The Indian Speaks

The Indian Speaks (2)

How do you speak English so very well?

I get this a lot!!

Ever since I moved to the UK, I have been asked many million times how my English is good. Someone once mentioned that if he had heard me on phone he would have easily thought of me to be a native speaker. Now that’s a gracious compliment. But there’s two things here – language and accent.

English is generally widely spoken in India, especially in the cities. If you travelled to extremely rural areas you might notice otherwise but in cities, most people speak or at least understand English. One has to also remember that India was once a British colony. And it was under British Rule for roughly 200 hundred years! During these 200 years, the British government changed all the official proceedings and communications to English and also introduced English as the medium of instruction in schools. After they were forced out of the country, we continued to use English as the official language for proceedings and documentation.

Let’s take my case as that of an average Indian. I studied in a school where we were taught in English. So, although it isn’t my mother tongue, it is my first language. I speak in English with many of my friends too. In fact, I find this to be true with most people that grow up in cities. Considering the population of India, this fraction of city dwellers that speak good English is perhaps more than the entire population of UK.

Now depending on which part of India you are in, you might hear different accents in English though. The reason my accent is fairly neutral is because I like learning languages and I speak about 7 different languages. Perhaps my phonetic spectrum is wider? Don’t know. But I was talking to a friend of mine who speaks 6 different languages herself and she agreed that generally her pronunciations are much better than many people she knows simply because she can ‘hear’ different sounds and identify them as different. And that ability, she thinks, comes to her from speaking different languages. To me, language is only a matter of practice. The more you speak it, the better your hold is on grammar and usage.

Anyways, the point of this post is to put it out there – Many Indians speak fairly good English if not very good English. It’s a thing!


What do you think of languages? How many can you speak? Do you find the theory of ‘wider phonetic spectrum’ believable?


13 thoughts on “The Indian Speaks (2)”

  1. I speak one language, English. I can speak bits and pieces of Spanish and French but not fluently enough to hold a conversation. I’m still considering taking French lessons. It’s very possible that speaking several languages gives you a greater understanding of the phonetics behind them. I’d be interested in knowing if there is data to back this up. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Data to back this up!!! What an interesting perspective you bring to this post Dorinda. I am the scientist here…and I honestly didn’t think of this myself. But you know what! I am going to look into this and see if there’s any data to back my theory up 🙂
      Many thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Right Honourable Valangaiman Sankaranarayana Srinivasa Sastry, popularly known as Right Honourable V S Srinivasa Sastri was an Indian scholar who spoke and wrote English better than the English and was a consultant to the English on the English language.
    The Britishers were always wondering as to how an Indian could speak such beautiful & much better English than most of them. In fact, he was asked about this. He replied ‘I learnt English while Britishers have picked it up’.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. While speaking in English may be a thing in India and especially in Goa (where I am from) we have a lot to thank the British (Portuguese in Goa).
    I am told many times by foreigners that I speak impeccably when I converse. It’s a compliment no doubt, but I’m doing nothing special . Having a foreigner say it to you, does mean a lot!! Not much of the Indian stuff impresses them…let alone the usage of English – which we can match up to them sentence -to- sentence

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t say ‘not much of the Indian stuff impresses them’ because all my friends are stunned by the vast landscape, our culture, our history and everything Indian. I guess it is about how we present ourselves.
      As for English, yes it’s high time they understood the influence of British Raj.


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