Mind-boggling Indianisms!

by Sateesh Padmanabhan

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

I am sure many of you reading this article have never heard or come across this term before. Well, this is a word used a lot in India, especially by educators, teachers and trainers and people like me to refer to the Indian way of communicating in English.

Here are a few examples of Indianisms:

  • What’s your good name?
    Meant: What’s your name? – transliteration from Hindi.
  • I’m a professional cooker.
    Meaning a chef. The explanation for this is when you can say footballer, singer, lecturer, cricketer, player, teacher: all these profession names end with an “-er” why can’t we say cooker?!
  • My uncle is on top of my father
    Meant: My uncle lives on the floor above us.
  • Where are you put up?
    Someone who wants to know where do you stay (in which area of a city).
  • Sheela herself only did this project.
    Meant: Sheela did this project without any help. / Sheela did this project all by herself.
  • Where your house comes ?
    Meant: Can you give me directions to your house?
  • I passed out last year from college.
    Meant: I graduated last year from college.
  • Are you coming to my house for dinner tonight, no?
    A tendency to add “no” before the end of every question.
  • She is fully tired, ya!
    Meant: She is very tired or completely tired: unnecessary usage of “ya” which is different from “yeah”.
  • My mother said me to go to the market.
    Meant: My mother asked me to go to the market.
  • I didn’t went to school today.
    Incorrect verb conjugation: I didn’t go to school today.
  • Just like only I went to my uncle’s place.
    Meant: I went to my uncle’s house for the heck of it.
  • I’m having a lot of work now.
    Meant: I have a lot of work now.
  • I saw it happening with my own two eyes!
    Meant: It happened right in front of me.
  • Yesterday, I will be going for a movie.
    Meant: Yesterday I went for a movie; incorrect tense usage.
  • She couldn’t be able to help you.
    Meant: She was unable to help you; incorrect verb conjugation.
  • I like listening musics.
    Meant: I like to listen to music. Preposition “to” dropped, and “music” does not have a plural form.
  • My mother made me to study hard.
    Meant: My mother ensured that I studied hard.
  • Before me, there are two brothers, then is me, three more sisters are coming.
    What was meant was: I have two elder brothers and three younger sisters.

Let us try and understand why many people in India communicate like this.

The reasons are pretty simple:

  • Lack of exposure to the English language as many people take English as their third language in school and are interested only in passing the subject.
  • Lack of opportunity to practice speaking and writing in English: people prefer to stay in their comfort zone and communicate with others who speak their mother tongue.
  • A tendency to think in their mother tongue and translate it into English. This is known as transliteration.
  • Lack of confidence – unable to speak at length in English because they are worried that they will make errors.

At the same time, I would also like to add that there are millions of Indians who communicate effectively and beautifully in English and could give their Western counterparts a run for their money!

Will things change for the better? Of course, it will as communicating well in English is becoming a pre-requisite for many customer service oriented jobs in various industries in India. It has become a universal language to communicate. This will ensure that people take English more seriously and “not with a pinch of salt”!

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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