Indian English and its Features

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In the subcontinent, Indian English is one of the forms of English. It the language of India’s cultural and political elites. Indian English become the lingua franca of India slow and steadily. Fluent speakers have the advantage to have many economic, political and social offers.

In 1830, it was allowed to give public instructions in the English language. It was done during the rule of the East India Company. At that time and also till now India is the most diverse country linguistically. From 1858 to 1947, English made its roots stronger during the period of Crown Rule of British Raj in India and till 1947; English has become the lingua franca in the country.

Different Stages of English Language in India

As India is also very diverse in terms of language and cultures, there are chances that words spoken in the English language can be mean different things to different people. There are 3 different stages of the English language in India:

  1. Cultivated –associated with the younger generation of urban and sub-urban regions of metropolitan cities of India.
  2. Standard –related to higher education or social display of higher education.
  3. Regional –associated with the general population.

Features of British and American English language are different from features of Indian English language. The main clear difference between them is the pronunciation. The way Indians speak English is different from British and Americans. There is a difference in accent, diction, pronunciation, and also in usage. But difference occurs in not just pronunciation but also in writing as well, but not big as pronunciation has.

Indian English

There are some unique characteristics of English spoken on the Indian subcontinent which make it different from other international English varieties like RP (Received Pronunciation) and GA (General American). RP and GA are also known as British and American English.

These differences occur because English was in constant contact with native Indian spoken languages for a long period of time. So this variety of English called Indian English spoken frequently in India. India also comes in the third rank in the world after USA and UK as English spoken language.

Vocabulary Differences

Indian native languages introduced many words into the global English language spoken. Some of them are Jungle, Bungalow, Punch, Shawl and Veranda.

At times, Indian English speakers also add some new meaning to the words which already exist and have their meaning already. For example, a hi-tech outfit means fashionable and modern rather than an outfit equipped with digital gadgets.

In some cases, an Indian English speaker replaces an English word with a Hindi word during speaking. Like for example, they use the word “achcha” in the middle of a conversation in English instead of the word “ok” or “good”.

Differences in Pronunciation

Indians speak English with an accent of their mother tongue. Not only accent, but the pronunciation of English words also influenced regional factors. As we know there are many native regional languages in India so they have many accents of English which are influenced by their native accents. Kerala people have different English accents from Tamil Nadu, Punjab, or West Bengal.

For example:

  • Kerala people pronounced the word ‘body’ differently.
  • Tamil Nadu people pronounced the letter ‘Z’ differently.
  • North India especially Uttar Pradesh people adds ‘I’ before words start with ‘S’. Words like ‘scooter’, ‘start’, ‘screw’, ‘style’, etc they pronounce these words as “iscooter”, “istart”, “iscrew”, “istlye” etc.

In my opinion, to maintain the right communication and to convey the message in an understandable correct manner, every speaker has to follow the rules of that target language.

More Features of Indian English

Families of the elite class are typically very close to Received Pronunciation with still some hints of Indian flavor. British English is being taught by Indians in their schools. But they have developed their own unique dialects with some quirks.

In recent decades, American English is also a growing influence and has begun the challenge to British English as the model of English in the Indian subcontinent. American English influence is on the English of Indian youth mostly. American English spellings are widely used in scientific and technical publications. On the other hand, British English spellings are mostly used in other media.

British English is the language used by the majority of Indians especially the older generation and younger generation of small cities and towns. Regional varieties influence on English leads to terms as:

  • Hinglish (Hindi + English)
  • Tanglish (Tamil + English)
  • Minglish (Marathi + English)

Here are some features of Indian English which are accepted in India and make it different from British and American English:

  • There is an influence of traditional Hindi grammar in progressive tense having stative verbs, mostly in northern states. Like for example “I am understanding the answer.
  •   “Off it” and “on it” are used in Indian English instead of “switch it off” and “switch it on”.
  •   “Current went” and “current came” are used by Indians instead of “power went out” and “power came back”.
  • Indians use the word “walla” which signifies the occupation or involvement of doing something. For example “The taxiwalla overcharged me”.
  • “Can you drop me?” and “We will drop her first” –used by Indian speakers instead of “Can you drop me off?” and “We will drop her off first”.
  • Army officers during the days of East India Company said “out of station” instead of “out of town”.
  • When Indians answer the phone call they used to say “tell me” instead of “how can I help you”.
  • People say “Order for food” in Indian English instead of “order food”.
  • They use jee/ji to give respect to elders and strangers. For example: “Please call a taxi for Gupta-ji”.
  • “Mr and “Mrs”-used as common nouns by Indians. For example: “My Mrs is not feeling well”.
  • They use “Ms” with their first name. For example, Saima Kamal might be addressed as “Ms Saima” instead of “Ms Kamal”.
  • In South India, mostly Tamil Nadu people don’t use a surname.
  • Indians used the words ‘uncle’ and ‘aunty’ for addressing relatives, neighbors, and strangers like shop keeper. On the other hand, if a person is really one’s uncle or aunt, he/she will usually not addressed as “uncle” or “aunt”, rather they call them with the name of the relationship they have with that person like “Khala”,  “mamu” “chachu” etc.
  • In formal letters they use “Respected Sir”, Yours Respectfully”, Yours Obediently” instead of “Dear Sir”, “Yours Sincerely/faithfully/truly”.

Difference Between Indian English and American English

In the United States, people speak American English. It is one of the most popular kinds of English language in the world. Some differences between Indian English and American English are being observed are given below:

Difference in pronunciation:

    Indian English           American English

  • Carolina                          Carolaina                                                                                            
  • Regional                          Riganal                                                                                             
  • Schedule                          Skedul                                                                                              
  • Semi                                  Semai                                                                                               
  • Vitamin                             Vaitamin                                                                                          

Difference in Vocabulary:

Indian English                American English

  • Cheque                            Check
  • Centre                              Center
  • Colour                              Color
  • Grey                                  Gray
  • Labour                              Labor
  • Travelling                         Traveling
  • Theatre                             Theater
  • Omelette                           Omelet 
  • Dialled                               Dialed
  • Proramme                         Program
  • Jewellery                          Jewlry

Dictionary differences

In Clothing:

  Indian English                 American English

  • Jumper                            Sweater                                                                                           
  • Half sleeves                   Short sleeves                                                                                          
  • Trial room                      Fitting room
  • Over size                        Extra large
  • Waist coat                      Vest

In food:

Indian English                 American English

  • Biscuit                    Cookie or Cracker
  • Bringal                    Egg plant
  • Brown Bread        Whole Wheat Bread
  • Capsicum                 Bell Pepper
  • Cold drink                Soda
  • Curd                         Yogurt
  • Dry grapes              Raisins
  • Filter Coffee           Brewed Coffee
  • Finger Chips           French Fries
  • French Beans         Snow Peas

In Technology:

Indian English            American English

  • Net                         Internet
  • Site                         Web site
  • Mail                        Email
  • Post                         Mail

Idioms:

  Indian English                    American English

  • A place to park                Driveway
  • Anti-clockwise                 Counter Clockwise
  • Bunk School                    Skip Class
  • Convince someone        Talk someone into
  • Dismissed                        Fired
  • Fainted                             Pass out
  • Get down                         Get off
  • Join Duty                          Report for Work
  • Mess up                            Screw up
  • Passed out                       Graduated

Difference Between Indian English and British English

For more than 200 years there was British colonization in India. So Indian English is actually the result of that colonization. Indians follow the rules of British English officially but there are differences in pronunciations due to their cultural and regional influences. Only 2 percent of Britons speak Queen’s English or BBC English otherwise they also have different dialects and accents according to their different regions in Britain as well.

  Indian English      American English

  • Bed tea              Morning Tea
  • Hill Station        Hill Resort
  • Bus Stop            Bus Station
  • Bio data            Curriculum Vitae

Fun Indian Slang Words

Indian English vocabulary also has many slang words. Native English speakers would not understand these slang words without some context. Following are some fun Indian slang words:

  1. Yaar –This word means ‘bro’, ‘dude’, or ‘mate’ in India.
  2. Mention not –Most Indians used this word. its origination is unknown. Instead of saying ‘welcome’, no problem’, ‘my pleasure’ etc this word is used as a reply to ‘Thank you’.
  3. Revert back –Indians used this word while communicating through emails and they want to put stress to reply them their emails fast because they are important.
  4. Rubber –Indians used this word for ‘eraser’.

Conclusion

Thus, wherever English goes in the world, it will be influenced by the local language. It will also borrow and observe many rules and vocabulary from other languages, done some changes to it and make its own distinct English. Just like Indian English which varies from region to region and follows its own rules.

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