Today I’m happy to post a guest article by community member and English teacher Jovana Čenejac. Jovana is involved with the development of Saundz English Pronunciation Software and was generous enough to share with us some of her expertise on the infrequently recognized Indian English,
Characteristics of Indian English
Since the early seventeenth century, when the East India Company established trading posts in the East Indies, English has been used widely throughout the country and quickly gained importance in the fields of economy, industry, education, as well as in India’s political and social life.
Consequently, the English language became the official language of India.
Apart from English, India’s other official language is Hindi. Another 18 other languages are recognized as regional languages, while at least 400 languages and hundreds more dialects are spoken on the subcontinent.
In the midst of such linguistic variety, English serves as a medium to unite people who do not share the same mother tongue. As mentioned above, the English language plays a pivotal role in administration, international communication and its usage enables technological progress.
What is Indian English?
The English spoken on the Indian subcontinent has some distinctive characteristics that set it apart from other international varieties of English such as RP (Received Pronunciation) and GA (General American).
These differences arose as a result of a long period during which English was in constant contact with languages spoken natively in India. As a result, the variety of English spoken on the subcontinent is frequently called Indian English.
When it comes to words, English spoken in India has been under the dominant influences of the native languages of the subcontinent, which is reflected in its lexicon.
Many words from Indian native languages have been introduced into the global English language spoken worldwide; some notable examplesbeing jungle, bungalow, punch, shawl, and verandah. What is more, there are some words which are unique to speakers from India and instances of misunderstanding are not uncommon. Such words are airdash which is used for someone who is in a hurry, or badmash which denotes a hooligan.
Sometimes, speakers of English in India add a new level of meaning existing words. For instance, if a person wears a hi-tech outfit, it does not mean that they are equipped with the latest digital gadgets. Instead, a hi-tech outfit stands for fashionable and modern, following the latest trends. It often happens that a word from Hindi replaces an English word.
If you hear achchaain the middle of conversation led in English, do not be surprised. It only means good.
Differences in Pronunciation
Differences in vocabulary are not the only characteristics that make common communication more difficult. Certain differences in pronunciationare also distinguishable.
For instance, the speakers of English in India do not make any difference when it comes to the sound /v/, which is produced using one’s lower lips and top teeth; and sound /w/ in the production of which both lips are used. Also, the two th sounds /θ/ and /ð/ are usually replaced by /d/ and /t/.
The reason for this replacement is because these sounds do not exist in Indian languages and therefore, they are harder to master. Also, central vowels are /ə/ and /ʌ/ most commonly disregarded and replaced by the vowel /a/.
Another characteristic of the sounds used by speakers of English in India is the replacement of two adjacent vowels by a single long vowel followed by /r/sound. So beer becomes /bir/ and pear is pronounced as /per/.
Following all this, there is no doubt that the English language spoken on the subcontinent bears its own special traits. It is vibrant and follows its own rules of development.
However, in order to maintain proper communication and transmit the message in a correct manner, I believe that every speaker should try following the rules of the target language at least when it comes to pronunciation.
There is no doubt that today’s latest trends in digital technology can help us be better language learners and master our pronunciation skills.
About the Author:
Jovana Čenejac is an English teacher whose major focus is phonology and accents. She currently works on developing curricula for pronunciation software that is intended to help English students all over the world improve this critical skill.
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