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?