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English lessons for diplomats

delhi Updated: Jun 23, 2009 00:41 IST
Tushar Srivastava

If diplomacy is the art of saying “nice doggie” until you find a bigger stick to beat it with, then English is its mother tongue.

Gift of the gab comes in handy for most career diplomats, who frequently have to deal with tricky issues. However, mandarins of the External Affairs Ministry are currently grappling with an unprecedented task, that of honing English language skills of a batch of Indian Foreign Service probationers.

Last year, a group of candidates with Hindi as their first language made the cut at the civil services exams, and were selected for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).

English is not their strong point and they answered their papers in Hindi, one of the language options available to a candidate. So, for the first time, English is being taught to these six or so young IFS probationers at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Delhi.

These probationers belong to the 2008 batch and completed their initial training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. They are undergoing a year’s basic training at the Delhi institute.

“Of the batch of 19, at least six are weak in English. It is not up to the desired standard,” the institute’s dean Ajai Chaudhary told HT.

“For the External Affairs Ministry, English is the language through which we communicate to the outside world; the medium through which we conduct our foreign policy,” Chaudhary, who grooms diplomats, said.

He said English was the “language of diplomacy” and it was important that “today’s diplomats are fluent in the language”.

Chaudhary said his institute had been tipped off by the Mussoorie academy that some of these fresh recruits lacked proficiency in the language. “We had been forewarned,” he said.

The institute has started regular classes for these probationers, who are now being taught how to “write” and “speak” in English fluently.

Since this is the first time that English is being taught to probationers, the institute had to find English teachers. Initially, they made do with a part-time retired professor from the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. From now on, the institute has decided to employ a full-time English teacher.