On Language


No this post is not about the death of Indian languages.

So as I mentioned before, I’ve made an a new set of friends, consisting of (I’m being politically correct for the first time in my blog):

S – American woman of Indian Origin
M – an IRREGULAR American (an inside joke, let it go)
A – a COLOMBIAN woman, who’s spent a lot of time in America

Now the 4 of us went to Oriental Bloom for dinner, to the grill, where you get to tell the chef how you want your food.

Now over dinner, the Chef was asking S how she wanted her food (in English). And S replied in Hindi, but the Chef didn’t understand, so he asked her again (in English), and she replied in Hindi.

Now this bothers me a lot, but after having an argument with S about it (while poor A and M looked in the other direction), she made me realize that maybe my attitude might be a little snobby/elitist/orientalist/Macaulay’s Childrenist…or is it? These are the questions I pose to any readers of this blog:

1)Here in India, if somebody asks you a question in English, do you reply to them in English?

2)Do you consider it rude to reply back in Hindi when one of these Service people (Waiters, Shop assistants) speaks to you in English?

S felt (being American) that since people’s grasp of English in this country is poor, why not just talk to them in their ‘native’ language (S, if you ever read this, FEEL FREE TO STEP IN AND GIVE YOUR SIDE IF I’M MISINTERPRETING SOMETHING). Also, S WANTED to speak in Hindi(coz she wanted to practise her Hindi), so she did, and she felt that people were unable to understand her when she spoke in English.

I explained to her, that she speaks American English, and that too with an American accent, so it’s a little harder for people to understand it here. I almost didn’t get hired by HCL because they had trouble understanding my accent (My accent had a lot more American in it about 3 years ago, just having returned from there). Plus American English, as some people may already know differs from British English considerably. This really pissed me off when I went to America for my education. My English is pretty decent, but the English I spoke was British, and nobody understood me. I live in a flat, not an apartment. I throw my garbage in the dustbin, not the trash can. I take the lift, not the elevator. I use the loo, not the John (poor John). I put capsicum on my pizza, not green peppers. I pronounce it as Aloo-miniyum not ALOO-minum. (oh and then of course there is the Indianisation. The letter Double-You has been replaced by dubloo). How many times have I had to explain to people that I live in W block, not UU Block!

Anyway, I told her it sounded a little condescending when she’d reply back to them in Hindi, when they had spoken to her in English (even though that was not her intention). I also added that I think it is mostly here in the North that we consider Hindi to be a National language, and it’s not so true elsewhere – and to prove my point, I decided to ask the chef lady….

Trust me to get egg on my face – the chef lady looked like she was Pahari, or North-Eastren. So I asked her what her native language was – and she replied “Hindi”. Well that ended that argument.

Thoughts? Curses? Marriage Proposals?

NOTE: We can do without the chauvinism, i.e. “We speak better English than the Americans anyway” type comments, comprendo?


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