English Hinglish

Hinglish. We, in India, when hear the word ‘Hinglish’,recall words like ‘iskool for school’, ‘passed out’ for graduation, ‘torch’ for flashlight, and much more. In spite of English being a foreign language to India, introduced by the Britishers, India today has 3rd largest population in the world that speaks English. In fact, the English fluency has been a reason for India to become global BPO/ KPO/ IT hub.

When British first entered India, they may not have had imagined that a language, then spoken by few thousand members of the British troops, would become one of the official languages of then crores of Indian people, of the nation whose population would cross a billion in the next two centuries.

But it did.

May be, the already existing rich linguistic heritage made India to amicably adopt English as one of its main languages. The language is now part of local parlance, whichever language, city, state or region of India that one may refer to.

As one of the many born in early 90s, I too belong to the growing middle class who was educated in an English medium school.

To my honest opinion, the early school period was bit tough. As an Indian, I’d talk in my native tongue all day, even at my English medium school. While I managed to read and write English well, an ability to fluently converse in English took time and practice. There could be multiple reasons for this. ‘not thinking’ in English appeared to be the primary reason, but so was with 99% of my classmates, the balance 1% being the classmates from Southern India, where English is one of the key languages even for day to day communications.

The second phase, or exposure to English as a predominant language for daily communication was experienced while perusing Masters from a UK University. During my three year stay in Wales, UK, I experienced a range of difference between Indian and UK style of communication i.e. different ways of using a same language.

The very first difference was the objective of communication/ conversation/ speaking English. In UK, the objective was to let the listener know what you want, and hence language would be simple for the listener to understand. The choice and flow of words, and the tone would be from the listener’s perspective. No heavy words. Dictionary is never required unless writing an English essay. Just simple English which clearly emphasise on the listener’s understanding.

On the other hand, the objective of communication/ conversation/ speaking English in India is much beyond than just exchange of words.

Usually, the first objective is to let the listener person know about the speaker’s ability to converse in English. Therefore, the language will contain difficult words. If the listener has to refer a dictionary or google a word, speaker has won the discussion. In other words, the English language that is used is usually a pompous display of one’s gained verbal skill. To make the stand stronger, the speaker may start using idioms and phrases, i.e. the terms or a group of words that require long term English orientation and usage. Speaker may also start discussing topics quoting latest books, magazines or newspapers he may have read, with obvious intention to let the listener know that the speaker is an avid reader.

These difference occur across all the forms of English communication. A written communication in the subcontinent may only be worth reading when it contains word that require the reader to refer a dictionary to understand its meaning, and is full of a series of long and complex sentences. Unless it is difficult to understand, it hasn’t been written well.

The UK style on the other hand is very simple and easy to understand, an aspect that I greatly appreciated during my stay in UK. No doubt, while settling back in India (from UK), I had to revive my style of writing in the English language.

Therefore, in my humble opinion, the definition of ‘hinglish’, which initially referred to pronunciation only, is now a style of its own. This may not be accepted by many, but, this is what my companions from UK will agree upon.

There can be a view that we shall not benchmark UK English as global way of English communication and hence we shall not question or compare the Indian and UK style of English communication. However, India has followed the British in many aspects, English style of communication is one of it and hence the comparison is valid.

Another view could be the nature of comparison itself being invalid. This is because, for UK, English is their primary language, the way it is Hindi in major part of India. In India, Hindi, the native language, too (like English of UK) is simple, easy to understand, rarely any difficult word used in day to day communications, and no one would have referred to a dictionary ever. However, English on the other hand is more of ‘professional’ language. It’s a language of international communication and hence is greatly used amongst professionals. Working in India is highly competitive and no doubt English too becomes a tool of differentiating self and hence such a pompous display of this verbal adage.

In either scenario, one wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Indian style of English communication has continued to evolve post Indian independence and possibly, will continue to do so as a hybrid version, a style and tone mixed with local languages and dialects.