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Foreign languages: Be a linguistic tour guide

Last updated on: October 11, 2012 10:38 IST

Unusual Careers: How to be a linguistic tour guide


Saurabh Naruka

A keen interest in our country's history, architecture, culture, and knowledge of a foreign language, can open new vistas for graduates.

After learning French, Bhupender Singh Rathore has been working in Delhi for the past three years as a licensed tour guide.

"Being a guide is exciting as it offers opportunity to interact with people and visit different places," shares Bhupender.

Mahender Singh Chundawat, another Linguistic Licenced Guide in Italian shares that with the rise of visitors from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia and China, the demand for guides well-versed in these languages is on the rise.

Skills to excel

Chudawat feels guides can play a crucial role in projecting the right image of the country and region, by offering factually correct information about the destination.

Ensuring the safety and well-being of tourists as well as a pleasant and satisfying stay throughout their itinerary is a must. Good communication skills, a good command over the foreign language and the ability to mingle freely with people are assets for a tour guide.

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Image: All images for representational purposes only
Photographs: Courtesy


Who can be a linguistic guide?

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Four types of licensed guides

The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, grants licences to guides on a regional basis after fulfilling required conditions. Five regions have been identified; North, South, West, East and North-East.

A state-level licence is granted by respective state governments. The details can be found on the respective states' 'Department of  Tourism' website.

As per guidelines for selection and grant of guide license to Regional Level Tourist Guides (RLG) in 2011, there are four categories of Regional Level Guides (RLG) with prescribed eligibility conditions as follows:  

  1. General: Authorised to work in their respective regions on a full-time basis. Aspirant must be a graduate from a recognised university and fluent in English, and should have studied English as a subject at 10 + 2.
  2. General--Linguistic: Those fluent in French, German, Spanish, Korean, Russian, Japanese, Thai, Arabic, Hungarian, Polish, Hebrew and Chinese, as identified by the Ministry from time to time would be approved under this category. Aspirant should be graduate from a recognized university, and have knowledge and fluency in a foreign language (besides English).
  3. Expert Guides: For scholars and specialists with doctorate in Tourism, Indian History, Architecture, Culture, Wild Life and other fields related to tourism, there is a special category of RLG. Designated as Expert Guides, fluency in English is essential.
  4. Expert -- Linguistic: This category comprises scholars and specialists with a doctorate in Tourism, Indian History, Architecture, Culture, Archaeology, Wildlife or other fields related to tourism. Candidates must have knowledge and fluency in a foreign language ie writing, reading and speaking.

Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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Who can apply?

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Eligibility and vacancies

Applicants must be at least 20 years old  on the date of the first media advertisement to be selected in these categories of Tourist Guides.

Assessment of the requirement of Tourist Guides, region-wise, is made based on inbound tourist arrivals from various countries, availability of assignments to guides etc. It is normally done every two years by the government through a pre-defined process involving the stake holders.

Getting selected

The process is undertaken by the Indian Institute of Tourism & Travel Management (IITTM), Gwalior or any other institute designated by Ministry of Tourism. If selected one gets training at IITTM.

Applications are invited through an advertisement specifying seats available for training, region-wise. An entrance test of three-hour duration evaluates the general intelligence and suitability of applicants for admission to guide training. 

Applicants must obtain at least 150 marks out of 300 marks (100 marks for each subject paper) to qualify.

The seats advertised for training would be allotted as per the merit list based on the qualifying test.

Photographs: Rediff Archives

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Getting professional training

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Training and granting of licence

IITTM, with campuses in Gwalior, Bhubaneswar, New Delhi, Goa and Nellore, imparts training to selected candidates.

The training comprises both classroom and field training at Archaeological Survey of India sites. The duration of training is 26 weeks for General and General-Linguistic category and 13 weeks for Expert and Expert-Linguistic category.

On the completion of programme, all candidates are evaluated through an exam comprising written test and vivavoce where guiding skills, knowledge of monuments and destinations, communication skills and fluency in foreign language (wherever applicable) are tested.

Minimum 80 percent attendance, both in the classroom and field, is essential to take the final exam. On successful completion, trainees are issued a Regional Level Guide License by the Regional India Tourism Office(s), Government of India.

Valid for a period of three years, the license can be renewed by fulfilling requirement of refresher courses.

Fluency in foreign languages

This is a crucial component for successful completion of the guiding course. Candidates not comfortable in English are advised to take up British Council courses to enhance their language skills.

To learn foreign languages, aspirants can explore private institutes that impart training. Language courses conducted by respective embassies of countries in which these languages are spoken are considered the best:

  • French: Alliance Francaise de, Language International in Delhi; Inlingua, Bangalore
  • Italian: Italian Cultural Centre (Delhi)
  • German: Goethe Institut in Max Mueller Bhavan (Mumbai, Delhi)

Image: Image for representational purposes only
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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A licensed guide can earn between Rs 4 to 7 lakhs per annum

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Assignments by tour operators

The bulk of opportunity comes from tour operators.

According to Chundawat, within a year or two of becoming familiar with the industry, a licensed guide can earn between Rs 4 to 7 lakhs per annum.

"The salary also depends on the language in which one has been licenced as guide. Generally English guides are paid Rs 2,500 per day and those working in foreign languages other than English are paid upward of Rs 3,000 per day," he adds.

Leading tour operators include: Cox and Kings, Thomas Cook, Le Passage To India Tours and Travels, Kuoni Travels, Abercrombie, Kent India and SITA Tour and Travels. Most are based in Delhi or Mumbai as they are the arrival cities of the majority of international flights.

Professional Tip

Bhupender offers sound advice to freshers.

"Be very polite and caring while dealing with the foreign clients of tour operators, as the feedback given by foreign tourists about the guide is considered crucial by tour operators while assigning tours to guides," he advises.

Photographs: Reuters

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