Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why Hinglish will beat Chinglish


Thanks to it's English Language advantage, India has become world leader in call center and Back office outsourcing.China cannot compete as very few Chinese speak English. To rectify this china has made English compulsory in schools. Will it soon give India a tough competition in outsourcing?

I doubt it. I was asked once by a Chinese magazine for a 'short' article of 3000 words on the Indian economy. I protested that 3000 words was much too long. "No " said the Chinese editor, "When translated , 3000 English words will shrink to just 800 mandarin words ."

Every letter in mandarin is a full concept. That gives mandarin a totally different structure. So it is truly difficult for chinese to master English, and for the british to master mandarin. For similar reasons the japanese remain weak in english. Some chinese speak excellent english, but they are so few that they command salaries of $100,000/ year, too high for call centres.

It's much easier for Indians to learn English. Sanskrit (the root of Indian Languages) and Latin (the root of European Language) belong to the same geoup of the Indo-European languages. When a swaminomics column of 800 words is translated into Hindi, the translation is also around 800 words. Only a tiny fraction of indians speak high quality english. Most speak halting or pidgin English that can sound comic. Jug Suraiya has pointed out that teh Indian phrase "With folded hands" is anatomically impossible. So is "my head is eating circles" a direct translation of "mera sir chakkar kha raha hai." (मेरा सर चक्कर खा रहा है ) . Malcom Muggeridge once said that that he realised, whenever an indian spoke english, that the days of the white man's burden were not over.

We now have Hinglish, which does not even attempt translation but mixes English and Hindi words. It has become the lingua franca of Bollywood movies. But it is inadequate for call centres which require good english and an American accent. BPO companies now hold English training Classes.

Many indians instinctively translate Indian phrases into English, with comic results. But the Chinese are even funnier. Signs for visitors to China -given high priority in the run-up to the Beijing olympics -leave one in the splits of laughter. Consider the Sign board to a toilet.
  • Go into the toilet Beard know
  • The service object of this toilet is limited by a person only.
  • The toilet provides only into the toilet place, the dissatisfied foot goes into the toilet to have a bowel movement outside of other request.
  • The one who go into toilet want to take good care of toilet facilities, strictly forbid to move this toilet tool to dit it touse.
  • Go into the toilet beard to place excrement the tool is intestablishment inside, cannot spread to leak.
  • The one who go into toilet cannot clamour loudly. The in order to prevent makie other go into toilet is frightening.
  • Go into the toilet and cannot will boil to make food to take isedible into this toilet, the in order to break good go into toilet environment.
  • Can not move bowels in the urine the pond.
  • Please read this beard to know hard into toilet and act according to carry on.
Here are some more examples from
  • Sign at a counter of China Eastern Airlines: Check in Animals and alcoholics, passengers may carry 2 bottles wine.
  • Sign in a garden. Little grass is having rest. don't disturb them.
  • Sign in a garage. If you are stolen, call the police at once.
  • Sign at a river. Take the child, fall into water carefully.
  • Space for Rent: Please inform office if you are interesting.
  • Sign at a cliff: Be careful the safe. No jumping.
  • Sign at a clothes shop. Kids swear.
  • Sign on a wall. Dying right here is strictly prohibited.
  • Sign in East China Hotel, regarding stoppage of water in taps. We are awfully sorry for the convenience to you. Thank you for your uncooperation.
  • Sign at Cliff: Care for life, do not fun.
  • Sign near a low roof. Bump the head care sully.
  • Sign at a railway platform: Please don't cross any railing lest suddenness happens.
  • Sign at an Airport. Pregnant women over 70 and disabled peoples longue.
  • Sign at Hotel. Please present your voucher before breakfast.
Many signs in India, too, can be hilarious, but china is in a league of its own. In the foresee-able future, it cannt become proficient in enough in English to compete in Call-Centers. Hinglish may have it's problems but will always beat Chinglish.

By: Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
The Author of this artilcle is a weekly member of the editorial for the Times of India English news paper. His articles are published under the title "Swaminomics" every Sunday in Editorial Section in the Times of India, English.

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