Gone are the days of “jolly good parties with smashing chaps”, so too afternoon tea which has been replaced by its cousin across the pond — coffee — even as teens prefer “cool dudes” and “awesome dos”. Or, to cut a long story short, Indian English, which once fashioned itself on the lines of its British precursor, is now taking the American route.
Those TV serials
While older teachers of the language in schools and colleges still prefer English the Queen’s way, GenX will have none of it. C.K. Meena, Professor of Journalism, at Mount Carmel College, believes that American serials and movies are the reasons for this change.
“A whole lot of expressions have become American due to the huge influence of cable television,” she says, particularly after the liberalisation of the broadcasting industry in 1992, which opened the Indian market to American culture in an unprecedented manner.
Sampath Kumar, a teacher who used to work at BBC India, agrees. He says the younger generation is able to understand American idioms and phrases better due to the abundance of entertainment programs from the U.S. that are broadcast in India. Americanisms are more prevalent amongst the young blighters of today in the form of slang, he says.
Kala Ramesh Krishna, who teaches English at Mount Carmel, says British English is the beloved possession of the older generations. “When you think of British English in the context of public culture, you are looking back at an older way of interacting with the world.”
This sentiment is echoed by media analyst Sevanti Ninan who says: “Whilst the importance of popular culture being cantered around American entertainment is significant, equally important in accounting for this shift is the fact that American English is the predominant dialogue of business.” With many college students completing their undergraduate degrees abroad in the U.S., and looking for jobs in American companies, it’s not surprising that their argot is American.
Across the pond
Some students, however, are valiantly resisting the Yankee encroachment by supplementing the taught language with “a cheeky gander”, or a studious look at British media and films. “We are taught the technicalities of the language, but not how to speak it,” says Peter, a third year business management student at St. Joseph’s Evening College. “So we have to rely on various forms of media in order to learn how to speak it well.”
He and his group are partial to British films and television programs as they feel British English is “very understandable and has more clarity than American English”.