Saturday, January 9, 2010

Indian English

This is for a friend who I find to be creatively intelligent - hope he finds his path in pursuit of intellectual, and therefore, emotional satisfaction.
We were talking about Indian English.
I started the topic by citing the fact that most of the traditional English speakers, let's say - Americans, British, Australians and New Zealanders predominantly speak one language on a daily basis. Therefore, their 'language' is English and the way it is uttered is very similar across these 4 countries.

Indians are a mess. This is because most Indians speak more than 2 languages on a daily basis, and for all practical purposes we consider English as our language as we use it daily and fluently, albeit mixed with other languages.
Indians use the word 'prepone' which is a word that makes complete logical sense, and is much easier to say than to say 'let's reschedule this meeting to an earlier time'.

But what we touched upon during that discussion is how Indians speak in English. At times, we make statements which has an opinion embedded in it, but the statement is uttered as a question.
As my friend described it - "We do not ask questions; we make statements and wait for a verification"

Situation: A person is going to class, and I know this with significant confidence.
A person from any of the above mentioned countries would usually say: 'Are you going to class?'
An Indian would say: 'You're going to class, right?'

We make statements, and at times end it with question marks. Somewhere, this stems from how some urban Indian languages are spoken. Statements are converted to questions, not be rearranging the entire word chain, but by adding a word or two at the end to mark a question.
Somewhere, this stems from what Indian culture is all about.
We do not like open ended questions.
If we partially know somethings, we prefer asking questions with a supposition or a certain emphasis or pressure. We tend to enforce our opinion in the question.

This made me think of whether Indians do, in fact, speak English. The answer is that we speak our own brand of English. Let's call it Indian English. Let's call it a different dialect. I see no reason why a word such as prepone should not be a part of the English dictionary. In fact, I see a reason why it should be a part of the dictionary. It makes complete logical sense.

People like set patterns; but let's understand that a language is a means of communication and therefore should be open to change and evolution. I hate it when people who have not heard of British English strike down words such as learnt (as opposed to learned). I hate it when people believe that the American usage of the letter 'r' is the correct way and the British or Indian usage is not.

Open your minds.
For nothing is set in stone.
Even if things are set in stone,
Know that soft water can tear it down.
Open your minds,
For evolution is key.

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