‘I never cease to be amazed by the creativity of English in India’ 

Dr. Elaine Higgleton, Publishing Director for Dictionaries & Reference at Collins Language, shares her thoughts about the Indian way of speaking English.

I visit India regularly and one of the things I most enjoy about my visits is the opportunity to listen to and learn more about how English is used in India. 

English as used in India sounds very familiar to me, but just that little bit strange. It’s like meeting someone I know I have met before but can’t quite put a name to. For example, I know what this means: We use this book till class 4, although I would only use ‘till’ with expressions of time and would say We use this book up to class 4. And I know what this means: I am thinking loudly although I’d use ‘out loud’ instead of ‘loudly’.

I never cease to be amazed by the creatively of English in India (or ‘Hinglish’, or ‘Rashtriya English’, if you prefer) and the way speakers put existing words together to form new compound words (e.g. batchmate a person in the same year as you at college or school), incorporate terms from Indian languages into English (e.g. chaddi buddy – which is my current favourite), and very slightly change idioms, making them even more visual and apposite (e.g. My shoes are biting me – such a lovely image and so much nicer than My shoes are pinching me!). And prepone fills such useful space (as a simple single-word alternative to ‘bring forward’) that it’s used by a German colleague in London when she’s speaking English.

English has always been able to absorb words and influences from the languages and cultures that it comes into contact with; some linguists refer to it as global language (very simply, a global language with local features), although this is a modern term and English has been borrowing words en masse from other languages ever since the Norman Conquest in 1066. I’m always interested in finding out more so please do comment below, or post your favourites on our facebook page!

Indian English: He has gone out of station.
British English: He has gone out of town.

Indian English: My daughter is in the family way.
British English: My daughter is expecting.

Indian English: To In-Charge
British English: To whom it may concern