For Games, Home Guards get crash course in English

By Aamir Nowshahri and Shweta Srinivasan, IANS,

New Delhi : Delhi’s Home Guards are toiling hard for the Commonwealth Games – and not just for safety protocol. Topping their agenda is mastering the English language so they can converse fluently with foreign players and delegates.

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From the basic greetings to having a full length discussion and guiding delegates in English, these Home Guards hope to do it all during the Oct 3-14 event.

“At least 500 Home Guards volunteers will be working in various capacities during the Commonwealth Games. The English speaking course is to make sure that the volunteers have no difficulty in communicating with the players and delegates, as most will be from English speaking countries,” M.S. Upadhye, joint director, Delhi Home Guards and Civil Defence, told IANS.

The Delhi Home Guards and Civil Defence is the second-in-line, auxiliary force for law and order enforcement after agencies like the Delhi Police and Fire Department.

With a huge demand for manpower during the Games events to execute various tasks, around 500 people who have volunteered under the Home Guards and Civil Defence are being trained by experts from British Lingua institute in a 20-day training course.

“The volunteers will be required to work as drivers, computer operators and for any other requirement during the Games,” Upadhye added.

A month ago the volunteers barely spoke English and now their aim is to master the language.

“Before joining this course, I used to hesitate to talk in English and could not make eye contact. Now, I can stand confidently and speak on the microphone to the entire audience at the practice parade that we have every week,” Rayees Ahmad, one of the Home Guards volunteers, told IANS.

So far two such training programmes have been conducted, in which 200 volunteers have been trained. A total of 1,000 volunteers will be trained over the next few months to meet any additional requirement, Upadhye said.

“Most of the students had an impression that English was only meant for the elite and people like them could not speak it. After undertaking this course, their misconception has been cleared and they have shown good progress and are really keen to learn,” said Shashi Ranjan, an instructor for British Lingua.

The English course’s curriculum covers the basics of grammar and spoken English and randomly assigned topics including Dowry, Corruption, Crime to invite discussion and debates. Feedback is provided to the learners instantly so they do not repeat their mistakes, he said.

While some of the Home Guards volunteers are graduates, most have cleared only their Class 10.

The volunteers said while their English may not be perfect at the end of the course, it would surely boost their confidence.

“I know English but could never speak fluently. I was very happy to join the programme. I like the language and want to speak fluently. This course is helping me achieve that and help me later on too,” volunteer Leena told IANS.

The Home guard volunteers work for three to five years after which they are relieved of their services. Upadhye said “depending on the need”, they may recruit an additional 300 volunteers to provide back-up for law and order enforcement agencies during the Games.