British diplomats stationed in India are being strongly encouraged to learn “Hinglish,” a hybrid of English, Hindi and other South Asian languages that has caught fire over the past decade and is now widespread throughout the country.
In a 2004 article on the rise of Hinglish, the Christian Science Monitor called it “a bridge between two cultures that has become an island of its own, a distinct hybrid culture for people who aspire to make it rich abroad without sacrificing the sassiness of the mother tongue.”
Since then, it’s basically become India’s preferred method of communication. English words and syntax mix freely with that of Hindi (and other local languages), often even in the same sentence, as Indians switch back and forth to use the language they feel will best help them get their point across.
The International Business Times quotes Abha Sinha, a professor of informational technology at the University of Toledo in Ohio, who wrote that Hinglish is now more common than either Hindi or English:
“Hindi language magazines and periodicals are harder to come by in the U.S. and the Hindi film industry now uses ‘Hinglish’; an amalgamation of Hindi and English. Communications with friends and relatives too has become Hinglish-ized!”
British diplomats used to be able to get by just knowing English, which has been the language of the Indian elite since colonial days. But now, local languages are not stigmatized, and there’s no taboo against introducing them even into predominantly English settings. If you don’t know the local lingo, you can easily miss half the conversation.
In an article in the Telegraph, a British high commission spokesman explained:
“The Foreign Office is placing increasing importance on the ability to transact business in foreign languages. English news channels often have a portion where people choose to express themselves in Hindi because it captures what they’re trying to say better than the English equivalent, so it’s increasingly important for British diplomats to be able to appreciate the nuances.”
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