Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:
Thank you for the A2A.
Every language has several dialects. My native language is Malayalam. We have 14 districts in the state of Kerala, India. And each district has its distinct style of speaking. As English is a global language, the term ‘dialect’ is replaced by ‘accent’.
I have a major problem with the term ‘Indian accent’ that is given much publicity in Western media. There is no Indian accent. No, there isn’t. So what are they showing in the movies? Stupidity. That’s what.
No, we don’t always roll our tongues while pronouncing words. Our native languages are way more complicated than English. Each region in India has its own way of speaking English. It should be considered that though English is declared as one of the official languages of the country, it is still technically a ‘foreign’ language. If native languages are spoken in varying dialects, then it is only understandable that English will also not be far. And it’s not just with English. Ditto is the case for non-Hindi speakers speaking Hindi, non-Arabic speakers speaking in Arabic, and so on. It not our own. And it is obvious. Period.
People who were born and raised outside of India would be able to speak English in the way their peers speak. My cousins’ kids who were born and brought up in the US speak just like regular American kids. They talk of My classmate’s 4 year old who lives in Kent, UK refers to cake as ‘kaik’. So it all depends on the environment where one grows up.
People who migrate to western countries from the Indian subcontinent for the sake of employment/education take a lot longer to get the accent of the locals, than kids do. The reason is pretty obvious. Kids grasp things faster than adults do. D-oh!
I did my schooling in the Middle East. The school I went to was very particular about our diction. End result – almost all of us, especially those who were in school for a long time, speak English with a hint of a British accent…not completely though. And the way I speak English is very different from how my cousins back home speak English. I used it for communication, they used it to fill forms. Simple.
Please don’t believe the ‘Indian accent’ stereotyping in visual media. Heck, stereotyping Indians itself is wrong. We are as different from each other as it can possibly get – in looks, in languages, in character, in the way we dress, everything! But then we are probably one of the most adaptive races in the world. The way we assimilate into foreign lands and foreign cultures is probably not seen with any other strata of world population. And this isn’t just restricted to India. The entire subcontinent is that way.
Priyanka Chopra…she’s as Indian as it can possibly get. Doesn’t she speak beautifully? I think she does! True, her English isn’t as Americanized as many others’ is. But there’s nothing wrong/funny/weird/Indian accent about the way she speaks.
Gurinder Chada is of Indian origin but was raised in the UK. Does she speak with the ‘Indian accent’? No she doesn’t. Shut your eyes and listen to her. She’d pass for any random Brit any day!
Our latest version of Ramanujam, Dev Patel. Again, Indian origin. And does he have the ‘Indian accent’? Nope.
TL;DR – No, ‘all’ Indians don’t speak like Kunal Nayyar, despite him being from New Delhi. He’s an entertainer. His accent is a part of his job.