In a city of accents, where many struggle to understand each other, it may be best to find a Filipino to intermediate.
Two new surveys done by BBC and IBM show that the Filipinos have the most "accent-neutral language" in the world. And it shows in the number of call-centres cropping up all over the Philippines. Earlier, the Indian accent was considered the most neutral, in that most people from most countries can understand when an Indian speaks English. The Filipinos have now claimed that title, according to recent research by IBM, which shows there are now more call centre agents in the Philippines - 350,000 - compared to 330,000 in India.
In Dubai, most front desk, hospitality, reception and telephone operator jobs are given to Filipinos, headhunters say. "Any position which requires the employee to have clarity of voice and an accent that is neutral to most ears, is being filled by Filipinos," Adrian, an HR manager for an international firm in Dubai, told XPRESS.
"If you look at the staff that man the Metros, the telephone operators for a majority of five-star hotels, receptionists at international corporations… they're all Filipinos," he adds. "Ten years ago, those positions were held by Indians. Today, the Indian accent has been put in second place to the Filipino accent."
Mark Nevaro, a 28-year-old call centre agent from Manila, told XPRESS his background in learning the Americanisms of the English language have helped him secure his job of executive secretary in Dubai.
"To an American, the Filipino accent is very clear and neutral," says James G., general manager of a trading firm in Dubai. "To our ears, a Filipino answering the phone is more understandable than an Indian accent."
As Nevaro says, "Filipinos can easily adjust to different accents. We can talk to just about anyone in the world, from the British to the Americans, Australians and Canadians, and we'll be understood. We may sound a little different from them, but at least they'll understand what we're saying. The accents of some of the other nationalities are so strong and harsh that the rest of the world may find it hard to comprehend what they're saying."
Lawrence Anderson, a secretary from Ilo-Ilo in the Philippines, says it was his background as a call centre agent for a Canadian service provider that helped him land a job where he could be coordinating with a team of people from all over the world. "Although there may be others who have similar qualifications to mine, I believe it is the clarity of my accent that landed me this job. That and the fact that Filipinos have a knack of being able to blend in just about anywhere. We don't wear our national dress to work, and we're very Westernised in the way we dress and speak. Naturally, it makes us the easiest people to deal with for people coming from all over the world."