"I'd love to put someone in jail for this": An initial investigation of English in the business processing outsourcing (BPO) industry

Gail Forey, Jane Lockwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


In the global workplace, there has been tremendous growth in business processing outsourcing (BPO). Many industries are establishing call centres, back offices and other offshore enterprises in developing countries in an attempt to reduce costs. This development has far-reaching implications for language in these offshore destinations. Despite complaints about the communication skills of non-native English speaking (NNES) agents in these outsourced destinations, the language of the calls has not been well-researched. This paper focuses on one area of the BPO industry, call centre communication. We limit the discussion to calls in the insurance industry, in one offshore destination, the Philippines. In this paper, we outline the development and problems faced in offshore outsource destinations. Based on an analysis of a sample of call centre interactions, we outline their generic structure, and we investigate some of the reasons for breakdowns in communication. We use some examples from the data and discuss the linguistic realisations to illustrate what is happening in such breakdowns. The findings from the analyses are important for the development of the industry, for the training of customer service representatives, and could help us understand why frustration is experienced by many.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-326
Number of pages19
JournalEnglish for Specific Purposes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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