Hinglish - A 'Pakka' Way to Speak?

Posted by Gülcan Durak • Tuesday, March 9. 2010 • Category: In Depth
Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali....this is just a small selection of languages spoken in India. With over 400 languages and thousands of dialects, it is difficult to keep track of them. It is therefore not surprising that people in India are growing up in a multilingual surrounding. Something not necessarily resulting out of this, but becoming more and more common are the phenomena called ‘Code Switching’ (switching from one language to another) and ‘Code Mixing’ (mixing of two or more languages) which have become normal for many Indians. Hinglish, which is a combination of Hindi and English, is probably the most established example for ‘Code Mixing’ in India. It is not only widely spoken there, but also in the U.S. and in Great Britain, which is not surprising regarding the large numbers of Indians living in these countries.

© Knowledge Must 2010

There are two variants of Hinglish, either you reshape the English syntax with Hindi words or simply the other way round. Doing this you get unique phrases like: «I'm going to have my khaana, yaar», which basically means I’m going to have food buddy. Or imagine yourself buying some delicious Indian snacks from one of the numerous food stalls along the streets: you might be asked: «Pack karna?» -do you want your food packed- easy, right? This way of mixing Hindi and English is common especially amongst young people. For some it might be only a habit, for others it is an opportunity to express themselves best possible by using English words like computer, cinema, phone etc. For these kind of words Hindi equivalents do exist, but they are hardly used by the native speakers.

Hinglish does not only mean to mix the languages, there are also several new neologisms, some very useful and some just really amusing. A frequently used expression in the English language is for example "to postpone something". Indians have more options, they cannot only postpone, they can even "prepone". There really is an abundance of such examples. Also the advertising industry makes heavy use of Hinglish. The famous Indian brand Amul, which is well known for its dairy products, has posters hanging in cities all over the whole country with sentences like: «Nano ya na maano» with the subtitle «Taste drive it». This refers to the small yellow Indian car, built by Tata Motors and gained fame as the world’s cheapest car. The actual Hindi idiom is «Maano ya na maano!» and means believe it or not!. With this ad Amul has taken a topical issue and put it in an amusing context to sell their own products.

Many companies in India promote their products using a mixture of Hindi and English to reach a larger number of potential customers. Though Hindi is (together with English) one of the two official languages of India, it is the mother tongue of only about one in five Indians. That is why English continues to play an important role as a lingua franca among the Indians. A Sikh from Punjab can communicate with a Tamil from South India using English. A conclusion could be that Hinglish as a combination seems to be the easiest way to strike a balance between the two languages. So in future we will keep on hearing phrases like: «Wow, lagtaa hai ki* mom brought us a lot of stuff from Walmart, bhaiyya ke liye* new laptop…great, that means I get to have his!»

With the huge explosion in the popularity of Bollywood movies around the world, Hinglish has yet the potential to become a major world language. Some of the Hinglish expressions used might very well enter the popular mainstream. Just imagine the Royal British Guards chatting in Hinglish during their breaks - even the Queen would certainly be amused this time. In this sense all left to say is: «Hinglish zindaabaad!»*


* [pakka / पक्का = good, appropriate, ripe, decided; zindaabaad / जिंदाबाद = long live; lagta hai ki / लगता है कि = it seems like; bhaiyya ke lie / भय्या के लिए = for my brother]
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  1. Very insightful. A related article you may want to refer/tag is: Hinglish of India – Indian idioms and phrases...and can be found at:

    http://www.theindiansabroad.com/2009/12/hinglish-of-india-idioms-and-phrases/

    Regards.
  2. Nice site.
    Best regards,
    Durak Ponin

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