India hasn’t forgotten the English – A case of true bilingualism

10 Mar

No words in this trailer, but the movie — Guzaarish — is an example of mixed language. Watch it on Netflix.


I like language, its power, its beauty and its imperfections.

Learning about a language can tell you a lot about the people who speak it. Chinese, for example, is structured in a way that allows the speaker to say something without really saying it. It is a subtle and metaphorical tongue. This is due in part to the fact that many, many words share the same pronunciation, like the English “dear” and “deer” but on a much wider scale.

The given name of deceased Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping, for example, sounds just like the words “little bottle.” When the Chinese people tried to convince the Communist government to install Deng as their leader, they marched through the streets holding up little bottles. This allowed them to make a point while denying they were engaged in political activity.

That’s cool.

In India, they do something even cooler, something I find fascinating but don’t understand. I hope someone can explain it to me.

I haven’t been to India and know nothing of Hindi, the official language, but I do watch Indian movies. In those movies people will be speaking a blue streak of Hindi – to a friend, to a lover, to a business acquaintance or government official – then without warning or pause switch to English. Then just as quickly, they will switch back to Hindi, then do it again and again.

Ten words of Hindi, five of English, 100 of Hindi, three of English … on and on.

I’ve tried to figure out if certain things are said in English for effect or emphasis, but it doesn’t appear that way. It appears random – totally random, without reason. But it can’t be. Or can it?

Who out there can explain?

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