Wednesday, December 16, 2009

We are Indians, so is our English! So what?

I am pissed off! Well, I am an Indian right? So, like any normal Indian, I am supposed to have no sense of humour and I cannot LOL and ROTFL, as Blogadda would like me to, when I see someone make fun of something most of us Indians do, for which Americans and British should be really thanking us. I am talking about the take on Indian English in a Blog Post that Blogadda picked as their Tangy Tuesday Pick.
I don’t deny the prominence of English across the world. I don’t have any problem with that. In fact, I use English as much as I use Malayalam or Kannada or Tulu or Tamil, when need arises. I blog in English as I used to in Malayalam. And sometimes there are days when I speak nothing other than English. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anything to do with the Mother-tongue Fanatics who vehemently oppose any other language than their own. I perfectly understand that the currency of a language is attached to the economy of a country and we cannot help but use the language that gets us food. I can live with the fact that at present, in India, English gets me better food than any other language. But that doesn’t give any one the right to say I must use that language the way British or Americans would like me to use it.

I cannot understand why! Americans speak English the way they want and it is American English. And we have Australian English and no one seems to have any problem with that. I watch movies that Hollywood churns out and I see men and women who have Latin American or Chinese English Accent and way of using English being given lead roles and projected as ‘sexy’ and fit-to-be-admired. But when it comes to Indians speaking in English NRIs  seem to have an issue with it. I just cannot understand why!
You are right, I meant Non-resident Indians! NRIs always seem to have issues with anything that is Indian. So do many of the so called Indian Sahibs and Memsahibs, new generation and old! We don’t speak good English. Our roads are not so great and are dirty. Our slums are the worse places on earth. Our cloths are so sad! Look at USA, they say. Look at England! Look at the Western Countries! Why can’t we be for a moment like Western Countries, at least for a moment, they ask! I would say it is the very thing that makes them ask these questions that puts our country in a position that does not allow us to think and act like Westerners do. The two key differences between a Westerner and an Indian? One, they are proud of their culture and we are not. Two, if there is something that they are not proud about in their culture, they are willing to correct it but we are not.
I remember our former president, APJ Abdul Kalam. He used to talk about his Vision of India in 2020. I can vaguely recall something he said once during a speech [correct me if I am wrong] as he was elucidating his India Vision 2020. He pointed out something that is obviously wrong with most of us Indians, NRIs included. If we are in USA, or Singapore or any foreign country for that matter, we don’t spit on the road. We don’t throw our garbage anywhere we please. We stick to their traffic rules. The moment we are back in India, the moment we step out of that plane, we become the same old Indians again. We do everything we wouldn’t be doing if we were in another country. I think that is the key issue we should be talking about. We should be talking about why we don’t care about India the way we would other countries. The peripheral aspects like language and cleanliness will take care of its own when we start caring about the idea of India and when we are proud about the fact that we are Indians.
I am pissed off! No, don’t get me wrong. It is not about the author. It is about what she wrote, and what made her write what she wrote! It is about what makes the thousands of NRIs and Indian Sahibs and Memsahibs LOL and ROTFL about India!


  1. We still suffer from a heavy doze of 'colonial hangover' unfortunately...

    P.S. English as a language is actually a mix of several languages... most of all sanskrit... the root of all languages.

    So, 'Pitr' became 'father'

    'Matr' became 'Mother'

    'Bhatr' became 'brother'

    'Agnisikha' became 'Agneska'

    'Victavati' became 'Victoria'

    'Adim Manav'/'Adi Manav' became 'Adam'

    And so on and so forth...

  2. exactly we speak as we should..I too dont find a need for a deliberate accent change just to make sense to the few americans(who by the way most of the times dont understand what they speak..:P )

    I am adding one to Roshmi's list

    Tumultous-tumalthuh (sanskrit)

  3. Roshmi and Narendra, thanks for the comments :)

    Roshmi, heavy does of colonial hangover for sure. I did not purposefully use that term when I wrote, because I somehow want to grow out of it. Impressive list and gives me another idea for a post :) Thank you.

    Narendra, you are right, many of us are accent crazy. And let me add, some of us are also "usage" crazy! Everything so that we'll finally sound like Americans.

  4. if they want to understand Indians speak english then perhaps you know I will buy the idea of an accent change..albeit for a few minutes o something...but OUR accent is the WRONG accent and theirs is the right..i ont buy that! i mean come on,we speak doing quite a justice to the words/sounds/alphabets tat deserve attention while uttering! only Indians care to pronounce Rs,Ls et cetera as they should be..:P

  5. About Accent Narendra, I think it is we who have an issue with our accent than them. They, if at all, have an issue with accent when they call to a Customer Service Centre. That is understandable because the underlying factor is politics than culture.

  6. India way of speaking English is just another accent like anyother but the problem sometimes it gets a bit jarring i should say. No I am not an NRI I am a full-blooded tamilian.

  7. Of course Venky. Indian English sounds jarring to many of us because we are so used to European TV Channels. But that doesn't mean that we insist we speak how Europeans speak English, does it? :)

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