Strange, amusing use of English in Gujarati

Posted by on August 23, 2010

Once more, we turn to Haresh Pandya for insight into Indian English. Haresh is a freelance journalist and teaches English in a college in Gujarat in India.

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Gujarat is one of the many Indian states where English survives against the odds in the 21st century. There seems no end to the debate over whether young students should study via the medium of Gujarati (the state’s official language) or English. Many educated Gujjus (slang for natives or inhabitants of Gujarat) either find English very difficult or simply do not take it seriously.

Ironically, in a state where English is treated almost as the wicked stepmother by hardcore Gujarati supporters, most people regularly use words like cup, glass, table, school, college, court, cycle, engine, bus, train, driver, pilot, professor, doctor and hundreds of others. They have become part of the vocabulary, simply because they are easier to remember than the rarely-used Gujarati words.

Even uneducated Gujjus say things like “I’m sorry”, “Excuse me” and “Thank you” at the drop of a hat. They, like the Gujarati newspapers, employ many an English word in their own peculiar, often innocently funny, way.

Many Gujjus, for example, seem to believe that the word lady does not exist, but that ladies does. In other words, a single woman is not a lady but a ladies – you might hear a Gujju say: “I didn’t go to that bookstall because the shopkeeper was a ladies”. You might wonder what, then, is the plural of “ladies“? Well, it is ladieso (written and pronounced as “ledizo“). With a mere addition of the suffix ‘o‘ most of the commonly-used English nouns in Gujarati become plural. For instance, a school and two schoolo, a bus and two buso, and so on. Take this example: “Ghani trucko na drivero aaje hadtal par chhe”; literally translated, it means: “Drivers of many trucks are on strike today”. Notice the plural forms of truck and driver in the Gujarati sentence.

In English cricketing parlance, innings is both singular and plural. But in Gujarati, they speak – and write – one inning, two inningo. So you  have “England ni pratham inning ma fakt Kevin Pietersen  j zadpi bowlero no samno kari shakyo” (in England’s first innings, only Kevin Pietersen could face the fast bowlers) but “Sachin Tendulkar banne inningo ma saras ramyo” (Sachin Tendulkar played very well in both innings).

These are just a few examples of the odd manner in which English is sometimes used in India. Gujarati and its users may appear strange or amusing to those well-versed in English but, make no mistake, it is a very sweet language with its own rich literature.

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