Indian English

Wendy’s team in Microsoft support India customers. Something she suffers a lot is the India accent English. She now brings an iPod, and put some India podcast in it, and listen to India English all the way to work and back to schoo.

Indian -> American -> Chinese

A very interesting thing I found out is,

American can understand 80% of Indian accent English,

American may be can understand 50% of Chinese English (English with strong Chinese accent, also called Chinglish)

However, Chinese can only understand 10% of Indian English.

(The numbers are just for illustration propose – my guess number – you just get the idea).

India English

Ashish Gadnis is one of my best friends who came from India. He speaks amazingly good English, but he has the ability to switch instantly from American English to Indian English. During the last YLF in Nanjing, I tried very hard to learn some Indian English. The sample English sentence I learnt was:

I am a developer from Mumbai

The key is Mumbai – it was pronounced something like Bum-‘bay with strong sound on the ‘bay’ part.

I hope Wendy can get used to India English soon, so the conference call is not that painful, but I also hope Wendy do not speak India nEnglish after that.

16 Comments

  1. This is an interesting post. Mumbai used to be called Bombay. Even nowadays, some indian people still prefer to call it Bombay, which was given by the British colonists. Another funny example of Indian English that I heard is like this: An Indian guy introducing himself and his wife to friend: “I am ‘dirty’ and my wife is also ‘dirty'”. What he meant to say is “thirty” instead of “dirty”…

  2. I am suffering from similar problem, any India English podcast to recommend? Especially software development related ones. Thanks.

  3. I would say that an average American can understand 98% Indian English.

    A lot of Americans (me included) have some problems with VERY strongly accented British English. I was in London once, there was this guy who came up to me. I had absolutely no idea what he talked about.

    I guess there are lot of ways to speak the same language, whether it is English or Chinese.

  4. Oh. Chinese? That is even harder. I can understand 0% of what other people speak in most of places in China.

  5. Interesting post.

    Many of the software engineers in the Silicon Valley come from India. I hope I can get used to Indian English soon. Is there any tips to learn Indian English?

  6. I may have learned more English from Indian (compared to American) in graduate school at Rolla, Missouri. Once I asked a fellow American graduate student about similar topic: he said he needs to pay a little more attention when he listen to another Indian graduate student (mostly because of accent I assume). Many Chinese graduate students share the same view as yours, but if I may, I would add:

    80% of Indians speak correct English; 80% Chinese speaks in-correct English (me included, after 11 years, sometimes I still mess up with tense, him/her, etc. BTW, many American speak in-correct English too; but what do they care :-)

    On a personal note, I feel Indian English is much easier to understand than American English, mostly because I had a lot exposure to Indian English in school and work, and also they are much simpler than American English.

  7. Haha, funny. Wendy is really hard working and responsible.

  8. anyway there is one thing i can sure.

    english is most popular in current day.

    no matter american-english or indie-english or even chinglish.

    you are out if you donot know english.that is sound point i can sure.

  9. a suggestion.

    Record the phone conversation between you and the Indian speaker and listen back to the conversation. The benefits:

    – You will quickly get familiar with the Indian’s speaker accent (since you will be having regular telephone calls with he/she)

    – You can mitigate the misunderstanding or not able to understand part during the conversation.

    Some of the podcast can be spoken very well. It is still different from the actual daily conversation.

    Hope that helps.

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  11. It is very difficult to learn, however one can master english as well. The speaking ‘India english’ is interesting.

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  12. Hi JianShuo,

    I am an Indian who was in Shanghai for almost 2 years till October 2008. Sad that you didnt make this post earlier when i was there else I could have helped wendy out with her understanding of the Indian Accent. FYI, i have alot of Chinese friends who had a problem understanding me in the beginning but later enjoyed speaking with me ;)

    Here’s hoping that she will get some help with the same. I can also recommend a few Indian Friends presently in Shanghai to have a few conversations…

    All the Best …

    Krish.

    ( P.S. It is a small way of thanking you for the earliest bits of Info about Shanghai when i initially moved in here)

  13. Hi JianShuo,

    I am an Indian who was in Shanghai for almost 2 years till October 2008. Sad that you didnt make this post earlier when i was there else I could have helped wendy out with her understanding of the Indian Accent. FYI, i have alot of Chinese friends who had a problem understanding me in the beginning but later enjoyed speaking with me ;)

    Here’s hoping that she will get some help with the same. I can also recommend a few Indian Friends presently in Shanghai to have a few conversations…

    All the Best …

    Krish.

    ( P.S. It is a small way of thanking you for the earliest bits of Info about Shanghai when i initially moved in here)

  14. How funny – nice views here. Well, I am Indian and don’t speak what is colloquially termed ‘Indian English”. So this is one important thing: There isa lot of diversity in ‘Indian English”. I am guessing, most “software types” from India speak “A” form of Indan english and I think that makes sense because , demographically, tehy are similar. If you speak to non-SW types, primarily from urban areas like Delhi and Bombay, you get what is termed “convent English” whcih is spoken and taught in , well, Convent Schools which are all English Medium. The third big class is the the latter but now mixed in with quite a bit of globakl exposure i.e me! and you get a slower version.

    In all cases, I believe (and fight with most of my UK/US friends), Indioan English is, by far, the most gramatically correct English. American english, is by far the worst. I love traveling in Africa because I meet other fornmer-colonized who also speak this beautiful, gramatically correct English i.e Kenyans. I dislike intense the American english, being neither here nor there and full of metaphors that can only be understood say , in one particular area of Pennsylvania.

    I am all for language evolution and all that but this is different from speaking a twang that only you and your fellow Pennsylvanians can understand and then proclaim, well ‘we don’t understand Chinese English” or “Heck, R(Inian), can you speak, like, slower , man?”.

  15. That’s funny – “Convent English” I am also one of those colonial types, a South African, and I went to a convent. When I was in Taiwan I spoke on the phone to a young lady at the British embassy whom I was convinced was Indian. When I met her in person I was surprised to discover that she was Taiwanese. I asked if she had studied English in India and she said she had grown up there, and how did I know. She said that no-one in Taiwan understood her English, poor girl.

    There are about as many varieties of English in South Africa as we have official languages, so I wouldn’t make any claims about the relative grammatical correctness of SA English, but I do think that the accents of (at least) first-language English speakers in SA are easier to understand than many others – the only people I’ve met who have had difficulty understanding my accent have all been from the same place – a large country in North America (not Canada).

  16. But which Indian-English podcasts? (Your blog omits this essential point!)

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