Sweet dish, laning in progress, tiffin, milk sweets, use dipper at night.  Blow horn.  Uninflected verbs and a lack of auxiliary verbs. Changes in syllable stress and vowel shifts. I have spent the past two weeks utterly fascinated by Indian English. As a speech pathologist, I am, perhaps, more aware than the average person of what makes Indian English different from standard American English. And I love it.

 

Some differences appear to be due to the level of English proficiency, and others appear to reflect a real dialect, though mine is a very informal observation based on only a few weeks in the country!

 

Diversion ahead. I am never hearing this before.  Highly in-flammable.  Kingfisher Strong. Adjectives are often placed after the noun.  

 

Other words, such as dhaba, haveli, lakh, krore, acha, tikke, and danyevad have re-entered my lexicon (spelling highly questionable). I assume they come from Hindi, but I know that I have also heard lots of punjabi over the last two weeks.

 

How do you manage in a country with dozens of native languages?  How do you function as a single national unit?  What does a country keep, or choose to discard, from its colonial history?  English is part of the answer in India, depending on your access to education, socioeconomic status, or trade.

 

While I have spent the last two weeks soaking up all the differences between India and home, I am also very aware of the similarities. Especially at SOREM. A clichéd segue?  For sure. I see such similarities in the caring of the teachers, the playfulness of the children, and the challenges faced by the students with autism.

 

Autism presents with the same symptoms in India as back at home. Societal reactions, and available treatments differ vastly.

English helps to facilitate the ebb and flow of people and commerce in India. As schools, such as SOREM, embrace the tenets of Applied Behavioral Analysis and functional communication, we can hope to achieve a common language of autism treatment in this amazing country. Having spent the last two weeks with the children and staff at SOREM, I find it easy to be an optimist.

 

Kathryn Helland is the trip leader for India 2014

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