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Luci Travels My first time traveling and I go halfway across the world-One newbie's experiences in urban India


INDIA | Wednesday, 15 April 2015 | Views [461]

There are two versions of English in India. There’s the British-English they adopted from England during the colonization, which still is taught in schools today. Some schools are taught in only English and are called English-Medium. Otherwise, English is taught in schools as a language requirement. Most Indians will know English, Hindi, their “mother tongue” language, which is their ancestral language and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with where they live, and whatever the local dialect is. There are upwards of 300 different languages in India. 

These languages mesh and conform to the place that they’re spoken. English is no exception. This is the second version of English, or what most call Indian-English.

Indian-English is frustrating, yet endearing. Pronunciation-wise, Indians emphasize the syllables in the middle of the word, rather than my way of enunciating the beginning and end of the word. I found this out by my Indian friends pointing out that I didn’t, in fact, live in BANG-a-LORE, but rather in BANG-alore. I also found that no matter what I’m doing it’s probably wrong.

Word-wise, Indians have a delightful way of creating new terms. Below I have complied my favorite ones I hear most often. 

With regards to commands/questions: As I said in an earlier post, there is no please. A normal way to share food would be to put your plate in someone else’s face and say, “Have,” or, “Take.” People will also bring their fingers towards their mouths and ask you, “You had your breakfast/lunch/dinner?” because they love talking about food. You then say, “Yes, I had.” 

My absolute favorite command/question Indians will say is, “Come home.” This means, please visit my house sometime, but the Indian way of saying it is much sweeter and more welcoming. 

When you want to leave: “I’ll go and come.” You’re free to leave anytime, but will you never come back? To alleviate the stress of not knowing whether you’ll see that person again, saying I’ll go and come means yes, I am leaving, but not permanently. You can say this in absolutely any situation. Leaving for lunch? You’ll go and come. Leaving at the end of the workday? You’ll go and come. Leaving on a ten-year voyage to Europe? You’ll go, but eventually you’ll come back. The only suitable time would be if you were about to be executed, but in most Eastern religions reincarnation is a central belief, so even then, you’ll go for a little bit, but you’ll come back, even if it’s in a different body. 

To explain why things are the way that they are: “It’s like that.” This is one of the few slightly unnecessary but ever-present clarifying terms. A person will be explaining to you something that happens every day, like kids eating their lunch at school. They’ll say, “The kids go from class, then to the lunchroom, then back to class again. It’s like that.” Or, they’ll be telling you about a fact of life. “Summer is always the warmest time of year. It’s like that.” You want to smirk and say, is it? But you don’t, because that would be rude. It’s like that.

Instead of saying, “Right?” after some truth was relayed, Indians will say, “Isn’t it?”As in, isn’t it great, isn’t it true, isn’t it the best/worst darn thing you’ve ever heard? Many of my professors will say this after pretty much anything they teach us. Indians like to add in an extra oomph wherever they can. 

Answering the phone after saying hello, or “hallo”: “Tell me.” This makes me laugh every time. I will call my host mom and she’ll answer, “Hallo?” I say, “Hi Asha, it’s Luci,” and she’ll say, “Ah, yes, tell me.” It’s adorable. It’s also not limited to the phone. When you walk into a room and want to talk to a person, they will sit you down and the first words out of their mouth will be, “Tell me.” Again, very unnecessary, because it’s not like you won’t tell them if they don’t demand it, but it’s something I will without question take back to the USA. 

When Indians themselves are doing the telling, they will inform you as such with, “I am telling.” I kind of like it, it’s like I’m hearing a secret fact no one else can hear, but they’re telling me because I’m special. I think it’s the way they say it. They will say something like, “North Indian food is amazing,” and look right into your eyes, maybe place their hand on your arm, and say, “I am telling.” They’re not just saying it to everyone, they are telling me. Bam. Special. 

To someone who’s sick, you won’t say that they are sick because that means the core of their being is sick. If they have just caught a common cold or a bug, you say, “They fell sick.” Their immune system fell down for a bit, but you can bet that it will go and come. It’s like that. 

Perpetually puzzling, instead of just saying one or two, Indians will say, “One-one,”and, “Two-two.” If they’re giving you directions, they’ll say, “Go down the street one-one block and take a right. There will be two-two buildings, and right after that is where you want to go.” If you say three-three and four-four, they’ll look at you like you’re mental. It’s only one-one and two-two. Don’t ask me how, and don’t ask me why. 

For directions, this isn’t necessarily a term, but a way of talking. I have found that in my daily auto rickshaw rides, they understand, “Straight-ah, right-ah, and left-ah,”more clearly than “Straight, left, and right.” It’s most likely the Indian languages fused with English, but I like the ring it has. Add in a little head bobble and some arm movements, and you’re basically Indian.

“Ha.” It means yes it Hindi, and I can’t stop saying it. At first, I thought everyone was laughing just a little bit at everything I was saying, but now I know they were just saying yes. 

They use, “Only,” a lot, but it’s placed different part of the sentence. It’s either after a question, or to clarify a statement. They’ll ask, “Do you stay here, only?” aka, “Do you only live here, or somewhere else too?” Or they’ll ask, “Do you study in Bangalore, only?” They also will say, “I like chocolate ice cream, only.” It’s very definitive. 

When they don’t understand you, they’ll say, “I didn’t get.” Again, there is no beating around the bush. There’s no, “Please repeat that,” or, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you.” Just a slightly confused look, an awkward smile, and, “I didn’t get.”

If they don’t already guess the country, they’ll ask, “You are from?” or, “Which country?” They are always smiling, excited to find out the answer. When you say USA, they will either say, “Ah, great country,” or something about Obama. They love Obama. He’s very respectful of Indian culture and will whole-heartedly partake in Indian customs whenever he visits or meets with the leaders of India. This is a sincere thank you to Obama, for making my time here just a little bit easier. 

Any female, especially a foreign female, is, “Madam.” It sounded too formal at first, but now I like it. I feel regal, unless there are 10 different shopkeepers and street beggars yelling it all at once.

“So much of.” You didn’t have so much food. You had so much of food. You don’t simply have happiness, you have so much of happiness. There aren’t so many terms India has created, but there are so much of terms India has created. 

Sorry to all of my friends back home, but you’ll have to deal with my side-to-side head bobble and saying, “ha,” after everything you say for quite some time.

Tags: english, gestures, hindi, india, indian-english, mother tongue, phrases, speaking, talking

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