Monday, August 9, 2010

English know you?

Like the previous post, this is not one of my “regular” posts. I just couldn’t keep it in any longer, so I decided to vent my frustration by writing this.

I’m absolutely appalled at the way in which Indians speak English. Now, I’m an Indian too, but at least I have a good degree of understanding of the true nature of the language in its spoken form. (Note, here, that the way in which native English speakers speak English varies significantly across the world, and I’m talking here of only the common denominator.) I could, if I wanted to, practice a little and sound more or less like a native English speaker. You’d ask what’s stopping me. What’s stopping me is the fear that if I speak the language in the correct manner, other Indians will ridicule me because I’d be “speaking with an accent.” I put that in quotes because most Indians aren’t even aware of what “speaking with an accent” means. Also, in India, “speaking with an accent,” is for an incomprehensible reason, equated with snobbery. There would be other changes in the way I speak too, but those might be imperceptible to the common Indian ear.

I could write a super large article here, but I know most Indians will not bother to change, so I’ll keep it terse. Off the top of my head, I can list four reasons for the stupid manner in which we speak English.

Not all of the sounds we produce correspond to the sounds in the English language.

Simple examples: “p” is equated with प instead of फ (which is still not a perfect correspondence, but it is way better than प); similarly “k” is equated with क instead of ख. There are so many sounds in English that don’t even exist in Hindi and other Indic/Dravidian languages because of which it is natural that we cannot make them.

I calculated a very approximate percentage of the (reasonably) correct correspondence between the Hindi and the English alphabet (in terms of the sounds), and it comes to around 65%. (We pronounce around 17 out of the 26 sounds associated with the letters of the English alphabet reasonably correctly.) Therefore, the way in which we speak English, assuming (rather foolishly) that we get all the other factors right, and based only on the “all sounds don’t match” factor, will still sound to a native English speaker the way मैं अकने डेस से बहुथ फ़्यार खरता हूँ sounds to us.

English is NOT a phonetic language.

As far as I know, Indic/Dravidian languages are phonetic languages. English is an accented language. By phonetic, it is meant that a language is written in the same manner as it is spoken. I can personally speak only about the Devanagari script, which is used for writing Hindi, Marathi, etc. Now, although the Hindi-Devanagari combination, for eg., is not really completely phonetic (there are some exceptions), it is still more or less phonetic. A simple example is the word बापू. The word is written and pronounced in exactly the same manner. However, in English, most words are NOT pronounced as they are written. For example the schwa replaces the vowel sound “a” in the word “marine” (mə’ri:n). If the scheme of things with English were phonetic, a possible pronunciation of the word would have been मारीने. (I used the री sound for lack of a symbol in Devanagari.)

Now, all I demonstrated in the above paragraph was the use of the word “marine” in isolation. The pronunciation of that word is the result of a concept called word stress. The accented nature of a language results in another concept called sentence stress (which basically takes the concept of word stress further). Resultantly, the cadence of correctly spoken English has a sense of a more or less alternate arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables. Indians have NO CLUE of this phenomenon.

Indians use incorrect phrases far too often.

I’m not sure what causes this, but my best guess is that when using phrases, Indians tend to speak English in the same manner as they would speak Hindi or Marathi or whatever their mother tongue is. A bit of an extreme example, just to demonstrate what I’m saying, would be “remove printout” which is the translation of “printout निकाल.”

Prepositions!

Indians know lots of English words. The problem is that most times they have no clue which preposition to use with which word. A simple example: “Go in through that door” becomes “Go in from that door,” which comes from “उस दरवाज़े से अन्दर जाइए”

And I have not even started talking about grammar (and punctuation where the written form of the language is concerned).

Anyone wanting more details or wanting to discuss about something I wrote in this post is free to write a comment, and we can take it from there :)

24 comments:

VS said...

I understand.. :)

रौशन् कामत् said...

"I’m absolutely appalled at the way in which Indians speak English."

You shouldn't be. No non-native speaker of ANY language can speak like a native unless she has been immersed among the native speakers since early childhood.


"We pronounce around 17 out of the 26 letters reasonably correctly."

That's not much of a data point because English sounds don't map to the alphabet letters one-to-one anyway. Plus, there are sounds for which there isn't an alphabet in the Latin script; so they won't get included in your count here. For e.g., घ has no letter in English typography, but it DOES occur, though infrequently, in words like doghouse.

Also, English letters change pronunciation depending on their position/context or simply based on the etymology of the word. So, a given letter can have multiple sounds mapped to it.


"As far as I know, Indic/Dravidian languages are phonetic languages."

That sentence is true ;) because ALL spoken languages are phonetic languages (including English).


"By phonetic, it is meant that a language is written in the same manner as it is spoken."

Well, you mean a "phonetic script" then? Even so, show me ONE indic language that's written in the manner in which it is spoken? It is impossible to come up with a *usable* script that can encode everything required by the phonology of the language AND spoken nuances. We all end up with approximations to speech. Ultimately, scripts serve to encode mnemonics to the spoken word.


"The pronunciation of that word is the result of a concept called word stress."

That's not true. English is definitely a stressed language; however, the pronunciation (phonology) has nothing to do with where the stress falls or how the word is written. (e.g. read vs. reed or red vs. read).

रौशन् कामत् said...
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रौशन् कामत् said...

"The accented nature of a language results in another concept called sentence stress"

Not true. Languages like Urdu have sentence stress too. In fact, most languages in the world have some form of sentence stress. And that's not driven by word stress at all.


"Resultantly, the cadence of correctly spoken English has a sense of a more or less alternate arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables."

Cadence defines regional accent in English. The Birmingham cadence is different from the New York which is different from Boston or Texas. However all use the same stressed/unstressed syllables in their speech.


"Indians have NO CLUE of this phenomenon."

And rightly so. Indians don't speak ANY stressed language. The other side of the coin is that English speakers who have no expertise in any Romance languages don't understand the concept of vowel durations in the absence of stress.


"Indians tend to speak English in the same manner as they would speak Hindi or Marathi or whatever their mother tongue is. "

Which is again natural if you are speaking a non-native tongue. Ever tried listening to an English speaker trying to talk Spanish!?


"The problem is that most times they have no clue which preposition to use with which word. "

Again, that's to be expected. Unless you are a native speaker you wouldn't know which pre/post position goes where and when. I harken back again to the English speaker trying to speak Spanish. (Or, say a Gujrati businessman in Bombay speaking Maraathi).


All in all, I would say Indians speak their variety of acquired English (just like any other ethnic group in the world).

Also, the English themselves don't speak English in a 'standard' way. Received Pronunciation is considered standard, but local pronunciations exist right in and around London that don't match Received Pronunciation. [And I'm not even including the Scots and Irish here.] The wide variety of English pronunciation & accent right in Southern Britain (London & Countryside) itself should lay lie to the idea that Indians have an 'ideal' to aspire to.

Laxmi Salgaonkar said...

so true....a lot of BPOs/call centers in India spend huge amounts of money training people on exactly the same thing!!! Now you know what a difficult job that it!!!

Mohit said...

"I’m absolutely appalled at the way in which Indians speak English.

You shouldn't be. No non-native speaker of ANY language can speak like a native unless she has been immersed among the native speakers since early childhood."

[Mohit]I'm sorry, but I do not agree with you. I've seen people learn a completely new language in their twenties and master it. I can understand that to speak English in the correct manner (meaning you are at least getting the common denominator right), one must first unlearn what one learnt as a child. I know that's tough, but what vexes me most is that most Indians tend to think that the manner in which *they* speak English is the correct manner and that native English speakers needlessly "speak with an accent" and this is considered funny, stupid, etc. There is no attempt made to understand/acknowledge that it is us who speak the language wrongly and that we need to improve.

Mohit said...

"We pronounce around 17 out of the 26 letters reasonably correctly.

That's not much of a data point because English sounds don't map to the alphabet letters one-to-one anyway."

[Mohit] I understand what you are saying in the above sentence, and I see that my phrasing indicates that we pronounce around 17 letters reasonably corrcectly. I actually meant to say that we pronounce the sounds associated with those letters reasonably correctly. I'll make that change in the post.
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"Plus, there are sounds for which there isn't an alphabet in the Latin script; so they won't get included in your count here. For e.g., घ has no letter in English typography, but it DOES occur, though infrequently, in words like doghouse."

[Mohit] I intended to provide a very approximate ballpark, just to give my readers an idea. That figure wasn't meant to be accurate. That's why I said "We pronounce *around* 17 out of the 26 letters *reasonably* correctly, but anyway, I didn't realize that I'd gotten the phrasing of that sentence wrong, so I'll make that change in the post after I'm done done with replying to your comments.

Mohit said...

"Also, English letters change pronunciation depending on their position/context or simply based on the etymology of the word. So, a given letter can have multiple sounds mapped to it."

[Mohit] Sure it can; I was talking about the total pool of sounds associated with the English language.
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"By phonetic, it is meant that a language is written in the same manner as it is spoken."

Well, you mean a "phonetic script" then? Even so, show me ONE indic language that's written in the manner in which it is spoken? It is impossible to come up with a *usable* script that can encode everything required by the phonology of the language AND spoken nuances. We all end up with approximations to speech. Ultimately, scripts serve to encode mnemonics to the spoken word.

[Mohit] I did say in my post that Devanagari does have its own sense of problems. But if you take a random paragraph written in Hindi, for eg., and then count what percentage of the language-script scheme of things is phonetic (per the definition I used of "phonetic"), I suspect that a very high percentage *will* be phonetic. For me, that percentage would be high enough to actually call the Hindi-Devanagari scheme of things phonetic. OTOH, in English, there are very few words that are pronounced the way in which they are written. That's the reason I call it nonphonetic.

Mohit said...

"The pronunciation of that word is the result of a concept called word stress."

That's not true. English is definitely a stressed language; however, the pronunciation (phonology) has nothing to do with where the stress falls or how the word is written. (e.g. read vs. reed or red vs. read).

[Mohit] I didn't understand what point you are taking an exception to. I meant to say that the manner in which you pronounce a(ny) word in English is--among other things--dictated by "word stress." For eg., take the word "beggar." By rules of word stress, because it is a bisyllabic noun, the stress falls on the first syllable (hence the stressed "beg") and the second syllable is unstressed resulting in the "a" being replaced by the schwa.-
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"The accented nature of a language results in another concept called sentence stress"

"Not true. Languages like Urdu have sentence stress too. In fact, most languages in the world have some form of sentence stress. And that's not driven by word stress at all."

[Mohit] Sentence stress in English is a result of multiple factors, one of which is word stress, per my knowledge. Another factor is stressing an important word in the sentence so the listener understands the sentence in the right manner. I didn't mention this because we do this in Hindi too.

Also, because I do not know much about other languages, it is possible that "sentence stress" *means* different things for different languages.

Mohit said...

"Resultantly, the cadence of correctly spoken English has a sense of a more or less alternate arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables."

"Cadence defines regional accent in English. The Birmingham cadence is different from the New York which is different from Boston or Texas. However all use the same stressed/unstressed syllables in their speech."

[Mohit] I did mention that there's no one correct "spoken English" and that it varies across the world. I'm just talking about the common denominator here. And all I'm saying is that the phenomenon of the "more or less alternate arrangement of stresses and unstressed syllables" exists in spoken English.
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"Indians tend to speak English in the same manner as they would speak Hindi or Marathi or whatever their mother tongue is. "

"Which is again natural if you are speaking a non-native tongue. Ever tried listening to an English speaker trying to talk Spanish!?"


"The problem is that most times they have no clue which preposition to use with which word. "

"Again, that's to be expected. Unless you are a native speaker you wouldn't know which pre/post position goes where and when. I harken back again to the English speaker trying to speak Spanish. (Or, say a Gujrati businessman in Bombay speaking Maraathi)."

[Mohit] Sure, I agree that it is *expected* and *natural* that Indians speak English in the wrong manner. My point was never to say that it is not expected or natural. But that it is expected and natural does not change the fact that it is incorrect.

Mohit said...

"All in all, I would say Indians speak their variety of acquired English (just like any other ethnic group in the world)."

"Also, the English themselves don't speak English in a 'standard' way. Received Pronunciation is considered standard, but local pronunciations exist right in and around London that don't match Received Pronunciation. [And I'm not even including the Scots and Irish here.] The wide variety of English pronunciation & accent right in Southern Britain (London & Countryside) itself should lay lie to the idea that Indians have an 'ideal' to aspire to."

[Mohit] Your point brings me back to my concept of "common denominator." This in itself is a big subject of discussion, but let me tell you what I mean by it. Some (why, many) rules in spoken English are common. Even if these are adhered to, I'd be happy. For eg., the manner of speech of native English speakers varies acorss the world, BUT the speech of each of them is dictated--among other things--by rules of word stress. I do not believe that there's any native English speaker who's speech does not follow word stress.

When I was in Remond, we had an Australian guy come over for a couple of days to help us with the project. He spoke English in a very different way. Yet it conformed to the "common denominator." So in a way, if you get the common denominator right, any native English speaker would be able to understand you quite well and won't even suspect that English is not your mother tongue.

Mohit said...

VS, I do not understand what you understand :P

Mohit said...

Laxmi Tai, because you are my darling behna, it's natural that whatever pains you pains me, too ;)

रौशन् कामत् said...

"For me, that percentage would be high enough to actually call the Hindi-Devanagari scheme of things phonetic. "

Ok. So, what are your objective criteria for determining where you draw the line? What about indicating tonal accents in Devanagari? What about stress accents? What about sentence stress?

To a Spaniard, Devanagari is deficient in indicating stress. And obviously, he thinks that his scheme of writing is most phonetic. A Chinese guy, think that the Spanish scheme misses out on tonal accents (and is hence inherently deficient). And so on.


"By rules of word stress, because it is a bisyllabic noun, the stress falls on the first syllable (hence the stressed "beg") and the second syllable is unstressed resulting in the "a" being replaced by the schwa.-"

Are you saying all bisyllablic words are pronounced in this manner in English (or even that this is the 'default' rule that English speakers follow when they encounter a new bisyllabic word)? If that were so, native English speakers wouldn't pronounce my name as "rushAn". What about "mistake", "advance", "foment", "portend", etc. etc.?

Or how about "finance" which goes both ways - depending on regional variation. [Did you say something about the 'lowest common denominator'?]


"My point was never to say that it is not expected or natural. But that it is expected and natural does not change the fact that it is incorrect."

My point precisely is that this is 'acquired' pronunciation, which, by definition, is not native ("Correct" or "Incorrect" is as separate beast in itself).

English speakers have themselves changed their speech so much since the beginning of modern English that the spellings (which DID match the spoken word when they were agreed upon) no longer reflect the pronunciation! So, which 'English' is 'correct' - the contemporary pronunciation or the one during Shakespearean times? By your own argument the English themselves speak "incorrectly" in present times!

At best you can say the Queen's English currently is the 'arbitrary' idiom to follow [and will serve as a 'standard']. But this standard in itself keeps changing.


"So in a way, if you get the common denominator right, any native English speaker would be able to understand you quite well and won't even suspect that English is not your mother tongue."

I already wrote in my earlier reply that whether you take a guy from Birmingham or New York etc. they all follow the same 'stressed/unstressed' syllables in words. There is, of course, regional variation in this too - but that's minor. You get the syllable stresses right, and all *native* speakers will *better* understand you. They will still know you're not a native speaker because you'll mispronounce many consonants and vowels, and your cadence will be alien. [Non native speakers on the other hand will have a harder time understanding you because you're using patterns that they are not familiar with. Hence, you'll be funny.]

रौशन् कामत् said...

About the only thing that I can completely agree with you in all this discussion is that the Devanagari scheme as adopted for Hindi spellings (though in severe need of reform) better represents the spoken word than does the English spelling scheme for English, which in turn is better that the Chinese logography for the Chinese languages.

But all that's really an 'aside' because a language is not dependent on its script. A script merely tries to encode speech and scripts independently evolve in directions different from that of speech.

Students should learn from native speakers' speech (by hearing, not reading). But most English teachers in India (or Sri Lanka, Jamaica etc.) are not native speakers.

रौशन् कामत् said...

One final thing: I don't understand your basis for this article. I could have followed the underlying idea if it were only Indians who were oblivious of the intricacies of English speech while the rest of the world had no difficulties at all.

Even the French, who are not only neighbours of the English, but practically 'reformed' the language during the Norman conquest don't speak it like native English peoples do. Or, the Germans who gave the English the foundations for their language speak English with an 'accent' that's always made fun of.

And when you move away from the Europeans (or their colonies like Australia), it's more challenging to find anyone who speaks like a native.

Why look outside? Look into one's own house first. How many non-native speakers do you know who speak Urdu/Hindi correctly!? Even limiting yourself to those who are native speakers of an Indo-Aryan language (forget Dravidian or Tibeto-Burman speakers)?

sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about these Devanagari books?

http://www.YogaVidya.com/freepdfs.html

Mohit said...

Hi, Roshan, this discussion is difficult to be carried forward in the form of comments on a blog post. We'll surely take it up when we meet next. Instead of replying to your individual points, lemme see if it helps if I go a little bit more in detail as to what changes I'd like to see in the spoken English of Indians. I'll not include the use of phrases and prepositions here because they are not a function of spoken English. That leaves me with the first two points I mentioned in my post.

Most Indians make mistakes when making the sounds associated with the letters c (when pronounced like k), d, k, p, q, r, t, v, w, and z. It's very easy to internalize the correct sounds for these. I know you'll say that the sounds associated with letters like t and r etc. themselves vary across the world. True. But I'd any day prefer associating the most commonly used sounds (among native English speakers) with t and r than equating them with ट and र respectively. Similarly, d is equated with ड and most times, z is equated with (the Marathi) झ. Native English speakers don't have a clue about what we are saying when we use these sounds.

Mohit said...

Coming to the "accented vs. phonetic language" discussion: Forget for a while what I said about phonetic languages. I do not think you'll disagree that English IS an accented language and that Hindi, for eg., is NOT an accented language. I didn't really mean to discuss/demonstrate "to what extent" Hindi is phonetic and all; I just wanted to present the differences between accented and "phonetic" languages, and it'd be better if I stuck to what I wanted to say about accented langauges rather than trying to differentiate between accented languages and "phonetic" languages, which is not essential to this discussion.

English is an accented language. Each and every word in English has (at least) one stressed syllable. If a word is monosyllabic, that syllable takes the primary stress. For eg., cat (kæt). If a word is bisyllabic, one syllables takes the primary stress and the other syllable is either unstressed or has secondary stress. For eg., super ('su:.pər). Here, the ' indicates where the stress falls. Here the second syllable is unstressed. An example where the other syllable would take the secondary stress is preset(ˌpriːˈset). The ˌ indicates where the secondary stress falls. For trisyllabic words, there's generally one syllable that takes the primary stress, an unstressed syllable, and a syllable that takes the secondary stress. And so on.

Now, because English has such a massive pool of words, the number of exceptions to the various rules is also very high. But in general, in a bisyllabic noun, the primary stress falls on the first syllable. In a bisyllabic verb, the primary stress falls on the second syllable. Hence the two pronunciations of the word "record" based on its function in a sentence. rɪˈkɔːd (verb) and ˈrek.ɔːd (noun). I searched the internet and came across http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/word-stress which seems to be a reasonably good primer for studying word stress.

IMO, the concept of word stress is one of the most important things that Indians (and other non-native English speakers) miss out on. At least with Indians, it's probably because our languages are not accented.

Now as you correctly pointed out, different native speakers of English use different stress patterns. A classic case would be the word controversy. In US English, it's pronounced as ˈkɑːn.trə.vɜː.si and in the UK it is pronounced as kənˈtrɒv.ə.si. Notice that the primary stress falls on different syllables. BUT the word STILL conforms to word stress, whether you pronounce it in the American style or the British style. It is not pronounced as con-tro-ver-sy, (all syllables more or less pronounced in a "monotone") the way Indians do.

I also admit that many vowels are pronounced diffrently in American and British English. For example, take the word dance. The "a" is pronounced differently. dɑːnt s (UK) and dænt s(USA). Another word where a vowel is pronounced differently is dog. dɒg (UK) dɑːg (USA). And so on.

My point is that despite all these differences, word stress remains the common denominator whenever a native English speaker speaks.

I want Indians to understand and internalize the concept of word stress. If word stress is not used while speaking English, native English speakers struggle tremendously in trying to figure out what is being said. Our speech appears like a monotone to them, and that is NOT how that langauge is meant to be spoken.

As it is, since we learnt "British English," I don't mind if we use their patterns of word stress. If that is difficult to be adhered to strictly, I don't mind having a mixture of word stress patterns from all over the world. That's any day much better that speaking the language in a monotone and hence incorrectly.

रौशन् कामत् said...

"I want Indians to understand and internalize the concept of word stress."

I think that effectively captures your original intent. [So, the reference to the scripts, or the idea that there is at all a single 'canonical native English speech', or the reference to the phonemic sounds used by Indians when speaking English, or the question of accents, etc. are all irrelevant to your intent.]

Like I already mentioned earlier, use of correct stress will suerly help you be *better* understood among native speakers. There'll still be work required on the consonants and vowels.

Now, restricting ourselves to stress only, I can safely say that NO Indian will feel the *need* for using the correct stress unless she is immersed among native speakers for an extended duration. And then it's not their first language either. Also, given that ~375 million speakers speak English as a first language and probably over 2 billion speak it as a second language, it'll be impractical to say that the 2 billion should be forced to change their speech for the benefit of the 375 million. Who knows, in time it may be the unstressed variety that becomes the standard.

Speech, idioms, and language undergo evolution all the time. I personally am 'hands-off' on this issue. Just sit back and see where it goes. No need to get appalled and/or irritated at the status-quo.

Mohit said...

Thanks, again, for your comment, Roshan :)

I did mention two things that I'd like to change:

1) Getting rid of the incorrect mapping in terms of the sounds we produce while speaking English, for eg., not using ट, र, ड, and (the Marathi) झ for t, r, d, and z respectively. (I hope you read that comment of mine.)

2)word stress

I agree with you based on the numbers you put up in terms of the number of native and non-native speakers of English. I also completely agree with you about the fact that the langauge evolves.

I personally doubt whether the 2 billion might eventually "eat up" the 375 million (though I understand that you just put that up as a possibility). IMO both groups will grow in time to come, creating a bigger divide.

Also, funnily enough, Indian English (and probably other variations of "non-native English") is halfway through the spectrum in terms of being stress based. In the sense that our speech is definitely unstressed, but the pronunciation of words is a result of stress-based English. We learnt the pronunciations of the British, but we didn't learn their "accent." Now, English pronunciation, among other things, is dictated by accent. That's why the word "promise" is pronounced as PROM-is, where the "prom" takes the primary stress and the "ise" is super-short and schwa-like in its vowel behavior. Indians pronounce the word halfway correctly because they still say "prom is", but in (more or less) a monotone. If we were to speak in a completely unstressed manner, one of the pronunciations of that word would be प्रोमायसे (everthing pronounced in a monotone). Because if we removed the concept of word stress, each vowel would be pronounced using one of the sounds associated with it, and the schwa would not be used at all. So it would be "prO mI sE." Anyhow, this complete paragraph was my own observation, and I doubt this'll ever happen. So I'm not really citing this as a risk if all non-native speakers do not start using word stress. I just shared my observation because you used the term "unstressed variety." in your previous comment.

My concern is that English is the main language that Indians use to communicate and do business with the Americans and other nations, and that those guys find it extremely difficult to communicate with us on account of our spoken English. That's why I'd like at least those Indians who go abroad or speak with the Americans and other guys over the telephone to improve their spoken English.

BTW, what's your take on the voice and accent training that happens in Indian call centers? Do you think that Indian call center guys should not take any of this training and speak the same "Indian English" with those American fellows who call for help? Anyway, IMO, this training doesn't bring about much of a change in the Indian call center guys' speech anyhow, but I'm asking you whether the effort to train them should be made in the first place.

रौशन् कामत् said...

"Getting rid of the incorrect mapping in terms of the sounds we produce while speaking English, for eg., not using ट, र, ड, and (the Marathi) झ for t, r, d, and z respectively."

The only sounds you could then map these to are त, द, and such. ['z' is not a problem because only marathi speakers map it to a 'Zh' (i.e. voiced 'Sh'). The rest of India doesn't]. However, this is exactly what the Mediterranean people and Romance language speakers do - and they don't sound any more 'authentic'. In fact, the switch to dental and de-emphasised sounds is used by stand-up comedians to signal a switch to the Middle Eastern accent for comic effect!

Also, among the highly complex characters is the 't' which spans the full continuum of sound from त to ट (and more). Ditto for many other symbols in the English alphabet. If you choose to map it to one sound you're necessarily missing out on the others.


"I personally doubt whether the 2 billion might eventually "eat up" the 375 million"

English has become a 'victim' of its own 'success'. The language is no longer the dominion of English speakers (much like Sanskrit no longer remained the dominion of Vedic peoples once Vedic culture took hold in North India; it devolved into all the Prakrits and went extinct itself). Legitimate dialectical varieties now span from Jamaican-English, to the Inglish family, to Singlish (which has some of the most unique idiomatic structures).


"Now, English pronunciation, among other things, is dictated by accent."

No it's not. You keep confusing spoken accent with syllable/word-stress. Accent is a completely independent phenomenon [and has practically no tie in with word-stress].


"Because if we removed the concept of word stress, each vowel would be pronounced using one of the sounds associated with it, and the schwa would not be used at all. So it would be prO mI sE."

Again, this is not valid because your underlying presumption is that the written form maps one-to-one to the spoken form. It is NOT the case in English. Doesn't matter how many vowels are written down. [You keep going back to the written word time and again - when in fact the orthography of the language is subsidiary. One should learn by listening to the speech of native speakers.]

If anything, Indians in their unstressed speech should pronounce Promise approx as "प्रौमिस्" (with no stress on either syllable) whereas a native speaker would utter the first syllable with a pitch stress in addition.


"Do you think that Indian call center guys should not take any of this training and speak the same "Indian English" with those American fellows who call for help?"

I think you should tailor your response to your clientèle. If your call centre was catering to Zimbabwe, then the Rhodesian accent is what you must be taught. Speaking in the target audience's pattern is the best way to get return-on-investment.