How much English do Hindi speakers use!

OK this post is for those interested in languages.

I recently spent a month in India, where Hindi and English “compete” as national languages alongside state and local languages, ten of which have 30 million speakers or more.

Zapping through the tv channels, I joked to myself that there were not really Hindi or English-language channels in India. Rather, there seemed to be 80% Hindi/20% English and 80% English/20% Hindi.

The Hindi channels had so much English that most of the time I could actually tell what they were talking about. And the English channels had not only many Hindi words. Even numbers were expressed not in millions but in “lakh” (100,000) and “crore” (10 million). Also entire constructions of English words, but which were alien to English as used in the US/UK/etc. – a classic example being “kindly do the needful”. All this is of course, completely valid English… Indian English and it’s wonderful. English is the world language partly because it’s flexible and free, not controlled by any academy trying to hold it back.

This reminded me of my time in the Netherlands (1993-2004), when it was sometimes remarkable how much English would pepper the Dutch language. This was particularly the case at my work at a large international bank where the language of emails and documents was English, but my Dutch colleagues and I would usually converse in Dutch. The result was often a nominally Dutch sentence, but with all nouns in English. And sometimes even verbs such as “delete-n”, “outsource-n”, and “change-n”. That may have exceeded the 80/20 of Hindi. But in everyday conversation, it was less than 20%.

I have never known such intense use of English otherwise, though I suspect it may happen in Scandinavia. But it wasn’t the case in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, or Mexico. In fact in Spanish or French you can’t easily incorporate some English words, such as verbs, for grammar reasons. Unlike Dutch or German where you just add an “n”!

South Africans do something else. Rather than incorporate English into another language, they switch languages mid-sentence – English to Afrikaans and back again. However, Afrikaans has had to fight for its existence and so words are consciously created where they are needed. AS a result they are able to use “proper” Afrikaans words when speaking Afrikaans. And in the press the proper Afrikaans words are used.

I’ve heard New Yorkers switch from English to Spanish to English with lightning speed too. Presumably Puerto Rican or Dominican New Yorkers. In California you never heard the Mexicans or Mexican-Americans doing that. Spanish had a very low prestige there and people would use perfect English if they were able to.

So the award goes to… India!

Here is the Hindi and English text of my favorite Bollywood song. Look at how much English is in the Hindi (I’ve bolded the English in the text). Just about every word that is meant to be emphasized. You can watch the video at the bottom of the post.

Hindi English
Angdaaiyaan leti hoon main jabb zor-zor se
ufff! angdaaiyan leti hoon main jab zor-zor se
Uhh ahh ki avaaz hai aati har ore se
Main to chaloon is kadar
Ke mach jaae ye gadar
Hosh waale bhi madhosh aayein re nazar

Mere photo ko seene se yaar, chipkale saiyaan Fevicol se
Fevicol se.. Fevicol se..
Main to kab se hoon ready-taiyar
Pataale saiyan miss-call se
Merey photo ko seeney se yaar chipka le saiyyan Fevicol se

Jhhoom jhhoom jhum barabar.. jhoom jhoom jhoom..
Jhoom le jhum le.. maze mein jhom le..
Jhoom le jhum le.. Nashe mein jhom le..

Pyaar karle tu aaj angoor ki daughter se
Naseehat bhool jayega tu ek quarter se
Peene waale ko bhi jeene ka mazaa aayega
Yeh wo daaroo hai jo chadh jaae sirf water se

Aaja mere raaja, tujhe jannat dikhaun main
Barfeele paani mein fire lagaaun main

Saare India..
Saare India ko tune ghulam kiyaa re
Main to tandoori murgi hoon yaar
Gatkaa le saiyyan alcohol se.. Oh yeah!
Mere photo ko seene se yaar, chippka le saiyaan Fevicol se

Log kehte hain mujhe, main to hoon namkeen butter
Kaat doongi main dil ko, meri javaani hai cutter
Mera jalwaa jo dekh le, wo faint ho jaaye
Close karke too rakh le apne naino ka shutter

Public shehar ki kare hai teraa wait re..
Arrey thummke jo kamariyaa, hile jila kya state re..

Par kahani oh Raani puraani hai teri
Phir bhi photo ko
Tere photo ko seene mein yaar chipka loonga main Fevicol se

My Gypsy with siren taiyaar
Bhaga le ise petrol se..
Petrol se.. petrol se..
Mere photo ko seeney se yaar Chipka le saiyaan..
Chipka le saiyaan Fevicol se
Fevi.. Fevicol se.. Fevicol se..
Nayan ham ladaayenge baby-doll se
Londiyaa pataaenge miss-call se
Bat ball sey, Cinema-hall sey,
Arrey marriage-hall sey, Overall sey
Tere photo ko seeney mein yaar chipkaa loonga main
Fevicol sey

When I stretch mightily
When I stretch mightily
The sounds of ‘uhh’ and ‘ahh’ come from every side
The way I walk
That there is a hell of a noise
Conscious people also seem to be intoxicated

Oh my friend, stick my photo to your chest with Fevicol glue
With Fevicol, with Fevicol..
I’ve been ready for a long time
Persuade me by giving me a missed call.
Stick my photo to your chest using Fevicol

Swing swing swing continuously.. swing swing swing..
Swing swing.. Swing in fun..
Swing swing.. Swing in intoxication..

You, love the daughter of the grape
You will forget the lesson within a quarter-hour
The one drinking will also have fun of living
It is a drink, which intoxicates with water alone too..

Come my king, let me show you the heaven
I set fire to the cold water

All of India…
You have made all of India your slave
I am a barbecue hen
Swallow me with alcohol, oh my beloved
Stick my photo to your chest with fevicol

People tell me that I am salty butter
I will cut the heart, my youth is a cutter
The one who sees my talent, faints
Keep the shutter of your eyes closed

The public of the city awaits you
When your waist moves, not only the district, the whole state shivers..

But oh my queen, your story is old
But still your photo…
I will stick your photo to my chest with fevicol..

My gypsy is ready with siren
Make it run using petrol
Using petrol.. Using petrol..
Stick my photo with your chest, oh my friend
Stick it using fevicol, my beloved
Using fevicol.. Using fevicol..
We will meet our eyes with the baby-doll
We will persuade a girl by missed call
Using bat-ball, By going to cinema hall
Oh by taking her to marriage hall, overall..
I will stick your photo to my chest
using Fevicol.