Small Things#30 – English, Indian Istyle

Indian English is quickly carving its own space in the world. The tone, accent, colloquialisms, vocabulary, sentence construction, and variations are slowly being accepted rather than laughed at. Various localization projects worldwide treat Indian English separate from British, American, or Australian English, and …that’s a relief!

Because since long, we Indians have been so self-conscious and focused on using the English language correctly, that we have hardly been able to express ourselves at all. We have stayed segmented and almost mum in many ways.

It has been like always pretending to be someone else – a caricature of something we believed to be ‘grand’. But now, Indian English is finding its own footing. We no longer need to blush with shame for using the Queen’s English in Indian style. The self-consciousness in using English is lessening as we personalise and Indianise English. Indian English is now spoken by 125 million people and it is high time the language gets its own stature and dignity.

In my home, here in America, the boys often notice my English and ask about my ‘different’ pronunciation. They find my English accent strange and dissimilar from their American way of talking. I say, “I have studied British English, so, my English is a little bit different from yours.” Actually, my English is ‘very’ different from theirs, it is full of Indian words and Indian ways of sentence construction. It is decidedly Indian English!

A few days back, the word ‘opportunity’, gave me the opportunity to talk to my kids on the subject of different types of English. I was reading a book and when I said – ‘OP-POR-CHUNITY,’ I had their attention.
“But Mumma, it is ‘aa-pr-too-nuh-tee,” the little one said.
“But Mumma, in British English, “it is op-uh-tyoo-nuh-tee’. You spoke it differently.” The older one said.
And I found myself saying – I speak Indian English, you know! A few years back, I would not have done so because nothing was clear-cut then. Indian English had no properly defined presence at that time.

It is now time, that Indian English gets properly defined guidelines of its own. This does not mean – distorting or meddling with the original beautiful, flexible language. This means, using the language as an Indian rather than being an Indian and using it as a foreigner. English has the rare flexibility and ability to adapt, that’s why it has survived and thrived for so long. It should be used for our advantage rather than being overwhelmed by it.

By giving dignity and support to Indian English, we will have a new generation of confident kids who would not feel conscious in speaking English, in Indian style.

(Image courtesy Google)