Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav

Does the world find the Indian Accent of English funny? And why?

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The Indian accent sounds a little like the Welsh accent—but all regional accents in Britain are made fun of, in an affectionate way.

But the real issue with the Indian accent in English is that it has a different rhythm to that of a native English speech (of any kind—British, American, Australian, whatever). Ask a typical Indian to pronounce the word develop, for example, and the likelihood is that he or she will say DEH-v’lop (when in fact, it should be de-VEH-lop).

When it’s just one or two words, the result is funny—but when the entire conversation is riddled with such misrhythms, it can seriously impair comprehension by the native English speaker. (This is why so many British and American firms have been pulling out their techsupport centres from India, and either bringing them home, or relocating them to native English-speaking countries such as Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago.)

To gain true mastery of a language, one must not only learn its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, but emulate the rhythm of speech of its native speakers. The hallmark of the native rhythm of English speech—in fact, the key to effective English communication—is the trochee. For a more extensive discussion of this, see my explanation of The importance of rhythm (or why Trump won the election).

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Author: יונתן אור-סתיו | Jonathan Orr-Stav

Hebrew-English translator, editor, author. מתרגם עברית–אנגלית, עורך באנגלית, וסופר.

One thought on “Does the world find the Indian Accent of English funny? And why?

  1. A fun and satisfying read, as always.’Funny’ for this questioner, may imply either ‘humorous’, or ‘odd’. Personally I find the tonal mini-rollercoasters ‘charming’, but then, I fix my own computers, ha.
    A close university friend I had grew up in Gujarat as an American aid-worker kid. His English was forever ‘warped’ by the constant exposure to ‘sing-song’.
    I will mention the importance of tone as an equally disconcerting road-block to native fluency. Remembering, for example, a college girl who told me “I grew up in North Jersey” What I heard was,( ‘to our beoples’), “I grew up in North Jersey??” Try it aloud and you’ll know to what I refer. The rising, interrogative tone at the trailing end. I think I told her to check any documents she might have, to settle the question! Never quite got used to it, even after ten years of marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

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