New Normal

English language skills in the post-Covid world

English language skills in the post-Covid world

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Swati Rai

‘The world as we know it has changed since the pandemic’ has been the refrain of our times for at least the past year and a half. Needless to say that it has affected our personal, behavioural and professional world and world view, like any global calamity should.

 How has this upheaval then influenced our work view and the language we speak? The Domino effect of the ‘new normal’ has seeped into the world of aural and oral as well as written world. There are clearly some skills that have gained much more significance in the pandemic mandated lingual world.  Here are a few not limited to these, of course!

 Remote work lingo

 With the isolated work cubicles at the workplace now morphing into a desk at home, there is now an increased employee base for the HR’s talent pool to tap from. This also implies that the language now used at a centralised place is not necessarily the template to follow always. A democratised exchange of ideas across remote working colleagues, and the various digital interfaces with the quickness of the communication, has had a ripple effect on the language of communication too.

 This change has ensured that firstly, despite the use of technology to communicate quickly, millennial lingo has been the great equaliser with even the most die-hard of language prudes of the boomer variety not looking down upon it.

Acronyms, abbreviations and emojis are being used judiciously and code switching between email writing to a client and that to a colleague or a boss have variedly become common.

Awareness of register and the concomitant choice of vocabulary have increased phenomenally. The importance of mails in most offices has been reduced to that of a quick Telegram or WhatsApp exchange. The emphasis is on the working knowledge of the English Language per se-what with the house chores to be addressed as well.

 Virtual visual communication

 It is not uncommon to find that from baby showers, weddings to formal send-offs to  conferences, all have gone virtual. Till we hit a face-to-face world, our language will be employed through a screen space and it is time to analyse how that has changed the words we utter and the manner in which these are articulated. A working knowledge of the language now suffices where lengthy and verbose reams or spiels had to be doled out. Also the significance of the listening skill has grown manifold. So has the importance of intonation, inflection of the voice and its projection grown manifold. At a time when sonorous zoom meetings seem to be the order of the day, it is imperative that all intent is conveyed meaningfully and enthusiastically through the peaks and troughs of the voice. In this regard, word stress, and stretching the vowel sounds and other ways to enhance ones’ clarity of speech matters the most at these times. 

 Vocabulary matters

There is a greater premium now in conveying the meaning in crisp and concise way, also because of the shortage of time at hand virtually with a particular team joining in from across the world. Being compassionate, sensitive in the choice of words at a time of personal and public grief is another aspect of language awareness that has gone up in this time of crisis.

 Not only have many new words been added to the English lexicon around this time, like the ubiquitous Rona, Covid Bubble , coviidiot covidient etc.; being cognizant of regional differences in say words like self-isolation, quarantine et al will help come across as being mindful in language as one ought to be in these times.

Active listening with fillers such as ‘okay’, ‘yes’, ‘got that’ or simply paraphrasing the Zoom speakers’ statement will help iron out communication hurdles, all in all, a more mindful, aware and global approach to language speaking is here to stay. On that note ‘Happy Zooming’!

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