Self-help suggestions and tips on improving Indian-English or Desi-English language abroad
“Are you enjoying the movie?”
Translated literally from Tamil, simply means absolutely.
There is nothing wrong with the above conversation if both sides know the intended meaning. Now, move that conversation to somewhere in USA or Canada or England, with someone who does not know the ‘Tamil-English’, the actual meaning is lost in the translations.
English language and English grammar is a bit tricky for those who are not used to it, for those with English as a second language. The basic mistakes we make are when we ‘think’ in our mother-tongue, and then translate in our head (Many of us say ‘translate in my mind ), and then speak in ‘translated’ English. Here are some self-help tips on improving desi English overseas:
1. Knowing and Having – the problem of the progressive tense: many Indians often translate and speak with excessive and often inappropriate use of progressive verb form.
For example, consider this:
“I am having a fever.”
“I am having a small family”
“I am knowing that you are having a party without sending me invitation.”
Of course, the correct way of saying is:
“I have a fever”
“I have a small family”
“I know you are having a party without inviting me.”
2. Isn’t it – The tag question: We tend to use ‘isn’t it’ without any discrimination. . It is a habit, but not a good one – everything is not it.
“Those are lovely flowers, isn’t it?”
“She is so pretty, isn’t it?”
The correct version, of course, is:
“Those are lovely flowers, aren’t they?” Make sure to refer to plural ‘flowers’ as ‘are’ not ‘is’.
“She is so pretty, isn’t she?” Make sure to refer to her as ‘she’ not ‘it’
3.The Royal treatment – the big word syndrome:
The Indian English dialects have originally evolved during and after the colonial rule of Britain in India. We tend to use the royal and big word in day to day speech; such usage is not common in western day-to-day English, especially in the spoken English.
That is a magnificent idea!
That is a splendid look!
It is not wrong, but more suitable conversation may be:
That is a great idea!
That is beautiful!
4. ‘But’ or ‘only’ to stress a point: That is another thing. We use ‘but’ and ‘only’ to stress. Consider this Indian way of saying, not correct grammatically:
It was he only who broke the glass.
She was just joking but.
She did not go only.
You could say it better such as:
He broke the glass. Or, It was he who broke the glass. ( the stress is on ‘He’)
She was only joking.
In the end, she did not go.
5. Mr. Smith and Mrs. Johnson – Showing respect by using last name: In India, it is cultural thing that we shy away from using first name for our elders, or our superiors at work. However, Western culture is much more informal when it comes to addressing each-other. So it is okay to call your boss by his/her first name, it is okay to call someone much older than you by first name.
If your Boss is John Davis, it is okay to call him John, instead of Mr. Davis.
6. Uncle and Auntie for friends’ parents – NOT: Continue reading