Language in India

Your location says Palo Alto, CA… and you haven’t noticed the same thing happening with Spanish? Maybe it’s because you’re so used to hearing English peppered with Spanish that you don’t realize, but I noticed it all the time.

I don’t know, Shakester. Do you have some evidence? If you look just at the countries where the majority of inhabitants speak English, you could, I suppose, divide it up into North American English and Commonwealth English, with Americans and Canadians speaking North American English and Britons, Australians, Irish, and New Zealanders speaking Commonwealth English. Even that is a bit shaky. The last time I was in the U.K., in 2005, a British friend told me that Australian and American English sounded more alike to her than Australian and British English. I’m not convinced a two-way division is the right one.

If you looked at spelling rather than pronunciation, it’s probably true that the majority of English speakers in the world, both native speakers and those who learned English in school, use British spellings rather than American spellings.

I’m just not so sure that other countries’ English speakers should be thrown into this group you’re setting up of Commonwealth English speakers. Caribbean English speakers at home speak a dialect that might conceivable be closer to British English, but it’s hard for anybody else to understand. The dialect of Indian English speakers is used by so many people and is sufficiently different from British and American dialects that I’m not sure that it should be combined with either of them as part of a larger group.

It’s my guess that if we want to know what the English of a century from now sounds like, in any country where it’s spoken by that point, it will be closer to Indian English than to British or American or Australian or any other present-day dialect of English.

I would agree that English in S Asia is its own special version now.

I’m not “setting up” Commonwealth English, I linked to the Wiki page about it right there in my post. Go read it, that’s my cite. What’s yours? You talked to one Englishwoman who felt that Australian and American English sounded similar? That’s your cite? I’ve met plenty of Indians and a few Caribbean people too, and I can understand them just fine.

Canadians also speak/write Commonwealth English except where they’ve been influenced by the US. Canada is part of the Commonwealth, QE2 is the Queen of Canada. It’s basically Americans vs all other English speakers when it comes to the English language. Now, Hollywood and US TV has a big influence around the world, but despite Sesame Street everywhere else in the world still pronounces Z as zed and not zee.

Ask the next non-US English speaker you meet how they pronounce the last letter of the alphabet and see what they say. Anyone who didn’t learn English in the US, or from US television like Sesame Street, will say zed.

Canadians speak a dialect of English that’s clearly closer to American English than to British English. Yes, they say “zed” instead of “zee” and they often use British spelling instead of American spelling, but I’ve talked and listened to lots of Canadians, and claiming that they speak something closer to British than to American English is bizarre.

The fact that there is a Wikipedia entry called “Commonwealth English” doesn’t really prove much of anything. It’s an arbitrary category as far as spoken English goes. Yes, as I said, more English speakers use British spelling than American spelling, but claiming that there are two clear categories of spoken English based on the same Commonwealth/American division is far from clear. The fact that a Wikipedia entry exists only shows that someone somewhere thinks that he’s created a valid category.

Nobody said that you can’t understand Indians and Caribbeans. Do you know anything about the patois that Caribbeans speak at home, as opposed to the almost British language that they learn at school? You can understand Americans too. You have to show that there is a divide between American and Commonwealth English that’s generally accepted by linguists who study the dialects of English as being the most significant division of the English language. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the dialects of English, and it doesn’t mention Commonwealth English at all:

Of course I meant my mention of my British friend’s opinion to be an anecdote and not evidence. If you want real evidence, go to the linguistics department of your nearest university and find the expert on the dialects of English. Ask them what they consider the major divisions of English to be. You’re the one that started by claiming that Commonwealth/American English is the best way to divide the language into two dialect groups. You’re the one that needs to prove your thesis.

It would be, yes, which is why I never claimed anything of the sort.

You’re talking about accents, which is another question. Let’s talk about how native English speakers learn English.

  1. From their families.
  2. At school.

OK, the majority of the peoples of the Commonwealth go to school.

At those schools they are taught, among other things, that Z is pronounced “zed” and that aluminium is spelled the way I just spelled it. That’s true in Canada, India, Australia, and everywhere else in the Commonwealth.

There is only one place/culture on Earth where that’s not true: the USA.

I once sat in a pub in London surrounded by four Belgian ladies who kept Switching between Dutch and French in different combinations from all of them speaking one of the languages to all of them speaking the other with all variations in-between.

A couple of years ago I stayed with an Austrian friend working for the EC in Brussels. Some of her EC friends came over for drinks. The Spanish guy switched fluidly between German and French, the German could speak Flemish, another Austrian friend arrived with her Italian boyfriend - she’d ‘picked up’ Italian in about a month and they both spoke French. The conversation flowed between four or five languages and everyone understood… except me, to whom everyone had to address everything in English. Perfect English too. It was a very humbling experience.

Nitpick. Hindi is widely spoken/understood in Jharkhand’s cities and big towns. My experience was that in even slightly ‘interior’ areas tribal languages dominate and it isn’t easy to find someone who can understand Hindi

Umm. I like the theory, (it makes the phenomenon seem cooler:) , but I think you’ll find that ‘fren’ is nothing more exotic than bastardized ‘texting’ language of the “Il c u!!!” (I’ll see you) variety

Well yeah it’s only my cod theory, but “fren” does seem unique to Indians I have observed on Facebook as opposed to any other nationality.

(Aside - here’s one I’ve seen from my Thai frens: when they see something funny on FB they write “5 5 5”. Thai for five is “ha”.)

Sure, and it clearly says:

And then the rest of the article discusses those different varieties of English dialects that have developed in the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and so on. It also discusses what it terms “non-native” dialects that have developed in the Commonwealth, such as in South Africa and India, where English is widely spoken as a second language.

Note as well that while you are placing Canadian English into “Commonwealth English”, your own cite identifies it as “North American English.”

No, actually. Standard Canadian spelling and pronunciation is “aluminum”. The extra syllable in British “aluminium” is not used here. And, there can be considerable variation in the zee/zed thing amongst individual speakers in Canada.

I agree with Wendall Wagner - there is no single dialect of “Commonwealth English.”

OK, Canada, go play with your American friends. You’re OUT of the Commonwealth.

Or, to put it another way, no-one said there was one Commonwealth dialect. I really wish you folks would stop claiming I said things that I didn’t say.

So here’s what I’m going to do about it:

It always blows my mind when people make comments like this. I’m very fond of ZipperJJ, so I don’t mean to pick on her, but sometimes it seems like people live such insular lives! Yes, I switch languages constantly - I speak in Hindi and English with a smattering of Urdu words, answering my aunt, who speaks in Punjabi and Hindi.

The British lived in India for 400 years - of course English is huge. Besides that, i think there are like 14 official languages and something like 700 dialects.

Chak De! was a pretty good movie, btw. I especially liked the inclusion of the girls from the border that didn’t look Indian at all, practically looked Chinese.

As A Brit, I have never heard the term ‘Commonwealth English’, but I frequently see english divided into ‘US English’ and ‘International English’, for instance in online/computer dictionaries. International English is British English in its spelling, grammar and word choice.

Well, yeah, but the Spanish have been in North America for 400 years and you don’t hear us peppering our conversation with Spanish terms. I don’t think she’s surprised that Indians commonly speak English, just that they switch between languages during a conversation.

Well I’d probably get mocked in other threads if I suggested that most people speak English (according to Shakester, they do) and told I lived an insular life for not knowing there are hundreds of other languages out there. But you probably don’t own any baseball cards and I have boxes full. So I guess we’ve all got a different idea of “normal.”

Well, I didn’t see that coming.

In fairness, having boxes of baseball cards isn’t really equivalent to knowledge about the world in which we live.