I hate my American accent. I know that I should be more proud of it and stand behind it but I just don’t like it. Like so many other “American” things (the judicial system, healthcare, gay rights, health issues like obesity, lack of safe gun control, etc.)…I just prefer the European versions, which is where I have been living off-and-on the past two decades prior to moving to India. So it goes without saying that I adore and prefer the British accent, the Australian, South African…hell, pretty much every other English accent other than my own.
With that said, it certainly wasn’t a stretch to fall head over heels in love with the Indian accent. Indians speak British English. Well, it’s sort of a British English with a spicy twist. It’s the Eastern equivalent to the Latino Mexican Spanish versus Castilian Spanish scenario. The Brits brought the language to India but once here it mixed with local dialects and turns-of-phrase to form its own version of the language – complete with a sexy unique accent and colloquial words and phrases to bring it to life as we know and love it today. I imagine that this is exactly what happened with Mexican Spanish and the outcome is absolutely wonderful.
First, the Indian accent is unique and lovely. Depending on how “international” or traveled someone is or how much time someone spends speaking English, they will obviously have a softer or thicker accent when they speak English. Some of my friends or business colleagues I understand fully, 100% of the time and never have to say “pardon” to hear what they’ve said again. Yet other times, someone will have me at full attention straining to understand what they are saying, and having to continually ask them to repeat certain words or phrases. Their accent is still fabulous, just so closed and thick that for me I have a tough time understanding it.
There are a couple of words that friends say very differently here that I find to be very cute. One is vodka, which is pronounced more like “wodka” but it sounds fantastic when they say it! The other word – and this is my all-time favourite – is a curse word (sorry, Mommy!) but when they say it somehow it doesn’t sound bad. If my mates say “f*cker” when they are goofing around it sounds something like a cross between “foo-cker” and “fu-care” … they say it really fast and it always makes me smile. I am absolute crap at mimicking accents so I can never nail it like they do but trust me, it’s adorable.
Some accents are sexier than others, and the Indian accent is truly melodic. It’s soo much fun to listen to, day in and day out, but – sorry to say – it doesn’t win the prize of sexiest accent in my book. Since 2003, that title belongs to ‘English spoken with a French accent’! That accent just kills me, I love it. We all have one accent that melts us and, well, that’s mine.
On top of the accents, there are several new idiosyncrasies that I am starting to copy after only living here in Bangalore a few short months. The Indian Head Bob is still the most surprising new trait I have happily adopted. I do it quite involuntary now and I really like it – kind of wonder if that is going to stick with me forever? But after the head bob follows the Indian Double Talk habit! I noticed the Indian Double Talk right when I moved here while listening to a colleague talk on the phone. Then I was in the car and my driver picked up a call and he did the Indian Double Talk too! For me, Indian Double Talk is when Indians say the same word twice for emphasis. The three that I hear the most are used primarily for phone calls and not face-to-face so much. These are:
- “Okay, Okay”
- “Sure, Sure”
- “Sorry, Sorry”
Those three I hear almost daily, and I definitely have started to use “Okay Okay” almost daily myself now too. In Spain, the Spanish say “Si, Si” (yes) or “Vale, Vale” (sure/okay) so I know this isn’t unique to India, but here, with the Indian accent, it just sounds better. I don’t know if this is typical all around the country but at least in Bangalore I hear it loads.
Last, there are oodles of phrases and words that are used in a way that is new for me. It basically makes it so that I don’t understand what people are saying. I have to ask for things to be repeated in another way in order to get what the heck someone is trying to say. Sometimes more than once, this is sort of embarrassing. The same happens in reverse, too, and I need to re-ask something when I have used too much slang or probably just spoken too fast. It’s more a problem of someone not understanding my accent but I always start over, slow down, ask the question a different way, and typically that sorts it out. Here are a few of my favourites new terms:
- Where you put up? (Where do you live?)
- I’m shifting on Thursday. (I’m moving on Thursday)
- Here or parcel? (Do you want it here or to-go?)
- What’s your pin? (What’s your postal code?)
The communication problems aren’t just verbal either. When I receive an SMS from a friend, the way that they shorten and abbreviate is new to me too sometimes. In the beginning it was like trying to work out a riddle or word game, haha. For example, they’ll use Vs for Ws here, like vt = with (“w” is what I had always used in the past). Confused the hell out of me for a while!
It’s funny how the same language can vary from country to country. I guess I didn’t expect this particular issue to be such a fun part of my day-to-day routine but it certainly helps in making India an even bigger adventure for me.
© Angela Carson, 2011