Indian English

This is not a discourse on the English spoken by those from the subcontinent. Rather, it’s just a short and simple observation. Perhaps, someday I’ll post something on the phonetics that makes Indians sound like Indians instead of native western English speakers, but not today.

I’ve recently taken a new job and all of my more junior team members are what’s known as off-shore. The two more senior team members are Indian by birth but live in the United States. We have daily ‘stand-up’ calls where no one really stands up, but each team member summarises how their day went and what they plan to do tomorrow. They are at the end of their day as commence mine. If there is anything impeding them from their plan, we have time to remove the impediment.

I’ve worked with Indians for years. In fact, as an Economics student in the 1980s, many of my classmates were Indian. But until now, I didn’t notice a certain phraseology that makes them sound unnatural to my ear. I am not claiming that my way is right or their way is wrong. I’m just noting the difference.

These team members routinely mention the name of the person to whom they are speaking.

  • Yes, I will do that, name.
  • I understand, name.
  • No, name, that’s not what I meant.

And other such constructions. A native speaker will not generally insert the name.

Full disclosure, this could rather be cultural deference as these people are junior and speaking to someone in a manager role, so perhaps it’s less their English speaking but rather a cultural injection. I haven’t heard them cross-talk with each other enough to gather if this name-ness is dropped with peers.

It could well be that their English is overly formal like the French I studied in school but that no one actually speaks. It is overly formal and stilted. Natives can always tell that you’re school-taught and haven’t been exposed to French in the wild. As I mentioned already, it may be cultural etiquette or simply perceived etiquette. If someone knows or has an opinion, I’d like to hear it—especially if you are a native Indian speaker of English.


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