Hinglish – the Biggest Language you’ve Never Heard of with 350 Million Speakers

What if your company assisted customers in more than 85 languages but suddenly you realise that 350 million people speak a language you had ignored? It could happen to you as well if you are overlooking Hinglish. Because believe it or not, India does not have one ‘universal’ language. It has more than 8 major languages, but only 41% of the population consider the largest, Hindi, their first language. So for people to talk to one another, a compromise or a hybrid is needed. And that is where Hinglish comes in. But what is Hinglish? It is a mix of Indian languages (including Hindi) with a sprinkling of English.

WHY HINGLISH?

The Indian population is surprisingly mobile, the nation is going through both the industrial and information revolutions at the same time. Families migrate vast distances to urban areas for jobs, lifestyle and the perceived benefits of modern infrastructure. But with this movement comes challenges.

Since there are so many different Indian languages, it is common that two people do not speak the same one. That is why the use of a mix of languages (including English) is practical. English is often the only language in which two people who speak different Indian languages mutually understand a word for something.

Increasingly, using Hinglish is not only out of necessity, but also a proud demonstration that you are both modern (English-speaking) and locally-grounded (Indian language-speaking).

Whatever the background, the defining characteristic of Hinglish is that speakers naturally switch between two or more different languages (an Indian language, predominantly Hindi, and English) merging them into one.

A HISTORY OF HINGLISH

Hinglish is not a new phenomenon. The British rule or raj in India was central to the genesis of Hinglish. Without Hinglish, there would have been no trading and no spices! Hard to imagine a world without a Chicken Balti!

Thankfully the British quickly picked up on key Hindi (and other Indian language) words and phrases and the locals likewise learned English phrases.

EDUCATION

Since the British left over 50 years ago, English has, cemented its place more firmly as unifying point within the unofficial-official language of Hinglish.

Today’s most aspirational Indian parents send their children to schools where all lessons are taught in English. But ironically, although officially equipped for ‘English’, the students actually emerge speaking a language that is not really Hindi or English, but between the two. And that is how Hinglish grows stronger with each generation!

BOLLYWOOD

Bollywood has taken up the trend and played a vital role in the emergence of Hinglish. For example, popular Bollywood songs such as “My Mind Blowing Mahiya” are sung in fluent Hinglish. And many mainstream films contain both actual titles and spoken dialogue in Hinglish: “Love Aaj Kal (Or Love Today Tomorrow)” and “Badmaash Company (A Company of Dishonest Undisciplined Men)” both successfully use the Hinglish language in their actual titles and exploit the growing trend towards a multi-faceted, interchangeable language base.

BRANDING AND GLOBAL ADAPTION

In the last six years, digital advertising spend in India has increased by 500%!

Hinglish is now the broadcast language of choice for advertising in India. If you’re looking to export a product to the nation, Hinglish is the way to go.

In broadcasting, India’s MTV often broadcasts Hinglish voice over to engage with as many speakers as possible in just one language, and Pepsi are well known for their Hinglish Slogan – “Yeh Dil Mange More” (“Our hearts want more”)

And as a sign of global adaption, even Amazon’s Alexa now understands Hinglish commands, and – even more astounding – Alexa now responds in Hinglish. Clearly the language has arrived!

HINGLISH IN ENGLISH

It may surprise you how many Hinglish phrases have already made their way into the English language!

Bungalow– an Indian word adopted by the English.

Cash – a very English word for money?  Actually, no!  Cash originates from the Tamil word “kāsu” – which literally means “coin”.

Shampoo– this word also originates from Hindi – from the word “chumpee” meaning “massage”.

Thug- a “bandit”

Pyjamas – “pyjamas”

Pukka – which in English means “good” but in Hindi means “solid”

Whether we realise it or not- we have already adopted Hinglish into English! Observed this way, it could be said that Hinglish isn’t just used by Indians – but that in a minor way it is actually widely spoken throughout the English language!

A LIVING LANGUAGE

Although originally integrating English and Hindi words into the same sentence, as a living language, Hinglish has now taken further steps of evolution. Often one may find Hinglish speakers pairing words which fail to make sense in English, or are thought by the purist English speaker to convey a broken message, but in the “new” language of Hinglish, supposedly English words have come to mean new things (in Hinglish):

First Class”-This does not actually refer to a premium ticket on a train but actually means “very well” – as in “How are you?” “First class” (meaning “I am very well, thank you”).

“Ji” – a suffix which is added to phrase to indicate a sentiment of respect. So rather than simply reply “OK” in response to a question, one adds on the suffix, “ji” – as in “OK ji”. It is a mark of respect for strangers or elders or betters.

Evolutionary, new uses of English like this – which would be relatively incomprehensible to the traditional or old-fashioned English speaker – are prevalent throughout the Indian subcontinent.

A LASTING PHENOMENON

Hinglish has not only been around for a while, but it is also one of (if not the) most exciting, evolving and growing languages in the world. Not only enabling different people to communicate, but also moving with their geographical and linguistic adaptations. Regardless of when or how the Hinglish hybrid language came to be, how it changes, or where it is used – as a ‘modern yet localised way of speaking which is also available to the masses’, it is well and truly here to stay!

The article is written by Simon Luckhurst, MD of Voice Talent Online. Voice Talent Online is a voice over agency, video translation and subtitling company in the United Kingdom that was founded 16 years ago.

 Please also visit our website www.voicetalentonline.com and follow us on twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Why are Voice Talents Today Asked to Remain Silent?

Toiling without knowing the end result of your labour is almost like climbing a hill and knowing there is no summit. Fortunately, most of us know the outcome of our hard work and actions. However, for a few select individuals, it isn’t always possible to know the fruits of our labour – especially true if you are a voiceover artist.

We hear voiceovers so regularly in our daily lives that they seem to have blended into the fabric of our existence – a prime example being that of voice recognition engines. We all seem to be using them.

But have you ever stopped to think about the voice behind the search engine? Someone whose voice is recognised across the globe? What a great achievement! But what if the person behind the voice didn’t know what their voice was being used for? Or what if they knew, but couldn’t speak out…couldn’t tell anyone it was their voice?

Believe it or not, this is quite a common situation for voiceover artists across the globe. Trapped and silenced by the bounds of legal agreements – even the most recognisable of voiceover artists renounce claim for their world-famous voice recordings.

To put this into perspective – one of the most famous voices in the world, Susan Bennett – the original voice of Siri, was unaware of the result of her voice work until one day she heard her own voice speaking back to her. Susan had been contracted to record a series of phrases in 2005 but little did she know that she was training the voice of Siri! In fact, Susan only realised she was a global voice phenomenon after the launch of the iPhone in 2011.

It is hard to imagine what it is like to unknowingly have your voice heard by millions of people across the globe, but to reiterate, voiceover artists often record material without knowing the full end-use for their recordings.

Voice Talent Online, a UK voice over agency, also faced this very situation when it was approached by a top technology company to deliver a Voice Collection Project, a project aimed at providing thousands – in fact 375,000 audio files – all within an 8 week period.  No easy feat, as you can imagine. But perhaps the most difficult part of this project, was not knowing the end results of the firm’s arduous labour, not knowing where and how all these audio clips would be used.

Perhaps the firm’s efforts will pave the future by training voice recognition engines. Or perhaps the mere 375,000 audio files will help voice recognition software to better understand the uniqueness of human speech? Or maybe, these audio files will be used to help future AI (Artificial Intelligence) to sound a little more human? Similar to Susan or Siri, Voice Talent Online may have to wait a while before it knows the exact end result of its labour.

But of course, not all voiceover provision is a secret affair. In recent decades, some voiceover artists have been gaining recognition for their work. Japanese anime is a key trending area where officially trained seiyuu- or voice artists – have the opportunity to shine. Japanese voiceover artists such as Ikue Ōtani, the voice for Pokémon character Pikachu, are well-known among the industry and their fans.

Walt Disney

And the same applies for the voiceover artists from bygone eras. It seemed to be a well-known fact that Mickey Mouse was voiced by Walt Disney himself and we certainly know voice actors such as James Earl Jones, who was the voice behind Darth Vader in the Star Wars films. But is it possible that we only know about the work of these artists as their work contracts were less complex and perhaps those days are now gone?

So, what does the future hold for voice overs? Should we assume that anonymity in the voice over artist community is on the increase with the accelerating growth of AI? Well, the only thing we can say for certain is that it remains to be seen (or heard)!

The article is written by Simon Luckhurst, MD of Voice Talent Online. Voice Talent Online is a voice over agency, video translation and subtitling company in the United Kingdom that was founded 16 years ago.

 Please also visit our website www.voicetalentonline.com and follow us on twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.