The Indian accent is one of the most confusing English accents. Theoretically, the Indians follow British English, using the Oxford and Longman dictionaries. However, when talking about spoken English, the Indians use several words that belong to neither British nor American English.
Moreover, they have different intonations and emphasize different consonant and vowel sounds, which can be challenging to replicate. This post covers some top tips for learning how to do an Indian accent.
Soften Your T’s
If you have ever heard an Indian speaking, you must have noticed that they deliver various consonant sounds slightly differently than the RP accent.
Let’s consider the letter’ t,’ for example; it produces a piercing sound in an RP English accent. To make that sharp sound, your tongue is rigid and touches the back of your teeth as you utter the letter ‘t.’
However, when pronouncing the ‘t’ in an Indian accent, you will have to move your tongue farther back. This way, it makes contact with the top of your mouth rather than your teeth. As a result, the new T will have a subdued tone and resemble the letter’ d.’
Let’s consider an example for further reference. The sentence “I won’t be able to come to the party tomorrow” would be delivered as “I won’d be able do come do the pardy domorrow.”
Make Your P’s Sound Authentic
In the previous rule, we discussed how people pronounce their t’s in an Indian accent. Keeping the same concept in mind, we will discuss how to say ‘p’ in an Indian English accent.
To pronounce the typical Indian ‘p,’ pull your tongue all the way to the back and push it down. Imagine you have a toffee at the back of your throat.
Practice this rule by saying the word ‘pull.’ Did you notice the immediate sound change? The letter ‘p’ almost sounds like a blunt ‘b’ in an Indian accent. One great way to determine whether you are on the right track is to ensure no air is coming out of your mouth as you say the word.
Thus, you would convert ‘packet,’ to ‘backet,’ the word ‘pain,’ would be pronounced as ‘bain,’ and ‘public’ would change into ‘bublic.’ Implementing this rule, you would say, “He baused to bull up photographs on his screen” instead of “He paused to pull up photographs on his screen.”
When you position your tongue to deliver these sounds, you will notice that the vowel sounds also change. The next point explains why and how:
Pronounce the “Literal” Vowel Sound
When pronouncing ‘pull’ or ‘push,’ you must have noticed that the vowel sound also changes.
You lose that distinct ‘uh’ sound and the word ‘pull’ instead of coming out as ‘puhl’ changes into ‘poohl.’
Keeping this rule in mind, the word ‘bluff’ converts into ‘blowff,’ ‘blunt’ changes into ‘blount,’ and ‘gun’ gets pronounced as ‘goun.’ Similarly, the word ‘water’ converts to ‘wawter,’ and ‘batter’ changes into ‘bahter.’
Take a look at this example, for instance. Someone with an RP accent would pronounce the sentence “She has lost friends because she is a blunt person” as it is. However, someone with an Indian English accent would say, “She haas lowst friends becowse she is a blownt persun.”
Interchange the V’s and W’s
People with an Indian accent also exchange the ‘v’ and ‘w’ sounds. This is a tricky concept, so watch closely:
Consider the word ‘vacation’ and ‘waitress.’ When pronouncing the words, you should focus at making a sound between ‘v’ and ‘w’ – ideally, you should focus on giving a light touch to the sounds. So, it would neither be ‘wacation’ and ‘waitress,’ nor ‘vacation’ and ‘vaitress.’
Know When to Stress on Words
You strive for fluency in your sentences and words when speaking American English and other accents. You should do the exact opposite when learning how to do an Indian accent.
In Indian Accented English, the rhythm of a person’s speech, the distribution of emphasis within words, and the positioning of stress within sentences may differ from British and American English.
Instead of seeking to create a nice flow to a word, speak each syllable as if it were its word. The word comfortable, for example, will be broken down into com-for-table, with emphasis placed on each part as it is said.
Implementing this rule, the word ‘blunt’ converts to ‘bl-lownt.’ Similarly, ‘basic’ changes to ‘bai-ssic,’ and ‘barge’ transforms to ‘baw-rr-ge.’
Tap the R’s
Another great way to master the Indian English accent is by tapping the ‘r’ sounds. Tapping the ‘r’ means flicking the tongue point against the teeth ridge only once. This produces a glottal r sound (as in the southern British pronunciation of extremely).
Take a look at this sentence to understand better: “I took my daughter for a treatment.” Someone with an RP accent pronounces the sentence as “I t-hook my doughterr for a treat-hment.” However, a person with an Indian English accent would say: “I dook my daugh-ter four a treatment.”
If you notice closely, this sentence lacks the combination vowel sound like we mentioned in one of the previous points. Let me elaborate: you don’t pronounce the ‘au’ in ‘daughter’ as ‘oh’ like in ‘old.’ Instead, you deliver a single vowel sound in an Indian accent, blunting the sound.
So, ‘no’ transforms into ‘nou,’ ‘old,’ changes into ‘owld, and ‘most gets pronounced as ‘mowst’ in an Indian English accent. If you notice, there is a darkness in these sounds because you pull your tongue far back towards your throat.
Incorporate Hindi Words in Your Indian English Accent
In several languages, mixing vocabulary is a common occurrence. The French borrow words from the English and vice versa. Likewise, the incorporation of Hindi vocabulary is a vital aspect of the Indian English aspect.
In some places of India, individuals speak or write in Hindi sentences with a few English words thrown in for good measure. When in an English-speaking country, they reverse this case and speak in an Indian English accent with a few Hindi words scattered here are there. In either case, the message is incomprehensible until the Hindi references are understood.
This is known as “Hinglish,” India’s version of Singapore’s “Singlish.” Some Indian words that have made their way into the English language include:
- garam masala
Know the Common Indian Expressions
One of the best strategies to sound like an expert in the Indian English accent is to know their vocabulary. The Indians invent new words or tweak existing words to give them a different meaning.
Here are some everyday Indian phrases commonly used in the English language:
- Doing your graduation: the Indians don’t consider graduation a ceremony but rather the entire undergraduate course
- Pass out of college: this means graduating college
- They are eating my brain: it doesn’t imply that the person is a cannibal! It is an informal expression indicating that a person is excessively talkative.
- Do the needful: the Indians use this sentence to suggest someone do what is necessary
- Upgradation: revision
- Prepone: you must have heard of postponing, but I bet you would never have detected this word in the Oxford dictionary. ‘Prepone’ is just the opposite of ‘postpone’, which means to schedule earlier.
Act Like an Indian
To make your Indian English accent sound realistic, you need to include hand movements in your speech. The Indians also communicate through their gestures and postures.
When learning how to make an Indian accent, gesturing is crucial. Many heads and brow motions may also be observed. The language-related gesture is quite expressive.
The light bulb twist is a familiar gesture you’ll notice when interacting with an Indian speaker. Your hand will rise and twist at the wrist, much like a light bulb. You can emphasize a question with an open palm.
Listen and Learn
When learning to imitate an Indian accent, one of the most important things you can do is become very comfortable with it. Browse native speaker videos, on-the-ground interviews, podcasts, and webinars. Keep an eye out for the differences in speaking and gesturing. Take note of any recurring nuances and then incorporate them into your accent.
Pay attention to the speaker’s mouth positioning as well. What is the positioning of their lips? When speaking, how wide does the mouth open? These are significant since mouth placement will assist you in uttering sounds correctly regarding that accent.
When speaking in an Indian accent, you may hold your teeth in a more closed position, although you will be moving your lips vigorously. Keep that in mind as you work on your skills.
Practice a lot
Once you believe you have learned enough, it is time to put the concepts to practice. The best place to practice your Indian English accent is at the departmental store. Ask the cashier about a product and check whether your accent is causing an unusual reaction; if they ask you where you are from, you have mastered the Indian English accent.