“The beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is,” cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky says. “Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000.” Worldwide. In India itself, we do not have one national language, we have 22 official languages. According to Census of India, the total number of mother tongues spoken in India is 1652 (including languages not native to the subcontinent). However, only around 150 languages have a sizeable speaking population. How this phenomenon implicates the communication in society? Is there any difference between speaking English, Hindi or Tamil in any part of this diverse country? How a foreigner like me or you, can find himself in this beautiful, diverse culture?
Few months back I read great blog-article that made me think a lot about how the communication in foreign language shapes the way we think, understand others and respond to day to day situations. Why do we sometimes describe situation in blaming, sometimes in indulgent way? Why do we put emotional value to some words, sometimes we stay indifferent? Personality changes a little depending on which language you’re speaking. Our perception of the world changes due to our vocabulary and language we speak in respective moment and its fluency. I did not believe it until I experienced it myself living in India. Communicating with people who do not speak, or barely speak English – the language that seems universal and common for most of the modern, educated population – turns you into a field linguist and forcing a little to push your borders to adjust to a new language trying to figure out its structure, meaning and the way people want to pass the message to you. I shared my personal experience and kind of change in personality or – if you want to name it differently – my world perception already in this post.
To be honest, spending quite some time here in this exotic country, so naturally, as time passes, I got used to regional phrases, words, expressions, quite often unknowingly put between English words. Even though, English is not a native language for me itself (please forgive all language lapse met in this blog!) I always open my mouth and try communicating, even making mistakes and forgetting words. So do Indians! Brought up in regional language makes them sometimes difficult to get rid of its structures speaking English. Initially it is challenging to get the point, but knowing a bit of Indianism really helps staying closer to people. And that’s absolutely fine. It’s up to us (it’s up to you! each of you individually) to create a design, code to communicate, to bridge the gap between those things covered with words and those with emotions and all non-verbal communication ways.
Conversations with Indians are mind blowing as cultural experience. They can be thought provoking, deep and challenging. First time when you hear the accent, you want them to repeat the question, sentence or phrase. Again and again. After some time, you get used to the specific language mix and you do start copying some of them in your day-to-day conversations. I strongly recommend trying to catch and use – it makes us to learn to be open minded and friendly. It reveals its hidden beauty! Otherwise, you may end up only with “OK, OK. No problem madam! No problem!” as it goes always No problem – in India when someone doesn’t know what to say.
“What is your good name please? Myself Amit Kumar. I passed out of college in 2017. Do one thing if you did the work, no?” Sounds familiar? No? No problem! Then it will – in couple of days staying in India. They are Indian, and so is their English! Get to know the expressions that you will only discover by going to India and you’ll ease your life a bit. Tora tora or konjam konjam. Depending where you currently stay in India.
WHAT IS YOUR GOOD NAME?
Briefly: ‘What’s your name?’ This is just a direct translation of the same phrase in Hindi, “Aapka shubh naam?”
I HAVE A DOUBT
To have a doubt means you have a question about something. Not: wondering if there is an issue or problem with something.
PASSING OUT OF COLLEGE
Most of us would know it as ‘graduation’ or ‘convocation’. Indians make it, “I passed out of my college” and… they are still in good health. If you pass out anywhere else than in India, you would probably be rushed to a hospital.
DO ONE THING
It simply means that they want you to take up their advice and act in a particular way. Eg: Do one thing, call them to check if they are available for lunch today.
OUT OF STATION
Out of station = out of town. I’m out of station means I’m on a vacation or not in town.
DO THE NEEDFUL
It is a common request, which simply asks us to carry out the requested task. Nothing more, nothing less.
LIKE THAT ONLY
We only use only at the end of the sentence. Or at the beginning. Or anywhere we want. Doesn’t matter, as we are like that only!
Other commonly used Hinglish words one can meet in India:
- Mixie– blender/food processor
- Half sleeves– short sleeves
- Full sleeves– long sleeves
- Nightie– nightwear for females
- Slippers– flip flops
- Matchbox– matches
- Power cut– rationing of electricity
- Maid– a servant who does dish-washing, laundry, cleaning
- Beauty parlour– beauty salon
- Veg or Non-Veg?– vegetarian or non-vegetarian?
- Continental Food– food other than Indian/Indo-Chinese ones, mostly referred to western countries
- Finger bowl– bowl of hot water with lemon used for rinsing one’s fingers between courses, mostly before dessert.
- Pillion– seat for passenger behind a motorcyclist.
- Hotel: can be used in place of ‘restaurant’
- Food parcel: take away food
As per my experience, some of the most meaningful conversations you’ll ever have here in India, would come from the middle class society. The working class of India is inspiring, but you will only discover it by adapting your attitude to their standards and by accepting the trace of native language wrapping the local words into a conversation. That can guarantee bonding and broadening your horizons. Or just in case you want – you can always start learning new language, why not?
Just one thing to remember. The longer you stay in India, the more natural it becomes for you to recognize and understand the meaning of their words that may become your words as well, less understatements and fewer misunderstandings will happen definitely. Why to bother? Just Let it go and enjoy the ride!
This list is just an example! We can keep adding more and more words and phrases 🙂 What other Indianism were you able to find being in India? Have any more lessons learnt? Share them below!
I would love to hear your comments on this! How is your communication in India going on? Do you have any more tips or a question that I haven’t answered? Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of yours? Any comments? – please share your experience. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.