It’s amazing! A billion Indians with all our cultural, religious and linguistic differences can still communicate with each other with relative ease. The mixing of languages, words and accents, though hilarious at times, is something we’ve grown to accept. Without realising it, we use arts, sports, and business as the common medium to connect with each other.
When there are bigger problems for us to be worried about, who cares about being perfect in our diction, pronunciation and choice of words, right?
Unfortunately, for the rest of the world where homogeneity is the norm, the variety and idiosyncrasies associated with India and Indians can be a source of confusion (and entertainment).
We think we communicate well in English. They might not agree.
We think our non-native speaker status when it comes to English isn’t going to be a bottleneck in our endeavour to take on global business leadership responsibilities. They suspect it will be.
Who are they? Admission officers, recruiters, your fellow students, your international blog readers.
So we have this awkward situation where the second largest English speaking country in the world tries to alter its communication style to interact (and desperately fit in) with the rest of the world. We magically seem to develop an alien accent whenever we are talking to westerners.
In contrast, how many times have you heard American, British, Canadian, Australian citizens going the extra distance to develop an Indian accent? The exception is when a professional stand-up comedian is regaling his audience with stories about India and Indians. But being the sporting nation that we are, we’ll laugh along, often ignorantly.
Many a time, when your put-on accent fails to get the idea across and the guy in front of you goes ‘huh?’, what do you do? You rewind your tape and play back the same song, only this time 50 decibels louder. You forget that the issue might be with the choice of words or the accent. It’s easier to assume that the guy in front is hard of hearing, so speaking louder will get the idea into his cranium.
Next time, rather than straining your vocal cords, here’s an alternative to test out, especially when you are talking to someone in USA. Be aware of specific words and phrases that might mean something different or nothing at all to international folks. Replace them with words they are more familiar with.
Here’s a little story to get you started.
The many (linguistic) mistakes of my life
After competing with several lakh (hundred thousand) students I finally got into a good university (school). The hostel (dorm) room made me cherish my time at home during my 10th and 12th standard (10th / 12th grade).
As a fresher ( ‘first-year student’) I got ragged (hazing is the equivalent in USA-gaon) by seniors (from a class ahead of mine). I wasn’t aware of the frustration release song, so I decided to take it all out on my juniors (students in a class behind).
While I was passing out of college (excessive heat causing dehydration had nothing to do with it), my American counterparts preferred the healthier option of graduating. I preponed (advanced) my plan of writing the GMAT (taking it) and after mugging (memorizing) all the techniques and debugging all my mistakes, I got good score (insert ‘a’ before ‘good’ if you are feeling generous).
All I need now is some good workex (work experience) & a copy of Rapidex and I’ll be ready for MBA college (business school) where I can outsource my job hunting to the placement office (careers team).
When Adcom aksed (the axe effect?) me why India is special, I gave impressive answer.
I say him – “When you come to my country, you are foreigners and we are Indian. When we come to your country, we are foreigners, but you are still not Indian.” They offered MBA scholarship, on the condition that I don’t ever repeat this statement in class.
They also offered pickup service. I am not good with pickup lines so I simply said, “I will come with a lot of (emotional?) baggage (luggage), so please come to the airport in a taxi (cab) with a big dicky (trunk).”
When I am busy doing the MBA, many of my batchmates (classmates) will be doing, er, other classmates. But that’s ok, I’ll soon be making crores (tens of millions) like anything, and then they will all envy my package (compensation).
Who needs a rubber (eraser) to erase the mistakes of life when you have an MBA?
Are there any other phrases or words that shouldn’t end up on the MBA Admission Committee’s desk? The comments section is there for that only, no? Please share fast fast, along with your good name.