again, because evidence is
emerging that medicine is not a human invention at all. In fact, we may be aping our forest-
dwelling cousins.

5 One example is the deliberate ingestion of soil as a remedy for bodily ailments, which is
known as ‘geophagy’. When people start eating soil, it is thought to signal mental health
problems. But a study of chimpanzees in the Kibale National Park, Uganda, shows that
64

geophagy is a common remedy for several health problems among chimpanzees. Some French
scientists have reported that consuming a particular kind of soil increases the potency of
ingested plants, such as the leaves of trichilla rubescens, which have anti-malarial properties.

6 The French team collected samples of clay eaten by chimpanzees, as well as leaves from
young trichilla trees in the same area. The soil was rich in a mineral called kaolinite, which is
commonly used to control diarrhoea. The French scientists performed a number of tests and
were surprised at the results. Before being mixed with the soil, the leaves of trichilla had no
significant effect; but when the leaves and the soil were taken together, the mixture developed
clear anti-malarial properties. “This overlapping use by humans and apes is interesting from both
evolutionary and conservation perspectives,” says Sabrina Krief, the leader of the French team.
“Saving apes and their forests may be important for human health.”

7 This is far from being the first example of our physicians borrowing ideas from other species.
Prof. Huffma of Kyoto University, Japan, believes that humans have long looked to other animals
for medicinal wisdom. In 1987, he happened to be watching a constipated chimpanzee in the
dense rain forests of western Tanzania. Reaching for the shoot of a noxious tree that chimps
would normally avoid, this animal peeled it and sucked its bitter pith. Next day, her constipation
was gone. It was the first time a scientist had seen a sick chimp select an unsavoury plant known
by humans to have medicinal properties, and then recover. Prof Huffman reports that that nearly
all the ape remedies which he has studied are also used by local people in East Africa as
medicine, echoing, he believes, the evolutionary origins of human medicine.

After reading

1. Which of the following titles would be most appropriate for the passage that you have just
read? (Choose your own title in case you do not like the titles that have been suggested.) Justify
your selection.

a. Our hairy relatives


b. The origin of the science of medicine
c. Health problems of chimpanzees
d. Ape remedies

2. The writer mentions ‘our hairy relatives’ in paragraph 1. Who are they? In which other
paragraph or paragraphs are these ‘hairy relatives’ mentioned? Which other expressions have
been used to refer to them?
3 Where is the science of medicine generally believed to have its origin?
4 Does the writer believe that Egyptians were the founders of modern medicine?
(Which word gives you the clue?)
5 “But now, the textbooks of medicine may have to be re-written again.” Why?
6 (para 6) Why were the French scientists surprised at the result of their tests?
7 (para 6) ‘This overlapping use…’ What is the overlapping use? Why is it described as
‘overlapping’? Why is it of interest to scientists?
8. This text mentions two examples of physicians borrowing ideas from other
species. What is the second example?
9 What, in your view, is the most important piece of information that this passage
provides? How did you respond to this piece of information? (Were you surprised?)
10. Can you think of some other examples of discoveries where human beings were guided
by animals?

Vocabulary
65

Some words from the text are given below. Try to guess their meanings by referring to the
contexts in which they have been used. Consult a dictionary in case you are unable to guess the
meaning.

ingenious (para1)
allay (para 1)
ingestion (para 5)

READING TEXT 5

Pre-reading

Have you met or heard of people who bathe several times every day and wash their hands every
time they touch something?

Is this kind of behaviour normal? What causes it?


Read the passage below and find out why some people behave in strange ways.

Glossary

aversion (para 4) a strong dislike for something


traumatic experience (para 7) a shocking experience that leaves a long-lasting effect

Reading

Read the passage quickly to find out the definition of ‘phobias’ and the different phobias
discussed here. Then read it again, carefully, and answer the questions that follow.

Phobias

1 Have you been experiencing sleepless nights ever since you became the proud owner of
a mobile phone? Are you worried sick that someone may run away with your handset, which is
more precious to you than life itself? Or that you may suddenly get cut off while talking to a dear
one as you have run out of talk-time? If the answer to these questions is “Yes”, you should
count yourself lucky, for what you have acquired is ‘nomophobia’. This is the latest phobia to
have entered our lives, and it is so new that most people haven’t even heard of it ! What could be
more up-to-date and fashionable?

2 What is a phobia, you might ask, and what’s so special about nomophobia?

3 Most people have an instinctive horror of snakes, though some may never have seen
one; the mere utterance of the word “snake” is enough to make them jump with fright. The fear of
snakes is such a powerful instinct that it seems to have entered into our genes. Psychologists
have a name for this irrational and uncontrollable fear: they call it ‘herpetophobia’.

4 A ‘phobia’ is a mental disorder which takes the form of abnormal anxiety, fear or aversion.
Usually, this feeling gets attached to a particular object or situation. For some people, an
ordinary house-cat may become an object of terror. What they are said to suffer from is
‘ailurophobe’, also known as ‘felinophobia’ –- the fear of cats.

5 Some people are so scared of becoming contaminated by dirt that they are constantly
bathing or washing themselves. Doctors refer to this form of behaviour as ‘misophobia’, or fear of
dirt.
66

6 It would seem that for almost every phobia there is a counterpart which is its exact
opposite, proving that human beings are very different from each other. So some people are
born with a natural fear of bathing, which is called ‘abluthophobia’. Some people go almost mad
with fear if they have to spend some time in a confined space; their fear has been given the
name of ‘claustrophobia’. On the other hand, some people are equally scared of vast, open
spaces as they suffer from something called ‘agoraphobia’. Students who dislike studies may be
surprised (and relieved) to know that medical science recognizes something called ‘bibliophobia’
– the fear of books.

7 Scientists believe that phobias arise from a combination of external events and in-born
instincts. Certain objects naturally produce a response of fear in us— as, for example, snakes.
Many phobias can be traced back to a traumatic experience at an early age. Brain chemistry
also seems to play a major role in the development of anxiety disorders and phobias.

8 According to some biologists, phobias are linked to the amygdala, an area of the brain
which is located behind the pituitary gland. The amygdala secretes hormones which control fear
and aggression and puts the human body into an "alert" state, in which people are ready to
move, run or fight quickly, when required to do so. If human beings did not have these instinctive
fears and anxieties, we would be very slow to react to dangerous or threatening situations. We
could say, therefore, that phobias have been created by nature for our protection ; however, they
sometimes seem to run wild and go out of control.

9 As our life-style changes, our bodies and brains adapt themselves to the new situations
that we are required to face by creating new ‘trigger mechanisms’, which is what phobias
essentially are. And so it is that our addiction to the use of cell phones has now produced a new
phobia which was unheard of earlier -- nomophobia, or cell-phone anxiety, which manifests itself
as fear that one may lose ‘connectivity’. Researchers in Britain have found that 53 percent of
mobile phone users are in constant fear of running out of battery or credit or not having network
coverage. Men seem more prone to this condition than women: 53 percent of males and 48
percent of women reported feelings of anxiety. More than 20 percent of the 2163 respondents
said they never switched off their phones.

10 “We are familiar with the stressful situations of everyday life such as commuting to office,
returning home at midnight and so on, but it seems the fear of being out of contact is the 21st
century’s contribution to our growing bundle of tensions. Being phoneless and panicking is a
symptom of our 24x7 culture,” says one senior manager.

After reading

1 How does the author define the term ‘phobia’? In which paragraph is this definition given?
2 How does the author introduce the idea of ‘phobias’? Does this introduction help you, as a
reader, to understand the meaning of the term ‘phobia’?
3 Which of the phobias described in this passage is most common, in your opinion? Which
one is most unusual?
4 What does the author mean by saying (in paragraph 3) that the “fear of snakes may have
entered our genes”?
5 The author refers to a number of causes which give rise to phobias. Can you sum up, in
your own words, what he/says says about these causes, in two or three sentences?
6 What is the ‘amygdala’ and what is its function? (paragraph 8)
7 Would it be correct to describe a phobia as a kind of sickness? Why?
8 What explanation does the author give for the appearance of new phobias, which were
unheard of earlier?
9 Look at the words ‘trigger mechanism’ in paragraph 9. What do these words mean?
67

10 What is nomophobia?
11 In paragraph 1, the author says: “ If the answer to these questions is “Yes”, you should
count yourself lucky.”
a. What questions is the author referring to?
b. Why does the author say “You should count yourself lucky ” ?
12 In the same paragraph, the author says : “What could be more up-to-date and fashionable?”
What do these words suggest ? Does the author mean what he/she is saying here ?
13 In the last paragraph, the author refers to ‘our 24x7 culture’. What do you think this
expression means?

Vocabulary
Study the use of the following words and phrases in this passage :
i worried sick (para 1)
ii contaminated (para 5)
iii counterpart (para 6)
iv confined (para 6)
v prone (paragraph 9)

Can you explain, in your own words, what these words mean ?
Note making
The information on ‘phobias’ which this passage contains could be arranged under the following
headings:

i definition of phobia
ii some examples of phobias
iii ……………………………
iv …………………………….

Can you supply the two missing headings?


Arrange the various pieces of information available in the passage under these headings, in the
form of ‘points’. (Do not use complete sentences, but only ‘key words’, which could be
remembered easily.)

READING TEXT 6
Pre-reading
Make a list of 3-4 major values in your culture and share it with others in the group. Did you and
your friends have similar ideas?

Have you ever interacted with a person from another culture? Have you found anything unusual
in their behaviour?

How do you think we learn cultural behaviour?

Reading

Read the following passage very quickly, twice, to find what the author wants to say. Then read
carefully and answer the questions that follow the passage.
68

Cultural conditioning

1 Every society has its own ‘norms’ or standards of behaviour. We need to understand
where these norms come from, and why we are so ready to impose our own norms on people
who do not belong to our culture.

2 We get our norms, our notions of how to behave, from the people around us, especially
from those who raise us. As young children we observe our parents, our siblings and peers, and
imitate what they do or say. Over time we internalize these behaviours, and they gradually
become unconscious and instinctive, so that we no longer have to think about what to do or say
in a given situation ; we just know. And what we know is what we have taken in by observing the
world around us.

3 But not everyone observes the world in the same way. People from different cultures see
the world differently. They come away with a very different set of standards of behaviour.

4 In the United States for example, parents teach their children that it’s good to be an
individual, that you should be self-reliant (stand on your two feet), that you shouldn’t go behind
someone’s back and that ‘where there is a will there is a way’. In Morocco on the other hand,
children learn to identify with their primary group (the family). They learn that you can always
depend on others (as they can depend on you), that you should never confront another person
directly, and that God’s will is paramount. With these norms firmly rooted at the level of
unconscious instinct, is it any wonder that when ‘John’ and ‘Mohamed’ meet, a cultural incident
can’t be far behind?

5 Part of the reason why we so readily project our own norms onto people from other
cultures is because we do not realize that these are things that we have learnt from others, not
things that we were born with. It’s not like learning to ride a bicycle; you can remember that
experience and the effect that it had on you. But you don’t remember learning that “Where there
is a will there is a way.” So, you may believe that you were born with this particular piece of
knowledge.

6 We expect other people to share our norms of behaviour because we have always done so,
and it generally works. People mostly behave the way we expect them to behave in most
situations, leading us to believe that everyone is just like us. But actually this happens when our
norms are also their norms -- they have learnt the same values and behaviors from their parents
as we learnt from ours.

7 One last reason we expect everyone to behave like us is that we couldn’t function if we didn’t.
The minute you are no longer sure of how people will behave in a particular situation, you will no
longer be able to manage your day-to-day life. In other words, if everything in life became
unpredictable, we would be paralysed and unable to act. If we couldn’t be sure that other drivers
would stop at red lights, that trees would stay rooted to the ground, that passersby would not
shoot us -- how would we dare leave our homes? We expect all people to think and act the way
we do because we would not be able to survive otherwise.

Adapted from Stoti, C. 1994. Cross-cultural Dialogues. Boston: Intercultural Press.

After reading

1. What is the main idea in this passage? In which parts of the passage is it found?
69

2. Look at the following statements from the text you have just read. Where do you find them in
the text ? Now write a sentence expressing, in your own words, the idea which the writer is trying
to present through these sentences.

a. If we couldn’t be sure that other drivers would stop at red lights, that trees would stay rooted
to the ground, that passers-by would not shoot us, how would we dare leave our homes?

b. People mostly behave the way we expect them to behave in most situations, leading us to
believe that everyone is just like us.

c. As young children we observe our parents, our siblings and peers, and imitate what they do or
say.

3 Why do we expect people to have the same norms as ourselves? Which of the reasons given
are more convincing?

4 What are the norms of cultural behaviour of Americans mentioned in this passage? What is
the corresponding behaviour in your own culture?

5 “….Is it any wonder that when ‘John’ and ‘Mohamed’ meet, a cultural incident can’t be far
behind?” (paragraph -4) Who do ‘John’ and ‘Mohamed’ refer to? Why does the writer say this?

7 What do you understand by the term ‘cultural conditioning’?

Post reading

Imagine that someone from the USA is coming to stay with you on a student exchange
programme. She wants to know about some cultural practices in your family. Write a letter to her
telling her about these practices so that she feels comfortable.

READING TEXT 7

Pre-reading

Have you ever faced an interview? How did you feel before and during the interview? If you had
to go through an interview now, would you have the same feelings?

What advice would you offer a friend who was about to face an interview ?

Glossary

articulate (para 1) : able to speak well


mergers and acquisitions (M & A) (para 5) : the joining together of two business
companies to form a single large company, or the buying of a company by another company
seamlessly (para 5) without stopping to think

Reading
Interview Strategies

1 Companies want to hire competent, intelligent and articulate executives, yet the very first
encounter between a candidate and a company often places the candidate in a particularly
stressful and uncomfortable situation: the interview.
70

2 The reality is that you must deal with the hiring process as it exists. To accomplish that,
you must learn how to comfortably manage and control your interviews. Here are five key
strategies to help ensure success in an interview.

3 Interviews are the time to sell what you have accomplished, not simply to tell what you've
done. For example, if you're asked how many people you had to manage in your last position, it's
tempting to quickly respond, "I had a team of 35." However, a much more effective response is,
"My staff at IBM included 35 professionals and support staff. I was responsible for managing
them as well as directing all recruitment and hiring activities, setting salaries, designing bonus
plans, facilitating the annual performance review process and projecting long-term staffing
requirements. What's more, my team increased annual sales by more than 35 percent within just
one year."

4 What would you do if your interviewer asked about your experience of working with Excel
spreadsheets, and you had none? Don't simply say that you don't know Excel. Instead, use
related experiences to illustrate that you do have some relevant knowledge. For example, you
could answer, "I have a lot of experience of designing Lotus spreadsheets, so I'm sure that
getting a handle on Excel won't be difficult for me at all." Then, even though you've been honest,
you've positioned yourself and your knowledge positively.

5 When someone asks you about your experience with mergers and acquisitions, use the ‘big-
to-little’ strategy to organize your thoughts, respond seamlessly and make it easy for your
interviewer to understand your specific experience. Start big, with an overview of your
experience in M&A transactions -- just a short description of your overall scope and depth of
experience. Then, follow up with the smaller details -- two to four specific achievements, projects
or highlights that are directly related. You might talk about your involvement in negotiations,
transactions or acquisitions. In essence, you're communicating; "This is what I know, and this is
how well I've done it."

6 You're nervous. You're sitting in the executive conference room, facing the President,
CFO and two executive VPs. Take a deep breath and remember you've already passed the first
test, generally a phone screening. And if it's a job at the level where your first interview is with
the company's top executives, you know they're interested or they wouldn't be taking the time to
interview you. Therefore, go into the interview knowing you've already got them on the hook. Be
confident, yet not boastful.

7 You're nearing the close of the interview, and you had wanted to share your experience
in supply-chain management. However, the topic was never brought up. It is your responsibility
to introduce it into the conversation. You might comment, "Before we end, I'd like to share one
more thing with you that I think is important to the position and my fit within your organization."
Then proceed with the information. You must take the initiative during an interview to be sure
you have communicated all that is of value.

8 There is no doubt that facing an interview is a stressful and often difficult experience.
However, it's your professional life on the line. Walk into each interview knowing what
information you want to communicate. Quietly control the interview to be sure you paint a picture
of knowledge and success as you position yourself for an offer.

After reading
71

1 This article originally had five sub-headings, which have been removed. They were:

• Turn every negative into a positive


• Big to little
• Take the initiative
• Sell it to me, don’t tell me
• Remember: you’ve already passed the first test

These sub-headings are not given in the correct order. Can you put them back in the appropriate
places in the passage?

2 What does each sub-heading suggest to you? (Discuss this question with your classmates,
working together in groups.)

3. What does the author mean by the sentence (in paragraph 2) “ The reality is that you must
deal with the hiring process as it exists” ?

4 What is the difference between ‘selling’ something and ‘telling’ it ? (paragraph 3)

5 In this passage you are given an example to show how a candidate who is being interviewed
can turn a negative situation into a positive one. Can you think of another example?

6 Look at the phrase ‘big to little’ strategy. What does it mean?

7 Based on your reading of the passage, mention three things that you, as a candidate, could
do to ‘quietly control the interview’.

8 The author suggests a number of strategies which a candidate can use to cope with an
interview. Can you grade these suggestions, from the most ‘do-able’ (practical) to the ‘least do-
able’? (Give the highest rank to the most practical suggestion and the lowest rank to the least
practical suggestion.)

Vocabulary

The following are some of the expressions found in the article. What does each mean? Guess
the meanings using the clues in the context for each.

i. getting a handle on something (para 1)


ii to get someone on the hook (para 6)
iii to be on the line (para 8)
iv to position oneself for an offer (para 8)

Use a dictionary to check if your answers are correct.

READING TEXT 8

Pre-reading

Think of a situation when you had a misunderstanding with a friend. What was the reason for the
misunderstanding?
72

Have you ever had a misunderstanding with someone because of the cultural differences
between yourself and the other person? If so, tell the class about it.

Glossary

by the same token (para 2) : in the same way


overt confrontation (para 6) : open show of hostility or anger
simply not done (para 6) : not acceptable socially
well on our way (para 8) : moving in the right direction

Reading

You will read an article entitled ‘The concept of cultural misunderstanding’. As you read try to find
out why Dean Smith and Professor Desai have a misunderstanding.

The concept of cultural misunderstanding

1 People are often forced to realize that many of their beliefs about the norms of social
behaviour don’t travel very well. Something that is accepted in one culture may be shocking and
incomprehensible in another. Cultural differences inevitably lead to all kinds of misunderstanding
which, in turn, cause a wide variety of unpleasant emotional and practical consequences, from
hurt feelings and missed opportunities to failed negotiations and lost profits, anger and hostility,
and even war.

2 By the same token, if we could avoid these misunderstandings, then we would stand a
very good chance of sidestepping the unpleasant consequences which they lead to. People
should be made aware of the fact that the possibility of misunderstanding is present in even the
most common interactions which we have with people from other cultures. We should, therefore,
be willing to re-examine our cultural assumptions.

3 If we look at a sample dialogue, this will become clearer.

DEAN SMITH I met Professor Desai yesterday to discuss the new


course which he is teaching to our Final Year students.
MISS SINGH How did the meeting go?
DEAN SMITH Oh, he was very charming. But he avoided the subject of the new course
whenever I tried to bring it up.
MISS SINGH He may be upset because you didn’t consult him in advance.
DEAN SMITH I don’t think so. He didn’t say anything

4 The facts here are simple: Dean Smith, who is the Dean of the Faculty at an American
university, asks one of his faculty members, Professor Desai, who is from India, to teach a new
course, apparently without consulting him in advance. When the Dean meets Professor Desai to
raise the subject, Desai avoids it. Miss Singh, another member of the faculty, who is a compatriot
of Professor Desai, thinks he must be upset at not being consulted, but the Dean feels sure this
is not the case because the professor “didn’t say anything.”

5 But in fact, Professor Desai did say something quite clearly ; only, Dean Smith couldn’t
hear it. In refusing to discuss the new course, Professor Desai – by the standards of his culture --
signals his unhappiness in a direct manner. Dean Smith misses the signal because, by his
standards, it is too indirect and also because Professor Desai has been “his usual charming
self”. In other words, the Dean assumes that someone who is upset is going to say so, and that
someone who is angry is not going to be charming.
73

6 But these expectations – that people will be direct and that angry people will not be
charming – vary from culture to culture. Indeed, in Professor Desai’s culture it is very important
not to embarrass another person through any kind of overt confrontation. For him to declare
outright that he was upset about the new course would make Dean Smith feel very
uncomfortable, something that is simply not done. Instead, Desai communicates his displeasure
indirectly, in this case by not talking about the new course, thus avoiding any kind of
unpleasantness. Throughout this meeting, his behaviour is most correct so as not to betray the
slightest sign of his wounded feelings, which would make the Dean feel bad if he detected them.
It’s quite likely, by the way, that Professor Desai has made his feelings very clear to Miss Singh,
who is in all likelihood speaking for him (not for herself) when she says to the Dean, “He may be
upset because you didn’t consult him in advance.”

7 Dean Smith and Professor Desai have had a classic cultural misunderstanding, caused
by the usual culprit: the fact that each of them assumes that the other looks at the world exactly
as he or she does. While such misunderstandings can, of course, occur between two people
from the same culture, they are much more common between two people from different cultures.
And these misunderstandings, as we have noted, lead to all kinds of unfortunate consequences
which quickly sour – and even poison --
relations between people from different cultures.

8 If we stopped assuming that other people are just like us – if we could begin to believe that we
don’t necessarily understand how foreigners are thinking and that they don’t always understand
how we are thinking – then we would be well on our way to avoiding cultural misunderstandings
and all the problems they give rise to.

(Stoti, C. 1994. Cross-cultural Dialogues. Boston: Intercultural Press.)


After reading

1. Read the text carefully. In which parts of the text do you find the following ideas?

how to avoid cultural misunderstanding


an example of cultural misunderstanding
the serious consequences of cultural misunderstanding
an explanation for the misunderstanding
the importance of understanding cultural differences

2 Look at the expression “don’t travel very well” in paragraph 1. What does it mean ?

3 Does the writer support Dean Smith or Professor Desai? Which sentences make you think
so?

4 “We should, therefore, be willing to re-examine our cultural assumptions.” (para 2).
Why does the writer say this?

5. “…it is important not to embarrass another person through any kind of overt confrontation…”
(para 6).

What would Prof. Desai have done if he had wanted overt confrontation?”

6 “ …Professor Desai has, in all likelihood, made his feelings very clear to Miss Singh..” (para 6).

Do you think that Prof Desai had already met Miss Singh and made his feelings known to her?
What are the reasons for your answer?
74

Vocabulary

Guess the meanings of the following words from the article.

norms (para 1)
incomprehensible (para1)
sidestepping (para 2)
the usual culprit (para 7)
sour (para 7)

Note making

Divide the passage into a number of sub-sections, each containing a different ‘main idea’.
Choose a heading for each sub-section. (You can make use of the headings provided for
Question 1, if you find them useful.) Jot down, briefly, the ‘points’ that you find in each sub-
section. (Do not use complete sentences.)

READING TEXT 9

Pre-reading

Have you heard of ‘global warming’? What causes it? What are some of the consequences of
global warming? Discuss in your group.

You are going to read an excerpt from the ‘acceptance lecture’ given by Al Gore, former Vice
President of America, at Oslo, Norway on December 20, 2007, when he was about to receive the
Nobel prize for peace in 2007, along with R.K Pachauri, Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change.

The title of the speech is “It’s time to make peace with the planet”. Before reading, think about
the following questions:

What is the meaning of the expression ‘to make peace with someone’? Why and how should one
make peace with the planet?

Glossary

ominous (paragraph 1) making you feel that something bad is going to happen
irresolute (paragraph 2) unable to decide what to do
drift (paragraph 2) a slow change from one opinion to another
affliction (paragraph 3) something that causes pain or suffering, especially a
medical condition
spinning out of kilter (paragraph 7) not working properly
frayed (paragraph 7) cloth or material that is old and can be torn

Read
As you read try to find out why there is a need to make peace with the planet.
It’s time to make peace with the planet
1 The human species is confronting a planetary emergency, a threat to the survival of our
civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there
is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst-- though not
all -- of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.
75

2 However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s
leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill used when he talked about those
who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided,
resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”
3 So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin
shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet…..And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger
amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
4 As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is
not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a
fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is
wrong.
5 We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.
6 On September 21, 2006, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists
reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study
estimated that it could be completely gone in less than 22 years. Another new study warns that it
could happen in as little as seven years.
7 In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our
world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are
nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing
their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning
evacuations of places they have long called home… Climate refugees have migrated into areas
already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions and traditions, increasing the
potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities.
Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in
Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are
recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction.
The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.
Span March/April 2008: 3
After reading

1. Why is there a need to make peace with the planet?

2. What does the writer mean by ‘a planetary emergency’? (para1)

3. “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute,


adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.” (para 2)

a. Who said this and when?


b. Who are ‘they’?
c. Check out the meaning of ‘paradox’. What is the paradox here?

4. Are the problems mentioned in paragraph 1 and 2 the same or different?

5. ‘..the earth has a fever.’ (P-4) What is this fever? Why does the earth have this fever?

6. “And a third. And a fourth.” (p-4) What do a third and a fourth refer to?

7. Which expressions in paragraph 6 shows that the scientists are extremely worried?

8. ‘We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.’ (p- 5) Explain this statement.
76

9. Which paragraph lists the consequences of global warming? Grade the consequences
from the most dangerous to the least dangerous by numbering them.

10. Explain ‘..our world is spinning out of kilter’ (para 7)

11. “The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.” What do you mean
by ‘the web of life’? Generally it is old, frayed clothes that can be ripped. What does the
speaker mean by the web of life being ripped and frayed?
12. Is the author hopeful that the situation will change? Identify the word or words which
support your idea.

Vocabulary

13. Guess the meanings of the following words. If you can’t guess, consult the dictionary.

a. paradox (para 2)
b. unprecedented (para 6)
c. recklessly (para 7)
d. ripped (para 7)

Post reading

Imagine that you are participating in a debate. The topic is “The consequences of global warming
are more exaggerated than real.” You have to speak against the topic. Write out what you would
say in the debate. Use ideas from this text as well as your own ideas to write it.

READING TEXT 10

Pre-reading

You are going to read an article, which has the title ‘Powering the telecom boom’. What do the
words ‘powering’ and ‘boom’ mean? You may consult the dictionary if you do not know the
meanings of the words. Can you guess, from the title, what the passage might be about?

Do you know the meaning of ‘entrepreneur’? You can consult the dictionary if you do not know.

An ‘executive’ performs a task assigned to him/her. He/she works for a pre-set emolument. How
is an entrepreneur different from an executive? What drives an entrepreneur? Discuss these
questions in your group.

Glossary

chagrin (paragraph 1) annoyance or disappointment because something


has not happened the way you had hoped
clocked a turnover (paragraph 2) attained an amount of business during a particular
period
to put in one’s papers (paragraph 4) to resign

Reading
77

1 Read the text twice quickly to see how far your predictions about the things that you expected
to find in the passage were correct.

Now read the passage again, carefully, and answer the questions that follow.

Powering the telecom boom


(Section 1)

1 It was while on holiday in Narendranagar (near Rishikesh) in 1999 that Manoj Upadhyay
got his first break as an entrepreneur. To his chagrin, he found that for a few hours nearly every
day, the telephone exchange would be switched off because of the fear of lightning striking the
installation. “It was absurd,” he says. “There we were, on the brink of the 21st century, and
something as basic as a telephone wouldn’t work because of thunder clouds’.

2 He came back to Delhi, brainstormed with two friends and worked on developing lightning
surge protection systems for telecom sites. “We tested our solution at various places in West
Bengal and Kerala – the two states where lightning strikes are most frequent – and found that it
worked. I went back to Narendranagar and gifted it to the telecom department.” Thus was formed
Upadhyay’s first entrepreneurial venture –Adhunik Power Systems (APS), in December 1999. It
provided power protection and management services to a host of companies across various
sectors. Started with an initial investment of Rs. 2 lakhs, drawn from the savings of the three
friends, the company clocked a turnover of Rs.30 crores in 2003-4.

3 After completing a three-year diploma course in electronic engineering from the


government polytechnic in Saharanpur (U.P.), Upadhyay joined Birla 3M’s power department in
1993. In 1995 he moved to the Indo-German power company, Benning, as a research engineer.
The company designed and manufactured products for a host of industries but its main focus
was on the telecom industry. “That was my first experience of world-class designed products,”
Upadhyay says. The other lesson from his four-year stint with Benning was the importance of
innovating and ensuring that his products were reliable. “You have to redesign things for the
Indian context. Just importing a foreign product will not work,” he says. It was also during his
frequent visits to Germany that Upadhyay came across the concept of “green” power and the
growing demand from industry to save on energy costs.

4 But the constant traveling (“I had to stay in Germany for 20 days of the month”) was
something that Upadhyay’s parents disapproved of. It was not just parental pressure that forced
him to put in his papers in 1999. “When it came to technology, foreigners didn’t think highly of
India. Some of them thought we were good just for backroom work. Others thought we could
only copy technology patented by others,” he says. The desire to prove them wrong was another
push factor. And so was born APS.

5 In January 2003, Upadhyay sold his share in APS to his two collaborators for Rs 10 lakh
and launched Acme Tele Power. “By 2002, I had realized that APS’s potential as a business
venture was limited. And my vision was much bigger.” he says. But he wasn’t very sure of what
he wanted to do. After working as a consultant on energy saving projects for some time, he was
approached by Bharti Airtel. The telecom major was facing problems of irregular and fluctuating
power supply to its towers, especially those in rural areas. After months of intense analysis,
Upadhyay came up with a power interface unit which helped solve the problem. The beginning
had been made. Over the next few years, a slew of energy-saving products for telecom sites
followed: nano-cool shelters, thermal management systems, telecom air conditioners and fuel
cells, among others. All these products are included in what Upadhyay calls a “green shelter”.

After reading
78

1 In which paragraphs are the following ideas mentioned or discussed? Write the paragraph
number against each idea.

The beginning of APS


A problem that led to an opportunity
What Manoj Upadhyay learnt at Benning
The launching of Acme Tele power

2. Why was Manoj Upadhyay upset when he went to Narendranagar? What did he do when he
came back to Delhi? Which quality of Upadhyay is highlighted here?

5. Why did Upadhyay move from Birla 3M to Benning?

6. “The other lesson from his four-year stint with Benning was the importance of innovating and
ensuring that his products were reliable.” (p-3). What was the first lesson? What else did he learn
while working with Benning?

7. Upadhyay gives two reasons for leaving Benning. What are these?

8. Why did Upadhyay launch Acme Tele Power?

9. “The beginning had been made.” (paragraph 5) What was the beginning? Why is it called a
‘beginning’?

10. The following are the main qualities of Upadhyay that emerge from this section:
Observant
Recognises an opportunity
Uses his knowledge to innovate products that solve problems
Find examples in support of each quality.

11. What do you think will be discussed in the second section? Read and find out.

(Section 2)

Glossary
baulk (para 6) to not want to do or try something, because it
seems difficult, unpleasant, or frightening
tranches (para 7) part of a larger sum of money
strong presence (para 8) good business
red herring prospectus (para 9) information about possible risks in investment

Reading

6 “Today we are one of the leading global players in manufacturing energy-efficient,


environment-friendly products. But it wasn’t easy,” Upadhyay admits. Upadhyay had only five
employees when he started Acme Telepower. A small company which has no brand name has
to face many hurdles. Personal contacts had to be created. Companies would baulk at the idea
of paying in advance for projects. It was during this time that he set out a few business rules,
which would also become his business model. First, Acme had to be a pioneer in technology.
The company had to find cheap solutions which others were not able to deliver. Second, the
product had to be environment-friendly. And finally, the product had to pay back the investment
in 15 months.
79

7 “Capital was always at a premium. So, I told my clients that they could pay me in
tranches the savings which they made by using my products,” he says. The wait wasn’t too long.
Telecom companies realized that by using Upadhyay’s products they saved around 30% of their
energy costs. Today, nearly all the major Indian telecom companies are his clients. There are a
few international clients as well, including Grameen Telcom, Lucent Technologles and Ericsson.

8 Acme’s core strength-technology-has seen it setting up research and development units


in Manesar (Haryana), the US, Canada and the Caech Republic. It has also gone global by
acquiring Norwegian telecom infrastructure maintenance company Reime Network
Implementation Services in October 2007. Reime has a strong presence in a number of African
countries as well as in Indonesia and the Philippines. “The African countries will soon see a
boom in telecom services. We want to be there when the opportunity arises,” says Upadhyay.

9 The company is planning to raise money by making an initial public offer. A draft red
herring prospectus has already been filed with the Securities and Exchange Board of India. The
company had earlier raised $50 million by selling equity to Singapore-based merchant bank DB
International (Asia) and to private equity capital funds Earthstone Holdings and Kotak Mahindra
Capital.

10 A self-confessed workaholic, Upadhyay logs in around 14 hours at work every day. ‘I


don’t think of it as whatever free time is there is taken up by his three-year-old daughter and
reading books by management gurus. His success mantra is: look for problems because
opportunities lie there.
Money Today page 67-8

After reading

1. Section 1 presented Manoj Upadhyay as an entrepreneur. What is the focus of this section?
Which expressions in the passage tell you this most clearly ?

2. In which paragraphs are the following ideas suggested? Write the paragraph number against
each.

- Spread of Acme
- Manoj as a person
- future plans

3. “But it was not easy.” (paragraph-6). What was not easy? Why?

4. List the three business rules established by Upadhyay. What do these tell us about him as a
person?

5. “Today, nearly all the major Indian telecom companies are his clients.” (Paragraph 7) Why?

6. “The African countries will soon see a boom in telecom services. We want to be there when
the opportunity arises,” says Upadhyay. (Paragraph 8) Which quality of Upadhyay does this
statement show? Find other instances of this quality in the article.

7. What was Upadhyay’s principle for success? Give instances to show how he used this in his
own life.

8. The article is divided into two parts. Can you give a heading for each part?

9. The article originally had five headings which have been removed. They were:
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Breakthrough
Days as an employee
Powering ahead
Initial spark
Tripping over

These subheadings are not given in correct order. Can you put them back in the appropriate
place in the passage? What does each sub heading suggest to you? Discuss in your group and
do it.

10. What does the title ‘powering the telecom boom’ mean?

11. Go through the sentences from the text given below. In each sentence one item is
underlined. Say what it refers to.

a. Paragraph - 2. The company clocked a turnover of Rs 30 crore in 2003-4.


b. Paragraph -3. That was my first experience of world class designed products.
c. Paragraph -4. The desire to prove them wrong was another push factor.
d. Paragraph -5. After months of intense analysis, Upadhyaya came up with a power
interface unit which helped solve the problem.
e. Paragraph - 5. The telecom major was facing problems of irregular and fluctuating
power supply to its towers…
e. Paragraph -6. But it wasn’t so easy.
f. Paragraph -7. It was during this time that he set out a few business rules…..
g. Paragraph - 10. I don’t think of it….

Vocabulary

A: Guess the meanings of the following words using contextual clues.

a. collaborator (paragraph 5)
b. pioneer (paragraph 6)
c. presence (paragraph 8)
d. log in (paragraph 10)

B. What is ‘green’ power? Three meanings of the word ‘green’ are given below. Which of these is
the appropriate meaning of ‘green’ here?

- having the colour of grass or leaves


- harming the environment as little as possible
- not yet ready to be eaten, or very young

C: ‘A self-confessed workaholic, Upadhyay logs in around 14 hours at work every day.’


(paragraph 10). A workaholic is a person who loves to work and doesn’t have time for anything
else. Here ‘–aholic’ is used as a suffix. Now say what the following mean:
foodaholic chocaholic

You can use the dictionary if you can’t guess.

Note making
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This article presents the growth of Upadhyaya’s business enterprises. Divide the passage into a
number of sub-sections, each signifying a milestone in the growth of Upadhyay as a
businessman. Choose a heading for each sub-section.

(Notice that the presentation in this article is not in chronological order. You should however,
arrange the ideas in the actual sequence in which they occurred. You should not use complete
sentences for writing up notes; just use the ‘key words’, which present the main ideas briefly and
can be easily remembered.)

Post reading

Imagine you are a journalist who has gone to interview Manoj Upadhyay. Write down the
questions you would ask him as well as the answers you expect him to give. Write it in the form
of a dialogue. Do this activity in your group.
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Solutions∗

Reading Text 1

8. These routes have been chosen because these are high traffic density routes.
9. It means special tracks, which are screened on both sides by protecting walls for use of
goods trains. One such corrider is currently operating between Kolkatta and Delhi.
11. The first two sentences of paragraph 2, especially the repeated use of ‘too many’
suggests that the writer is not in favour of introduction of bullet trains in India for the time
being.

Reading Text 2

4. The author’s attitude is one of disapproval. The paragraph beginning with “Unfortunately,
Indian mothers, ..” and especially the words, ‘unfortunately’, ‘poorly informed’, hazards’
and ‘considered fashionable’ support this.
5. We could write the problems associated with junk food on the wrappers, napkins used
while eating these, educate public about the dangers of junk food through public
campaigns etc.

Reading Text 3

1. Big brother software helps organizations to track employees’ misuse of office PC and
Internet facilities and to prepare profiles to identify those who are a threat to the
company.
2. They try to find out about the private affairs of their staff by secretly looking into their PC’s
and e-mails. They need to know what their employees are up to, and identify those who
are potential threats to the company.
4. It refers to the employees who are risky for the company.
5. It refers to those who do not give results as expected.
6. He says this because the employers can identify the employees who are potentially
responsible for damaging the company.
7. The writer approves of the use of this software. ‘The advantages to corporations are
obvious.’, ‘boon’ etc. support this.

Reading Text 4

4. The writer uses the word ‘claim’ which shows that the writer does not believe it.
7. The overlapping use is something that is used simultaneously by animals and men. It is
called overlapping because both men and chimpanzees share the use. Scientists realize
that saving apes and their forests will be important from the prospective of conservation
and will also be helpful for man’s health.
9. The most important piece of information given here is that chimpanzees and apes knew
about medicines much before us.

Reading Text 5
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4. It appears that our fear of snakes is no longer based on personal experience. This fear
seems to have become genetic, something we have inherited from our parents and
forefathers.
7. You may like to think what happens when someone is sick and compare it to a person
with a phobia to arrive at an answer.
8. This is explained in paragraph 9.
9. A ‘trigger mechanism’ refers to a situation that results in a fixed set of consequences. The
consequences do not take place without being initiated by that situation or ‘trigger’.
11. a. The author refers to the first two questions in paragraph 1.
b. He says ‘you are lucky’ because you are one of those people who has acquired the
latest phobia.
12. It is fashionable because it is the latest one in the list of phobias. The author is actually
being sarcastic.
13. 24X 7 culture refers to the current culture of being involved in ones work all the time,
even in ones sleep.

Reading text 6

1. The main idea of this text is that each society has its own norms of behaviour. We must
understand this so that we don’t expect others to behave like us. This idea is given in
paragraph 1 and paragraph 3.
2. a. paragraph 7. We need to make some assumptions about the behaviour of people
around us so that we can function normally in our day to day life.
b. Paragraph 6. Most people behave the way we expect them to. This makes us believe
that such behaviour is universal. So we expect everyone to behave that way.
c. Paragraph 2. We learn how to behave from people around us and gradually become
unconscious about it.
3. The reasons are given in paragraphs 5, 6 and 7. Choose the one you think is the most
convincing.
4. This is explained in paragraph 4.
5. ‘John’ here stands for a typical male American and ‘Mohamed’ for a typical
male Moroccan. The writer says this because John and Mohamed come from two
entirely different cultures.
6. The society we grow up in, our cultural background trains us to behave in a certain
way.

Reading Text 7

1. Before p-3: Sell it to me, don’t tell me


Before p-4: Turn every negative into a positive
Before P-5: Big to little
Before P- 6: Remember: you’ve already passed the first test
Before P-7: Take the initiative
3. ‘Reality’ refers to the actual situation, the fact.
4. ‘Telling’ is giving information required by the interviewer. ‘Selling’ is to project oneself in
such a way that the interviews ‘buys’ what one has to offer. In other words, when you sell
yourself you show your strengths in a way that matches the requirement of the interviewer.
6. This expression means to start with the bigger picture, an overview and then fill in the
smaller details.
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Reading text 8

1. how to avoid cultural misunderstanding (p- 8)


an example of cultural misunderstanding (p- 3)
the serious consequences of cultural misunderstanding (p-1 and p-7)
an explanation for the misunderstanding (p-4)
the importance of understanding cultural differences
2. It means that their instincts about other people and their behaviour is not always
correct.
3. P-7 mentions ‘classic cultural misunderstanding… ‘. So he is not supporting anyone of
them.
4. When we interact with people from another culture even the common interactions can
lead to misunderstanding. So we should not make cultural assumptions.
5. He would have told Dean Smith directly that he was upset about the new course.
6. Probably. The author says that ‘it’s quite likely, by the way, that Professor Desai has
made his feelings very clear to Miss Singh’ and probably Miss Singh is speaking out his
views rather than her own.

Reading Text 9

1. By abusing the environment we have angered the earth. The earth is reacting to
this abuse by heating up which has resulted in several problems. We need to
pacify the earth by taking care of our environment so that we can restore the earlier
balance.
2. This is an emergency that involves the entire world.
3. a. Churchill said this when many world leaders refused to see Hitler as a threat. b.
‘They’ refers to those leaders. The author says that today’s leaders are also similar to
those leaders in their attitude. c. Paradox means a situation that seems strange
because it involves two ideas or qualities that are very different. The leaders seem to
display contradictory qualities, for example, they have decided to be undecided.
4. They are different. Paragraph 1 talks about the problem faced by the earth and
therefore its people. Paragraph 2 talks about the problem of many world leaders
refusing to acknowledge this problem.
6. These refer to the number of experts who were consulted.
7. ‘unprecedented’ distress
8. It is the people who are responsible for making the earth sick and the onus is
on them to make it right.

Reading Text 10
(Section 1)

2. Upadhyay was not deterred by the problem but thought of finding a solution to the
problem and worked at it. This shows the quality of entrepreneurship.
9. He made a power interface unit which helped solve Bharti Airtel’s problem. This was the
first of the energy saving products he made for the telecom industry. So it is called a
beginning.

(Section 2)

1. The focus of this section is on the business acumen of Upadhyay. The expressions that
support this idea are –‘judicious capital management’, ‘working on core strength’, ‘a
global outlook’, ‘his successes mantra’.
3. To be a leading global company in manufacturing environment friendly as
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well as energy efficient products was not easy. The reasons are given in paragraph 6.
4. The three business rules he established show Upadhyay as a path breaker,
one who is customer focused i.e. one who wanted to give value for money to the
customer. And finally his creating environment friendly products shows
that he is socially conscious.
6. This shows that Upadhyay took a long term view of business. This quality is also
seen in the events that led to the establishment of APS.
7. His principle was to look for problems, as opportunities are available there. His first
entrepreneurial venture APS started with an investigation into a problem.
8. Upadhyay, the entrepreneur and Upadhyay, the man with strong business acumen.
9. Breakthrough - before paragraph 5
Days as an employee – before paragraph 3
Powering ahead – before paragraph 8
Initial spark – before paragraph 1
Tripping over – before paragraph 6
10. This means helping to accelerate the growth of telecom industry.
11. a. APS b. joining Birla 3M as a research engineer
c. the foreigners d. problems of irregular and fluctuating power
supply
e. Bharti Airtel f. while doing business at an international
level
g. initial days of Acme h. working 14 hours a day

∗ The solutions given here are only suggested answers. For open ended questions,
students should be encouraged to present their own views. However, they should be
asked to justify their responses wherever necessary. Similarly, for questions that are
inferential in nature they should be asked to find ideas from the text in support of their
answers. They should be encouraged to go back to the text and try to relate what is there
in the text with their personal ideas/beliefs/ knowledge.
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PART IV

WRITING
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CHAPTER 1
COMPARING SPEECH AND WRITING

“The Medium is the Message”

Imagine that there has been some misunderstanding between yourself and a good friend,
following which the two of you have stopped talking to each other. You are anxious to restore
good relations and decide to make the first ‘peace move’.

You have three choices :

a You can meet your friend, talk to her face-to-face and ‘open your heart’ to her.
b You can call her up on the telephone and have a long chat.
c You can write a nice long letter and send it to her together with a printed card
bearing an appropriate message.

Which of these options would you prefer ?

The three options represent the use of three different media/channels of communication : the
oral (spoken) medium, the written medium and a third channel – the telephone – which is mid-
way between the other two. Special skills are needed for the effective use of each of these
channels.

A good communicator should possess – among other things – a thorough understanding of the
medium/channel which is being used. Writing and speech are very different from each other as
media for communication and each carries certain advantages as well as disadvantages for the
user.

Comparing Speech and Writing

Study the following samples of communication. (It is recommended that these sample passages
be used for speech practice. One or more students can be asked to ‘act out’ the passages.)

Sample 1

“ So what’s the movie about ?”

“Oh, there’s this old man who works in a bank – well, he’s not that old actually, because when
the movie begins we’re told he’s about to retire, so he should be, like, umm, sixtyish, I guess.
Would you call that old ? This guy has four sons and there’s his wife, also fifty plus -- that’s
Hema Malini looking, absolutely gorgeous. Mind you, she can’t be all that young because she’s
been around in films for quite a while. I remember seeing her in “Sholay”, years ago, when I was
in college. Now, this old man…”

“Who plays that role ?”

“ Amitabh Bachchan, who else ? I can’t imagine anyone else doing it. Okay, so he has four sons
and after he retires he and his old lady decide to spend some time with each of their sons in turn.
Silly, if you ask me, because two of them are married and their wives aren’t so keen on having
the old couple around. They feel – uh – uncomfortable but they can’t say no to the in-laws. And
so … ”
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“ Yeah, I can imagine what will happen next !”

Sample 2

“ Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the story in brief. Rather sad, isn’t it ? It shows how helpless
elderly people are in our society because there’s no welfare scheme to look after them when
they have retired. In the developed countries there are ‘homes’ for the elderly, where they can
live in the company of others like them, and also get medical help when they need it. If you’ve
visited Europe or America you may have seen some of these ‘Old-folk’s Homes’. But here, old
parents have no one but their grown-up sons and daughters to take care of them. It isn’t always
easy because they have their own families to think of – children going to school and so on. Also,
they may be living in cramped conditions and not have enough space for the old people. So, very
often there’s friction ; the old parents feel hurt and start blaming the children. I’m sure many of
you have seen these things happening. It’s a ‘no-win’ situation for everyone concerned. Mind
you, things are changing in our country too, as people became more aware of these problems.
But not enough is being done.”

Sample 3

The government should set up welfare schemes for people over the age of 60. Retirement
homes for the aged should be built and sold at subsidized cost, to enable elderly people to live
together with dignity and security, leading useful lives and feeling wanted, instead of becoming
burdens on their families. Many of these people are still active and productive, mentally as well
as physically. The government should find ways of utilizing their talents and skills. For example,
those who have experience of teaching can be asked to teach in schools for a few hours each
day. This would help also to solve the problem that our schools are facing in finding good
teachers.

How do these three pieces compare as examples of communication ? Which of them seems to
be most clearly planned and focused ? Which one seems to be the most ‘rambling’ ? Which one
leaves the strongest impact on you ?

Discussion

Sample 1 is an example of oral (spoken) communication in the face-to-face mode. Sample 2


could be an extract from a talk given by a speaker to an audience while Sample 3 represents a
piece of written communication.

Interaction Notice that in Sample 1 the two participants interact frequently : one asks questions
which the other answers. Both participants contribute actively to the conversation. In Samples 2
and 3, there is no interaction between the Sender and the Receivers. Communication is ‘one-
way’.

Planning In Sample 1, the main speaker does not seem to have planned what he is going to
say in advance, as is evident from the digressions in his speech. He jumps from one idea to
another. Narration is mixed with commentary: for example, the speaker starts narrating the story
of the movie and then strays into an unnecessary comment on the age of one of the actors in the
movie. He describes the action of the old couple as “silly” even before he has told us what they
did. The end of the story is practically given away before the narration has gone very far.
Several sentences are left incomplete; ideas run into each other. The speaker uses a number of
‘fillers’, such as “um”, “like”, “I guess” etc. (A ‘filler’ is a word or phrase that does not convey any
meaning but is thrown into a conversation to give the speaker time to think of what to say next,
so that there are no ‘awkward silences’.)
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In Sample 2, the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” indicates that the speaker is addressing an
audience. This means that the subject of the talk may have been decided in advance, giving the
speaker time to plan his/her speech.

Coherence Sample 2 is therefore more focused and better organized than Sample 1. The
entire talk is held together by a single ‘controlling’ idea, which is : “welfare schemes for the
elderly”, whereas Sample 1 seems to lack a controlling idea. It is obvious that the speaker is
focused on the theme and uses the ‘story’ only as an illustration. There are no incomplete
sentences or ‘fillers’ here. The sentences are, on the whole, well constructed.

The speaker tries to involve the audience from time to time (“I’m sure many of you must have
seen such things …”). Obviously, these sentences could not have been planned in advance : the
speaker seems to be speaking ‘extempore’.

Organization Sample 3 covers much the same ground as Sample 2, but in a more focused
way. It starts with a general statement (“The government should set up welfare schemes …”),
which is developed over the rest of the paragraph. The second sentence (“Retirement homes
should be built …”) provides an example of a ‘welfare scheme’, and Sentence 4 provides
another example (“ making use of the talents and skills of retired people”). The next sentence
(“For example, those who have experience of teaching …” ) provides an “example of an
example”. Each sentence is connected in some way to the opening sentence.

Three of the sentences in the paragraph contain the word “should”, to indicate that the speaker
wants the government to do something about this problem. The repetition of “should” also helps
to unify the paragraph.

In Sample 3, as in Sample 2, there are no incomplete sentences. The sentences in Sample 3 are
more carefully constructed than the ones in Sample 2. For example, in the sentence :

“ where elderly people can live together after retirement, leading useful lives, instead of
becoming burdens on their families.”

you find one idea being balanced against another, instead of being merely ‘added on’. Ideas are
presented in a tight, controlled manner. This is a typical feature of written communication.

Audience-orientation If the three samples are evaluated in terms of their capacity to involve
the audience, then Sample 1 would perhaps be given the highest rating, followed by Sample 2.
Sample 3 seems rather “cold” and “detached” – you do not feel the presence of the Sender (the
writer) here, as you do in Samples 1 and 2. The emphasis seems to be on logical thinking rather
than emotion, of which you find more in Samples 1 and 2.

Types of oral/written communication

Sample 1 represents oral communication in its most typical form : spontaneous (unprepared)
and face-to-face, with frequent interaction between the Speaker and the Listener. Sample 3, on
the other hand, represents written communication in its most characteristic form : planned and
structured, with the Writer separated from the Reader and unable to interact. Sample 2 seems to
be a compromise : it is partly spontaneous and partly planned. Although the Speaker and the
Listeners are physically present at the same place, there is little interaction between them. In
some ways, the use of language here is closer to that of written communication than to that of
oral communication.
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There is no clear line separating speech from writing. There can be a wide range of
communication types, from the purely oral to the purely written, with several ‘intermediate’ forms
that share the qualities of both. Some forms of oral communication have many of the qualities of
writing ; on the other hand, several types of writing have the qualities of speech.

The difference between oral and written communication depends mainly on four factors :

i the amount of advance planning that goes into communication ;


ii the amount of interaction between the Sender and the Receiver during
communication ;
iii the medium (channel) of delivery : oral (spoken), visual (written) or both.
iv the use of body language

A range of communication types is represented in the diagram below :

Oral Written
spontaneous, telephone unscripted talk scripted talk scripted/unscripted paper presented printed
interactive conversation delivered to delivered to talk broadcast over at conference etc. document,
face-to-face live audience live audience radio or tv to live audience book etc.
conversation

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

(1) represents the purely oral type : spontaneous, interactive and delivered through the oral
channel, with considerable use of body-language.

(2) is very similar to (1), except that here there is no face-to-face interaction and hence no body-
language.

(3) is not very different from (1) and (2), although it is usually less spontaneous and interactive.
(4), being scripted (written out), is closer to written language than to oral language, although the
delivery is oral. (5) comes very close to written discourse, as there is little spontaneity and
interaction here. Body language can play a part in all of these.

(6) represents a very special kind of communication. Papers presented at conferences etc. are
scripted (written out) and the script is usually given out to the audience in advance. However, the
paper is also presented orally, so that the audience listens to the paper and reads it at the same
time.

(7) represents the purely written type : non-spontaneous, non-interactive, delivered visually, with
no possibility of using body-language.

We can characterize these types above, using the following matrix :


Type Spontaneous Interaction Delivery mode Body language Feedback

1 face-to-face ++ ++ oral ++ ++
2 telephone ++ ++ oral - ++
3 unscripted talk + + oral + +
4 scripted talk - + oral + +
5 broadcast talk - - oral - -
6 conference paper - + oral+written + +
7 printed document - - written - -
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Activity 1

1 Convert Sample 1, which represents ‘face-to-face’ oral communication, into a piece of


writing. (Make it a letter which the main speaker is writing to his friend).

2 Convert the following report, taken from a newspaper, into a face-to-face conversation
between two or more people.

For some months past, the people of Janakipur village in Kendrapara district have been living in
terror of a wild hyena which has made repeated attacks on the village at night. At first the hyena
killed and carried away goats and cattle, but of late it has been entering the huts of people while
they are asleep and carrying off small babies. Last week, a group of angry villagers marched to
the nearest police station and threatened to burn it down if the police did not take steps
immediately to kill the man-eating hyena. The Assistant Sub-inspector in charge of the police
station has assured them that the police will make efforts to eliminate the animal.

(You can make this either a conversation among some villagers as they prepare to march to the
police station or a conversation between the police ASI and the villagers.)

3 Examine the following samples and say which type of communication it represents (out of the
7 types described above.) What are your reasons for saying this ?

i. With the advent of new technologies in the field of access control, such as fingerprint
recognition and iris recognition, several new applications have opened up. The Biometric
Attendance System has already been introduced in some legislative bodies in India, albeit with
some resistance from a few members.

ii In conclusion, I would like to remind everyone present here that this has now become an
urgent problem, to which a solution must be found at once. We have debated the problem long
enough ; the time to act has arrived.

iii I can see from your expression that you don’t agree, but just look at the facts. The man
has been cheating us for years. How can we go on dealing with him ? It would be stupid !

iv On this historic day I appeal to my countrymen to come forward and support the
government in the task of nation building. Each one of us has a mission to perform. Let us
remind ourselves of what Mahatma Gandi said, almost a century ago : “We must become the
change that we want to see around us.” Jai Hind !

v Could you please ask her to give me a tinkle when she comes back ? This is very
important ! Thanks a lot.

Speaking and writing : their respective merits and demerits

Initially, all communication between human beings must have been oral, or conducted through
body-language. Writing was invented only much later.

Human beings must have been forced to invent written language when they realized the
limitations of speech. Firstly, oral communication was possible only when the speaker and the
listener were close to each other. If they were at a distance from each other, speech became
useless as a channel.
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Secondly, oral communication was transient (short lived). Once something had been spoken, the
sounds through which messages were carried were lost. Messages could not be recalled
accurately. A speaker could always deny having said something, or could claim that he/she had
been misquoted.

With the invention of writing, it became possible to overcome the constraints of time as well as
distance. Written messages could be carried by couriers across continents, although they took a
long time to reach their destinations. But the greatest advantage of writing was that it left a
permanent record, which could be used as evidence if required. To this day, written
communication has greater credibility than speech. Law courts insist on written documents as
proof of truthfulness ; ‘hearsay’ (oral) evidence is rejected.

With the rise of modern technology, it has become possible to overcome the two main limitations
of speech. Distance is no longer a constraint as telecommunication makes it possible for the
human voice to be heard across the globe. So also, the constraint of time disappeared when it
became possible to record and store voices. What is spoken today can be listened to years later.

Although the ‘gap’ between writing and speech has been considerably reduced, each of these
channels comes with distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Let us first analyze those features of speech which make it a more effective channel than writing.

i. Convenience and ease No tools are required for speaking, whereas writing requires the
use of tools (e.g., pen and paper) which may not be readily available. Furthermore, little physical
effort is required for speaking, whereas writing often involves labour.

ii. Spontaneity Spoken communication, in its typical forms, is spontaneous while writing
requires planning. Generally, spontaneous communication has a more direct and immediate
impact than planned communication.

c. Intimacy The closeness between speaker and listener in face-to-face communication


makes it possible to create a feeling of intimacy which is rarely achievable through writing.
Speech is a ‘warm’ medium while writing is said to be a ‘cold’ medium. Typically, writing
produces an intellectual response whereas speaking arouses an emotional response. If the
intention is to make people think, writing has an edge over speaking ; but if the intention is to
arouse emotion, speaking becomes the preferred choice.

d. Body-language Speech is a ‘richer’ medium of communication than writing because it is


usually supported by body-language, which is not available to the writer. This generally works to
the advantage of the speaker, although it can become a liability as well. Body language generally
reinforces and enhances the impact of oral communication – but if it appears to contradict what
is being said, it can reduce the credibility of the speaker.

e Feed-back In oral communication, whether in the ‘face-to-face’ or ‘distance’ mode (over a


telephone), the speaker can get instant ‘feed-back’ from the listener, but no feed-back is
available to the writer. The writer must, therefore, try to anticipate the reader’s response to the
message and adjust his/her use of language accordingly.

f Speech is supported by the context while writing is “context-independent”

Look at the following example of spoken communication :

“ Did she tell him when he is supposed to go there ?”


“I’m sure she did. I had asked her to.”
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“And did she also tell him to carry this thing along ?”
“Oh yes.”

Many things are left vague here. We don’t know who “she” and “he” are, where “he” is supposed
to go and what the “thing” is that “he” is supposed to carry. But the two speakers have no
trouble in understanding each other because they both know what is being talked about. The
context helps them to understand things which are not clearly stated.

In most forms of oral communication, the speaker and the listener are in direct contact. They
become parts of the same ‘communicative event’ and share knowledge of the context in which
communication is taking place (the time and place, what is being communicated etc.)

In written communication, on the other hand, there is no contact between the writer and the
reader. The writer has to address an unseen reader who may also be unknown. There is much
less sharing of the context in which communication is taking place.

Spoken communication is therefore said to be “context dependent”. That is to say, a lot of the
information which is being communicated by the speaker is already available to the listener, from
the ‘clues’ which the context provides. It is not necessary to put this information into words.

Written communication, on the other hand, has to be made “context-independent”. Things cannot
be left vague or unsaid, as in the case of spoken communication : everything must be spelt out
clearly, in words. The writer has to create the context for the reader’s benefit. Often, the writer
has to provide the reader with a lot of background information, to make the context clear. Things
have to be explained clearly. This need for “context independence” makes writing a more difficult
medium to handle than speech.

Now let us examine a feature of written communication which gives it a great advantage over
speech.

Possibility of ‘review’, ‘editing’ and ‘re-drafting’ in written communication

While speaking, we often say things that are unintended or do not accurately convey what we
want to convey. “Slips of the tongue” and “verbal gaffes”(unintended mistakes) are common.

What can a speaker do in cases of such ‘miscommunication’ ?

You can retract (take back) a statement which you have made, saying it was not intended,
apologize for your mistake and make a fresh start. However, it is difficult to erase completely the
negative impression that may have been created on the listener by your earlier blunder.

You can also, sometimes, ‘abort’ or ‘kill’ a statement which you are in the process of making, by
leaving it unspoken or ‘half-spoken’. This is not an easy thing to manage, however, because a
speaker usually gets very little time in which to monitor his/her own speech. We often say things
without realizing that we have said them. The spontaneity of oral communication, which is one of
its strengths, can also become its weakness.

This is where writing scores heavily over speech. When you are writing, you are not under
pressure to complete and transmit your message immediately, as you do not have a Receiver
sitting in front of you, waiting to hear what you have to say. You can afford to take your time. The
writer gets enough time to review, edit (correct), change or even re-draft (re-write) the message
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which he/she is creating, and to ‘send’ it to the reader only when he/she is satisfied with it. The
reader does not see the writer’s unsuccessful attempts at communication.

When you speak, you do not usually get a ‘second chance’, in case you are not satisfied ; but
when you write, you have plenty of opportunities for ‘re-writing’. It has therefore been said that all
writing is essentially ‘re-writing’. If you are not re-writing, you are not really writing : you are not
making full use of the strength that this medium possesses.

Process Writing

Most of the writing that we do becomes a ‘one-shot’ affair. We usually write whatever comes to
mind and send it off. We seldom review and modify what we have written. If any changes are
made at all, they are only at the ‘surface level’ of spelling, punctuation and grammar. Changes in
the content of communication are usually not attempted.

A good writer should never be satisfied with the first draft but should read and review it critically,
to see whether he/she has really been able to communicate what was intended. When a piece of
writing is reviewed by the writer, he/she will almost invariably want to change a word here, a
sentence there, or sometimes re-arrange or replace an entire paragraph. The process of
reviewing and editing the first draft should be continuous. One should not wait until the first draft
has been completed : the read-review-rewrite process should go on all the time as one writes.
This is referred to as ‘the writing process’ – or sometimes, as ‘process writing’.

Many textbooks on writing recommend that writers should adopt a ‘three-step’ process :

i. planning
ii drafting (writing)
iii re-drafting

Stage 1 Planning

a. generating ideas : “brainstorming” and “idea-mapping”

During the first stage, the writer tries to generate as many ideas on the subject/topic as possible.
The subject is thrown wide open : anything that comes to mind is admitted and no attempt is
made, at this stage, to reject any ideas.

Many experts recommend that writing activities should be undertaken (in a teaching situation) in
small groups, rather than individually. Each group should have a ‘scribe’ or ‘writer’ whose job it is
to jot down the ideas contributed by the other members of the group. During the planning stage,
all the members of the group should be invited to contribute their ideas freely and all of these
ideas should be recorded. This process is sometimes called ‘brain-storming’, since the intention
is to ensure that every member of the group contributes to the store of ideas. Brain-storming can,
however be an individual as well a group activity.

The ideas generated through brain-storming can be in jotted down in the form of a diagram. The
‘topic’ or ‘theme’ is placed in the centre of the diagram and all the associated ideas are arranged
in a loose circle or oval around it. Lines can be drawn connecting the central idea to the ideas
that arise from it. Such a diagram is sometimes called an ‘idea-map’. Here is an example :

why it is necessary

what it involves: what has prevented it in the


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industrial development past


agricultural dev.

which should have


priority India’s economic development the social benefits
and costs

some the effect on


examples the environment

how to achieve it :
planning, resource
management etc.

Figure…. Idea-mapping

( Lines should be drawn connecting the different ideas to the “theme” (in the centre.)

b. evaluating and selecting ideas

When a sufficiently large number of ideas have been generated, the process of evaluating and
selecting ideas can begin. Not all the ideas that have been generated will deserve to be retained.
If the writing activity is being done in groups, discussion can help to decide whether an idea
should be retained or discarded.

c. outlining

It is a good idea to prepare an ‘outline’ representing the ideas which have been selected by the
writer(s) during the planning stage. Here is an example of an outline (based on the ‘idea map’
shown above).

India’s economic development

1 why it is necessary : too many Indians live below the poverty-line


2 what has prevented it in the past : lack of planning, no involvement of the
private sector
3 balanced economic development : agriculture and industry
4 how to achieve it : planning, resource management, infrastructure
5 social benefits
6 balancing economic development and environmental conservation

Stage II Writing the first draft

a drafting

The outline is used to generate the first draft. If the writing activity is being done by a group, each
member of the group can be invited to contribute a sentence (orally), which is discussed and
evaluated before it is written down. If the activity is being done individually, the writer should be
advised to read and review, from time to time, what he/she has written and make changes which
seem necessary.
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The writing activity should preferably be carried out on a computer, using a word-processing
program such as “Word”. Thinking and composing on the keyboard is a very important skill at the
present time, which can be developed through practice.

b. oral presentation

The writer(s) should be asked to present the first draft orally to the rest of the class. If possible,
projection equipment (an OHP) should be used to make an audio- visual predentation.

c. feedback

After the oral presentation, feedback is provided by the audience. Most readers do not read a
piece of writing very critically : they are more concerned with surface errors of spelling,
punctuation and grammar than with the ideas presented by the writer. Students should be
trained to respond primarily to the content of the writing, although surface errors should also be
noted and reported during feedback sessions. Feedback should always be constructive, not
negative. Writers need to be trained to accept feedback in the right spirit and not feel offended by
it.

Stage III Re-drafting

This is the most important part of the writing process. The writer(s) should utilize the feedback
which they receive to re-write and improve the first draft. A writer should not feel that he/she is
‘committed’ to the first draft and cannot deviate from it too much. Successful writers make
extensive changes to their first drafts.

The piece of writing should be ‘submitted’ only after the writer(s) feel completely satisfied with it.

The writing process that has been described above is applicable mainly to teaching or training
contexts. However, the importance of self-review, editing and re-drafting must be emphasized.
These should become normal elements of the writing process for all writers.

Activity 2 (Process Writing)

a Look at the topics for writing suggested below. Select any one of these topics and do a
“brain-storming” activity, working individually or in small groups, and jot down all the ideas that
come to your mind.
b Draw an “idea-map” for the topic which you have selected.
c Write a first draft in about 200 words.
d Now exchange the draft which you have produced with a draft produced by another student
or group. Read through it and suggest any modifications or improvements which you like to see.
(Give your suggestions in writing.)
e Now do a second draft.
f Present your second draft to the class, using an OHP.

Topics

i. The economic situation in India today


ii India as a cricketing super-power
iii Saving the environment
iv Addressing gender issues in India
v Combating terrorism
vi Any other topic you can think of
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CHAPTER 2
THE PARAGRAPH

Since writing is meant to be read (visually), it should make a positive visual impact on the reader,
just as speech should produce a positive auditory impact on the listener. If a reader is asked to
read through a long, solid block of writing which has no breaks of any kind, reading becomes
difficult. It is usually necessary, therefore, to break up an extended piece of writing into a number
of paragraphs, with spaces separating them, to provide ‘ visual relief’. The paragraph, therefore,
becomes the primary unit of writing, and all good writers have to pay special attention to the
design and construction of paragraphs. All the forms of writing which we shall examine later –
letters, reports, summaries, memoranda, minutes etc. – require the preliminary skills of
paragraph writing.

A well-constructed paragraph should have :

i. unity

Each paragraph should focus on a single theme or idea. Although paragraphs sometimes
contain more than one idea, the main idea should stand out prominently, so that the reader does
not miss it.

Activity 3

In each of the paragraphs below, there are a few sentences which are not related to the main
idea and should not be present. Identify these sentences and re-write the paragraphs, removing
the unwanted sentences.

1 India’s cricketers are a pampered lot. All the members of the national team enjoy Z class
security and are constantly followed by their security escorts. The recent terrorist attack has
demonstrated how inadequate the national security apparatus is. They always fly first class,
check into five-star hotels, drive around in luxury cars, and enjoy privileges which are denied
even to our leaders. Our politicians have shown by their recent behaviour and statements how
insensitive they are.

2 No matter how liberal we may be in our political views, we find it difficult to rise above our
prejudices. When Obama was elected America’s new president, quite a few of the leaders of
European countries expressed their unhappiness. Europe may soon replace America as the
centre of political power. In our country too, a Dalit or an adivasi finds it difficult to rise to a
position of national importance. It would be interesting to have as our Prime Minister someone
who is both a Dalt and a woman.

3 Mumbai is cosmopolitan and modern in a way that no other Indian city can be. Skirts and
saris mix in the streets ; the bazaar lingo is a mix of several languages ; bus conductors exercise
complete authority and every year unknown young men and women from little provincial towns
rise to the top of the popularity charts in Bollywood. The stock market has crashed and we are
not sure if it will recover again. When beer was quaffed secretly in Delhi, you could have it
openly in one of Mumbai’s Irani restaurants. The consumption of beer is rising by 7 percent
annually. A working woman could return safely to her home even at 2 a.m. – something that
would be completely unthinkable in a place like Delhi.

ii topic sentence
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The main idea in a paragraph is usually presented through a topic sentence, which is
commonly found at the beginning of the paragraph. All the other sentences in the paragraph
should be either directly or indirectly related to the topic sentence and should be its extensions.

Here is an example of a paragraph in which there is a direct connection between the topic
sentence and the remaining sentences in the paragraph. (The sentences have been numbered
for convenience.)

1The dangers of smoking are well known. 2 The nicotine which is present in tobacco smoke
destroys the tissues of the lungs, reducing their capacity to take in oxygen from the air. 3
Nicotine is also known to cause narrowing of the blood vessels, thus obstructing the circulation
of blood and putting a strain on the heart. 4 Tobacco smoke also contains carbon monoxide,
which can cause damage to the brain cells.

Here, the topic sentence (Sentence 1) makes a general statement while Sentences 2,3 and 4
provide examples to support this generalization. The structure of this paragraph is represented
in the diagram below :

Sentence 1
(general statement)

Sentence 2 Sentence 3 Sentence 4


(example) (example) (example)

( We need a ‘tree-diagram” here.)

Here is another paragraph with a similar structure.

1 Our country has made remarkable progress in the last 10 years. The Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) has risen at the rate of 9 percent per year. The national literacy figure has gone up from
61 percent to 75 percent. The total irrigated area under cultivation has increased from 8 million
hectares to 15 million hectares.

Here, statistics (facts and figures) are provided as ‘evidence’ in Sentences 2,3 and 4 to support
the “opening generalization” made in Sentence 1.

Now look at an example of a paragraph in which two of the sentences are indirectly connected
to the topic sentence but directly connected to some other sentence in the paragraph.

1 Mumbai is India’s premier city. 2 It is our financial capital, which controls trade and commerce
in the entire country. 3 Mumbai is also the home of India’s gigantic entertainment industry. 4
India is the world’s largest producer of movies. 5 Mumbai’s movie industry has been given the
popular nickname “Bollywood”.

The diagram below shows the structure of this paragraph.


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Sentence 1
(opening generalization)

Sentence 2 Sentence 3
(example) (example)

Sentence 4

Sentence 5
(tree-diagram)

Sentences 4 and 5 are extensions of Sentence 3, which is an extension of Sentence 1.


Sentences 4 and 5 are thus only indirectly connected to Sentence 1.

The pattern found in the paragraphs that we have looked at so far is :

1 general statement followed by example (illustration)

However, paragraphs can have other patterns as well. The most common patterns are described
below.

2 cause-effect

Example :

1 Inflation has risen by 11.5 percent in this quarter. 2 As a result, producers of consumer goods
have been hard hit. 3 The sale of cars and two-wheelers has declined by 4 percent. 4 Export
earnings in the jewellery industry have also fallen by more than 12 percent.

Here, Sentence 1 states the cause (reason), while Sentences 2,3 and 4 bring out the effects
produced by this cause.

3 problem-solution

Example :

1 For many years, the people of this village had been deprived of electricity, and the
government did nothing to help them. 2 Last year, however, they built a dam across a small
stream which flows nearby and constructed a simple turbine-generator which is driven by the
flowing water – entirely through their own efforts. 3 Now every home has electric lights.

Here, Sentence 1 presents a problem while Sentences 2 and 3 present the solution to the
problem.

4 comparison/contrast

Examples :

a. comparison (comparing similar things)

1 Tata Motors has announced that it will launch the Nano in December 2008. Similarly, Bajaj
Auto has announced that it will introduce its own version of the “1-lakh rupee car” in the next few
months.
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b. contrast (comparing dissimilar things)

1 Ram is a very intelligent student, but he has been neglecting his studies. 2 Aloke, on the other
hand, is hard working, although he is less talented than Ram.

5 classification

Example :

There are now three different formats for international cricket matches. There is, firstly, the test
match format, in which matches are played over five days. Each side bats twice. Then, we have
the “one-day” or ODI format, which is played over a single day, and each team is given a
maximum of 50 overs in which to bowl out the other team. Lastly, we have the “20-20” format, in
which each team is allowed only 20 overs.

d. chronological (time) sequence

Example :

1 Yesterday, Mohan decided to stay at home and cook his own meals, instead of going out to
eat in a restaurant. 2 For breakfast, he made some chappaties and fried potatoes. 2 For lunch,he
prepared some rice and vegetables. 3 But by evening he felt so tired that he only had some cold
milk for dinner and went to bed.

e. spatial sequence

1 As you enter the hotel, you will first see the magnificent lobby. 2 Behind the lobby is a long
corridor leading to the guest rooms. 3 As you walk down the corridor, you will find the Japanese
restaurant on your left and the Continental restaurant on your right.

f description

Example :

I met Hafiz for the first time last night. He is more than 6 feet tall, and broad-shouldered. His thick
black beard comes down to his chest. He may look ferocious, but in fact he is gentle and friendly.

g. narration

Example :

It was the most dangerous situation I had ever been in. The leopard was about to spring at me. I
could see the powerful muscles on its chest tightening. Its eyes seemed to be burning into me.
Its fangs were bared. I thought my end had come. But just then …

Activity 4

Examine the following ‘mini paragraphs’ and say which of the patterns of paragraph development
suggested above has been used in each case.

1 World War II broke out in 1939 and continued till 1945. The map of Europe – in fact, of the
whole world – was completely changed. The British Empire disappeared, and many of the former
colonies declared themselves to be independent nations.
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2 The Indian Railways have seen a number of important changes under the leadership of its
dynamic minister. About 4000 new trains have been introduced on various routes. You can now
buy a train ticket sitting at home, by using the computer. No more standing in long queues !

3 China realized the importance of globalization as early as 1978, when Deng Xiao Ping was
the national leader. But India continued to isolate itself until 1991, when under Prime Minister
Narasimha Rao, the age of economic liberalization was ushered in.

4 Shankar wrote his first play in 1988. Within the next five years, he wrote almost a dozen
new plays, all of which were hugely successful on the stage.

5 In 1965, India had to import 5 million tonnes of wheat as our own stocks of wheat were
almost exhausted. There were grim visions of food shortages. But within a few years, the
production of foodgrains had gone up 200 percent. The Green Revolution had arrived.

Variations in the placement of the topic sentence

a. topic sentence at the beginning

The paragraphs which we have examined so far had the topic sentence at the beginning. From
the reader’s point of view, this is the ideal place for the topic sentence, as it lets him/her know
immediately what the paragraph is about. However, many writers prefer to place the topic
sentence at some other position in the paragraph and not at the beginning.

b. topic sentence at the end

Here is an example of a paragraph in which the topic sentence is placed at the end.

1 On one side of the huge silver dish in front of me were four of the most luscious rasagollas that
I had ever seen, together with a bowl of thick, creamy and fragrant payesh, flavoured with raisins
and nuts. 2 Two crisp, flaky kachoris, steaming hot from the kadahi, lay on the other side of the
plate. 3. I lost count of the other delicacies that my host had ordered his cooks to serve me. 4 It
was the most amazing meal that I have ever had in my life.

Here, it is the last sentence that gives us the main idea. The sentences which come before it
provide examples to support the generalization that has been made at the end.

c. topic sentence in the middle

Look at the following paragraph, in which the topic sentence has been placed somewhere in the
middle.

1 You can see them going from door to door, with a saintly smile on their lips, heads bowed in
humility, palms joined together in a permanent gesture of respect. 2 They are prepared to listen
to all your complaints now ; they have all the time in the world for you. 3 All politicians turn into
angels just before the elections. 4 But you can be sure that things will be different once voting is
over. 5 Promises will be forgotten ; you will find that your existence is not even recognized.

d. paragraphs without a topic sentence

Which of the sentences in the paragraph below could be called the topic sentence ?

The Union Home Minister has resigned. The Deputy Chief Minister of the state has also quit. It
is rumoured that the Chief Minister’s days are numbered too. At the meeting of the ruling party
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held last night in the national capital, the Defence Minister promptly offered his resignation when
a question was raised about the navy’s inability to take quick action on an intelligence report.
Even the Prime Minister said that he was prepared to step down on the issue of collective
responsibility.

Each sentence in the paragraph above refers to a separate incident, but there is nothing to hold
them together. The writer does not offer a generalization. However, if the sentences are read
closely, we can see that there is a pattern emerging from them. It is possible to guess the
generalization that could have been made. For example, if the following sentence is introduced
as the topic sentence, either at the beginning or the end of the paragraph, the author’s intention
becomes very clear.

“ The terrorist attack in Mumbai has produced an immediate political fall-out.”

Activity 5

Identify the topic sentence in each of the paragraphs below :

1 Yesterday, policemen from the Crime Branch raided the house of a junior official who was
suspected to have amassed movable and immovable properties worth several crores. The
government seems to be serious at last about stamping out corruption. This is the third raid to
have taken place this month and more are likely to follow. Many people believe, however, that
these raids are politically motivated.

2 The more colours there are in your food, the more healthy it is likely to be. You should eat
food of several different colours every day. Fruits and vegetables which are red in colour, such
as tomatoes and red grapes, reduce the risk of cancer. Yellow carrots, pineapples and oranges
are good for the heart ; white cauliflowers, onions and garlic help to reduce cholesterol while
leafy green vegetables such as spinach give you strong bones and teeth.

3 Researchers have discovered that men talk much more than women in a mixed gender
group, but women talk more than men in friendly conversation with friends. Women like to talk
about personal matters while men are more likely to talk about public things such as politics or
sports. Men are quite different from women in what they talk about, how they talk and how much
they talk in different situations. Gender seems to make an important difference to our habits of
communication.

4 When a friend wanted to borrow my sweater yesterday, I had no problem in saying “no”,
since the sweater was new. It is important to be firm when you say “no” to people. I don’t think
you need to feel embarrassed about it. Your “no” becomes weak if you don’t look the other
person in the eye while saying it. The way you say it makes all the difference.

5 Childhood is a time of enchantment as well as innocence. The child’s eye transforms even
ordinary objects and events into a magical world. Perhaps the most potent magic of all is created
by the miracle of reading. Once the child has discovered the joy of reading, life cannot remain
the same. In fact, reading may be the only pleasure from our childhood that we are able to carry
into adult life.

Activity 6

The topic sentence has been removed from the following paragraphs. Can you recover the
missing topic sentence ? (Place the topic sentence at either the beginning or end of the
paragraph or somewhere in the middle, following the instruction given.)
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1 Take six pieces of fresh chicken. Wash the pieces well to remove any dirt. Cut them into
small cubes. Smear with a little sesame oil, and add one teaspoon each of turmeric, salt and
pepper. Put the chicken aside. Heat four tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. When the oil is hot,
shake out the chicken into the pan and fry until it is golden brown in colour. Your pepper chicken
is now ready to eat. Serve with steamed rice. (Topic sentence at the beginning.)

2 I got up from bed, unable to sleep and sweating profusely. I looked at my watch and found
it was only 4.00 a.m. The air-conditioner wasn’t working and it was very hot inside the room. I
tried to switch on the lights, but the lights wouldn’t work either. There was nothing I could do but
sit up in bed, waiting for the power supply to be restored. (Topic sentence at the end.)

3 The story-writer narrates the story to the director, who has to decide whether it is
interesting enough to be made into a movie. The choice of actors, music director, choreographer
and cinematographer also depends on the director’s preferences. The fate of the movie, in short,
lies in the hands of the director. (Topic sentence in the middle.)

Connectives : conjuncts and disjuncts

We said earlier that there must be unity in a paragraph. The different sentences in the paragraph
should be connected to each other, and this connection is established, firstly, by the theme or
main idea, which runs throughout the paragraph.

The links between sentences are further strengthened by the use of connectives, which are
words or phrases used to join sentences together.

Look at the following pair of sentences:

1 The speaker has arrived. The meeting will begin.

Although we have two separate sentences here, there is a clear link between them. The second
sentence supports and adds something to the meaning conveyed by the first sentence. (We all
know that the arrival of the speaker is usually a signal for a meeting to begin.) This link is made
more clear when we use the conjunction “and” to connect the two sentences.

2 The speaker has arrived and the meeting will begin.

“And” is called a conjunct because it joins together two sentences which convey similar
meanings without contradicting each other.

Now look at another pair of sentences.

3 The patient needed a doctor urgently. No doctor was available.

Here, a kind of ‘opposition’ or contradiction exists between the two sentences. The second
sentence contradicts the expectation which is created by the first . We cannot use the conjunct
“and’ to join these two sentences ; some other connective has to be used. We can say :

4 The patient needed a doctor urgently but no doctor was available.

“But” suggests an opposition or contrast between the sentences being joined. The term disjunct
is used to describe such words.

Commonly used connectives


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Conjuncts

and, also, moreover, furthermore, in addition, besides

All these words and phrases are used to provide additional information on some topic which has
already been introduced earlier.

Examples :

i The monsoon has been good and we can expect a good harvest.
ii This hospital has excellent infrastructure. Also, the doctors here are very professional.
iii Kotah has some excellent training centres. Moreover, it has a large number of highly
trained teachers.
iv He takes a lot of interest in his work. Furthermore, he has some excellent ideas.
v She is a very bright student. In addition/ Besides, she is a trained singer.

Disjuncts

but, however, although (though), despite, in spite of, nevertheless, still, even if

Examples

i We were told to expect a good monsoon but there has been very little rain so far.
ii The police promised to arrest all the criminals who were involved in the bank robbery within
the next two months. However, no arrests have been made so far.
iii I haven’t yet got back the money he borrowed from me, although he promised to repay it
within a week.
iv The Indian team lost the match despite the excellent performance of our bowlers.
v He lost the election in spite of the support he received from his students.
vi I haven’t been invited to the party. Nevertheless/ Still, I shall go there tonight.
vii I shall never come here again, even if I am invited.

Disjuncts such as “but”, “however”, “although” and “in spite of” carry different meanings,
depending on the context. For example, in the following sentences :

Laxman is a poor opening batsman. However, he is excellent at No.3.

“however” indicates a contrast. But it has a very different meaning in the following pair of
sentences :

Laxman is a poor opening batsman. However, he is fast improving.

Here, the use of “however” shows that a concession is being made. The speaker admits
something which goes against the main statement.

Other connectives carrying different meanings

cause-effect

a. effect followed by cause because, as, since, for, for the reason that

Examples :
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vi I went to see the doctor because/ as /since I was feeling unwell.


vii Agricultural activity has declined in this village, for the reason that many farm labourers have
now migrated to other states.

b. cause followed by effect/result

therefore, so, consequently, as a result

Examples

viii I was feeling unwell and therefore/ so I went to see a doctor.


ix He didn’t meet a single voter before the election. As a result / Consequently, he was
defeated.

comparison similarly, likewise, in the same way, just as

Examples :

x Canada is a huge country with a small population. Similarly/ Likewise, Australia has a large
land area, but only a small population.

contrast on the other hand, but, however, by comparison, by contrast

xi Our village has many visitors in winter. On the other hand/ But/ However, it is completely
deserted in summer.

time sequence (sequence of events)

first, then, next, after that, thereafter, later, subsequently, finally, lastly

Examples

xii I shall first go to the market. Then / After that / Thereafter/ Subsequently, I shall go to the
hospital to see my friend. Lastly, I shall go home and rest.

The same connectives (first, then, next, lastly etc.) also indicate a sequence of ideas, as for
example in :

First, I shall define the term “environmental pollution”. Then, I shall give you some examples to
show how we are polluting the environment. Lastly, I shall discuss how we can overcome this
problem.

providing examples (illustrations)

for example, for instance, to illustrate, such as

i. My neighbour has many disturbing habits. For example, he shouts at the top of his voice
when he is using his mobile phone.

rephrasing a statement

in other words, that is to say


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Example

Our efforts need to be redoubled. In other words, we must all work harder.

reaching a conclusion

to conclude, in conclusion, finally, to sum up

Examples

To conclude/ In conclusion, we should all unite and present our view strongly to the authorities.

Activity 6

Each of the sentences below represents the opening sentence of a paragraph. You are required
to write one or two more sentences to follow the opening sentence, using the instructions given.

Here are two examples

i He is an excellent speaker. (+ contrast)

He is an excellent speaker. On the other hand, he is a poor writer.

ii Maharashtra has a dynamic leader. (+ contrast + result + contrast)

Maharashtra has a dynamic leader. Kerala, on the other hand, has no strong leaders. As a
result, Maharshtra has made a lot of industrial progress, but no new industries have come to
Kerala.

1 Cricket is flourishing in India. (+reason + contrast )


2 We must first improve our system of education. (+time sequence + effect)
3 English has become the global language. (+ result + disjunct “however”)
4 Shah Rukh has had a number of flop films this year. ( +comparison + result )
5 India’s BPO industry is in danger. ( +reason + contrast)

6 We have not been protecting the environment. (+example + comparison+


contrast)
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CHAPTER 3
WRITTEN BUSINESS COMMMUNICATION

Now that we have examined the characteristics of writing as a medium of communication and
seen how writing is organized in paragraphs, we will look at some of the common forms of
written communication in the business world.

But first, we would like to highlight a few general points.

1 Written business communication represents the organization more than the individual who is
writing.

The writer carries a heavy responsibility as he/she is primarily an ‘ambassador’ for an


organization. The interests of the organization must never be overlooked ; nothing that is written
should compromise its image.

2 Written communication leaves behind a permanent record.

The fact that all written communication is documented can be of advantage to both the writer and
the recipient. For the writer, the document provides proof that something was communicated ; for
the recipient, it is proof of what was communicated. A writer cannot deny having written
something, although a speaker can deny having said something.

3 Writing, even more than speech, must be purposeful and focused on the audience.

The essential difference between speech and writing is that the latter involves planning. One
expert advises writers to spend twice as much time on planning as on the actual task of writing.

Planning helps to make written messages purposeful. Being asked to read messages that lack
a clear purpose is a waste of time in the busy world of commerce; furthermore, sending
purposeless messages to people reduces one’s credibility.

All communication in the business world serves a number of general purposes, which are to :

• inform
• instruct
• persuade
• motivate
• inspire

In addition, each piece of communication should have a specific purpose, which may be
straightforward, such as placing an order for equipment, or comprehensive, such as persuading
the management of a company to raise the salaries of workers.

In order to identify and define the specific purpose of a message, writers are advised to ask
themselves what things they expect to happen as a result of the communication – what changes
in behaviour or attitude they expect to produce. A lot of communication has the specific objective
of producing action of some kind. The action that is desired must be clearly visualized.
108

The second important aspect of planning is audience focus. Since the only contact between
writer and reader is via the written message, the writer should be able to anticipate the
audience’s need for information as well as their expected response to the message as precisely
as possible. The message should be ‘tailored’ to the reader’s background, interests and point of
view.

4 Business writing is expected to be objective, factual and precise.

As was said earlier, speech is a ‘warm’ medium while writing is a ‘cold’ medium. In speech, the
‘personal touch’ is most important ; speech comes from the heart more than the head, and its
appeal is more to the heart. Writing, on the other hand, is primarily a ‘thinking’ medium – more
suited to the communication of ‘hard’ facts and ideas than ‘soft’ feelings. Objectivity is important :
a written message should convey the same meaning to every reader, whereas spoken
messages can leave a lot of room for personal interpretation. There is much less room for
vagueness, imprecision and subjectivity in a written message.

5 In writing, everything has to be made explicit.

As we have seen, oral communication (speech) is “context-dependent” – that is, communication


between the speaker and the listener does not depend entirely on the words that are spoken, but
also on the knowledge of the context (who is speaking to whom, where, when, about what etc.)
which is shared by the speaker and the listener. Many things can, therefore, be left unsaid,
without much loss of information.

In written communication, on the other hand, all information has to be carried through the written
word. The writer cannot make use of context to communicate information. The written message
has to become independent of the context – it must create its own context.

Writing is used, typically, to communicate complex messages which need careful understanding
and interpretation – for example, a detailed intelligence report on a complicated political
situation. It is difficult for the reader to ‘digest’, at a single reading, all the information that such a
message might contain. The reader may want to ‘store’ the message and go back to it more than
once, in order to understand it thoroughly and act upon it. However, the writer has to provide the
reader with as much help as possible in understanding the message, making all explanations
etc. ‘transparent’ and explicit.

6 Business writing must, at the present time, conform to the requirements of a globalized
and ‘high speed’ business culture.

In the old days, people adopted writing as a medium primarily to overcome the constraint of
distance. Written communication was then a slow and leisurely affair, as messages could take
several days to travel from the writer to the reader. Writers took advantage of the lack of haste to
compose messages which were carefully thought out and crafted ; similarly, readers were
expected to take their own time in responding to messages. This gave rise to a highly elaborate
and formal style of correspondence.

At the present time, distances have no relevance. A person located ten thousand miles away
may be considered just as ‘close’ to you as a person sitting across the desk. The days of
leisurely communication are over : messages travel from the writer to the reader instantaneously.
A totally different attitude to business communication has evolved, which has coincided with a
change in management style from an authoritarian, ‘top-down’ approach to a more egalitarian
‘teamwork’ approach. Business organizations consider it important to project an image of being
friendly and dependable as well as efficient and quick to respond to situations, and this is
reflected in the style of written communication. Messages are shorter and more crisp, more
109

informal and personal, less elaborate. Writing styles tend to be direct and conversational.
Readers now have many more messages competing for their attention.

7 Written communication in the age of globalization tends to be standardized as well as


individualistic.

Each culture has its own rules of communication. In an age of heightened intercultural contact,
this can lead to a lot of confusion and miscommunication. There is therefore a tendency, on the
part of business organizations, to adopt modes and instruments of communication which are
fairly standardized. A business report, for example, should look like a report, no matter who
sends it to whom. Formats of business letters have largely been standardized.

A person entering the world of business must therefore become conversant with the standard
conventions of business writing. Today, as America seems to be the main economic ‘engine’ that
drives international business, American styles of writing tend to dominate. They are often very
different from the styles that we in India are used to. For example, the usual ‘opening’ used in a
business letter in India – “Dear Sir” – is generally avoided in American correspondence as it
sounds formal and old-fashioned to an American.

However, business companies also want to create their own ‘brand image’, which make them
different from their competitors. Leading business companies often, therefore, develop their own
individual styles of written communication, which are known as ‘house-styles’. A person who
works for a business house is expected to follow the house-style, as well as the international
convention (in appropriate situations.)

TYPES OF BUSINESS MESSAGES

Written business messages fall into four main categories, depending on the writer’s intention as
well as the kind of response which the message receives, or is expected to receive, from the
audience (reader).

a. neutral messages, which get, or are expected to get, a ‘neutral’ response from the
audience. They are received neither with pleasure nor with displeasure.

Neutral messages mostly take the form of routine messages which either communicate or seek
factual information.

Examples :

memoranda, notifications and letters providing information about a future event, such as a
meeting ; leaflets, brochures and circulars providing information about a company and the
products and services that it offers etc.

Although a message may have been intended to be ‘neutral’, its effect on the audience cannot
always be predicted. A routine message, such as news of the arrival of the Managing Director of
a company at a factory site, could be met either with pleasure or displeasure, depending on the
circumstances and the mood of the audience.

b. ‘goodwill’ or ‘good news’ messages which receive, or are expected to receive, a


positive(favourable) response from the audience, ranging from enthusiasm to mere interest.

Examples :
110

i. ‘good-news messages’ : a letter communicating a candidate’s selection for a job ; an


announcement of an increase in salary or promotion to a higher position ; the awarding of a
contract ; an announcement of a reduction in the price of a product etc.

ii ‘good-will messages : letters of congratulation or appreciation, thanks, condolence etc.

c. ‘bad news’ messages which receive, or are expected to receive, a negative (unfavourable)
response from the audience, ranging from disappointment to anger.

Examples :

a letter informing a candidate that his/her application for a job has been rejected ; a letter
informing an employee of a pay-cut or termination of services ; the announcement of a
company’s closure etc.

d. persuasive messages which are intended to persuade the audience to do something.


These messages may get either a neutral, a positive or a negative response, depending on how
they are seen by the audience.

Examples :

an advertisement for a new product or service; a letter asking for a donation or subscription ; an
unsolicited job application ; a message seeking a favour etc.

‘Direct’ and ‘Indirect’ approaches to the communication of business messages

Experts recommend the adoption of either a ‘Direct’ or an ‘Indirect’ Approach to the


communication of business messages, depending on the kind of response which is expected.

1. The Direct Approach is recommended for ‘good-news’ as well as neutral (routine) messages.

In the Direct Approach, the ‘bottom line’, which conveys the gist of the entire message, is placed
prominently, at or near the start, so that it catches the reader’s eye quickly and leaves him/her in
no doubt about the content of the message and the intention of the writer.

Here is an example of the ‘bottom line’ that a good news message might be intended to
communicate :

You have been selected for a job in our company.

This is the ‘operative’ part of the message and could well be the only piece of information that
would interest the reader. But if the entire message were to consist of just this one line, it would
look too blunt – even somewhat discourteous. More ‘depth’ must be given to the expression of
good news or goodwill. The opening statement is, therefore, reiterated (repeated) or
paraphrased in different ways. The message is also ‘dressed up’ so that it does not seem too
blunt. The writer may also use this opportunity to project a positive image of the organization that
he/she represents as well as begin a cordial relationship with a future employee.

The final message could look something like this :

Dear Mr. ABC


111

I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected for appointment as Software Engineer in
Infotel India Limited. The Letter of Appointment is enclosed, but on behalf of the company I
would like to offer my personal felicitations and welcome you to Infotel India.

We will be happy to have you on board and are confident that you will be able to contribute to the
company’s outstanding record of achievements in the ITES industry.

Please let us know when you will be able to join. If we are informed of your travel plans, we will
arrange to receive you at the Bangalore airport.

We look forward to your arrival.

Yours sincerely,
XYZ

Director, Human Resources


Infotel India Limited

This letter adopts the following plan :

1 communication of good news ;


2 felicitations and expression of pleasure, to reinforce the good news
3 expression of appreciation
4 friendly and caring close

Neutral messages frequently communicate routine or ‘ordinary’ pieces of information which are
not expected to arouse great enthusiasm in the reader. For example :

Two senior engineers from Maruti Udyog will be visiting Bhubaneswar from October 15-20, 2008.
Customers can consult them in case they have any problems with their cars.

Again, this is all that the recipient may feel interested in knowing. This is hardly great news, but it
can be made to sound somewhat exciting. The message may go out in this form :

Dear __________,

You will be pleased to know that two senior engineers from Maruti Udyog, Gurgaon, will be
visiting Bhubaneswar between October 15 to 20, 2008. Our customers can consult them in case
they are having any problems with their Maruti-Suzuki vehicles.

We urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to get your vehicle inspected and serviced
under the supervision of factory-trained experts.

As you know, Maruti has been awarded the highest rating by the J.D. Power Company for
customer satisfaction and the reliability of its products. We value our relationship with our clients
and shall continue to make every effort to serve them efficiently.

Please contact our Service Manager at telephone number 2479635 in case you would like to
make an appointment with our visiting engineers from Gurgaon.

2 The Indirect Approach is recommended for ‘bad news’ as well as ‘persuasive’ messages.
112

The expected response to a bad news message is one of disappointment, displeasure, shock or
even anger. Persuasive messages which ask recipients to do something are likely to be resisted
unless recipients can be convinced that what they are being asked to do will be of benefit them.

Here, the bottom line is ‘delayed’ by placing it somewhere in the middle of the communication. In
the first part of the message, the writer tries to prepare the reader for the bad news which is to
follow and to soften its impact. The last part of the message tries, once again, to put the reader
in a positive frame of mind, after the bad news has been conveyed.

The following could be the bottom line for a bad-news message :

Your application has been rejected.

If the message were to start with this unpalatable announcement, it would have a negative effect
on the reader. So the communication starts on a positive note, as in the example below :

Dear ________

We thank you for responding to our advertisement in “The Times of India” inviting applications for
the post of Software Engineer in our company.

The Selection Committee, which went through your application carefully, was impressed with
your professional qualifications as well as your record of achievements in co-curricular activities.
However, it is felt that at the present time, our company requires engineers with experience in
the ITES industry. We regret that we are unable, therefore, to offer you a position in our
company at present. We do think, however, that when you have acquired some professional
experience, you will be well qualified for a position in our company.

The company maintains a file of the applications that are received in response to
advertisements, so that in case of future need, we can contact candidates directly. We propose
to include your application in this file.

We wish you all success in your professional career.

Yours sincerely,

XYZ

This ‘bad news’ letter adopts the following plan :

1 an expression of thanks (which could almost be ‘good news’)


2 reference to the positive qualities of the candidate
3 communication of the bad news
4 reasons given in defence/justification of the negative decision
5 hope offered to the candidate
6 friendly and re-assuring close

Advertisements or sales-letters are examples of ‘persuasive’ communication as their intention


is to persuade recipients to buy something which they may or may not require. Such messages
are more likely to be resisted or ignored than welcomed. In a sense, they too communicate some
bad news (“We have plans to make you part with your money”). Again, the reader has to be put
in a positive frame of mind to receive the bad news. Here is an example :
113

Dear ______,

The tensions of modern life are adversely affecting the health of all of us. Arthritis, one of the
most debilitating diseases of our time, has affected millions of people worldwide, irrespective of
age and gender. But now Nature, being the most powerful healer, has now brought hope to
those who suffer from this painful condition.

Medical research has revealed that the New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel (GLM), a kind of
shellfish found off the coast of New Zealand, contains certain therapeutic agents which help to
reduce the pain and inflammation of joints that are symptomatic of arthritis.

Since its discovery in 1974, Green Lipped Mussel Extract (GLME) has undergone extensive
laboratory tests as well as clinical trials in hospitals, which have proved its effectiveness in the
treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

GLME manufactured by Health Laboratories of New Zealand is now available in India through
their authorized representatives – Perma Healthcare. The cost of this therapy comes to only Rs
50 per day.

As a promotional offer, we are offering a special discount on all orders for GLME placed before
31 December 2008.

For details, contact :


Perma Healthcare (080) 4173 2020
www. permahealthcare.com

Notice how long the writer of this message takes to come to the ‘bad news’. Even then, it is not
stated directly: the advertisement does not say “Buy our product”.

The message opens with a general statement which few people would disagree with. Then it
refers to a health problem that affects many people, and informs readers of a possible solution
which they may not have heard of before. The interest of the reader is aroused.

The advertisement then makes an appeal to our trust in modern science – again something that
most people would be willing to accept. Only in the last part of the message do we realize that a
product is being advertised. By then, ‘sales resistance’ may have been considerably reduced.

The diagram below represents how ‘audience response’ is related to the approach that is
adopted :

audience response

enthusiastic co-operative pleased interested NEUTRAL bored disappointed resistant angry


+ -
<=======================================================>

DIRECT INDIRECT

approach

(adapted from “Business Communication Today “ by Bovee et al. (Pearson Education 2003)

The Direct Approach in ‘bad news’ messages


114

In some cases, it may be advisable to adopt the Direct Approach to communicate ‘bad news’.
Here is an example :

Dear ______

Please refer to our letters dated 12 March 2008 and 15 December 2008.

We regret that you have not responded to our request to clear your dues of Rs.47,632, on
account of office equipment supplied to you in December 2007.

This is the third reminder that we are sending you, and we would like to repeat our request to
kindly clear up the dues immediately. If payment is not received within one week, we will be
compelled to initiate legal proceedings.

We hope to receive a positive response to this letter. We value our relationship with clients and
are reluctant to take any steps that would affect a cordial relationship.

Sincerely

This letter is basically a threat. The circumstances justify the making of a strong threat, and if the
Indirect Approach had been adopted the force of the message would have been reduced.

Activity

The following are extracts from some letters. How would you classify them as types of business
communication (routine, good-news, bad-news or persuasive) ?

i We would like to inform our business contacts that the company’s branch office in
Sambalpur is being closed down with effect from 1 December 2008.

ii We are enclosing a cheque for Rs. 50,000 which is an advance on the royalties payable to
you for the year 2006-7.
iii We have decided not to renew our agreement for the building which has been leased to us.

iv We are sure that the students of your school will enjoy this cartoon film which has just been
released.

v Please make it a point to attend this meeting at which the General Manager will welcome
all new appointees.

vi We are sorry that your work has suffered due to the break-down in the equipment supplied
by us and are sending a replacement immediately.

vii The venue of the meeting has been shifted from Angsana Room to Hibiscus Room.

viii Attractive gifts are being sent to all our contributors as a token of goodwill.

ix You will take over your new responsibilities as Deputy General Manager with effect
from 31 March 2007.

x I advise you to take greater interest in your work in future.

Forms of business writing


115

The forms of business writing that we shall examine include :

i. memoranda
ii business letters
iii resumes and applications for jobs
iv reports
v e-mails

1 Memoranda (‘memos’)

‘Memos’ are brief and informal written notes addressed to individuals or groups. They are usually
internal (addressed to members of the same organization as the writer) but can sometimes be
external. They may be sent through ‘internal mail’ (in the form of written messages, in ‘hard
copy’), the ‘intranet’ (local, closed-circuit computer networks, in ‘soft copy’), or the internet.

Memos are usually treated as ‘routine correspondence’, communicating factual information,


announcements, proposals, inquiries, requests etc. Because of their short length and informal
style, they usually produce a neutral to slightly positive response from the reader and so adopt a
fairly direct approach. The bottom line is made to stand out prominently and sometimes this is all
that the communication contains.

Here is an example of a memo.

(Logo) ARTEL BUSINESS SOLUTIONS


Internal memo

TO All members of the Sales Promotion Group


FROM GM Marketing
DATE 07 October 2008-12-08

SUBJECT Meeting of the SPG on October 12 to discuss new marketing


strategy

I am calling a meeting of the SPG at 10.30 hours on Monday, 12 October, in the Conference
Room. Please make it a point to attend and cancel any other engagements that you may have
made.

As you are aware, the sales of our new Oriya word-processing package, Srilekha, have been
disappointing, although it has received CDAC certification. We need to develop a new marketing
strategy. Let us discuss this at the meeting.

Please give the matter some serious thought and come with your suggestions. This has to be a
collective effort.

Discussion

The memo format is fairly standardized. Frequently, printed forms carrying the company’s
letterhead and logo are used, particularly if the memo is to be sent to an external audience.

All memos carry the headings “To”, “From”, “Date” and “Subject” at the top – usually in that
order. The addressee may be an individual or a group.
116

The “subject line” is important. It should tell the reader exactly what the communication is about.
Very short and vague subject lines should be avoided.

Since the Direct Approach is used for most memos, the opening paragraph communicates the
bottom line (“ a meeting has been called”.)

The writer of this memo (the General Manager, Marketing) is obviously superior in position to the
people whom he is addressing. The memo could therefore have been turned into a directive or
‘order’ ; but instead, the writer takes the reader into confidence and explains why the meeting
has been called.

Notice how crisp and ‘to-the-point’ the message is. Memos are normally expected to be less than
one page in length.

Activity

Write memos to suit the following situations :

i. The Revenue Department of the state government has set up a Public Inquiries Cell, which is
responsible for replying to inquiries received from the public, after consulting the Settlement and
Land Revenue records maintained by the Department. Sometimes, this becomes a time-
consuming process because of the poor system of maintaining records.

As the Head of the Public Inquiries Cell, write a memo to the Head of the Records department
suggesting some improvements in the sytem.

ii The Chief Secretary of the state government finds that the various department under her
administrative control are taking a long time to send files to her office for further action. She
addresses a memo to the Principal Secretaries of all departments.

Write a draft for this memo.

2 Business letters

Most business letters fall into one or other of the four categories of business writing that we have
discussed above : routine messages, good-news, bad-news and persuasive messages.

We will now focus on the format of these letters.

Although formats can vary, the one which is suggested in the example below is widely used and
may be safely adopted as a model.
117

(logo)
FORTUNE DEVELOPERS (heading)
REAL ESTATE DEALERS
113 B, Sudarshan Nagar
CUTTACK 753009
Tel : 91- O671-2304080
e-mail : fortuned@gmail.com

Partho Biswal
Managing Partner
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

22 May 2007 (date)

Mr Vijay Tripathy (inside address)


35 Acharya Vihar
Bhubaneswar 751007

Dear Mr Tripathy (salutation)

You will be happy to know that we are developing a new residential complex, to be known as
Palm Heights, in Shahpur, Bhubaneswar, opposite SUM Hospital.

The complex will have five 7-storeyed apartment blocks, with four 2-bedroom apartments and
two 3-bedroom apartments on each floor. There will be a shopping mall, a swimming pool, tennis
courts, a club-house and a restaurant within the complex. Apartments have been priced at
Rs.2200 per square foot.

An illustrated brochure showing the lay-out of the proposed complex is enclosed for your
information.

As you know, Bhubaneswar is expanding rapidly and has already attracted several major IT
companies such as Infosys, Satyam and Wipro. Property prices in Bhubaneswar are fast
escalating and we are advising all our esteemed clients to invest in real estate at this time. We
are confident that you will find Palm Heights an attractive proposition.

We have great pleasure in inviting you to a cocktail party which we are organizing for our clients
at the Bhubaneswar Club on Wednesday 25 May 2008. Our Chief Architect, Mr Brijesh Lal, will
make a presentation at this gathering, highlighting the special features of Palm Heights.

We do hope you will be able to come.

Sincerely (complimentary close)


(Signature) (signature)
Partho Biswal
Managing Partner
118

Enclosure: Palm Heights Brochure (enclosure notation)

Discussion

Notice that :

1 Each line of the letter begins at the left margin.


2 There are spaces between the different parts of the letter (shown in italics on the
right)
3 The date stands out prominently, slightly below the heading (company letterhead).
4 The ‘inside address’ shows the name and address of the person to whom the letter is being
sent.
5 The letter has the standard ‘business salutation’ : ‘Dear” followed by the honorific (Mr /
Ms/Dr etc.) and the recipient’s last name.
6 The letter is crisp and ‘to-the-point.’
7 The complimentary close is short : “Sincerely”
8 There is an ‘enclosure notation’ at the bottom of the letter, showing that an enclosure is
attached.

How would you classify this letter ? (routine/good news/bad news/persuasive). Is the approach
Direct or Indirect ? Is it appropriate ?

Activity

Write letters, using the format suggested above, following the directions below :

i You took your aged mother to a private hospital for a check-up, as she was complaining of
pain in the chest. The consulting doctor advised various diagnostic tests and prescribed
medicines which only made her condition worse. A second doctor, who is a well-known
specialist, informed you that the diagnosis and treatment have been faulty. Write a letter of
complaint to the Superintendent of the hospital.

ii Imagine that you are the Managing Director of a steel manufacturing company which
signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a state government to set up a steel plant in the
state. The government undertook to acquire land and transfer ownership to your company but
after two years have elapsed you find that the land has not been acquired, because of public
resistance. Write a letter to the Chief Minister of the state, expressing disappointment and
suggesting that you may be forced to go back on the agreement.

iii You recently bought a new lap-top computer and are so pleased with it that you have
decided to upgrade to a higher model. Write a letter to the proprietor of the company which sold
the computer to you, conveying your decision and inquiring whether the dealer can offer you an
exchange.

iv Write a reply to the above letter.


119

v You have invented a new kind of automobile engine which runs efficiently on a mixture of
water (50 percent) and petrol. Trials have successfully been completed and you want to sell your
invention to an international automobile company which manufactures cars in India. Write a
letter to the CEO of the company.

3 Resume`s and job applications

The word ‘resume`’ means ‘summary’. A resume is a written summary of the main facts and
events of one’s life, which is sent to a prospective employer when applying for a job. A resume`
is also referred to as a ‘Curriculum Vitae’ (CV) or ‘bio-data’, meaning ‘facts of life’.

In the past (say about a hundred years ago), people who were applying for jobs wrote long and
elaborate letters to prospective employers, in the highly formal and ornamental style which was
in vogue then. Many details which would be considered irrelevant now had to be included :
details, for example, of one’s family background and connections, which were considered
important. One was expected to attach testimonials or ‘character certificates’ from important or
famous people to the application.

Gradually, the practice of attaching a summary or resume` of the facts stated in the application
letter developed. Two sets of facts were generally highlighted in the resume` : (i) details of the
applicant’s educational career and (ii) details of the professional experience that the applicant
had acquired. These details had to be presented in such a way as to convince prospective
employers that the applicant was qualified for the particular job for which he/she had applied.

Conventional resume` formats

Resume`s were usually written in the following format :

a. Personal data

i Name
ii Date of birth /age
iii Current designation/position, with name of employer (if any)
iv Address
iv Contact telephone /fax number and e-mail address

b. Details of education :

i. Schools attended, examinations passed, certificates obtained, class/grade


obtained and year of passing ;
ii Colleges/universities attended, examinations passed and degrees/diplomas
obtained, class/grade obtained, with year of passing,
iii Details of professional/ technical education and / or training, certificates/diplomas
obtained, with year of passing

c Details of extra-curricular activities (sports etc.), interests and hobbies

d Details of achievements : scholarships or prizes won, languages learnt etc.

e. Details of professional experience

Jobs previously held : names of employers, designations, nature of work, periods


of employment
120

f Any other information considered relevant

g Names and addresses of referees

h Details of documents, certificates, testimonials enclosed with resume and letter


of application

Here is a sample resume` written in the conventional format :

Resume`

Position applied for Director, Shillong Campus


ICFAI University

Name Hiren Kumar Bargohain

Date of birth 26 February 1967

Current designation Deputy Director, Higher Education


Govt. of Assam

Address 35, Indira Nagar


Guwahati 651005, Assam

Telephone (0542) 2397009 (Res.)


2487359 (Office)
9437073287 (mobile)

e-mail hbargohain@yahoo.com

Educational background

i. School education

School attended Examination passed Class/grade Year

Kendriya Vidyalay CBSE Higher Secondary First 1982


Guwahati

ii College/university education

College attended University Examination passed Class Year

Bishop Cotton’s College Guwauhati B.A. Honours First 1985


Guwahati

Dept of Economics Guwauhati M.A. (Economics) First 1987


Gauhati University
121

iii Professional education /training

Institution Degree/certificate obtained Year

Department of Certificate in Personnal 1995


Business Administration Management (10-week
Guwahati University programme)

Professional experience

Employer Designation Nature of work Period of


employment

Digboi College Lecturer in Teaching and 1988-1995


Digboi, Assam Economics research

Silchar College Principal Educational 1995-2002


Silchar, Assam administration

Dept of Education Deputy Director Educational 2002 -


Govt. of Assam Higher Education administration (continuing)

Other achievements

1 Represented Assam in the National Chess Championship in 2001


2 Speak several of the languages of the North Eastern region, including Bodo and Khasi.

Discussion

Resumes were expected to be factual and detailed. Applicants were supposed merely to state
the facts, without embroidering them in any way. No important fact could be suppressed.
Prospective employers had to go through masses of information and search out the details which
they considered most relevant to their purpose, which was to find a candidate with the right
qualifications and skills for the job.

Notice that in this resume the details of the applicant’s educational career and professional
experience are given in chronological order, from the earliest to the most recent.

Reverse chronological order

In recent years, the adoption of the ‘reverse chronological order’ has become more widespread
for resume`s than the traditional ‘chronological order’ adopted earlier. When presenting details of
their educational career and professional experience, candidates start with the most recent
events and move backwards to earlier events. Presumably, prospective employers are more
interested in recent events, whose effect is likely to be stronger, than in events which took place
long ago.

Educational background or professional experience first ?

Usually, the applicant’s educational background was described before his/her professional
experience, specially if the chronological order was being followed (since most people take up a
job only after they have completed their education). However, it is felt today that employers are
more interested in the candidate’s professional skills, which may have been sharpened through
‘on-the-job’ experience, than in the academic or theoretical knowledge gained through formal
education.
122

Applicants are being advised, therefore, to prioritize professional knowledge over educational
background in their resume`s. The latter is prioritized only in case the applicant is fresh out of the
university and has no professional experience worth mentioning.

Advantages and drawbacks of the traditional resume format

The traditional resume format clearly reveals, at a glance, the details of the applicant’s
educational background and work experience – which are of greatest interest to a prospective
employer. The resume`, whether presented in chronological order or in reverse chronological
order, also profiles the ‘growth curve’ of the applicant, showing whether the applicant has been
maintaining steady professional growth or has been stagnating.

The drawback of this format is that it presents facts in a routine and neutral manner. It does not
allow applicants to highlight particular aspects of their personality, professional achievements or
educational attainments so as to draw the employer’s attention at once.

A resume` is basically an advertisement for the applicant. It should help to ‘sell’ the applicant to
the employer. The conventional resume` format does not do this.

Covering letters

Resume`s are frequently accompanied by ‘covering letters’ addressed to the prospective


employer.

Here is a sample :

To
The Chief Executive Officer
ICFAI University
Hyderabad 500 007

Dear Sir,

I wish to apply for the position of Director of the Shillong Campus in response to your recent
advertisement in ‘The Times of India’. My resume is enclosed.

I understand from the advertisement that ICFAI University is looking for a candidate with
sufficient experience in educational administration to take charge of the newly started Shillong
Campus and ensure its development. As Deputy Director in the Directorate of Higher Education,
Govt. of Assam, I am required to administer more than 200 government and private colleges
located in different parts of Assam. Earlier, as Principal of Digboi College, I was entrusted with
the responsibility of developing the new campus. I therefore believe that I have the kind of
professional experience which will be required by the Director of the Shillong Campus.

Furthermore, I have undergone a 10-week training programme in Personnel Management


offered by the Department of Business Management, Guwahati University. This training has
equipped me with the basic theoretical knowledge required for effective Personnel Management.

Since I belong to the North East myself, I have good rapport with people belonging to this region
and speak several of the regional languages including Bodo and Khasi. This, I believe, will help
me in performing my duties as Director of the Shillong Campus.

I hope that my application will be considered favourably.


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Yours sincerely
Hiren K. Bargohain

The Covering Letter helps to highlight certain facts relating to the applicant’s professional skills
which, the applicant believes, will be of interest to the prospective employer. The resume` does
not allow these facts to stand out prominently.

The practice of attaching Covering Letters is on the decline as prospective employers are
reluctant to spare the time required to read them. The highlighting and focusing of relevant
information, which is possible through a Covering Letter, has to be built into the resume` itself.

Current Trends in Resume` Writing

The change in styles of conducting business brought about by globalization and rapid economic
development, has also affected the conventions of writing applications and resume`s. Certain
conventions adopted by business organizations in America are beginning to be used by multi-
national companies operating in India as well as elsewhere.

A more functional approach to resume` writing is being advocated. The functional approach
highlights the applicant’s professional skills and achievements instead of merely narrating events
in chronological or reverse chronological order. It helps employers to assess quickly just what
strengths a candidate can bring to the organization.

The following is an example of a resume` which adopts a combination of the functional and
reverse chronological approaches.

Resume`

Position Applied for Financial Co-ordinator (Imports and Exports), Bhartia


Finance

Name Rajesh Bhardwaj

Date of Birth 13 October 1977

Address 245, Sharada Devi Road


Andheri East
Mumbai 400 652

Telephone (022) 92248063

e-mail rajb@ oswal.co.in

Relevant Skills
1 Thorough knowledge of import and export rules
of Govt of India, followed by major trading houses
2 Thorough knowledge of banking procedures related to
financing of imports and exports
3 Experience of using special software packages (e.g. EXIMPORT)
to reflect fluctuations in currency exchange rates

Professional Experience
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1. Financial Analyst, Oswal Finance and Credit


Corporation, Mumbai, 2007 to present.
Responsibilities : auditing of import and export
accounts of Unilever India and Essar Steel

2 Accountant, Vyasa Bank, Kolkata, 2003-2007.


Responsibilities : processing of bank loans to trading
houses including Duncan Tea and Bagaria Jute Exporters

Education/ training

1 MCA (Master’s degree in Chartered Accounting), Institute


of Chartered Accountants, Mumbai 2001

2 B.Com. (Lucknow University), 1999


Referees

1 Mr Sanjay Agrawal, Jt. Director (Finance), Oswal


Finance and Credit Corporation, Worli, Mumbai

2 Prof J.P.Mathur, IIM, Lucknow

Activity

Write a resume` containing the information presented in the ‘self-introduction’ below:

My name is Jyotsna Rout. I am 26 years old. I live in Pune and I work in this city as a Purchase
Officer for Oriental Retailers. My job is to source ready-made garments from manufacturers in
Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, for export. I got my MBA degree from the Millenium School of
Business Management, Aurangabad, one year after I passed the B.Com.examination from BJB
College, Bhubaneswar, in 1998. I started working for my present employers in 2004. Before
that, I was a Training Supervisor with Ultrasoft Communications in Kolkata for two years. I was
responsible for organizing training programs in Softskills Development for junior level executives.
That was my first job. I enjoy my work, but I would like to return now to my home town,
Bhubaneswar. I am applying for a job in Ayur Hospital, Bhubaneswar.

4 Business Reports

A Business Report is a factual and objective statement that communicates information which can
be used by a business organization to take a decision, solve a problem, evolve a new policy etc.

There are two main kinds of business reports :

a. informational reports, communicating factual information in a ‘neutral’ manner, without


discussion, analysis, comments, recommendations etc.

b. analytical reports, which analyze as well as present factual information, along with
comments, suggestions, recommendations etc.

All reports, whether informational or analytical, are expected to be supported by data, which
may be obtained either through empirical investigation (‘field-work’, involving observation,
interviews, questionnaires etc.) or from secondary sources (documents, books, periodicals etc.).
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A report which involves the collection of data through empirical methods is sometimes called an
investigative report.

Informational reports frequently carry an element of analysis but their intention is primarily to
inform, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. On the other hand, analytical reports
which make recommendations are often intended to be ‘persuasive’.

Reports may be :

i. internal (addressed by a member of an organization to another member of the same


organization) or external (addressed to someone outside the organization).

Internal reports are generally written in the form of memos while external reports are more often
written in the form of letters.

ii. unsolicited (produced at the initiative of the writer) or solicited (produced at the initiative of
someone other than the writer) ;

iii routine or ‘ad-hoc’ (produced for a special occasion or purpose)

iv confidential (meant to be seen only by one individual or by a few members of an


organization) or public (meant to be made widely available to members of different
organizations)

v issue-based (related to a single issue, problem or activity) or comprehensive (covering a


wide range of issues)

vi brief (one page or less) or extensive (running into several pages)

The common kinds of reports are :

a. informational reports

i. review reports, which review the activities conducted by an individual or a business


organization over a period of time. They are usually internal and routine in nature.

Review reports may also be produced to review and assess the quality of a new product – e.g., a
new model of a motor car.

ii status reports which provide information on the ‘status’ or ‘condition’ of a project or other
activity at the time when the report is prepared.

ii progress reports intended to highlight the progress (or lack of it) in a particular activity e.g., a
new project.

iii ‘action-taken’ reports which provide details of the action taken in response to some event.

b. analytical reports

i ‘problem-solving’ reports which focus attention on a current ‘problem’ and suggest solutions ;

ii feasibility reports which examine and analyze a future plan or proposed course of action in
order to assess whether it is ‘feasible’ (possible).
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iii. plans which outline a future course of action or development.

iv proposals which suggest or recommend a future course of action

The Direct/Indirect Approach for business reports

Reports, like business letters, may adopt either a direct or an indirect approach, depending on
the kind of audience response which is anticipated. If the response is expected to be positive or
neutral, the direct approach is preferred, as it is easier to understand. The report often begins
with the ‘operative’ part : the conclusions which are reached, or the recommendations which are
offered. Sometimes, a summary of the key findings may be used to preface the report, specially
if the report is long.

The indirect approach is preferred, however, if a negative response is anticipated. The operative
part of the report – the conclusions and/or recommendations -- is delayed and comes only at the
end. The supporting facts, arguments and other details are introduced first.

The structure of a report

a. Informational reports

Since informational are mainly concerned with communicating facts, which are non-controversial,
the direct approach can be adopted here. However, facts must be supported by ‘hard data’
(statistics) if they are to be seen as reliable.

The challenge in writing an informational report is to make it easily comprehensible to the reader.
Information has to be presented logically. For example, if the report refers to events, they are
presented in chronological order.

b. analytical

If the audience response is expected to be positive, the direct response is adopted. The
conclusions and recommendations, which would normally be placed at the end, are highlighted
by placing them at the beginning of the report.

If the audience response is expected to be negative, the supporting facts, data, arguments etc.
which lead up to the conclusions and recommendations are presented first, so that the audience
is better prepared to receive the conclusions or recommendations.

The parts of a business report

Business reports commonly consist of a number of ‘parts’. Each part should be clearly ‘sign-
posted’, by using appropriate headings. The parts of a report should be numbered for
convenience.

The following is a description of the parts that are commonly found in reports. Not all reports
contain all these parts, however : some parts may be missing. The order in which these parts are
presented may also vary.

1 Executive Summary

If the report is a long one, it commonly begins with a brief ‘Executive Summary’ which clearly
sums up (often in ‘point’ form, using ‘bullets’ ) the important issues/questions being discussed in
127

the report as well as the main findings, conclusions and recommendations. It provides readers
with a ‘road map’ which helps them to find their way through the report.

2 Introduction/ Background

Most business reports, with the exception of very short memo-reports written for internal
consumption, have to present some background information to the reader so that the ‘new’
information which is being communicated can be easily understood. Reports commonly contain
an “Introduction” which provides background information and helps to identify the central issues
raised in the report.

3 The facts

Facts are important for all reports. The facts must be clearly stated, no matter whether they are
pleasant or unpleasant, welcome or unwelcome. Generally, however, the ‘good news’ is
communicated before the ‘bad news’.

4 The evidence

Facts may not be credible unless they are supported by evidence or data. The supporting
evidence must be provide.

5 The sources of data

What are the sources from which data have been gathered ? The secondary sources (books,
documents, reports etc.) must be cited. If the data has come from empirical investigation, the
methods, procedures and instruments used to collect data should be described. Appendices to
the report should be provided, giving details of the investigation.

6 Analysis and interpretation of data

Facts and figures need to be analyzed and interpreted. What are the implications ? To what
conclusions do the data lead us ?

7 Conclusions

The findings and conclusions must be clearly and precisely stated.

8 Recommendations

What action is recommended on the basis of the report ?

9 Limitations of the report and suggestions for further inquiry

The writer of the report may not have had sufficient time to collect data, because of constraints.
Certain important sources of data may not have been available. The limitations of the report
have to be spelt out by the writer and suggestions made for further inquiries/investigations.

Samples of business reports

1 Internal informational report (memo format)

UNITEL COMMUNICATIONS
128

INTERNAL MEMO

TO Director HRD
FROM Regional Manager, Madhya Pradesh
DATE 05 September 2008-12-15
SUBJECT High absenteeism in Dewas branch

Abseentism figures in our Dewas branch were unusually high during August this year. On
average, about 25 percent of the employees were absent from the office on any given day.

The reason most commonly stated was lack of convenient transport. Employees living in outlying
areas are often unable to come to the office as bus services in Dewas are irregular.

I have contacted the Manager of the local transport company who has promised to provide
additional buses on this route.

This is for your information.

2 Internal analytical report (memo format)

SPECTRAVISION ELECTRONICS

Internal memo

TO Chief Marketing Manager


FROM Ravi Kumar, Deputy Manager, Lucknow Region
DATE 22 June 2007
SUBJECT Declining sales of TVL refrigerators

1 During the first quarter of 2007, we sold 4600 units of TVL refrigerators imported from China.
Sales figures during the current quarter have been disappointing, however. To date, we have
sold only 2200 units -- a decline of nearly 60 percent.

2 My sales staff and I have conducted an informal customer survey during the past three
months to find out the reason. We were able to contact about 800 of the customers, mostly from
rural areas, who bought TVL refrigerators from us. 65 percent of them reported frequent
breakdown of the compressor units. Replacements are not readily available as spares have to
be imported. Customers said, however, that they find the prices very attractive.

3 The importers in Mumbai may be asked to improve the supply of compressor units to
regional distributors or sales may go down further.

3 External informational report (letter format)


129

VIDARBHA VANIJYA BANK


NAGPUR 513260

25 February 2008

Dear Customer

We are happy to announce that the Vidarbha Vanijya Bank, which has its head-office in Nagpur,
is planning to start operations in Orissa very soon. Our first branch in Bhubaneswar will be
inaugurated by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Orissa on 15 September 2008.

The Vidarbha Vanijya Bank was started in the year 1916 in Nagpur by Sri Parvez Personji, a
distinguished industrialist and banker. It was launched with a seed capital of only Rs.1.00 lakhs,
but today the total business of the bank is worth Rs 22,000 crores. Our total deposits as on
31.12.2007 stood at Rs. 12,549 crores and total advances at Rs. 9528 crores.

The bank has a Credit Adequacy Ratio of 12.58 percent as against the RBI stipulated norm of 9
percent.

The bank has lowest NPA ratios in the country at 0.18 percent.

Over the past 4 years, the bank has declared over 100 percent dividends.

Our vision is to serve our customers by delivering innovative products and services at affordable
rates, through a country-wide branch network.

We look forward to receiving your patronge. For more information about the bank and its
products, please log on to : www.vvb. Co.in

Yours sincerely,

(signed) G.M. Patel


Managing Director
130

4 External analytical report

Covering letter

CHATTERJI AND MOHAPATRA


BUSINESS CONSULTANTS
5 Chowinghee Lane
KOLKATA 400 027
Tel. (033)-81336407

15 November 2008

Mr. M.N.Kundu
Director, Operations
Konark Auto
Bhubaneswar 751009

Subject : Preliminary feasilibilty report on proposed 2-wheeler plant in Orissa

Dear Mr Kundu

We were commissioned by Konark Auto in September 2008 to produce a feasibility report on the
proposal to set up manufacturing plant for two-wheelers in Orissa. We are pleased to send you
this brief preliminary report. A detailed report is being prepared and will be submitted to you by
the end of December 2008.

Assuring you of our best services at all times,

Sincerely

(Bhaskar Mohapatra)
Managing Director

Enclos. Preliminary feasibility report

PRELIMINARY FEASIBILITY REPORT

1. Objective

i. to investigate whether the demand for two-wheelers is sufficient to justify the setting up of a
manufacturing plant in Orissa and, if so, what should be the scale of operations of the proposed
plant.
131

ii to make recommendations for the setting up of the plant, the scale of its operations and the
type of product that should be manufactured

2 Summary of findings

Our preliminary investigations suggest that the demand for 2-wheelers in Orissa is not sufficiently
strong at the present time to warrant the setting up of a manufacturing plant in the state.
However, sufficient demand may be generated in about 5 years’ time, particularly in the rural
areas of southern and western Orissa, to justify the setting up of a modest manufacturing unit
with a capacity of 10,000 two-wheelers per month. The ideal product would be a 100 cc
motorcycle in the 25-30,000 price range, with a fuel consumption of 100 kmpl.

3 Methods used in investigation

i. analysis of sales figures

Our investigators analyzed the sales figures of motorcycles in the 100-125 cc as well as scooters
in the 50-100 cc range over the past 3 years, in 5 selected districts of Orissa, to assess the
demand trends.

Sales figures were not directly available as two-wheeler dealers were reluctant to reveal them.
However, we were able to obtain figures relating to the registration of new motorcycles and
scooters from the offices of the Regional Transport Officers. These figures are a reliable indicator
of the sales of 2-wheelers.

The districts selected for the investigation were Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Cuttack, Ganjam and
Sambalpur. This ensured that the entire state was represented.

ii personal interviews with consumers

Our investigators contacted buyers as well as potential buyers of 2-wheelers in the selected
districts, in rural as well as urban areas, to assess current and future demand through personal
interviews.

The categories of buyers who were contacted included :

a government employees
b college and school students
c self-employed businessmen

Respondents were asked :

a. if they owned 2-wheelers (with details of the machines)


b. whether they planned to buy a 2-wheeler within the next 2 years
c. their reasons for wanting to buy 2-wheelers
d. the kind of machine they would like to buy
e. the problems they foresaw in owning 2-wheelers

iii interviews with auto-finance companies


Figures obtained from RTO offices revealed that 85 percent of the 2-wheelers registered
during the last 3 years were purchased under hire-purchase schemes of various auto-finance
companies. Accordingly, our investigators contacted 25 auto-finance companies in the state
to find out :
132

a whether the number of applications for auto-finance was rising or declining ;


b how many buyers who had taken loans had defaulted in repayments ;
c the reasons for default.

iv meetings with executives of major 2-wheeler manufacturers

Between 20-25 October 2008, my partner Mr Snehesh Chatterji and I met the MDs of Bajaj
Auto in Pune and Hero Honda in Gurgaon to collect data on the production of 2-wheelers in
their factories. Our objective was to get their views on the feasibility of setting up a 2- wheeler
plant in Orissa.

4 Our findings

i The sale and registration of 2-wheelers in Orissa has been declining steadily over the
past 3 years, showing a fall in demand. This trend is likely to continue for another 3-5 years.

ii Most buyers depend on auto-finance companies, but these companies are at


present reluctant to give out loans because of the high rate of default.

iii The demand for 2-wheelers is greater in the rural areas of Orissa than in the urban
areas. However, potential buyers feel discouraged because of the lack of service facilities for
their vehicles.

iv The general feeling is that there may be a sharp increase in the demand for 2-
wheelers after about 5 years if there is greater industrial growth in the state, which seems
likely.

5 Recommendations

On the basis of our preliminary findings, we would recommend that Konark Auto defer its
plans for setting up a 2-wheeler plant in Orissa until 2013, when the demand for 2-wheelers
is expected to rise by at least 200 percent.

(Signed)
Bhaskar Mohapatra
Managing Director
Chatterji and Mohapatra

Activity

1 The Principal of your college has been receiving many complaints from students about
the poor food and service provided by the canteen. He has appointed you the Convener of a
team of 3 students which has been asked to inquire into these complaints, report on the
functioning of the canteen and make suggestions for improvement.

Draft a report to be submitted to the Principal, in 300-500 words, in either memo


or letter format.

2 Two computer dealers have tendered for a contract to supply laptop computers which will
be distributed free to all the students of your college. Your principal asks you to evaluate the
two brands of computers which are being offered (call them Brand X and Brand Y) and
submit a report recommending the purchase of one of them.
133

Draft a report in 300-500 words, in letter format.

3 Imagine that you are the Secretary of the Student Welfare Committee in your college.
The head of a firm of educational consultants in Hyderabad, which offers on-line tutorial
courses in different subjects to students of professional colleges, has written to you to find
out what kind of on-line tutorial courses would be of interest to the students in your college.

Draft a reply in about 300-500 words, making a review of student needs and suggesting what
kinds of courses would be useful.
134

PART V

SOFT SKILLS
135

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCING THE SOFT SKILLS

In today’s competitive world, people who rise to the top of their professions require outstanding
technical and professional skills which define their ‘core competencies’. A successful software
engineer, for example, must have proven expertise in designing software packages ; an effective
business manager must be able to achieve growth with profitability, and so on. These technical
skills, which are acquired through professional education, training and on-the-job experience, are
referred to as hard skills.

However, it is becoming increasingly evident that ‘hard skills’ are not enough. Technocrats may
be technically competent, but unless they are able to interact effectively with people, their
technical skills may remain unutilized. A second set of skills is required for professionals, which
has more to do with human feelings than with industrial or managerial processes. These are
referred to as soft skills or ‘people skills’.

The term ‘soft skills’ refers to a cluster of personality traits, social graces, facility with language,
personal habits and attitudes of friendliness, optimism etc. and includes competencies in the
areas of Leadership, Ability to work in a Team, Articulateness, Assertiveness, Basic Etiquette
etc. These skills determine a person’s ability to fit into a given social structure, such as a
business corporation, a project team or even a music group. They enable an executive to
balance the needs of an organization with those of its employees and to acquire the flexibility
necessary to collaborate with others in meeting the changing needs of the organization. Soft
skills also include ‘Lateral Thinking’ (de Bono), which to ability to see things from a fresh and
innovative point of view, not tied down to conventional approaches to problems.

Corporate organizations across the globe have realized that soft skills are indispensible for
success in business and are making enormous investments in HRD activities designed to foster
desired values and attitudes in their employees, in addition to professional knowledge and skills.
Competencies are assessed not just on professional skills but on a whole range of soft skills,
which determine how well employees can relate to and communicate with others. The
profitability of organizations, particularly those that rely on frequent face-to-face dealing with
customers, depends on the ability of their staff to use these skills, which are increasingly sought
by employers.

The soft skills which we shall focus on in this part of the book include :

• Leadership skills
• Assertiveness
• ‘Teamsmanship’ (the ability to function effectively as a ‘team-player’)
• Time Management (the effective utilization of time as a resource)
• Presentation Skills
• the ability to participate in Group Discussions and Personal Interviews
• Personality Development
. Lateral thinking

SOFT SKILLS AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS


136

Soft skills and communication skills are inter-linked. Soft skills relate mostly to personality
traits and attitudes that enable a person to be open to others and to fit easily into a group. For
example, a person who is an ‘extrovert’ enjoys meeting and interacting with others, while an
‘introvert’ tends to avoid social contacts. An extroverted person may, therefore, be assumed to
have superior soft skills.

One would also expect an extroverted person to have better communication skills than an
introverted person, since we develop the ability to communicate by communicating. The more
willing we are to communicate with others, the more opportunities for communication we give
ourselves, the better our communication skills are likely to be. On the other hand, if we tend to
avoid others, we are unlikely to acquire these skills.

Soft skills help the development of communication skills but the converse is also true : a person
with good communication skills is likely to develop the confidence and the attitudes which can
help him/her to socialize more effectively.

It is difficult to separate soft skills from communication skills. The two sets of skills are
interdependent and have to be developed together.

We will now discuss the important soft skills which are essential for entry into the professional
world.

1 LEADERSHIP SKILLS

The ability to lead is essential for success in the corporate world. However, good leaders are
made, not born. If one has the desire and the will, one can develop into an effective leader
through a continuous process of self-study, education, training, and experience.

A leader should be able to influence others through the ability to communicate in a variety of
interpersonal situations, so as to achieve a given objective. Leadership qualities include beliefs,
values, ethics, character, knowledge and skills. Your position as a manager, supervisor or
team-leader may give you the authority to order people to perform certain tasks, but this does
not automatically make you a leader : it just makes you the ‘boss’. Good leaders do not merely
give orders ; they inspire and motivate followers, who should want to follow them and carry out
orders.

The people who respect you as a leader do not stop to analyze your personal attributes or traits ;
they observe what you do in a given situation so that they can know what you really are.
Observation can reveal whether you are honorable and worthy of trust, or a self-serving person
who misuses authority to ‘look good’ and get promoted.

The basis of good leadership is character, dedication to the organization and the spirit of service.
In the eyes of your followers, your leadership is reflected in every action of yours that contributes
to their well-being and, at the same time, serves the organization's objectives. Respected
leaders concentrate on what they are, what they know and what they do.

What makes someone want to follow a leader? People want to be led by someone whom they
can respect, and who has a clear sense of direction. To gain respect, one must be seen to be
ethical – i.e., fair, just and honest, and willing to do the ‘right’ thing. A sense of direction is
achieved by conveying a strong vision of the future.

The functions of a leader


137

The broad functions of a leader are to :

1. Lead : to propel people towards attaining their goal


2. Influence : to positively affect the team to achieve their goals
3. Motivate : to inspire and direct the team towards the goals set
4. Control : to regulate , govern, command and manage the team towards achieving their
goals
5. Assert : to persevere with the goals set, even in difficult circumstances, or in cases
where the goals are action-oriented and difficult to achieve.
6. Plan and Prioritize : to arrange activities of the team based on the relative importance
of goals

The role of the leader

Every team needs a leader. The leader may be appointed by a higher authority or may emerge,
through a natural process, in course of a team-activity. The success of a team is directly related
to the quality of its leadership.

Leaders are important because

1. they assume responsibility for achieving success


2. they make things happen
3. they act as role models
4. they serve as catalysts
5. they direct follower-behaviour
6. they select right strategies
7. they build confidence

Principles of leadership
In order to be, to know, and to do, one should follow these eleven principles of leadership:

1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement You must develop a thorough


understanding of your own ‘be-know-do’ attributes – i.e., what you are, what you know
and what you do. Seeking self-improvement means continually strengthening these
attributes. This can be accomplished through self-study, formal learning, reflection and
interaction with others.
2. Be technically proficient As a leader, you must have thorough knowledge of the
requirements of not only your own job, but also of those which your employees are
expected to perform.
3. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions Search for ways to
guide your organization to new heights. When things go wrong, as they usually do,
sooner or later, do not blame others. Analyze the situation, take corrective action, and
move on to the next challenge.
4. Make sound and timely decisions Use good problem-solving, decision-making and
planning tools.
5. Set an example Be a role model for your employees. They must not only be told what
they are expected to do, but also see it in action. “We must become the change that we
want to see in others.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
6. Know your people and look out for their well-being Know human nature and the
importance of sincerely caring for your workers.
138

7. Keep your stakeholders informed Know how to communicate with all concerned
stakeholders.
8. Develop a sense of responsibility in your co-workers Help your co-workers to
develop character traits that will enable them carry out their professional responsibilities.
9. Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished Communication is
the key.
10. Train as a team Although many so-called leaders claim that their organization,
department, section, etc. forms a team; they are not really teams. They are just groups of
people going about their jobs.
11. Use the full capabilities of your organization By developing team-spirit, you will be
able to draw out the fullest capabilities of your organization, department, section, etc.

The attributes of leadership


If you are a leader who can be trusted, those around you will grow to respect you. To develop
into such a leader, you can be guided by the following Leadership Framework.

1. BE

BE a thorough professional. Be loyal to the organization, perform selfless service and take
personal responsibility.

BE a professional with good character traits, e.g. honesty, competence, candour, commitment,
integrity, courage, straightforwardness and imagination.

2. KNOW

KNOW the four factors of leadership : follower, leader, communication and situation.

KNOW yourself. Understand the strengths and weaknesses in your character, knowledge, and
skills.

KNOW human nature. Know human needs, emotions, and how people respond to stress.

KNOW your job. Be proficient in your own job and able to train others in theirs.

KNOW your organization. Know its climate and culture, who the unofficial leaders are, where to
go for help.

3. DO

DO provide direction. Set goals, solve problems, plan and make decisions.

DO implement. Communicate, co-ordinate, supervise, evaluate.

DO motivate. Develop morale and esprit de corps in the organization; train, coach, counsel.

How a good leader operates

Some of the ways in which successful leaders exercise leadership are the following :
139

• Challenge the process First, identify the process that needs to be improve most
urgently.
• Inspire a shared vision Share your vision in words that can be understood by your
followers.
• Enable others to act Show them the methods and give them the tools to solve the
problem.
• Serve as a model for others When the going gets tough, get your hands dirty. A boss
tells others what to do ; a leader shows how it can be done.
• Encourage the heart Share the glory with your followers' while keeping the pains for
yourself.

Training activities designed to foster Leadership Skills

Activity 1 : Collage-making

Objective to enable participants to understand the value of leadership in a team effort

Material required old illustrated magazines, scissors, glue-stick, colour pencils and/ or pens,
chart paper.

Procedure

• Form teams of 5
• Give each team some old magazines, coloured pencils/pens, scissors, a glue-stick and
some large sheets of thick paper
• Ask them to cut out pictures from the magazines and produce a collage (collection of
pictures, arranged in a striking manner) on the topics assigned : for example – Business
, Leisure, Entertainment, Sports, etc.
• Give each team 5 minutes to complete an activity
• At the end of 5 minutes, ask them to make a presentation on their collage and what they
intended to convey through it

Activity 2 : The house of cards

Objective as for Activity 1

Material required several packs of playing cards (numbers depending on the number of
participants)

Procedure

• Form teams of 5
• Give each team half a pack of cards
• Ask them to build a house of cards, using cards from the pack
(The house must have at least two storeys. It must be self-supported and not depend on
any outside support).
• After completion , it should be able to stand, without falling, for at least 1 minute.
• Allow participants 3 minutes for practice and another 5 minutes to build the house
• At the end of 5 minutes, get them to share their learning from this exercise.

Learning outcomes from these activities


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While these activities are going on, one or more of the participants are likely to emerge as
natural ‘leaders’, guiding and directing the others. The activities are designed to help participants
understand the three major principles of leadership, which are :

1. Set clear goals


2. Select the most suitable persons to achieve these goals
3. Use interpersonal skills along with effective communication to drive achievements

2 ASSERTIVENESS

We often have to face situations which we do not approve of or find difficult to accept, but we are
unable to say ‘No’, as we do not wish to offend the other person.

One should be able to say ‘No’ when necessary, but in a manner which creates a ‘win-win’
situation for everyone concerned. This skill, which all of us need, is the skill of Assertiveness.
The message (‘No!’) is conveyed not just through words, but also through body language.

Asserive behaviour

There are four main types of group-behaviour : aggressive, passive, manipulative and
assertive.

The differences between these types of behaviour can be shown through a ‘simulation’, which
your instructor can help you to practice as a group activity with fellow-students.

The attributes of assertiveness

Some of the characteristics of an assertive person are :

frankness
self-confidence
clarity of expression
integrity
logical reasoning

being knowledgeable
being calm under trying conditions
being convincing
being authoritative when necessary

believing in what one says


expressing one’s views without hesitation

ability to say “No” in a positive manner

An assertive person

takes decisions
listens to others
is flexible
stands by what he/she says
expresses himself/herself without hurting others
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says things politely but firmly, etc.

Training activities to foster Assertiveness

1 One member of your group (playing the role of a male executive in a company) can ask
another member (playing the role of a female colleague) : “Will you come out for dinner with me
tonight?”

An aggressive response to this question/request would be to shout “No !”, loudly and rudely. A
passive response to the same question would be to murmur ‘No’ softly, in a shy and timid tone.
Manipulative behaviour would be shown if the lady were to say “Oh, where would you like to take
me ?” or “Oh, could we also go and see a movie ?” or to say, in a sly manner, “It depends on
where you will be taking me out to !”

The fourth response, an assertive one, would be to say “ Thanks a lot, but I’m afraid I can’t make
it tonight. Maybe we could go for lunch tomorrow.” Such a response would effectively prevent
any unwanted consequences, without offending the person asking the question.

Assertiveness is both a skill and a way of life. Being assertive does not mean that you are not
bothered about the other person or that you are interested only in your own gain. ‘Assertiveness’
is a communicative behaviour which sends a clear signal to the other person that you are not
manipulating a situation for a personal gain, but neither are you going to allow yourself to be
forced into a position or point of view which is unacceptable to you.

The activity suggested above is designed to help you to understand the need to be assertive, to
distinguish between assertive and non-assertive behaviour and show how one can be assertive.

2 Each member of the group (of students/participants) is asked to speak for 2 minutes,
introducing himself/herself. The manner in which the self-introduction is made will demonstrate
whether the person is assertive or non-assertive.

Discuss, through leading questions, what the characteristics of an assertive person are. When
does one need to be assertive and how can we be assertive ? What are the characteristics of an
assertive person who is admired ?

2 Participants, in groups of 5, present and role-play the situations described below.

a. You have bought a garment from a shop in your neighbourhood. On reaching home you
examine the garment and find that it is torn. You feel extremely annoyed as the salesman talked
you into buying the item, and you feel that you have been cheated. You go back to the shop and
talk to the salesman. He is reluctant to take the garment back but you are able, finally, to achieve
your objective.

b. You are a salesman and have been doing your work sincerely. You have helped to increase
sales by 50 percent in the last year and feel that you have earned a raise. Talk to your boss and
persuade him/her to raise your salary.

c. Your instructor has just returned your marked test paper back to you and you find that you
have been given fewer marks than you expected. You are upset as you know that your answer
was absolutely correct. You feel that the instructor has less than fair to you. How would you
convince your instructor to raise your marks ?

d. Your friend often comes over to your place to chat with you, droppings by at any time
convenient to him. You have not objected so far, even though it upsets your schedule
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sometimes. Today, you have an urgent assignment to submit and you really need to concentrate
on completing the work. Your friend arrives and starts chatting. How will you convey to your
friend that you are feeling disturbed and cannot spare time for him ?

e. You are the Chief Co-ordinator for the Annual Day function to be held in your college. You
have a team of people working with you and each one has been doing their best to make the
function a success. However, you find that one member of the team, Ravi, who is in charge of
logistics, is behaving irresponsibly and not keeping you informed of the progress he has made
and the work that remains to be done. Although you are irritated, you have to ensure that he co-
operates. How will you convey your feelings to Ravi ?

Expected learning outcomes

• If you want to achieve your goal without offending the other person, you have to be
assertive. (If you want to convey your message aggressively or passively, use an
appropriate tone. Always ‘back up’ what you say with how you say it)
• Assertiveness creates a ‘win-win’ situation
• Assertiveness results in an “I’m OK-You are OK” situation
• Adapt your behaviour to the situation. Develop the ability to get your thoughts across
without offending or upsetting the other person.
• Choose different assertiveness techniques, again depending on the situation
• Being Assertive involves :

expressing yourself with empathy


finding areas of agreement
keeping an open mind to enable you to consider different options for mutual gain and
support.

• An assertive “No” is simple and direct, but in a positive way


• Saying “No” does not mean we are refusing to co-operate. It means that we are focusing
on the conflicting interests of two jobs and conveying our priorities in performing tasks.
• Being assertive saves time and effort
• You cannot be assertive if you
lack self-confidence
lack belief in what you yourself are saying
are afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings

3 ‘TEAMSMANSHIP’ (BEING A GOOD TEAM-PLAYER)

Once upon a time, companies looked for strong leaders who could dominate ; but today, good
teamwork has become the accepted model for corporate functioning. However, not every
member of an organization has the qualities needed to become a good ‘team-player.’ This is an
important soft skill that professionals aspiring to reach the top must be able to develop.

A team is a group of people working closely together to achieve a common goal. Without a
common goal, a ‘team’ is merely a group.

To become a good team-player, one should be willing to share information, to listen to other
points of view and to respond constructively ; to respect and recognize the interests and
achievements of others and to provide support to those who need it. Good team players know
that each member of the team, regardless of his/her position in the hierarchy, can contribute to
its effective functioning.
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No one can achieve everything alone, without help. The players in a team usually complement
each others’ skills and are able, through collaborative effort, to achieve the goals for which the
team has been set up. There is shared responsibility, a collation of ideas and differing
perspectives in a team. Discussions take place, members become ‘sounding boards’ for each
others ideas and holistic solutions can be evolved.

Activities to foster ‘Teamsmanship’

Activity 1 The Human Pyramid

Objectives

* to provide practice in working together as a team on a specific task, making use of each
member’s special contribution.
* to increase the willingness of individual team-members to share a common goal, even at the
risk of some personal discomfort.

Procedure

Announce that the group is required to build a human pyramid. The rules are :

1 The apex of the pyramid must be higher that the height of the tallest player.
2 Every team member must become a part of the pyramid.
3 It must be stable enough to stand for at least 30 seconds after completion.

Say anything about using non-human supports such as chairs, ladders, etc. If questioned,
answer that you have laid out all the rules ; the rest is up to the group.

Watch what happens, without interfering. Note whether the group makes allowances for
individual needs or constraints: for example, somebody wearing white clothes that will be easily
soiled, or tight clothes that restrict movement, or a stiff knee that does not allow a player to
kneel.

Observe how the group makes use of individual strengths (for example, do the stronger
members act as supports for smaller and lighter team members to climb on? Does somebody
demonstrate planning skills in organizing the pyramid? Who helps who and why?)

Allow about 20 minutes for this activity.

Closing

After congratulating the groups on completing their pyramid, share your observations of the
activity with group members. Ask for their comments on teamwork. Who shoed team-spirit and
who insisted on remaining an individual?

End with a general discussion about :

• the nature of teamwork


• the differences between teamwork and individual action
• the strengths of teamwork
• the different working styles of individual team-players
• the decisions that had to be made and how they were made
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Activity 2

Divide the participants into groups and ask them to discuss :

• What, in their opinion, are the characteristics of a team (as opposed to a group) ?
• What are the basic ‘building-blocks’ of an effective team ?
• What is that makes a team effective ?
• Are there any ‘down sides’ (drawbacks) to working in a team ?

Expected outcomes

The discussion should enable participants to understand that :

• Each member of a team should have a clearly defined role and responsibility. The
members of a team bring a range of abilities to the task, as different people are good at
different things. Each member of the team should understand his/her role and
responsibility thoroughly, so that there is no duplication of effort.
• The members of the team should have a sense of belonging and identity.
• The team should have a clear sense of direction.
• Effective communication between the members of the team is the most essential
condition for its functioning. Team members rely on other team member to put the ‘big
picture’ together.
• There must be sharing of information, constructive listening, support, respect for others in
the team and recognition of the contribution of each member.
• There must be a common goal for all members
• The team must have a leader.
• There must be trust among all the members of a team.

To help participants reach this understanding, the discussion may focus on :

1. identification of the individual styles of the players in a team ;


2. the stages through which a team evolves and develops ;
3. the decision-making processes which are involved in team activity

Roles of team-players

The following are the possible roles that the individual members of a team may be called upon to
take on :

1 The Co-ordinator, who co-ordinates the team’s efforts toward achieving the desired goal,
utilizing the strengths of each player to the maximum
2 The ‘Shaper’, who directs the setting of objectives and priorities
3 The ‘Plant’, who advocates new ideas and strategies
4 The ‘Research Investigator’, who creates external contacts and explains and reports on
ideas and developments outside the team.
5 The ‘Monitor/Evaluator’, who evaluates ideas and suggestions and enables the team to
make a balanced decision
6 The ‘Implementer’ , who turns concepts and plans into practical working procedures and
carries out plans.
7 The Team worker, who supports the team, builds on suggestions and makes up for the
shortcomings of others in the team. He/she is the one who improves communication between
members.
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8 The ‘Finisher’, who ensures that the team’s goals are fully accomplished. He/she checks
details for completeness.

Stages in team formation

When a team is being formed and taking shape, it may pass through a number of stages of
development. The stages of team formation are :

1 Forming the stage of ‘discovery’, during which the team members get to know each other,
the nature of the task to be accomplished, the skills and abilities of the team’s members and the
plans which the team has to take up the activities through which the task is to be completed.

2 Storming the initial stage of discussion and possible disagreement, when the questions,
doubts and anxieties that people bring with them are expressed. Ideas are discussed in detail
and sometimes rejected.

3 Norming the stage when, after emerging from ‘Storming’, the members of the team learn
from the experience of working with each other. Guidelines are established for resolving
conflicts, making decisions, establishing interpersonal communication, completing assignments
and setting the roles of the team players.

4 Performing the stage when the team gets down to the task. Goals, roles and norms are
established and members become result-oriented. The team assesses its progress and takes
corrective measures as and when required.

5 Adjourning the stage of closure, after the goals have been accomplished. Team players
may be recognized and/or rewarded for their contribution to the team. Individual members
receive feedback on their efforts and the team may either decide to continue or to break up.

Decision-making processes in team functioning

In the course of a team’s functioning, several decisions have to be are taken, for which different
processes/styles may be adopted. Decision-making processes can be divided broadly into the
following types :

1 Directive Here, the team leader alone takes decisions and announces them to the other
members of the team. This happens mainly in emergency situations : for example, during a
battle, decisions by commanders may be taken at the top level and implemented down the line.

2 Consultative Leaders collect ideas from other members of the team, either individually or in
a group meeting, before taking the final decision. This is done mainly when there is a deadline
for a decision or a stalemate. The final decision is based on the feedback received and other
factors which may have to be considered.

3 Majority Rule The team members arrive at a decision by voting. This form of decision
making is usually adopted for routine issues such as the annual elections of a club, etc.

4 Consensus Here all the members of a team participate in reaching a decision, which they
are obliged to support. This process generates synergy and commitment by all to the decision
taken. However, it is time-consuming.

4 TIME MANAGEMENT
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Time, like air and water, is a non-renewable natural resource. However, it cannot be controlled in
the same way as other resources, such as capital or labour. We can only manage ourselves in
relation to time.

Effective time management not only increases productivity but also reduces stress and
conserves energy.

Some essential principles of time management are enunciated below.

Principle 1 Analyze and evaluate your own use of time

Start the process by examining how you spend your time. Only when you decide to take control
of your time will you have the power to stop wasting it. You can use the following techniques to
conduct your own time-efficiency study.

i. Analyze and evaluate your current use of time by breaking down a typical day into hourly
time-slots. Include everything that you do throughout the day, even the time you spend on sleep.
You may need to track a full week or two to get a clear picture of your time usage.

ii Review your time log and classify the activities you perform as time-wasters, obligations or
priorities.

Time-wasters

Time-wasters, as the name suggests, are activities that distract you but contribute nothing to the
achievement of your goals. Most time-wasters are activities performed out of sheer habit. They
create an illusion of productivity but actually produce few or no results. Eliminate them.

Obligations

‘Obligations’ are the administrative aspects of your job, such as preparing expense reports,
quarterly forecasts, and various other required duties. They are necessary yet unimportant
activities, usually performed throughout the day. They contribute only indirectly to your goals.
Obligations cannot be overlooked but you should be aware of the negative impact which they
have on your daily productivity. As you become better organized you can streamline your
activities, minimizing the time spent on fulfilling obligations. You may be in a position to delegate
some of your administrative duties to the support staff in your office.

Priorities

‘Priorities’ are the activities that contribute significantly to your productivity. They are directly
responsible for your results, moving you closer to your goals. Remember, companies pay their
staff for results, not activities.

Managing Time

Time management is a personal process. It takes great strength of character to change long-
established habits. According to the well-known ‘80/20 rule’, we get 80% of our results from 20%
of the things we do. This statistic supports the observation that we spend a lot of time on time-
wasters and obligations. Imagine the impact on our time efficiency if we increased the 20% to
30% !
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One definition of time management is ‘doing fewer things in less time’. Research suggests that
effective time management strategies can free up a minimum of two hours per day. For example,
time management studies show that we spend up to 70 minutes a day just looking for things. We
misplace files, reports, memos, and letters, and our desks look as if a tsunami just hit the office !
Clutter can be a huge time-waster, not to mention the embarrassment of lost or unanswered
requests. Your goal isn't to have a neat desk but to get organized so that you can convert wasted
time into productive time. With a clean, orderly desk, you'll improve your time utilization, working
on priorities. Your quality of work will also improve.

Ask yourself several times a day if you are making the best use of your time. Only you can
answer that question honestly. Restructure your day to eliminate the time-wasters and minimize
the time spent on fulfilling obligations.

As part of your time-efficiency study, you should determine the time of day during which you are
most efficient and productive. Know your peak time, the time of day you are at your highest level
of energy and efficiency. Not everyone has the same peak time. Some of us are morning people
while others are afternoon or evening people. Pay attention to your moods and high-energy time
of day to determine when you're most productive.

Having identified your peak time, use it to take up the most difficult or unpleasant jobs. These
jobs won't go away, so you might as well get them done when you're full of energy. Some
authors suggest doing them first thing in the morning when you're feeling fresh. This approach
works well if you're a morning person but could be disastrous if you're an afternoon person.

Effective time management has a lot to do with assertiveness (see above). Learn how to say no.
You will never have enough time to finish your own tasks if you're always doing things for other
people. Don't be afraid to politely refuse a request or task if your plate is already full.

Principle 2 Know your priorities

As you evaluate your use of time, the time-wasters will become evident, allowing you to rethink
your activities. A short working day clearly focused on priorities is better than a long day filled
with unproductive activities. Challenge yourself to be more proactive by prioritizing your tasks.
Take control of the activities that hinder your efficiency.

Most people have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. To get ahead in today's fast-
paced world, you've got to be aware of what time it is. It is not enough that you are doing a
particular job right ; you must be sure that you're doing it at the right time.

Principle 3 Be prepared to delegate responsibility

Do not attempt to do everything yourself ; you will never find enough time for it. Be prepared to
share your power and pass on some of your responsibilities to others.
‘Delegation’ is the process of getting some one else, of whose ability you are confident, to do a
particular job/role instead of you. Delegation helps to reduce wastage of time and results in a
more satisfactory distribution of one’s time.

The process of delegation results in developing confidence in one’s colleagues and increases
the amount of genuine teamwork which comes from shared achievements.
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Principle 4 Be pro-active, not retro-active

Up to 75% of our working day is spent in reacting to the needs and requests of other people,
such as clients, customers, managers, family, and friends. We are constantly bombarded with
demands on our limited time, leaving us unable to focus on our priorities, our own goals and
objectives. We never have enough time for ourselves.

Most of us habitually spend our days in reacting to situations instead of being proactive. A
proactive strategy means developing the discipline to stay focused on your agenda, your goals,
and your objectives.

A good tactic is to build flexibility into your planning. Allow time between appointments or
activities to deal with unexpected but inevitable interruptions. Follow the ‘60/40’ rule as a guide :
plan only 60% of your day and keep the remaining 40% for unforeseen happenings. If your
workday is ten hours, don't plan for more than six hours. If you pack too much into a day, you will
have to make cuts, deal with unfinished tasks, and wrestle with unnecessary stress. Remember,
goals should be "attainable."

Principle 5 Use the right tools

A professional is paid to perform a task at an acceptable level of proficiency. For this, it is


important to know what the right tools are, and how to use them. You may have heard the saying
"A carpenter is only as good as his tools." But surprisingly, many professionals conduct business
with inappropriate tools.

Most competent professionals use a ‘personal planner’ — a portable time management system
that enables you to organizing your activities, mapping out your week and, most importantly,
planning your day. A good planner includes twelve months at-a-glance, 365 individual day-
pages, a daily ‘things- to-do’ list, and an appointments section. Pick a planner that offers
simplicity and the flexibility to meet your personal preferences.

A planner, used effectively, not only buys you time, but helps you to ‘stay in balance’ throughout
your week, including weekends. Managing time is like managing a bank account. Imagine
opening an account at your local bank and not using your passbook and cheque-book to keep
track ! You might find yourself overspending and reaching a negative balance at the end of the
month. Without the appropriate tool to track your time-related activities, you quickly find yourself
overdrawn on your time account.

Time Management Activities

Some activities on various aspects of Time Management, which can be done in the classroom,
re suggested below. Try to apply the principles discussed above in performing these activities.

Activity 1 Time audit

Objectives The main objective behind this exercise is to document the ways in which
you are currently spending time. Audit and analyze where and how time is being spent, so
that necessary adjustments can be made. The idea is to bring about a balanced approach
to overall time management and improve the quality of life in all spheres of interest.

Read the instructions given below and follow the steps systematically. You have 45
minutes for this exercise.
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Current Utilization of Time (How I spend my time now)

Step 1 We are required to perform a variety of tasks every day. All of these can be listed
under five main categories. Colour pencils have been given to you. Indicate your colour-
code for each of the five types of activities in the respective boxes in the table below.
(Choose five light colours.) Then, enter the hours that you spend on each activity every day.
Enter also the total number of hours and the percentage of time devoted to each activity, in
the respective columns.

Sl Activity Abbre Colour Mon Tues Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Week Week
No viation Code Total %

1 Sleep SP

2 Quality QPT
Personal
Time
3 Commuting CW
&
Work/Studie
4 Family FY

5 Social/ With SO
friends
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Step 2 Plot the above information on the pie chart given below, using the same
colour-code as in the activity above.

Step 3: Look at your pie chart and read the two tips given below it. Then briefly
respond to the statements in the ‘self-check’ list below :

a. My personal satisfaction level about the way I spend time:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Poor Just about OK Quite Good

b. I feel I am doing OK in the following areas :

i.

ii.

c. I feel I am NOT doing OK in the following areas :

i.

ii.

d. Is the distribution of my time into different areas balanced? List out where the
imbalances are.

i.
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ii.

e. Do I spend enough Quality Prime Time on myself and my well being?

f. I need to improve in the following areas and I am going to make the following
changes:
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Activity 2

Questionnaire to assess ‘Work - Life Balance’

Fill up the questionnaire below :

Write TRUE (T) or FALSE (F) in response to each statement in the questionnaire below.

1. I find myself spending more and more time on work-related projects. T F


2. I often feel I don't have any time for myself— or for my family and friends.T F
3. No matter what I do, it often seems that every minute of every day is
scheduled for something. T F
4. Sometimes I feel as though I've lost sight of who I am and why I chose this
line of study. T F
5. I can't remember the last time I was able to find the time to take a day off to do
something I enjoy doing. T F
6. I feel stressed out most of the time. T F
7. I can't even remember the last time I used all my allotted vacation and personal
days. T F
8 It sometimes feels as though I never have a chance to catch my breath before I
have to move on to the next project/crisis. T F
9. I can't remember the last time I read - and finished - a book that I was reading
purely for pleasure. T F
10 I wish I had more time to pursue some other interests and hobbies, but I simply do
not. T F
11 I often feel exhausted — even early in the week. T F
12 I can't remember the last time I went to the movies or visited a museum or attended
some other cultural event. T F
13 I do what I do because people (family, parents, etc ) expect it of me T F
14. I've missed many important events in my family because of time pressures created
by my work / responsibilities. T F
15 I am usually behind in my task schedules and feel overstretched. T F

Self-check

If most of your responses are “T” : Beware, you are becoming workaholic
If most of your responses are “F” : You might need to focus more on your career
In between : You have achieved a great balance!!

‘Time-wasters’

Some common time-wasters are :

failure to plan
failure to set goals or setting unrealistic goals.
lack of priorities
lack of schedule
failure to communicate
failure to listen
unproductive activities : watching too much television, idle chatting and
gossiping, making unnecessary telephone calls,
day-dreaming, fretting over personal problems etc.
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stress and and anxiety


getting caught in unforeseen traffic jams, etc.
waiting for things to ‘happen’
perfectionism
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Internal and external ‘Time- wasters’

Time-wasters can be internal (caused by factors in your own personality) or external (caused
by factors in the work-environment).

Here are two lists of the ‘Top 20 Time Wasters’(in both categories). Study them, and try to think
of the possible ways in which they might affect your work.

Top-20 Time-wasters (Internal)

1. Unnecessary and unreasonable anxiety


2. Fear of decisions going wrong
3. Lack of a strategic career plan or work-goals
4. Low personal motivation
5. Lack of the knowledge or skills required for a task
6. Promising too much and being unable to deliver
7. Tendency to wait for others to start
8. Lack of planning and prioritization
9. Personally disorganized
10. Lack of self-discipline
11. Postponing (Procrastination)
12. Getting easily distracted / diverted
13. Leaving tasks unfinished
14. Attempting too many things
15. Lack of delegation
16. Inability to say ' No'
17. Taking too many breaks from work
18. Regular and long list maker
19. Finding it difficult to begin the working day
20. Difficulty in closing the work day

Top-20 Time-wasters (External)

1. Lack of work-culture and pre-occupation with crisis-management


2. Too many discussions / delays before decisions are taken
3. Delayed inputs from other sources
4. Faulty information channels
5. Lack of teamwork
6. Lack of well-defined systems and procedures
7. Work overload
8. Dumping of extra work
9. Waiting for superiors to give orders
10. Ad-hocism (lack of forward planning)
11. Lack of authority for decision making
12. Errors in reporting
13. Lack of resources
14. Lack of clarity about expectations
15. Too much / Too less technology / Lack of expertise on technology
16. Too many assignments
17. Too many visitors
18. Too many telephone calls
19. Duplication of work
20. Compulsory extra classes
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Some tips on better time utilization

1. Regard all your time as meant to be used productively


2. Find something that you can enjoy in anything that you do.
3. Focus on the positive aspects of your life.
4. Find ways to build on your successes.
5. Stop regretting your failures and start learning from your mistakes.
6. If something is important enough, you should be able to find the time to do it.
7. Continually look at ways of freeing up your time.
8. Examine your old habits and search for ways to change or eliminate those which need to be
changed.
9. Try to use waiting time to review notes or do practice problems.
10. Keep paper or a calendar with you to jot down the things you have to do or to write notes to
yourself.
11. Examine and revise your lifetime goals on a monthly basis and be sure to include reports
on the progress you are making towards those goals
12. Put up reminders in your home or office about your goals.
13. Always keep the long term goals in mind.
14. Plan your day each morning or the night before and set priorities for yourself.
15. Maintain and develop a list of specific things to be done each day. Set your priorities and
then get the most important ones done as soon as you can. Briefly evaluate your progress at
the end of the day briefly.
16. Look ahead in your month and try and anticipate what is going to happen so you can better
schedule your time.
17. Try rewarding yourself when you get things done as you had planned, especially the
important ones.
18. Do first things first.
19. Have confidence in yourself and in your judgment of priorities and stick to them no matter
what.
20. When you catch yourself procrastinating, ask yourself, "What am I avoiding?"
21. Start with the most difficult parts of projects; then, either the worst is done or you may find
you don't have to do all the other small tasks.
22. Catch yourself when you are involved in unproductive projects and stop as soon as you
can.
23. Find time to concentrate on high priority items or activities.
24. Concentrate on one thing at a time.
25. Put your efforts in areas that provide long term benefits.
26. Push yourself and be persistent, especially when you know you are doing well.
27. Think on paper when possible-it makes it easier to review and revise.
28. Be sure and set deadlines for yourself whenever possible.
29. Delegate responsibilities whenever possible.
30. Ask for advice when needed.

Activity on Prioritization : “Where’s the fire ?”

Objective to demonstrate the value of prioritizing items

Procedure

Ask the participants to imagine that they are working at their desks or work-stations when the
fire alarm sounds. The Director announces over the public address system that everyone must
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vacate the premises in 1 minute. Each person is allowed to bring with him/her a maximum of
five items from the office, which must be items that can be carried out easily (i.e no desks, filing
cabinets, water coolers, etc)

Ask participants to prepare a list of the items they would want to take with them. Allow them a
minute or so to jot down their list on a blank sheet of paper. After most people have completed
the task, discuss these questions.

Discussion

1. How easy or difficult was it to select five items?


2. Of the items you picked, how many were job-related ( i.e. policy manual, etc) as
opposed to those of a personal nature (i.e family photo etc)
3. How many of you had difficulty even picking 4-5 items to take with you
Why did you pick the items you did?
4. In what domains of your work life do you regularly prioritize items? Why, or why not?
Activity on Delegation : The Case of the Poor Delegator

Read the following story :

Rakesh Agrawal, the CEO of an automobile company, was presiding over the weekly
production review meeting when he was summoned by his Chairman, who had flown
back from the USA only that afternoon. The Chairman took out a book entitled ‘How
to Delegate” from his briefcase and gave it to Rakesh.

“That’s your problem, Rakesh,” the Chairman said. “You are carrying too much of the
load in this company. Read this book over the week-end and we will discuss it after
dinner on Monday.”

Rakesh was very upset and returned to the meeting fuming. “As if I don't have
enough work! ” he erupted. “Now the Chairman wants me to read a book on
delegation, in addition to all my problems. Okay, where were we? Yes, I was talking
about the grade of oil which I told you to use in the crankcase of …..”.

“ Hold on, Rakesh,” said Swamy, the Finance Director, “I believe the Chairman has a
point. No one works harder than you, but you do become over-attentive to details.
Mahesh is quite capable of handling them; it’s his job – especially at the salary we
are paying him! You tend to interfere with those to whom you have delegated
responsibilities – or at least, that’s how it looks to all of us. It is as if you don’t trust us.
You waste a lot of your productive time checking minor details and doing a lot of
routine tasks which others could do for you. If you can pass on some of your jobs
around, you will get more time to think about where this company is going in the next
few years. And you might reduce a lot of your personal stress as well” .

Rakesh replied with a smile “Swamy, you seem to have got a lot of people in this
room nodding in agreement with you ! All right, I will read the book - if I can find time
over the week-end, with all these things to do”. He tapped his bulging briefcase and
continued “Now, about that oil …….”

Procedure

Form 5 groups and make them discuss the following questions. At the end of the
discussion, make each group present its views on what they have discussed .

• What is delegation ?
• What is essential for delegation ?
• Why is delegation important ?
• What are the roles and responsibilities of the one who delegates ?
• What are the roles and responsibilities of the one who has been delegated ?

Issues and Insights

a Delegation implies transferring initiative and authority to another for


performance
of agreed tasks.
b Failure to delegate eats into our time. Delegation saves our time and enables
our
subordinates to grow.
c Never let subordinates come to you only with problems ; insist that they
should
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bring possible solutions as well before you start the discussions


d Always ask yourself ‘Why am I not delegating more? ‘
e A delegator needs to be a coach and mentor as well.

5 PRESENTATION SKILLS

Why presentation skills are necessary

In all business organizations, teams of professionals are frequently required to work


together on ‘projects’ or tasks, which are often commissioned by a client. Let us
suppose, for example, that a banking group requires a new computer software
package to track loans given to customers. The bank approaches an IT company and
asks for their assistance. The IT company appoints a team of software developers,
headed by a ‘project leader’, to work on the project, the goal of which is to develop a
special package tailored to the bank’s requirements, install it in the bank’s computer
system, and train the bank’s staff in its use.

First, the project team makes ‘on-site’ study to analyze the bank’s requirements in
detail and prepares a report or ‘proposal’ suggesting the action to be taken, the
estimated cost, the time required etc. This proposal has to be examined and
approved by the client (the bank), who will then enter into an agreement with the IT
company.

A proposal is often a lengthy written document, containing a lot of facts and figures.
The bank’s representatives who are expected to examine and approve the proposal,
may not be able to spare the time to read it in detail.

A member of the project team (who may or may not be the project leader) therefore
has to make a ‘presentation’ of the proposal, in a form which can make an immediate
impact. The audience will mostly be made up of the bank’s representatives, but some
representatives of the IT company may also be present.

Here we have outlined a situation in which a presentation is made with the intention
of selling a particular product to a client, but many other situations requiring formal or
informal presentations can arise : an idea may have to be explained or defended, an
innovation or achievement highlighted etc. Each such situation may call for a well-
conceived and executed presentation, requiring a range of language and soft skills.

Presentation are invariably made orally (in the form of a talk), in the face-to-face
mode. An oral, face-to-face presentation produces the highest impact as the
presenter can hold the attention of the audience by speaking directly to them, making
eye-contact, responding to ‘body-language’ as well as to feedback etc. However,
most presenters now adopt a multi-media format for their presentations, using
computer-generated graphics and visuals as well as sound. Every company employs
‘media experts’ to prepare such computerized aids for oral presentations. But it must
be remembered that the aids can only support the oral presentation and not replace
it. It is often seen that a presenter switches on the overhead projector and allows the
lap-top to do all the talking, merely standing by and watching things happen. This
happens mostly when presenters are not confident of their communication skills, and
it invariably reduces the effectiveness of the presentation.

The ability to make a good oral presentation, appropriately supported by multi-media


technology, is an essential soft skill for all professionals.
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The features of a good presentation

Think of some presentations which you have listened to (e.g. talks or classroom lectures).
Which features made them good or bad?

Prepare two lists : a list those features of a presentation which, in your opinion, are ‘good’
or desirable, and the other, a list of the ‘bad’ features.

Now check your lists against the following list of the features of a good presentation.

A good presenter

• knows his/her subject thoroughly.


• speaks clearly and with confidence.
• makes eye contact with the audience.
• presents his/her material in an organized manner.
• does not memorize the words of the presentation. (A memorized
presentation sounds stiff and unnatural.)
• chooses a topic in which he/she has a personal interest and isn't afraid to
show that interest. The best talks are those in which the speaker is personally
involved.
• interacts with the audience through questions and answers
• challenges the audience to rethink its ideas
• introduces humour where appropriate

The following are the ingredients of a good presentation :

• thorough planning
• proper structuring or organization
• effective delivery
• effective handling of audience-response and feedback

1 Planning

a. Determining the purpose

The process of planning should begin with an understanding of the purpose. A


presentation must have a clear and realistic purpose, which could be to:

• inform or describe
• instruct
• persuade
• entertain
• inspire

Informing / describing

Here, the aim is to provide information or to explain a situation. The content is often
rather general and factual. When the presentation is over, the audience should have
gained some knowledge that they did not have before the presentation.
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Instructing

In this type of presentation, the aim is to impart to the audience some knowledge
and/or skills. After the presentation the listener/viewer should be able to do
something that he/she was unable to do earlier.

Persuading

The aim here is to stimulate and motivate the audience to think differently. After the
presentation, the listener/viewer should be willing to believe something he/she did not
believe in before the presentation.

Entertaining

The aim is primarily to make the audience feel relaxed and happy, but there may also
be hidden goals, such as revealing an important truth or propagating a new idea.
Humour is usually a crucial element in this type of presentation. Most people find it
difficult to make a humorous presentation, because their humor is not always
spontaneous.

Inspiring

Here the aim is to inspire the audience to do something beyond what they considered
to be their natural limit.

To sum up : the main purpose of a presentation is to have the audience understand


and retain a certain amount of information which is passed on to them. You should
therefore have a general as well as a specific purpose. The general purpose is to
inform : to provide an overview, to present specific items of information, to outline
and summarize, to discuss the current situation or to explain how to do something.
The specific purpose is what you want the audience to take away with them after
listening to you : what you want them to do, what they should remember.

b. Selecting the subject of your presentation

The choice of the subject for your presentation should be determined primarily by
audience expectations. An interested audience is an attentive audience.

Some suggestions for selecting a topic:

ƒ Choose a subject that you are familiar with or, even better, an expert at
ƒ Choose a subject that is of current relevance and interest
ƒ Choose a subject on which you have a clear opinion
ƒ Choose a subject that is neither too simple nor too complex. A subject that is
too simple is often not very interesting, and you may not have much to say on
it.
ƒ Choose a subject that is neither too general nor too specific. General subjects
should be narrowed down (e.g. ‘Education’ could be narrowed down to ‘Urban
Vs Rural Education’)

c. Planning with the audience in mind


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A vital step in the planning of a presentation is to customize the ‘product’ to the


audience. The acronym “ AUDIENCE ” is a convenient mnemonic (a short and quick
way of remembering something). This acronym is expanded as follows :

A(nalyze) your expected audience : their background, skills, knowledge levels, etc.
U(nderstand) How well does your audience understand the subject you are going to
talk about ? (How much do they know about it ?)
D(emographics) What are the ages, genders and educational backgrounds of the
members of your audience ? If you want to add local color to your presentation, ask
about community organizations, local sports teams, recent news events or hometown
traditions etc.
I(nterest) How interested is the audience in the presentation ? Are they attending
voluntarily, or are they being compelled ? Knowing what induces the audience to
listen affects your ability to satisfy their desires.
E(nvironment) Knowing (in advance) the environment (setting) in which your
presentation is going to be made is crucial. If you are going to be in a helpful
environment that includes a room with good acoustics, a wireless microphone and
good AV support, you can pull out all the stops. But if all you can look forward to is a
cramped space without any of the above, you will need to adapt. Will every member
of your audience be able to see and hear you?
N(eeds) What are the information needs of your audience and what value-addition
can you make to their knowledge? To determine audience-needs, simply ask your
host and the audience members what they want from your presentation.
C(ustomization) Think of the specifics that will help you to connect with the
audience. One of the best ways to customize your presentation to the audience's
needs is to use specific examples of problems which they experience.
E(xpectations) By covering the areas mentioned, you should be able to determine
what your audience expects from your presentation, and then deliver exactly what
they want.

d. Putting it together

Remember, you are going to make on oral presentation. The audience will be
listening to you, not reading what you have written. When a reader is going through a
written document, he/she can always go back to something that was not clear on the
first reading. But this is not possible in a spoken presentation : there is no going back
to something that has already been said. In an effective presentation, the content and
structure should be adjusted to the medium of speech. A presentation can be easily
ruined if the content is too difficult for the audience to follow or if the structure is too
complicated.

As a general rule, you should not try to cover as much ground in an oral presentation
as you would in a written report. Make difficult points easier to understand by
preparing the listener for them, using plenty of examples and going back over them
later. Leave time for questions.

Give your presentation a simple and logical structure. Include an introduction in


which you outline the points which you intend to cover and a conclusion in which you
go over the main points of your talk a second time.

2 Structuring and organizing your presentation


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A good oral presentation should be well-structured; this makes it easier for the
listener to follow. There are usually three parts to a typical presentation: the
beginning, the middle and the end – or the Introduction, Body and Conclusion.
Frequently, however a set of Recommendations follows the Conclusion, adding a
fourth part.

Here is a set of convenient ‘rules of thumb’ to help you in structuring your


presentation :

In the introduction : Tell them what you are going to tell them!

ƒ Tell the audience clearly what you are going to talk about and why you think
your presentation should be of interest to them

In the body : Tell them!

Present your main ideas clearly, supported by facts, examples and illustrations. The
topics discussed in the body should be logically organized (e.g., from general to
specific, facts to conclusions, etc.)

In the conclusion : Tell them what you have told them!

The conclusion should sum up the main points of your presentation and put things in
perspective. For example, you can let the audience choose between two options
(e.g., ask them to choose between your opinion or a rival opinion).

In the recommendations : Tell them what you want them to do!

A presentation usually leads to a clear proposal or recommendation. For example, a


particular plan of action can be suggested ; or, a presenter who has discussed four
possible solutions to a problem may recommend the adoption, by the audience, of
Solution No. 2.

Here are a few ways in which your ideas can be organized :

i. in logical order (from a general statement to a conclusion, etc.)


ii. in chronological order (presenting past events before present events)
iii. from known to unknown
iv. from accepted to controversial
v. from cause to effect; problem to solution.

To structure and organize your presentation effectively, you should :

• prepare a complete write-up with examples, visuals etc.


• prepare an outline of what you will cover in your presentation.
• prepare speaker-notes which you can consult during the presentation
• prepare answers to expected questions.

Use the outline and the notes during the presentation. DO NOT use the exhaustive
write-up, as that would amount to a reading and not a presentation.

Rehearsing the presentation


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• Rehearse the presentation a few times, using the exhaustive write-up.


• Then, rehearse with the outline and speaker notes. Highlight the key points.
Raise your pitch when you mention the key points. Repeat each key point.
• Remember to keep within the time limit, leaving about 5 minutes for
questions.
• When you are confident about the content, rehearse in front of a mirror,
observing your own body language. Try to do away with distracting body
language.
• Rehearse in front of a small group of friends and get their suggestions for
improvement.
• Request them to ask you questions in an objective manner. Try to answer the
questions.

3 The delivery of the presentation

Some guidelines for effective delivery

• Make sure that you remember the main points and do not need to refer to a
script or a prompt-sheet
• Step up to the lecture-platform with poise and authority
• Survey the audience before you begin speaking .
• Pick out friendly faces and smile as you begin to speak
• Maintain good eye contact with the audience. If you need to look at your
notes, stop talking, look down, then look up and resume
• Keep your hands at waist level and allow yourself to gesture naturally.
• Avoid rigid body postures
• Always face your audience. Never turn your back on your listeners
• Articulate important phrases slowly
• Pause to let your listeners absorb information
• Vary your pitch for emphasis
• Keep your sentences short
• Be yourself. Take full advantage of your own personality and project your
unique delivery style
• When you have finished, say so and step down

People vary in their ability to speak confidently in public, but everyone can learn how
to improve their presentation skills by applying a few simple techniques.

The things to which you should pay special attention in delivery are : voice-quality,
your rapport with the audience, and the use of notes and visual aids.

Voice quality involves attention to volume (loudness), speed, fluency, clarity and
acceptable pronunciation. The quality of your voice in a presentation will improve if
you are able to practice beforehand in a room similar to the one you will be making
your presentation in.

Rapport with the audience involves attention to eye-contact, sensitivity to how the
audience is responding to your talk and trying to look at yourself from the audience’s
point of view. These things can be improved by practising in front of one or two
friends or video-taping your rehearsal.

Be careful in using the right type of language -- formal or informal -- according to the
setting.
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i. Introducing the topic

The beginning of a presentation is the most important part. This is when you should
be able to establish rapport with the audience and capture their attention.

Greet the audience.

It is important to greet the audience by saying something like:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen…


Good afternoon to you, friends …
Mr. Chairperson and colleagues …

Introduce yourself (name, position, and company)

It is helpful to provide information about yourself and your background so that the
audience can identify you and also appreciate your point of view. If the audience is
told who you are, whether you are the Director of a company, a student, a researcher
etc., they can begin to see things from your point of view. To introduce yourself you
can use sentences such as :

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Please allow me introduce myself…


Good morning everyone. I'd like to start by introducing myself. My name is … and I
am a the manager of…
Good morning, my name is …. I am a student at the IITM and I would like to talk to
you today about some of my findings in a study I did on…

You may want to make some acknowledgements at the start of the presentation. If
you have been sponsored, supported or encouraged by a particular organization,
trust fund etc., you may want to acknowledge their support. Your research paper may
have been the product of a collaborative effort and if so, you should acknowledge this
by naming your team members. (The acknowledgements can also come at the end
of the presentation.)

Signal the beginning.

Right/ Well/ Let's begin/ Can we start?/ Let's get down to business.

Introduce the topic

In the West, it is quite common for a speaker to introduce the topic with a joke, an
anecdote, a statement made to surprise people or to help them to relax etc. This may
or may not be appropriate in your context. You are probably the best judge to find out
what will go down well with your audience. Humour is difficult to convey and may not
always be effective. Furthermore, it should always be in good taste.

You can make a good beginning and get your audience involved in your talk either by
asking a direct or a rhetorical questions. Ask for a show of hands, for example, in
response to a question or present information in such a way that the audience can
identify with it. You can present an anecdote, an unusual or surprising fact, or an
example from real life to introduce the subject.

Have you ever heard of / seen...?


You may already know…
I feel sure that some of you…
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You may have wondered...

Present the title of your talk and introduce the subject

Tell your audience exactly what you going to speak about. Situate the subject in time
and place, in relation to the audience and/or its importance. Give them a rough idea
or a working definition of the subject.

Today I'm going to talk about...


The subject of my presentation is...
The theme of my talk is...
I've been asked to give you an overview of...
What I would like to do today is to explain/ to illustrate..

Once you have established your objectives, you may go on to formulate your content.

Why have you chosen to speak on this subject ? It may be the result of a desire to
persuade and convince your audience. Or, It may be to compare two or more
products, plans or proposals.

I have chosen to speak about this because...


I was asked to speak about X because…

Define the scope of the presentation

Set limits on the scope of your talk. Tell the audience what you plan to cover in your
talk and what you are not going to touch upon. Limiting the scope of the presentation
will avoid confusion or deviation from your main task. It also protects you from
criticism for not covering certain aspects or issues.

It is useful to give the listeners some idea of how long you will speak so as to
maintain their attention better.

I am not going to speak about...


I have limited my speech to…
I will speak to you for about 15 minutes …

(Professionals are very often pressed for time. The average person’s attention span
is also very, very limited. Hence the shorter your talk, the better!)

At some point you should try to find out how much the audience knows about the
subject, or what their views are on it, by asking a few questions. You may then have
to modify the content of your presentation, as you never know exactly what to expect.

Announce the divisions of your presentation

There are three things we have to consider : one …, two …, and three ...
I have divided up my presentation into Y parts.
In the first part, I shall provide a few basic definitions…
In the next section I will explain…
In the last part, I would like to present a practical example…

Invite questions and comments from the audience


166

You should also let the audience know at some point in the introduction whether they
may ask questions and at which point in the presentation.

I'd ask you to save your questions for the end.


There will be plenty of time at the end of my speech for a discussion.
You may interrupt me at any moment to ask questions or make Discussions.
Please stop me if you don't understand anything I say but could you keep any
specific questions until after I've finished.

Make a transition between the introduction and the body.

You should refer to your transparency/ slide or outline.

Now let us turn to point one.


Let us now move on to the second part, which is….
Now let us turn to the next point ....

Holding the audience's attention

The beginning and the end of a talk are what listeners remember best. The following
are some of the ways you can keep the audience's attention throughout the
presentation.

Providing the audience with clear sign-posts

When you are driving along a road that you don't know very well, you depend on
road signs to guide you. Similarly, you should guide your listeners by using
expressions to tell them where you are going. Indicate when you have finished one
point and are moving on to the next. Experienced presenters pause, change their
stance (their way of standing and facing the audience etc.) and the pitch of their
voice as they move from one part of a presentation to another.

Linking ideas, sections/making transitions

Indicate the end of one section and the beginning of the next.
That's all I would like to say about …
Now let us turn to…

Emphasizing and highlighting a point

What is very significant is...


What is important to remember...
I'd like to emphasize the fact that...
I’d like to stress the importance of...

Structure helps the audience to understand. Put your material into distinct parts and
decide on the best order (eg. logical steps in an argument) for presentation.

iv. The conclusion


The end of a talk should never come as a surprise to an audience. The conclusion of
your talk should include four parts:
167

• a brief reminder of what you tried to do in your speech and the means you
adopted
• a short summing-up
• thanks to the audience for listening, and
• an invitation to ask questions, offer comments or open a discussion.

When you conclude, do not do it abruptly or as if in a hurry to get to the end of your
talk. Signpost the end of your talk. This may take the form of a recapitulation of the
main points.

I'd like to sum up…


Now I would like to run through the main points...
As I have tried to explain through my talk, there is a need for ….

Or there may be recommendations or proposals that you wish to make:

I would therefore suggest …


In the light of what we have seen today I would recommend...
My first proposal is...

Do not introduce new information at the concluding stage. Only summarize the points
already raised.

Presentation aids and tools

There are a number of tools or aids which can be used to support a presentation and
to enhance the delivery of the message. However, these are not a substitute for the
presentation itself. Some of these tools or aids are :

i. Visual aids

Visual aids help to make a presentation more lively. They can also help the audience
to follow your presentation and enable you to present information that would be
difficult to follow through speech alone.

You should have enough aids, but too many aids can confuse. A rough guide is one
slide for a 2 minute input.

The two most common forms of visual aid are overhead transparencies (OHTs) and
computer slide shows (e.g. PowerPoint).

Power Point Presentations One of the most commonly used aids/tools. Power
Point Presentations should be used to highlight aspects of the presentation.

Some tips on making a Power Point Presentation

• Create an outline
• Use ‘bullets’. Do not clutter your Power Point Presentation with too much
writing
• Avoid ‘glitz and glitter’. Do not make the visuals too bright.
• Do not use too many colours
• Use charts and diagrams
• Check your grammar and spelling
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• Be careful with the use of sounds


• Practice your presentation
• Use a Power Point Presentation only as a support to what you want to say
and not to replace what you say.

ii Models

A model is a miniature version of a large object that one has to refer to during a
presentation : e.g., a building, an aeroplane, a car etc.

iii Flip charts

These are large, thick sheets of paper which are set up on an easel (stand) and
used by the presenter to capture a point of discussion or explain a concept. When a
sheet has been used up, it can be ‘flipped over’ and replaced by the next sheet. The
presenter is usually required to write on these sheets while speaking, and it is
important that the amount of writing should not be excessive.

iv Handouts

Some speakers give out printed handouts in advance of the presentation, which the
audience can follow as they speak. Others prefer to give out their handouts at the
end of the talk, to avoid distracting the audience.

Handouts are used

• to give detailed information (which cannot be put on an OHP slide)


• to remind the audience of something that was said
• to give the audience instructions (e.g., if you want them to do something
during the presentation)
* to provide information for a follow-up (e.g., a list of references).

4 Managing the audience

A key issue in any presentation is to win the audience over to your way of thinking.
While making a presentation, one may be required to address different kinds of
audiences, each of which may need to be ‘handled’ differently.

Audiences can be :

• argumentative always finding some reason to argue with you and contradict
you
• shy saying anything, neither to support you nor to disagree. (Such an
audience is difficult to handle, as you cannot tell if you are getting
across
to it.)
• positive (supportive) the type of audience which is quick and ready to
respond positively to what you say. (Every presenter’s dream
audience !)
• ‘know-alls’ the type which appears or pretends to know everything.
• talkers preferring to talk than to listen
• persistent questioners insisting on asking questions, even if they are
irrelevant or not of interest to others.
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Some tips on managing your audience

Win your audience over by

• making a friendly beginning


• avoiding confrontation with your audience
• showing respect for other people’s opinions. Never say “ You are wrong”
• admitting a mistake quickly and gracefully
• letting persons in the audience feel that the best ideas come from them
• trying honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
• acknowledging the other person’s ideas and opinions
• highlighting your idea

Dealing with questions

An important part of ‘audience management’ is dealing with questions. You should


show that you expect and welcome questions from the audience.

I'd be happy to answer any questions....


If there are any questions please feel free to ask.
Thank you very much for your attention and if there are any suggestions …
The presentation is now open for discussion …

If you have prepared for the expected questions, you can answer them comfortably.

• Use active listening techniques. Make sure that you understand the question.
• Repeat the question in your own words to check that you have understood it
correctly.
• Ask the questioner to repeat the question if you are not sure about what the
questioner had in mind.
• If the question is difficult to answer, ask for time and give yourself more time
by repeating the question and framing the answer in your mind. You may say
things like the following :

I'm glad you asked that question…


That's a good question …
Could I answer that question later?

• Don’t get into a conflict situation.


• You may agree with the questioner’s point of view but may still have an
alternative point of view.

I agree with you, but there is another way of looking at this question…

Evaluating Oral Presentation Skills


If you want to develop the skills required for making oral presentations, you not only
have to put in a lot of practice but also make sure that you are ‘on the right track’. It is
necessary that your skills be evaluated from time to time and feedback given to you.
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If you are a student in a professional college, taking a course in Communication /


Soft Skills, your teacher as well as fellow-students can give you regular feedback on
your performance. You should also learn to evaluate yourself, by asking yourselves
some questions and trying to answer them honestly. In fact, a lot of people now
believe that self-evaluation is the most meaningful kind of evaluation.

In the following section, we will introduce you to two sets of “Evaluation Instruments”,
one for self-evaluation and the other for evalualution by a teacher or observer ( who
could be a fellow-student).

A. Self Evaluation Form

After you have made an oral presentation, put down your responses to the following
questions on a sheet of paper :

1. Describe one thing that you did well in your presentation.


2. Do you feel that you provided your audience with some new information?
3. How effective were :
your delivery
rate of speaking
tone
pitch
body language
eye contact ?
4. How do you plan to improve your delivery for your next presentation?
5. Describe one thing that you would change/modify about your preparation of
this
presentation.
6. Discuss your rehearsal for this presentation. Did you practise adequately? If
you
feel that you did not, how will you modify your practice for your next
presentation? Be specific.
7 Provide an overall assessment of your presentation. Were you satisfied with
your
presentation? Why or why not?

B. Teacher/ Observer evaluation of oral presentations

The following table illustrates the incremental progression of students’ oral


presentation skills. ( The scale from 1-4 provides descriptions of ifferent levels of
ability.)

1 2 3 4
Organization Audience could not Audience had Information Information was
understand some difficulty was presented presented in a
presentation as in following the in a logical highly logical
information was presentation sequence and interesting
not properly because the which audience sequence
sequenced presenter could follow.
jumped from
one point to
another
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Subject Presenter did not Presenter was Presenter was Presenter


knowledge have enough grasp uncomfortable at ease, with demonstrated
of information and while presenting expected more than
was unable to information and answers to all adequate
answer questions was able to questions, but knowledge by
about the subject. answer only failed to answering all
rudimentary elaborate. questions and
questions. offering
elaborate
explanations

Use of aids Presenter used Student Aids were Aids effectively


too many aids or occasionally relevant to the explained and
no aids at all used aids that presentation. reinforced
rarely supported presentation.
the
presentation.

Mechanics Presenter made Presenter made Presenter had Presenter made


four or more three or fewer fewer than two no spelling or
spelling and/or spelling and/or spelling and/or grammatical
grammatical grammatical grammatical errors at all.
errors. errors. errors.

Eye contact Presenter made no Presenter Presenter Presenter


eye contact with occasionally maintained eye maintained eye
audience and read made eye contact most of contact with
out the entire contact, but the time but audience,
report read out most of frequently seldom
the report. returned to returning to
notes. notes.
Delivery Presenter Presenters’ Presenter’s Presenter
mumbled, voice was low. voice was spoke in a clear
mispronounced Some words audible to most voice, with
many words and were people in the precise
was not clearly mispronounced audience. Most pronunciation of
audible at the back terms. Audience words were words.
had difficulty in correctly
hearing pronounced.
presentation.

Personal Personal Personal Personal Personal


appearance appearance was appearance appearance appearance
inappropriate for reflected a lack was generally was completely
the occasion and of sensitivity to appropriate for appropriate for
intended audience. nuances of the the occasion the occasion
occasion. and audience. and the
audience.
Questions Presenter’s Presenter Presenter’s Presenter
response to missed some response to responded
questions were opportunities for comments and effectively to
inadequate. interaction and questions from questions,
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did not always the audience provided


handle was generally clarifications
questions adequate. and
comfortably summarises
when needed.

6. PARTICIPATION IN INTERVIEWS AND GROUP DISCUSSIONS

Personal Interviews and Group Discussions invariably form part of the battery of
selection procedures used by companies. These instruments enable them to identify
skills and personal qualities which are considered important in today’s business
world.

INTERVIEWS

During an interview, candidates have to face a panel of experts who assess their
competence and suitability for the positions for which they have applied. Candidates
are usually interviewed singly, although ‘group interviews’ are sometimes organized.

A candidate who is called for an interview has, in most cases, already been screened
and short-listed, after scrutiny of the ‘Resume’ (also referred to as ‘Bio-data’ or
‘Curriculum Vitae’) submitted by him/her in response to an advertisement by the
company. The Resume` highlights details of the candidate’s educational background
and professional (work) experience and includes personal data such as age, marital
status etc.

Objectives

The objectives in conducting interviews are :

• to assess the candidate’s technical knowledge, skills and basic personality


traits and to judge whether they suit the requirements of the job
• to assess whether the candidate’s general educational background, work
experience and abilities qualify him/her for the job
• to evaluate the candidate’s level of commitment
• to identify the candidate’s basic interests and career objectives

The Interview Process

In the traditional mode of conducting interviews, a member of the Panel (usually the
Chairperson), first takes the candidate through the details of the Resume submitted
by him/her. This procedure serves two purposes : it helps to identify the candidate as
well as verify the details of the Resume and, at the same time, puts the candidate at
ease, since he/she knows the answers to all the questions that are being asked. This
confirmatory check is useful also in filling up any ‘information-gaps’ that may be
present in the Resume and removing doubts and ambiguities : for example, if the
Resume reveals a break in the candidate’s educational career, the interview panel
may want to know the reason.
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The scrutiny of details usually shows whether the candidate is competent to handle
the job for which he/she has applied. The candidate’s technical knowledge is also
often tested at this initial stage through probing questions.

Once the verification of facts is over, the Panel usually tries to probe the candidate’s
attitudes, motivation and level of commitment to the job. A question commonly asked
is “Why did you apply for this job ?” Candidates may also be asked how much they
know about the organization which they propose to work for. The assumption seems
to be that a candidate who wants to be taken seriously will take the company as well
as the job seriously, and attempt to collect at least some information about both. A
job application represents a commitment that the candidate is about to make ; he/she
should, therefore, know what he/she is getting into. The interviewers may also want
to assess if the candidate is prepared to make a long-term commitment to the
organization : if a candidate has not bothered even to find out what sort of
organization he/she is hoping to work for, the chances are that this candidate will not
stay very long with the company.

Normally, interviews are held in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and seasoned
interviewers know how to put a candidate at ease. An interview is not meant to be an
obstacle race ; it may, in fact, be the beginning of a personal relationship.

Nevertheless, most interviews can become, at some stage, a test of the candidate’s
mental alertness and ability to deal with the unexpected, as well as to remain calm
under stress. A member of the interview panel will almost invariably ask a question or
make a provocative statement that challenges the candidate’s ability to think
rationally and stay calm. For example, an interviewer may deliberately try to
‘demotivate’ a candidate by painting a negative picture of the job that has been
applied for, in order to test the candidate’s professional commitment.

“Sell, don’t tell”

In the past, candidates appearing for an interview would have been advised to be
modest rather than assertive, and refrain from making high-sounding claims about
their own abilities. An interview was supposed to be a process whereby the
interviewer probed and discovered the candidate’s hidden talents. It was believed
also that no individual could be trusted to make an objective and accurate
assessment of his/her own qualities : the only reliable assessment could come from a
detached observer, which is what an interviewer was supposed to be.

But in the philosophy that drives the business world today, what an individual
believes about himself/herself has great value. Professionals are encouraged to
evaluate them themselves continually and draw up balance sheets of their own
strengths and weaknesses at different stages of their growth. They are advised also
to cultivate a positive self-image and to have strong faith in themselves.

This school of thought has had an effect on the manner in which the entire interview
process is conducted today. For example, when preparing their Resumes,
candidates are advised to highlight what they themselves consider to be their best
qualities and their greatest achievements, instead of presenting the painful details of
their personal and professional lives. Modern employers, we are told, have no time
for the details that candidates normally crowd into their Resumes – they want to be
told only what is of direct concern, which is “ What can this candidate do for my
company ?”
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In an interview too, candidates are often encouraged to “sell themselves” by


highlighting the ‘positives’. Self-confidence is valued over the traditional virtues of
modesty and humility, although boastfulness is quickly detected and rejected.

Tips for candidates

When attending an interview, candidates must ensure that they–

• arrive for the interview well in time, and appear relaxed


• are appropriately and neatly dressed
• have with them all the relevant documents (certificates/marksheets etc.)
• are familiar with their subjects, as well as with current affairs.
• are alert and attentive
• are courteous to the members of the interview panel
• do not show that they know more than the panel members
• are not arrogant and rude
• do not get into arguments with their interviewers
• do not attempt to bluff. If they do not know something, they should admit it
• listen carefully to questions and instructions from the panel members
• give logical and well thought-out answers
• maneuver the interview to areas of their interest or that they are familiar with
• look at all the members of the panel and not just one or two
• do not become unduly nervous

Interview Taking Skills

Taking the interview is the last phase in getting a job. The hiring company will call
you for an interview only if they are satisfied with your Resume (CV) and Cover
Letter.

In this section, we will discuss the skills necessary to take an interview successfully,
and the preparations that you should make for an interview.

Skills required

i. Communication skills

In an interview, candidates are judged by their ability to put their ideas across
effectively. This calls for high communication skills. Of two candidates with more or
less equal content knowledge, the one with superior communication skills will
invariably be preferred.

Listening and speaking are the two faces of communication. All good communicators
are good listeners. Apart from listening and speaking skills, your body language
matters a great deal in an interview. The assessment of your personality that the
members of the Interviewing Panel make will depend 70% on your body language,
eye contact and other forms of non-verbal behaviour.

To succeed in an interview, you need to practice the following:


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• Active listening (Refer to the section on Listening – Section B, Part II)


• Fluency techniques, and
• Positive body language

Preparing for common interview questions

Making a good first impression

The first impression you make on your interviewers can decide the rest of the
interview. It is important for you to be courteous and pleasant all through the
interview. When you enter the interview room, introduce yourself to the board and
greet each member appropriately.

The first question is often an ice-breaker to help you feel comfortable and establish a
rapport with the board. Don't be surprised if you are asked a question such as:

• How are you today?


• Did you have any trouble finding this place?

Such questions are commonly asked to put candidates at ease and help them relax.
The response should be short and friendly but formal, avoiding intimate or personal
details. Here are some acceptable sample responses:

Interviewer: How are you today?


Candidate: I'm fine, thank you.

or

Interviewer: Did you have any trouble finding us?


Candidate: No, this office is quite conveniently located. It wasn’t difficult to find.

or

Interviewer: We’er having great weather, aren’t we ?


Candidate: Yes, it's wonderful.

The following responses would be inappropriate :

Interviewer: How are you today?


Candidate: Not too bad. I'm rather nervous actually.

or

Interviewer: Did you have any trouble finding us?


Candidate: As a matter of fact it was quite a problem getting to this place. I missed
the turning and had to ask some people for directions. I thought I was going to be late
for the interview.

Activity
176

Discuss with a partner the positive aspects of the first set of answers and the
negative aspects of the next set of answers. What personality types do the two sets
of answers represent?

Getting down to business

Once the ice-breaking is complete, the interview begins in earnest. Here are some
questions commonly asked at interviews, with an example of an appropriate reply to
each question. You will find a ‘Discussion’ of the type of question asked and the
points to remember when answering the question.

1 Interviewer: Please tell us something about yourself, Mr X.


Candidate: I was born in Ahmedabad and grew up there. I went to school in

Ahmedabad but moved to Baroda for my B.Tech in Electrical Engineering. I


worked for a year as a trainee with MP8 Corporation and then joined Super Bikes
as Floor Supervisor. I was made Technical Manager in 2004 and am still in that
position. I am highly interested in sports, particularly tennis, and also enjoy learning
languages.

Discussion: This question is meant as an introduction. Give an overall impression


of yourself without going into too many personal details. You can mention your
educational career and achievements in sports etc., but the interviewers are more
likely to be interested in your work experience than in other things.

2 Interviewer: What kind of position are you looking for?


Candidate: I would be satisfied with any position for which I am qualified. Since I
have no work experience, an entry-level position would be quite acceptable.

Discussion: It is good to show that you have high aspirations but you should also
appear to be realistic in your expectations. As most good companies provide
opportunities for growth, it is not necessarily a bad thing to start at the bottom.

3 Interviewer: Are you looking for a full-time or a part-time position?


Candidate: I would be more interested in a full-time position, but I would be
willing to consider a part-time position.

Discussion: Make sure to leave many possibilities open. Show your willingness to
take any job matching your qualification and experience. You will have the option of
not accepting an offer if it does not appeal to you.

4 Interviewer: Can you tell me about your responsibilities in your present job?
Candidate: I manage a technical team responsible for designing two wheeler
parts,
using Autocad. I am also responsible for reporting the team’s progress to the
management and creating an interface between it and the management. I have
developed a time management schedule using Microsoft Access and Excel,
which
our team uses to meet deadlines. As a team, we are required to propose
changes in
our product line, based on detailed analyses of sales patterns. I also provide in
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-house training for new employees.

Discussion: Notice the amount of detail provided when the candidate is asked to
describe her job. A common mistake made by interviewees when describing their
jobs is to speak in over-general terms. The employer wants to know exactly what you
did on your last job ; by providing details you are helping the interviewer to
understand the kind of work that you have been doing and are capable of doing.
Remember to vary the pattern of your sentences when talking about your
responsibilities: do not make your language repetitive and monotonous.

5 Interviewer: What do you think is your greatest strength?


Candidate: I am good at trouble-shooting. When there is a problem, my boss
generally asks me to solve it. Last summer, the LAN server at the work-site
crashed.
My boss was desperate and called me in to get the LAN back online. After taking
a
look at the backup, I located the problem and was able to fix it within an hour.

Discussion: This is not the time to be modest! Be confident and always give
examples which will demonstrate that you actually possess the strength you are
claiming and can employ it when needed.

6 Interviewer: What is your greatest weakness?


Candidate: I tend to be a workaholic and become tense when a co-worker does
not
put in enough effort. Perhaps I should be more relaxed, but unfortunately, I am a
perfectionist.

Discussion: This is a difficult question to answer. The weakness that you mention
should actually be a strength. Always mention how you try to turn the weakness into
a strength.

7 Interviewer: Why do you want to work for our company?


Candidate: I have had 8 years’ experience in the 2-wheeler industry and feel it is
time I moved into 4-wheelers, where the work is more challenging. Sinceyour
company is a market-leader in designing suspension systems for small cars,I
would
like to be part of the team here.

Discussion: Get enough information about the company to prepare yourself for this
question. The more details you can give, the better you show the interviewers that
you understand the requirements of the company.

8 Interviewer: How soon could you begin?


Candidate: As soon as you like !

Discussion: Show your willingness to work! If you need time to join, provide a
credible reason.
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These are some of the most basic questions asked on any job interview. It is good to
provide details and examples, but do not overwhelm your interviewers with details.
When responding to questions, don't be over-anxious or nervous about making
mistakes in English. Faulty English can be forgiven if you have something worthwhile
to say, but even perfect English is of no help if you lack the personal qualities,
abilities and experience that the interviewers are looking for.

GROUP DISCUSSIONS

Group Discussions are, as we said earlier, an important part of the placement


exercises which companies organize to select future employees, as they help to
identify a wide range of soft as well as communication skills.

Group Discussions are commonly used as during pre-placement training as they


prepare prospective employees for an important function which they will be expected
to perform on the job – participating in company meetings.

Such meetings are an essential part of the decision-making process in modern


business organizations. Whenever a company is faced with a problem which requires
the taking of an important decision, a group of executives (or, sometimes, a mixed
group of the company’s employees) meets to discuss the problem from various
angles, in order to arrive at a solution. The people taking part in such a meeting often
have widely differing opinions and points of view, but they are joined together by a
common purpose or goal, which is to find a solution to the problem.

The process of reaching a decision or consensus through discussion calls for special
skills. One should be able, firstly, to present one’s views effectively. This calls for
good language ability as well as interactional skills and a clear mind. Company
meetings also bring out many of the other soft skills which we have been talking
about : the skills, for example, of Leadership, Assertiveness, ‘Teamsmanship’ (the
ability to function as a team-player) and Effective Time Management.

A leader, generally termed the ‘Chairperson’ or ‘Chair’, is essential for every meeting.
The leader should be someone who can not only help to generate discussion but
also regulate it, give it a direction, decide who should speak when, reconcile
differences, sum up issues and enable the group to arrive at a consensus etc.
Company meetings are generally presided over by senior executives who are
expected to have these skills.

It is just as important to be a good team-player as to be a leader at a meeting.


Everyone who goes to a meeting must be willing to join hands with the others in
finding a solution to the problem. Meetings must serve a constructive purpose.
Argument for the sake of argument helps no one ; one should argue to convince, but
be ready to be convinced. It is necessary to have multiple and divergent points of
view : a meeting at which there is agreement from the word ‘go’ can seldom be
productive.

Certain social skills become extremely important at meetings. Usually, people are
required to sit close to each other, in a restricted space. Physical proximity can bring
about its own problems, and it is necessary for the participants to feel comfortable as
well as help others to feel comfortable with the environment. Disturbing body
language may be in evidence during a meeting, where opinions are often forcefully
expressed : arms may be waved, tables thumped etc. Each individual has a
responsibility to ensure that the meeting is conducted in the right spirit.
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Ultimately, the attitudes that people carry with them to a meeting determine its
success. One must respect others and their opinions, and be willing to listen and to
accept, without compromising one’s own integrity.

A Group Discussion is not a debate, although it may resemble one. In a debate, each
debator tries to score points over his/her opponent and to prove that he/ she is right
while the opponent is wrong. A debate is thus essentially a clash of ideas. But in a
Group Discussion the participants are expected to collaborate in exploring the
assigned topic from different angles, building on each other’s understanding of it, in
order to arrive at some kind of consensus (which is also the expectation at a Board
Meeting). A Group Discussion is thus a team activity, although the members are not
usually instructed to behave as a team.

The qualities which the Observers are looking for in the participants include:

i. the ability to present a point of view logically, coherently and convincingly (as in
a debate) ;

ii the ability to listen to and be responsive to other points of view, with which one
may or may not agree. Basically, this is an admission of the principle that there can
be more than one way of looking at something and that no one has a monopoly over
the truth.

iii the ability to modify your own thinking when you see that there is some truth in
what the other person is saying, instead of getting locked into an uncompromising
position.

iv the ability to utilize the ideas of others constructively, blending them with your
own.

In addition, a Group Discussion may help to show up certain other qualities in a


participant which demonstrate good communicative ability. These are discussed
below.

There are about 10-12 participants in a group, and the time allowed for discussion is
short. Time is not distributed equally among the participants, as in a debate. This
means that some participants may never get a chance to speak while others may
dominate the discussion and ‘hog’ more than their due share of time.

This situation is created deliberately, in order to test certain important skills of


interpersonal communication.

Turn-taking

Communication must be a two-way process. When one speaker has spoken for
sometime, he/she is expected to ‘yield the floor’ – i.e., give someone else a chance
to speak. This is usually indicated by a pause in the conversation. For example,

i “It’s rather warm today.”

The pause at the end of the utterance indicates that the speaker is inviting the other
person to make a comment. The response may be :

ii “Yes, the weather has certainly changed.”


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However, the invitation to speak may not always be accepted. The first speaker may,
therefore, make the invitation more explicit :

iii “It’s rather warm today. Don’t you agree ?”

Unfortunately, some people have a tendency to go on speaking and not give others a
chance. It is useful, therefore, to have a Moderator who regulates the exchanges
between the members of the group. The Moderator not only assigns the topic but
also decides who should speak when, by nominating a speaker. For example :

“Our topic for discussion is the Anti-Smoking Law which the Lok Sabha has just
passed. Does this group think that this is a useful law ? I would like to invite Ms
Aparajita Rao to open the discussion.”

When the Moderator feels that the first speaker has spoken long enough, he/ she
nominates the next speaker. For example :

“ Right. We have heard what Ms Rao had to say on the subject. Now, can I ask Mr
Verma what his views are ?”

Such interventions by the Moderator make life easier for the participants, who do not
have to ‘fight’ for a chance to speak.

But in some Group Discussion situations, the Moderator does not intervene after the
topic has been announced. This is done deliberately, to make the situation more
challenging. For example :

“ The topic for discussion is : ‘ Should India have signed the 123 agreement with
America ?’ The topic is now thrown open for discussion”.

Making a bid

If no speaker has been nominated by the Moderator, each participant in the group is
free to make a ‘bid’ for the right to speak. Courtesy requires that the intending
speaker should not start speaking abruptly but should add some kind of ‘opener’,
which often takes the form of a request for permission to speak, as in the example
below :

i. “ Sir, may I be permitted to speak first ? In my opinion, …”

Here, the speaker seeks the Moderator’s permission to speak, but he/she could also
ask the other participants for permission. For example :

ii “ Friends, if you allow me to speak, I would like to say that …”

Once the discussion has warmed up, however, it is quite normal for participants to
speak without any kind of ‘preface’. A participant will normally wait for a speaker to
pause, signalling that someone else may speak now. But in some cases it may
become necessary for an intending speaker to interrupt the previous speaker.

Interrupting

There are ways of interrupting someone politely, which participants in a Group


Discussion are expected to know and use. Usually, the interruption begins with some
kind of apology, e.g. :
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“ I’m sorry to interrupt you, Mr Verma, but I think …” or


“Forgive me for interrupting, but …”

Disagreeing and Contradicting

Very often, a speaker may have to disagree with, or contradict, another speaker. One
also begins a contradiction with an apology, e.g.

“ I’m sorry to contradict you, Ms Majumdar, but …” or

“I’m afraid I don’t agree with what you have just said, Mr Rao. In my opinion …”

Expressing agreement or appreciation

Expressing agreement with something that a previous speaker has said, or


expressing appreciation for the way in which a point of view has been presented, is a
gesture that participants in a Group Discussion may be expected to make. For
example :

“ Friends, I must thank Ms Majumdar for explaining to us clearly what the dangers of
smoking are. But I am afraid she has taken only a superficial look at the subject. I
don’t think we can stop smoking just by passing anti-smoking laws. People have to
be made aware of the dangers that Ms Majumdar has described, and this can be
done only by educating them. Therefore, …”

Notice how this speaker makes use of the views of the previous speaker, with which
he disagrees, to build up his own argument.

Summing up

It is human nature to look for a satisfying ‘closure’ to every activity. If a Group


Discussion is left ‘hanging in the air’, with several different views being expressed but
no conclusion reached, this can be disturbing to everyone concerned. It is necessary,
therefore, that some participant in the Group Discussion should take on the
responsibility of ‘summing up’ all that has been said and suggesting a possible
conclusion. Usually, this function is performed by the Chairperson or Moderator – if
there is one. But in the absence of a nominated Group-leader, any one of the
participants can perform this function. What is important is that the proceedings are
brought to a proper close.

Offering thanks

A Group Discussion should end with an expression of thanks to the participants and
the other persons involved, such as the Observers, as well as the organizers of the
activity. Again, at least one of the participants should have the courtesy to take on
this function, in case it is found that no one else is available to do it.

Leadership Functions in a Group Discussion

In a Group Discussion, as in a company meeting, there may be a ‘nominated’ Group


Leader who is expected to lead and direct the discussion. Alternatively, a leader may
be allowed to emerge naturally during the discussion, without being nominated by
anyone.
182

The leader should be someone who can win the respect of the others without
arousing resentment or jealousy. The ‘leader’ will usually have superior
communication skills as well as personal qualities that can attract. Leaders should
not, however, be too ‘pushy’, or they will quickly antagonize the others.

A Group Discussion activity

Form two groups : one group of about 10 participants to discuss the topic and the
other, of about 5, to act as Observers. The Discussion Group should sit in a circle
facing each other. Give them a topic to discuss for 15 minutes. The topic is usually
assigned by the Facilitator (Moderator), but the group may be allowed to select its
own topic, which should be clear and understandable, so that it can generate
discussion from varying points of view. One of the group members may be
nominated as the Leader, or the leader may just emerge from the group during the
discussion. Normally it is the leader who co-ordinates the discussion and
summarizes it at the end.

Give the group 1 minute to get their thoughts together before the discussion begins.
They may or may not come up with a consensus, but the objective is to generate
discussion in which every member of the group can participate. A warning bell is
sounded after 12 minutes and a final bell at the end of 15 minutes.

At the end of the, ask the Observers to share their observations, which should be
discussed.

Learning outcomes

Normally, the Facilitator does not intervene in the discussion, but in case someone is
not getting a chance to speak or is too shy to speak, the Facilitator may have to step
in. The Facilitator may also be required to assign turns to different speakers, to
prevent everyone speaking at the same time.

A Group Discussion should be :

• clearly focussed on the given topic. There should be no ‘diversions’ or


secondary discussions.
• a sharing of ideas and viewpoints.
• a discussion rather than a debate. All participants should get a fair chance to
contribute to the discussion. It should be made clear to them that no one is
expected to dominate. Aggressive behaviour is not welcome.
• cordial and friendly

In a Group Discussion, participants should :

• convey their points of view logically, in a cool and composed manner, even
when they have to disagree
• give others a chance to speak
• be good listeners
• not interrupt others while they are speaking
• not become hostile or emotional
• not forget basic etiquette
• avoid becoming sarcastic or personal

‘ Body talk’
183

It is essential for a participant in an interview or group discussion to display


confidence and project a positive self-image. ‘Body Language’ is a powerful indicator
of one’s self-image as well as attitude towards others. When you are interacting with
others, your body language signals whether you are nervous and diffident, confident
and assertive, or arrogant and aggressive.

Although body language is mostly instinctive, it can be shaped, to a considerable


extent, through training. Professionals should therefore be aware of the different
forms of positive as well as negative body language.

Activity

Imagine the following situations :

1 You have come to your doctor for a check-up and you are directed to the
waiting-room in which other patients are waiting for their turn.
2 You have been called for an interview and are asked to wait for your turn,
along with the other candidates, in the waiting-room.

If you look around, you are likely to find the others in the room seated in different
postures, with different expressions on their faces. Some may be sitting in a relaxed
posture, fairly upright but not ‘ramrod straight’, leaning back in their chairs, with their
arms in their laps or at their sides, legs slightly extended. The expression on their
faces and the look in their eyes confirm that they are feeling comfortable : facial
muscles will be relaxed, foreheads showing no wrinkles or creases.

You may, however, find some people adopting a ‘defensive’ posture, indicating
nervousness, anxiety and lack of confidence. Shoulders may be hunched, arms
crossed across the chest, legs twitching or being rocked from side to side nervously.
Facial muscles may be tense, the look in the eyes showing anxiety.

A few people may also appear to be completely ‘laid back’, seated in a semi-reclining
posture, legs stretched out. They are usually the ‘over-confident’ ones.

Simulation

In groups of 4-5, practice different sitting postures. Think of a mental attitude or a


self-image that you wish to project. Do you want to appear nervous and passive ?
Imagine a person who has been pushed into a dangerous or threatening situation :
for example, an employee who has made a serious mistake and has been
summoned by the boss for a reprimand. How would this person sit while waiting to be
called into the Manager’s office? Experiment with different forms of body language :
try adopting different body positions, placements of your arms and legs etc. Do not
tell the other members of your group what feelings you are trying to project, but allow
them to guess.

Now think of a different situation, which might cause a person to adopt aggressive
behaviour : for example, an employee in an office who deserved a promotion but was
unfairly passed over in favour of a less deserving person. Again, experiment with
different postures and body positions and let the other members of your group guess
what feelings/attitudes you are trying to simulate.

Now repeat the whole exercise, adopting a standing position this time. Participants
should imagine themselves to be in a potentially stressful situation - perhaps talking
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to an important client, or talking to the Manager in a shop, complaining about a faulty


purchase.

When everyone has had the chance to practise these activities, discuss what you
may have learnt from them.

Questions that you might ask yourself :

• What negative postures do you habitually assume?


• What assertive, positive signals do you habitually send to others?
• How can you minimize negative body language?
• Why do you think it is important to project an assertive image through body
language?

Some points to remember

Posture Do you look relaxed and confident? Are you assuming an 'open'
posture? Are you exhibiting any unnecessary crossing gestures (tightly folded arms,
for example)? Are you standing/sitting in an upright or slouched position? Are your
shoulders hunched or tense? Do you 'lock’ your knees when standing? Is your weight
evenly distributed on both legs?

Distance Are you at a comfortable distance from the other person? Are you in
danger of either invading their personal space or being too far away to seem
approachable/friendly /confident ? Are you standing/sitting at a suitable angle to the
other person? (A 'head-on position, directly facing someone, can appear to be
confrontational, for example.)

Environment Are both of you sitting or standing? If seated, are your chairs of
similar design and height?

Eyes Are you maintaining appropriate eye contact when both talking and
listening? Is your expression relaxed and friendly?

Mouth and jaw Do you have a tendency to thrust your jaw forward when speaking?
Are you clenching your teeth or holding your jaw tightly? What expression does your
mouth convey? Is your smile appropriate?

Face Are your facial muscles relaxed? Do you frown? Squint? Scowl?

Gestures Do your hands twitch or flutter nervously? Do you clench your fists? Are
you forever touching parts of your face as you communicate? Do you fidget, or fiddle
with pens, jewellery, hair? Do you fold arms tightly or twine legs around each other?
Do you shift from foot to foot? Do you indulge in finger strumming or foot tapping? Do
you examine your finger nails, nibble at fingers or pick bits of imaginary fluff from
your clothes?

6 LATERAL THINKING

Imagine that someone asks you to solve the following puzzle :

A man and his son are involved in a car crash. The man is killed and the son is taken
to hospital, seriously injured. When he gets there, the surgeon takes one look at him
and says : “I can’t operate on this boy -- he is my son!"
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How is this possible?

It does not seem possible. This is an example of a fixed assumption blocking the
mind's ability to explore alternatives. Here, the assumption is that every surgeon
must be a male. But if you change your perception to allow for a female surgeon,
then the answer is suddenly obvious : the surgeon is the boy's mother.

In order to arrive at the answer, you have to give up the assumption under which you
have been working and open your mind to other possibilities. You have to look at the
problem from a different perspective rather than operate on immediate and obvious
assumptions.

The ability to look at a problem from an unconventional point of view, discarding all
conventional assumptions, is termed “Lateral Thinking”.

Here is another example of lateral thinking at work. Can you answer the following
question :

It takes 2 men 2 hours to dig a hole that is 5 feet deep. If 10 men dug a hole for 2
hours, how deep would the hole be ?

The obvious and logical answer is 25 feet. Since there are five times as many
workers digging the hole now, you would assume that the hole will be five times
deeper, the time remaining the same. You are assuming that each man will produce
exactly the same amount of work in the same period of time. But can you be sure of
this ? There could be a number of other factors which you have not taken into
account. For example:

• The extra 8 men might not be as strong as the first 2 men, or they might be
much stronger.
• 10 men are more likely to disagree on a digging method than 2 men.
• 10 men are more likely to hinder each other's progress due to competition
and disagreement on who should do what, etc.
• 10 men would need more room to work side-by-side, and so might decide to
make the hole wider rather than deeper.
• The deeper a hole is, the more effort is required to dig it, since waste soil
needs to be lifted out to ground level. There is a limit to how deep a hole can
be dug by manpower without use of ladders or hoists for soil removal, and 25
feet is beyond this limit.
• A wild bear may attack the men while they are busy digging.

The logical answer may not always be the correct answer. In answering a question
one should be prepared to go outside the obvious and consider other alternatives, no
matter how fantastic they may seem. The truth cannot always be arrived at by
following a logical, step-by-step progression.

The term “Lateral thinking” was coined in 1967 by Edward De Bono, the world-
famous psychologist, physician, writer and ‘management guru’ from Malta. According
to the Oxford English dictionary, Lateral Thinking is “…a way of thinking which
seeks the solution to difficult problems by using unorthodox methods, or elements
which would normally be ignored by logical thinking.” Edward De Bono differentiates
Lateral Thinking from vertical thinking, which can be described as traditional,
logical, sep-by-step reasoning. Lateral Thinking requires the problem solver to
explore different ways of examining a challenging task, instead of accepting what
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appears to be the obvious or most promising solution, and going forward. De Bono is
not opposed to vertical thinking, but he sees Lateral Thinking as complementary
(each make the other more effective).

According to De Bono, Lateral Thinking can be used for general as well as specific
applications in all fields (physics, mathematics, political science, social systems,
education, business management etc.) where we are trying to solve problems with
fuzzy or unknown answers.

Techniques of lateral thinking

The application of lateral thinking to problem-solving requires us to move away from


well-established or predictable ways of thinking to totally new or unexpected ideas.

There are a number of methods that can be used to bring about lateral thinking.
These include the following:

1 Random Entry: Choose an object at random and associate it with the area you are
thinking about.

For example, imagine you are thinking how you can improve a report that you are
writing for your boss. You cannot think of an immediate solution, so you look around
the office and happen to see an egg which you were going to eat for lunch. See if the
egg can give you some new ideas. The egg is a perfect example of packaging : it has
a shell to protect the important part inside, but you have to peel away the shell, a
little bit at a time, to reach the core. This might help you to think of ways in which you
can make it easier for your reader to reach the ‘meat’ of your report. But could you
have predicted the link between the egg and the report ?

2. Provocation: Keep away from the usual perceptions and provide a provocative
alternative (one that seems totally impossible). Think of the provocation as a stimulus
for exploring a new perception, and not as a ‘ready-made’ idea that you are offering
to others.

Here is an example of a provocative statement that leads to a new solution to an old


problem.

Cars should have square wheels

An automobile engineer is designing a new type of car. He decides to build a car with
square wheels, as he thinks cars should have square wheels. But is this feasible ?

When considered from the traditional point of view, the idea would be dismissed as
impractical and provocative. But a mind that is open to ‘lateral thinking’ would allow
the new idea to develop and see where it leads, instead of rejecting it at once as
impossible. Someone might observe: square wheels on a car would produce very
predictable bumps. If bumps can be predicted, then suspension systems can be
designed to compensate for the bumps. This leads to the idea of ‘active’ or
‘intelligent’ suspension. A sensor connected to the car’s suspension system could
scan the road surface ahead on cars with round wheels too. Every car would have
sensors to determine when it was going to hit a bump, and the suspension would
know how to compensate. The initial ‘provocative’ statement has been left behind,
but it has also been used to indirectly generate a new and potentially more useful
idea.
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3 Challenge: Challenge the way things have always been done or seen, or the way
they are. This is done not to show that there is something wrong with the existing
situation, but simply to allow your mind to explore other possibilities, outside the
current area.

For example, you could challenge the idea that a coffee cup must have a handle.
There is nothing wrong with coffee cups having handles, so the challenge is a
direction to explore without defending the status quo. The reason for the handle
seems to be that the cup is often too hot to hold directly. Perhaps coffee cups could
be made with insulated finger grips, or there could be separate coffee-cup holders,
similar to beer- mug holders.

There are many other techniques ranging from ‘Focus methods’ through to
‘Harvesting and Concept Shaping’. All these tools are practical matters for
circumstances where our normal automatic perceptions and pattern matching tend to
keep us trapped "within the box".

Lateral thinking and problem solving

Edward de Bono points out that the term ‘problem solving’ implies that there is a
problem to respond to and that it can be resolved. That eliminates situations where
there is no problem or a problem exists that cannot be solved. It is logical to think
about making a good situation, that has no problems, into a better situation.
Sometimes a problem cannot be solved by removing its cause. We may need to
solve some problems not by removing the cause but by designing the way forward
even if the cause remains in place.

Lateral thinking puzzles

Lateral Thinking Puzzles are also known as ‘situation puzzles’. They are strange
situations where trainees are given a limited amount of information and are then
required to ask questions, which a quizmaster can answer only with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The
general principles that apply when tackling lateral thinking puzzles are to check all
assumptions, to remain open-minded and to be creative in questioning.

Some examples

1. You are driving down the road in your car on a wild, stormy night, when you pass
by a bus stop and you see three people waiting for the bus :

• An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.


• An old friend who once saved your life.
• The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.

Knowing that there can only be one passenger in your car, whom would you choose?

Answer : The old lady. Give your car keys to the old friend and ask him/her to drive
the old lady to her destination. You can take the bus and enjoy the ride with the
perfect partner !

2. Acting on an anonymous phone call, the police raid a house to arrest a suspected
murderer. They don't know what he looks like but they know that his name is John
and that he is inside the house. The police force their way into the house and find a
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carpenter, a lorry driver, a mechanic and a fireman, all playing poker. Without
hesitation or communication of any kind, they immediately arrest the fireman. How do
they know they've got their man?

Answer : The ‘fireman’ is the only male in the group : the carpenter, lorry driver and
mechanic are women. So it has to be the fireman !

3 There is a man who lives on the top floor of a very tall building. Every day he takes
the elevator down to the ground floor, and goes out to work. Upon returning from
work though, he can only travel half the distance up in the elevator and has to walk
the rest of the way -- unless it's raining! How is this possible ?

Answer : The man is very, very short and can only reach halfway up the elevator
buttons (assuming that the buttons for the higher floors are arranged above the
buttons for the lower floors.) However, if it is raining, he has his umbrella with him
and can use it to press the higher buttons.

4. How could a baby fall out of a twenty-story building onto the ground and live?

Answer : The baby fell out of a window on the ground floor of the building.

5 There was a hotel where the visitors complained about the slow moving elevator
and how long they had to wait for it to come. It became so severe that the manager
was asked to do something about it. If you were the manager what would you
suggest?

Answer : The conventional answers could be : Call the elevator service center and
ask them to send someone to fix it. Warn the visitors about it. Change the system.

But the ‘Lateral Thinking’ solution is : Fix full-length mirrors in the landing, next to the
elevators. The people waiting for the elevator would be busy looking at themselves in
the mirrors and adjusting their dress, hair etc ; or, they would be watching someone
else on the sly... They would not feel the wait and there would be no more
complaints.

Lateral thinking as a soft skill

De Bono’s ideas have had a powerful influence on modern business practices.


Today, companies encourage their executives to find ‘out of the box’ solutions to
problems – solutions that would never occur to them if they relied on conventional
logic.

LATERAL THINKING TECHNIQUES

Think of alternatives: Often, with our thinking processes restricted, we tend not to
look beyond the obvious choice. By using the basic concept of Lateral Thinking to
generate new ideas, we can ‘look beyond’, at other alternatives.

Focus: Review and re-look the focus of your thinking. This, in the long run, helps in
developing the discipline of redefining the focus and sticking to it.

Challenge: This helps in breaking free from the limits of traditional thinking. With the
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challenges, we can realize that the present way of doing things is not necessarily the
best.

Random Entry: Using some unconnected input often helps to open up new lines of
thinking.

Provocation and Movement: Generating provocative statements stimulates the


mind, and can then be used to build on new ideas.

Harvesting:. At the end of a creative-thinking session, we normally take note only of


the specific ideas that seem to have practical and immediate value. With ‘harvesting’,
we are able to generate and capture it a higher level of creativity.

Treatment of Ideas: How are the new ideas developed and made to fit the specific
organization or situation context ?

How can you use Lateral Thinking?

Lateral Thinking techniques are useful in a variety of applications. For example-

• Constructively challenge the status quo to enable new ideas to surface


• Find and build on the concept behind an idea to create and generate more
ideas
• Solve problems in ways that do not initially come to mind
• Use alternatives to liberate and harness the creative energy of the
organization
• Turn problems into opportunities
• Select the best alternate ideas and implement them

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

In our personal lives, whether at work or in our day-to-day activities, we get to know
people who think and respond to situations differently. Some are good listeners, and
no matter what kind of situation they are in, they always seem to know just what to
say and how to say it, so that others are not offended or upset. They tend to be
caring and considerate. They are masters at managing their emotions ; they do not
get stressed or annoyed easily and have the ability to look at a problem calmly find a
solution. Even if no solution to a problem emerges, we leave them with a feeling of
hope. They tend to be good decision-makers and know when to trust their intuitions.
Whatever their strengths may be, they usually look at themselves honestly and can
receive unfavourable feedback constructively.

Such people are said to have a high degree of Emotional intelligence, or EI. They
tend to know themselves well and are able to sense the emotional needs of others.

Today, organizations regard Emotional Intelligence as a vital soft skill, which is just
as important to professional success as technical ability.

A large cosmetics company in the US revised its hiring process by focusing on


Emotional Intelligence. The result ? Salespeople hired through the new system were
found to have sold, on average, $91,000 more of the company’s products than
salespeople selected under the old system. There was also a significant reduction in
staff turnover.
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What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your own emotions, understand what
they are telling you, and realize how your emotions affect people around you. It also
involves your perception of others: when you understand how they feel, you are able
to manage relationships more effectively.

While ‘basic’ intelligence is an important element in achieving success, emotional


intelligence is key to relating well to others and achieving your goals. Many people
believe that emotional intelligence is at least as important as regular intelligence, and
many companies now use EI testing to hire new staff.

Emotional intelligence is an awareness of your own actions and feelings – and how
they affect those around you. It also means that you value others, listen to their
wants and needs, and are able to empathize or identify with them on many different
levels.

Those who succeed in most things that they attempt are people with high emotional
intelligence Others want them around mainly because they make others feel good
and they are able to go through life much more easily than people who are easily
angered or upset.

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, developed a framework of five elements


that define emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness: People with high emotional intelligence are usually very


self-aware. They understand their own emotions and, as a result, do not let
their feelings rule them or get out of control. They are confident and tend to
trust their intuition. They are also willing to take an honest look at themselves.
They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they work on those areas so
they can perform better. Many people believe that self-awareness is the most
important part of emotional intelligence.

2. Self-Regulation: This is the ability to control emotions and impulses. People


who self-regulate typically do not allow themselves to become too angry or
jealous, and do not make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before
they act. Characteristics of self-regulation are thoughtfulness, comfort with
change, integrity and the ability to say no.

3. Motivation: People with a high degree of emotional intelligence are usually


positively motivated. They are willing to defer immediate goals for long-term
success. They are highly productive, love a challenge and are very effective
in whatever they do.

4. Empathy: This is perhaps the second-most important element of emotional


intelligence. Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the wants,
needs and viewpoints of those around you. People with empathy are good at
recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be
obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing
relationships, listening, and relating to others. They avoid stereotyping and
judging too quickly, and they live their lives in an open, honest way.
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5. Social Skills: People with high emotional intelligence are usually easy to talk
to. They have good social skills and are usually liked by others. They make
good team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help
others develop and shine. They can manage disputes, are excellent
communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.

Emotional intelligence can, therefore, be a key to success in a person’s life, specially


in a professional career. As the ability to manage people and relationships is very
important in all leaders, developing and using one’s emotional intelligence can be a
good way to bring out the leader within.

How to Improve your Emotional Intelligence

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be taught and developed. Many
books and tests are available to help determine an individual’s current EI, and
identify points where change is needed. Some useful tips are :

• Observe how you react to people. Do you rush to a judgment before you
know all the facts? Do you stereotype? Look honestly at how you think and
interact with other people. Try to put yourself in their place, and be more open
and accepting of their perspectives and needs.

• Look at your work environment. Do you seek attention for your


accomplishments? Humility can be a wonderful quality, and it does not mean
that you are shy or lack self-confidence. When you practice humility, you say
that you know what you did, and can be quietly confident about it. Give others
a chance to shine -- turn the focus on them, and do not worry too much about
getting praise for yourself.

• Do a self-evaluation. What are your weaknesses? Are you willing to accept


that you are not perfect and that you could work on some areas to make
yourself a better person? Have the courage to look at yourself honestly -- it
can change your life.

• Examine how you react to stressful situations. Do you become upset every
time there is a delay or something does not happen the way you want? Do
you blame others or become angry at them, even when it is not their fault?
The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is highly valued - in
the business world and outside it. Keep your emotions under control when
things go wrong.

• Take responsibility for your actions. If you hurt someone's feelings, apologize
directly – do not ignore what you did or avoid the person. People are usually
more willing to forgive and forget if you make an honest attempt to make
things right.

• Examine how your actions will affect others – before you take those actions. If
your decision will impact others, put yourself in their place. How will they feel
if you do this? Would you want that experience? If you must take the action,
how can you help others deal with the effects?
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THE SIX THINKING HATS

In his book “Six Thinking Hats” Edward de Bono proposes a radically new technique
for looking at a decision from all possible points of view. It can be used to explore
different options when faced with a complex situation or challenge. It forces decision-
makers to move away from their habitual ways of thinking and can help them to
understand the full complexity of a decision and identify issues and opportunities
which might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Often, people who are successful think from very rational, positive points of view, but
fail to look at a problem from an emotional, intuitive or creative point of view. They
underestimate the power of resistance to change and hence are unable to make
“creative leaps”.

De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” technique can be used in all decision-making


situations. It has the benefit of defusing disagreements that can arise when people
with different thinking styles discuss a common problem.

Each of the ‘thinking hats’ is named after a color that is mnemonically descriptive of the
perspective that one adopts when wearing the particular hat. For example, the Black Hat
represents ‘the devil’s advocate’ – the person who becomes deliberately negative and
perverse when forcing others to think.

The six hats and the perspectives which they represent are:

• White : neutral; focus on facts


• Red : Fire, warmth. Emotions,feelings, intuition,hunches.
• Black : Judgmental, critical. Logical and negative
• Yellow Sunshine; optimism. Logical and positive.
• Green : Vegetation ; creative.
• Blue : Sky ; cool, in control.

How to use ‘SIX THINKING HATS’

Decision-makers wear ‘thinking hats’ of different colour by turn. Each hat represents
a different style of thinking. These are explained below :

• White Hat

With the White Hat, the focus is on facts and available data. Check the
information available and see what can be learnt from it. Check for gaps in
knowledge, and either try to fill them or take account of them. This is when past
trends are analyzed and/or extrapolated from historical data.

• Red Hat

Wear the red hat to check out your decision, using intuition, gut-reaction and
emotion. Try to think how other people will react emotionally and to understand
the intuitive responses of people who do not fully know the basic reasoning
behind a decision.

• Black Hat
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When using black hat thinking, check out things cautiously and defensively, even
negatively, adopting the ‘worst possible scenario’. Try to see why ideas and
approaches might not work. Black hat thinking helps to highlight the weak points
in a plan or course of action. It allows you to eliminate them, alter the proposed
approach, or prepare contingency plans to counter problems that may arise. It
helps to make plans tougher and more resilient, and can also help in spotting
fatal flaws and risks before a course of action is embarked on. Many successful
people get so used to thinking positively that often they cannot see problems in
advance, leaving them under-prepared for difficulties.

• Yellow Hat

The yellow hat represents positive thinking. It is the optimistic viewpoint that
helps to see all the benefits of a decision and the value in it, and spot the
opportunities that arise from it. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when
everything looks gloomy and difficult.

• Green Hat

The Green Hat stands for creativity. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which
there is little criticism of ideas.

• Blue Hat

The Blue Hat stands for process control. This is the hat normally worn by people
when chairing meetings. When they run into difficulties because ideas are drying
up, they may turn to Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed,
they will ask for Black Hat thinking, and so on.

Using the Six Hats

In most group contexts, individuals are usually tied down to a single perspective or
point of view, which may be optimistic, pessimistic, objective, etc. This limits the ways
in which each individual, and therefore the group as a whole, can explore an issue.
With the Six Thinking Hats, one is not limited to a single perspective in one’s thinking.
The hats are categories of thinking and not of people. The purpose of the hats is to
focus on the process of thinking, not to classify either the thought or the thinker.
Indeed, by wearing a hat that is different from the one that one customarily wears,
one may discover a variety of new ideas. Wearing a hat means deliberately adopting
a perspective that is not necessarily one’s own. It is important that all group members
are aware of this fact. A group member must clearly identify the color of the hat he is
wearing while making a statement. Wearing a clearly identified hat separates ego
from performance. The Six Hat Method is useful even for individuals thinking by
themselves.

The hats may be used in some structured sequence, depending on the nature of the
issue. Here is an example agenda for a typical Six Hats workshop:

Step 1: Present the facts of the case (White Hat)


Step 2: Generate ideas on how the case could be handled (Green Hat)
Step 3: Evaluate the merits of the ideas and list the benefits (Yellow Hat)
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Step 4 List the drawbacks (Black Hat)


Step 5: Get everybody’s gut feelings about the alternatives (Red Hat)
Step 6: Summarize and adjourn the meeting (Blue Hat)

Main benefits of the Six Thinking Hats technique

1. Allow you to say things without risk of causing damage


2. Creates awareness of multiple perspectives on the issue at hand
3. Convenient mechanism for 'switching gears'
4. Sets rules for the game of thinking
5. Focuses on thinking
6. Lead to more creative thinking
7. Improves communication
8. Improves decision making

ACTIVITY

THE SIX THINKING HATS

In this exercise, students consider a problem from different perspectives, in order to


develop a successful strategy for finding a solution to the problem.

MATERIALS: Six different colored and styled hats.

ACTIVITIES/STEPS:

1. Present a problem/issue to students. Tell them that they are going to think about it
from a variety of perspectives. There will be 6 types of thinkers, wearing different
hats.Those who are playing a particular role will address the issue only from that
particular perspective.

Sample Problem 1

Should the students change their school and move to a new school?

[Questions should be asked from these viewpoints.]

White: What information do we need?


Green: What are possible opportunities?
Red: Choose the best three.
Yellow: What are the benefits of each?
Black: What are the weaknesses of each?
Blue: What should the next step be?

Sample Problem 2

Students are talking in class while teachers are teaching.

White: State the facts


• Students are talking in class while the teacher is teaching
• The noise distracts others, so they cannot hear
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• Students cannot understand the directions given by teachers


• Many students feel distracted

Red: State the emotions


• The teacher may feel offended
• Students feel frustrated when they cannot hear directions
• Those who talk enjoy being heard

Black: State the negatives


• Time is wasted
• Learning is compromised
• The classroom becomes chaotic

Yellow: State the positives


• Everyone gets a chance to say what is on their mind
• It can be fun
• You don’t forget what you were going to say
• Everyone gets a chance to speak, not just the ‘smart kids’

Green: State the creative ideas that arise from seeing the problem in a new light
• The teacher will be more aware of the time that he/she takes up in talking
• The teacher will focus on more students, not just a few of them
• Students will reflect on whether their comments are relevant and constructive
• Students will think whether their comments distract others

Blue: Make a summary of what was learned


• The teacher will limit the amount of time she uses up in talking
• The teacher will involve more students in the discussion.
• The teacher will allow for “think time.”
• Students will learn that speaking whenever they want shows a lack of
self-discipline.