ABC of Civil Services | Truth about language skills and UPSC interview

Truth about language skills and UPSC interview
Image for representation only. File/iStock

Even after the information technology revolution and the emergence of numerous job opportunities in private sector, the lure for government job is still intact in India; thanks to the job security and privileges associated with it. The Indian Civil Service being the topmost employment opportunity provided by the government, therefore still attracts the best young brains in the country. Amid tough competition, those who emerge victorious will become heroes and role models and exaggerated stories of their abilities will be circulated, especially regarding their language skills.

Common public expect nothing short of a Doordarshan news reader when a civil service examination topper speaks. The tough vocabulary, the style of diction and an element of mystery when it comes to explaining one’s tips to success must be there. The YouTube video of a student of mine who got top honours received some nasty comments on her talent because of her down to earth way of speaking. Actually, this person has been to the best educational institutions and won laurels in academics before entering the Civil Service.

Because of this notion of stylish English communication, many people particularly from rural background have nightmares of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) interview because they believe that they may not be able to match their urban counterparts. So how far is your language important when it comes to UPSC interview?

Well, let us think about the actual requirements related to the job of a civil servant. Indian civil service is related to service delivery to the general public. The modern governance in democracy is characterised with accessibility to grievance redressal mechanism. In simple words, civil servants need to interact with people, understand their problems and assure solutions. They have to reach to the marginalised communities to ensure inclusive growth. On the other hand, civil servants often need to host heads of states too. So, when it comes to speaking, an officer of Indian administration should be clear and to the point so that a layman and as well as a visiting dignitary will be able to follow him/her. The effective communication in the day to day job requires one to be brief using simple words.

Truth about language skills and UPSC interview

Be short and clear

This is about the style of speech and when it comes to language, the linguistic diversity of India demands usage of regional languages whenever interacting with public. That is why officers undergo language training once their respective cadres are fixed. English speaking is used for communication with dignitaries or official meetings mostly. Here also, emphasis is given to brevity and clarity.

So, can an interview which needs to select a person for the above-mentioned job award you mark based on your diction and style alone? Absolutely not!

The UPSC interview is defined as a conversation with purpose and your content richness is far more important than your pronunciation. You should be able to understand the question, accumulate your thoughts and present your answer confidently. Your way of speaking should match your profile. For example, a person from a village who studied in a regional medium school and an urban person with public school background will have differences when they use English and it is perfectly fine. A friend of mine who is not that fluent when it comes to English was able to score very high marks in interview with his knowledge and confidence.

How many of you are aware that one can speak in regional language for UPSC interview? You can do that and it never affects the scoring. The UPSC arranges translators for all regional languages. Once they wanted a word by word translation of answers of a student of mine who speak chaste Tamil. They were able to appreciate the presentation skills of this person and wanted to understand him fully. So, talking in English should be your last worry when it comes to clearing civil service. It is your confidence which matters.

(The author is a former IPS officer and a trainer for civil service aspirants)

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