Kromey’s Adventures

Just a nerd with aspirations to delusions of grandeur

India - TV and Language

27 Oct 2009

Well, I now have internet access from the comfort of my hotel room, which means posting will be a bit easier.

I’ve been watching a lot of TV, since there’s really nothing in walking distance and I didn’t bring a deck of cards. I’ve been to foreign countries before, where I did watch TV, so seeing commercials in a foreign language didn’t phase me at all. I did find something surprising, though. No, not the fact that it’s easy to find English-language television (I’ve been watching HBO mostly), nor even the fact that there are both English and non-English commercials during said English-language television.

What I found surprising is that some commercials are in both English and… well, I presume mostly Hindi, although being that I’m in Kerala a lot of it is probably Malayalam. Anyway, I don’t mean to say that I’m watching English speakers with non-English subtitles (or vice-versa), nor even that the same content was translated from one to the other. No, the actors will speak in both languages through the course of the commercial, giving one sentence in English and the next in the other language. And even more surprising was when I noticed that quite a few sentences were composed of multiple languages! Not just a word here and there, but truly hybrid sentences.

It makes me wonder - is this typical for countries with more than one dominant language? My previous exposure to such has only been parts of the USA with large populations of Spanish speakers, but there you have distinct English- and Spanish-language channels. Perhaps, then, the difference is that here, everyone speaks both languages, whereas the typical American (even in areas with high populations of both English and Spanish speakers) speaks only one or the other.

Anyone out there have experience in multi-lingual cultures (specifically, those where the majority of the population speak two or more common languages) that care to comment on my observations?