It is the year 2020 and call centers are opening all over the West, as the new economic power India outsources work to the countries where many jobs originated. Millions of Americans, still struggling to adapt to a global economy, are willing to accept jobs that pay them in a new currency sweeping much of the world: Rupees.
Some of them, eager to land one of the customer service jobs from India, are attending special training sessions in New York City, led by language specialist Dave Ramsey, who goes by a simpler name for his Indian clients: Devendra Ramaswaminathan.
On this warm afternoon, the professor is teaching three ambitious students how to communicate with Indian customers. Professor: "Okay, Gary, Randy and Jane, first we need to give you Indian names. Gary, from now on, you'll be known to your customers as Gaurav. Randy, you'll be Ranjit. And Jane, you'll be Jagadamba. Now imagine you just received a call from Delhi. What do you say?"
Gary: "Name as tea ?"
Professor: "I think you mean 'namaste.' Very good. But what do you say after that?"
Gary: "How can I help you?"
Professor: "You're on the right track. Anyone else?"
Jane: "How can I be helping you?"
Professor: "Good try! You're using the correct tense, but it's not quite right. Anyone else?"
Randy: "How I can be helping you ?"
Professor: "Wonderful! Word order is very important. Okay, let's try some small talk. Give me a comment that would help you make a connection with your Indian customers."
Randy: "It's really hot, isn't it?"
Professor: "The heat is always a good topic, but you haven't phrased it correctly. Try again."
Randy: "It's deadly hot, isn't it?"
Professor: "That's better. But your tag question can be greatly improved."
Randy: "It's deadly hot, no?"
Professor: "Wonderful! You can put 'no?' at the end of almost any statement. You are understanding me, no?"
Jane: "Yes, we are understanding you, no?"
Professor (smiles): "We may need to review this later. But let's move on to other things. Have you ever heard Indians use the word 'yaar'?"
Randy: "Yes, my Indian friends use it all the time. Just last night, one of them said to me, 'Randy, give me yaar password. I am needing it to fix yaar computer."
Professor (laughs): "That's a different 'yaar,' yaar. The 'yaar' that I'm talking about means friend or buddy. You can use it if you've developed a camaraderie with a customer. For example, you can say, 'Come on, yaar. I am offering you the best deal.' Do you understand, Jagadamba?"
Jane: "Yaar, I do."
Professor (smiles): "Okay, let's talk about accents. If your client says 'I yam wery vorried about vat I bought for my vife,' how would you respond?"
Randy: "Please don't be vorrying, yaar. She vill be wery happy and vill give you a vild time tonight."
Professor: "Vunderful! I mean, wonderful. You have a bright future, Ranjit. And so do you, Jagadamba. But Gaurav, you haven't said anything in a while. Do you have any questions about what we've just learned?"
Gary: "Yes, Professor, I do have one question: Wouldn't it be simpler to learn to speak Hindi?"