Without impalas and hyenas, the lion cannot be the king of the jungle. The state of the translation industry in East Africa


Without impalas and hyenas, the lion cannot be the king of the jungle
(African Proverb)

The translation industry has been dominated by huge players from Europe, North America and East Asia overshadowing important translation initiatives in other parts of the world. But in the rapidly developing region of East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan), translation has been a booming industry for years.

Alfred Mtawali
Alfred Mtawali

In an effort to shed some light on the state of the translation industry in East Africa, I’ll be talking to Alfred Mtawali, Founder and Director of CAN TRANSLATORS from Nairobi, Kenya and current Chair of the East Africa Interpreters and Translators Association. Alfred, who is an English- Swahili, English – Giryama translator started his translation career, back in 1992, as a Bible translator translating the holy scriptures in his native Giryama, a coastal Bantu language spoken in Kilifi. He has since then gone on to co-author books and train translators in both Kenya and Tanzania.

Are there many professional freelance translators working in East Africa?

Yes, there are many freelance translators in East Africa some of whom even advertise on proz.com and Translatorscafe. Only very few of them though are registered as paying members on those two sites.

How many commercial translation companies are there in East Africa?

I cannot tell you exactly how many there may be but I would put the figure at around 30. Most international clients use companies from Kenya and Tanzania, however.

East Africa is a multilingual and multicultural region. How many languages are spoken among its countries?

East African languages are divided in the following language families: Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic. Kenya has a total of 43 languages, Tanzania has 126 languages (according to Ethnologue). We estimate the languages spoken in East Africa to be around 300.

What are the most common languages Eastern African professionals translate from or into?

The most popular working languages in the region are: Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Luganda, Kirundi, Somali, English and French. Swahili is East Africa’s lingua franca. English is an official language in East African countries and a source language in most projects we work on.

There is English-speaking Africa and French-speaking Africa but even French-speaking countries are slowly beginning to embrace English, like Rwanda.

Do East Africans generally speak a lot of languages and can you learn those languages at school?

All East Africans speak 3 languages: the language of wider communication, one European language and their mother tongues. In the present context, these would be English, Swahili and their mother tongue. Only languages of wider communication are formally taught in schools. These are Kinyarwanda, Swahili and Luganda.

Where do professional translators train? Are there university courses for translators in East Africa?

Some professional translators formally train in university while others learn on the job. Several universities teach translation and interpreting in East Africa, among which the University of Rwanda, the University of Nairobi, St Paul’s University (Nairobi), the Africa International University (Nairobi) and the University of Dar es Salaam.

You are the current chair of the East Africa Interpreters and Translators Association (EAITA.ORG). What does it aim to achieve?

We aim to promote the interests of our members in the region by giving them more visibility online and organizing empowering events and conferences to help them get more skills. In some cases, we even follow up payments from non-paying clients on their behalf. We also form partnerships with CAT tool developers so that our members can purchase CAT tools at subsidized rates. As of now, we have members from Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and the DR Congo.

EAITA African Translation
From a translation event in Nairobi with some EAITA members

What type of companies are interested in translation services in East Africa?

Translation buyers include banks, non-governmental organizations, international corporations, individuals, religious and development organizations. Governmental agencies are also translation buyers. They usually request translations of important government policy documents and laws. As there are many African refugees around the world, foreign governments may also request translation services such as the translation of medical prescriptions and personal documents.

Finally, East African translation agencies often collaborate with translation agencies from Egypt and South Africa too.

Do you work with non-African companies as well? Can you give examples of non-African companies which translated their products and services in East African languages?

Microsoft is one company that has translated its products into Swahili and other African languages. Mobile phone companies, especially, want to reach clients in their local language. Uber and Facebook also provide work for East African translators.

Do translators in East Africa need a license to operate?

Translators in East Africa do not need a license to operate, however those who join the EAITA have a better chance of recognition than those who are not members.

How do East African translators get paid?

Translators get paid via PayPal and Skrill, however not all East African countries support these as very few banks allow you to withdraw funds from PayPal and Skrill to your bank account. Where the service is not available, international payment can be done via Western Union, MoneyGram or Kenya’s innovative mobile phone-based money transfer app, M-Pesa.

What tools do East African translators use to do work?

A lot of translators are well-versed in a number of CAT Tools such as memoQ, Trados, Wordfast and DeJa Vu. The majority use Office suites and mobile phones to communicate with their clients.

What are the biggest challenges East African translators face on a day-to-day basis?

Technological challenges such as poor internet connections in some countries but also high-priced CAT tools, low translation rates and bad paying clients. Local clients, for example, expect us to charge them by the page, when everywhere else rates are usually set by the word.


You have most probably heard of Hollywood and maybe even Bollywood…but what about Chinawood, the aptly given nickname for the Chinese film industry?

Did you know that Chinawood is the second largest movie market globally after the United States and boasts a staggering 60,079 movie theater screens across the country compared with 40,000 in the USA? Clearly an indication that the country values movies and its own movie making capabilities.

But what do we know about the Chinese film industry? We know that China produces a vast quantity of films; both for native audiences and dubbed for international release. Audiences seem to have developed a fascination for beautifully choreographed martial arts movies or perhaps they just like the idea of knocking a gigantean man down… Whatever the reason, we can all agree that our affair with Chinawood is only just starting.

But we would be mistaken to think that all Chinawood films are recorded in Mandarin. Surprisingly, many of the most well-known films from bygone eras were originally recorded in Cantonese and later covered with Mandarin voice overs. For example, Bruce Lee’s ‘Enter the Dragon’ was originally recorded in Cantonese and later dubbed into Mandarin so it could be localized for a larger audience. In fact, Bruce Lee films were often a global hit leading them to be dubbed again using an English voiceover… or more correctly, an American voiceover. Thank you National General Companies for bringing us Bruce Lee films and allowing the non-mandarin speaking world to enjoy Lee’s martial arts magic.

Even Jackie Chan’s mother tongue was Cantonese and not Mandarin. The now world-renowned actor had to learn to speak Mandarin. Thank goodness that Chan learnt Mandarin, as well as learning English, as it is hard to imagine Chinawood and Hollywood without the antics of Jackie Chan.

In fact, Chan’s lingual diversity could be the key to his wider success, with the actor earning a great reputation for his voice overs in animation, such as The Kung Fu Panda. Although Kung Fu Panda may be remembered by some for Jack Black’s American voice-over, I think we can all agree that Jackie Chan’s brilliant voice over as Master Monkey is equally as memorable.  Jackie Chan’s voice not only brings Master Monkey to life by injecting humor and liveliness into this cheeky chappie but also succeeds in making the character far more enjoyable for audiences.

However, Jackie Chan’s animated antics don not stop there. Did you know that Chan voiced Mr Feng in The Nut Job 2? Chan was perfect in his portrayal of the small yet lethal Mafia Mouse, who- by the way- just happens to be a master of martial arts!

But we can’t simply limit our appreciation of Chinawood to martial combat films. Chinawood has ventured much further afield and collaborated to produce popular Hollywood hits, such as The Meg. The Meg proved popular at cinemas and amassed sales of over $44.5 million in its opening weekend in the US and further exceeded expectations with global sales of over $140 million, proving that the Chinese film industry can make its mark on more than just martial arts films.

The final flourish for Chinawood and China in general would have to lie in its breath-taking filming locations. We all know that the Great Wall is shot on the great wall of China, but did you know that some of the most spectacular scenes from Avatar are shot in Zhangjiajie national park in China? And let’s not forget Mission Impossible 3, also shooting a film scene in the beautiful water town of Xitang, a water filled paradise.

Whatever your fascination with the Chinese film industry may be, it is hard to deny the offerings of this predominantly Mandarin speaking nation. So, whether you are interested in acquiring fantastic Mandarin voiceover talent to help grow your business or order professional Mandarin document translation services, China definitely is not a market to be ignored.

The article is written by Voice Talent Online. Founded in 2003, Voice Talent Online is a voice over agency, video translation and subtitling company in the United Kingdom. We localize everything a company might need – whether a complete video translation package, a series of e-learning modules, a TV commercial or a video game voice over. We work in over 90 languages with over 1,500 hand-selected voice talents ensuring our customers can operate in new language markets with ease.


Brazilian Portuguese is a widely spoken language, but what exactly is Brazilian Portuguese? A mix of Brazilian and Portuguese? It is not quite that simple. Fortunately, for those of us who cannot seem to get our head around the complexities of Brazilian Portuguese, there are plenty of brilliant Brazilian Portuguese Voiceover artists to help solve our language quandaries.

But what indeed makes Brazilian Portuguese so different and unique?

First. The distinctiveness in Brazilian Portuguese lies in its incorporation of both the Tupi and Yoruba dialect. Many place names have retained their original Tupi titles. Even native fruits seem to have reserved a right to remain Tupi. For example, the word for pineapple has remained a prickly ‘abacaxi’ and not conformed to become the Portuguese ‘ananas’.

Second. Pronunciation, pronunciation and pronunciation. Brazilian Portuguese speech sounds a little “lighter” than standard European Portuguese. Brazilian Portuguese vowels have two variants: stressed and unstressed vowels. With stressed vowels, the stress falls on the second to last syllable.

Third. In Brazil, you don’t keep track of the past… That is to say; past, present and future tenses. Brazil thinks in infinities- sentences are structured by placing an a before the infinitive of a verb. Nice and simple.

But being Brazilian is more than just speaking Brazilian Portuguese… Brazil’s beauty lies in its diverse culture and customs. And one of the most fascinating aspects being that of Brazilian dance.


CAPOEIRA – Dance, acrobats or martial art, or a Brazilian blend of the three! Capoeira encompasses hypnotic movements, with sweeping kicks and beautiful balance. Although some may consider Capoeira to be a form of fighting – the music and singing transports Capoeira into a genre of its own.

 SAMBA – Probably the most famous Brazilian dance. Whether you choose to dance alone or with a partner, samba is a perfect sensuous dance. If you prefer company, then ballroom samba is the dance for you, but if you aren’t scared of going solo, then samba, samba, samba… all the way to the carnival. In fact, Brazil even has a Cidade do Samba or Samba City- a large creative workshop in Rio De Janeiro’s downtown which hosts the best samba schools and creates the most dazzling dance costumes!

Sesimbra, Portugal. February 17, 2015: Brazilian Samba dancers called Passistas in the Rio de Janeiro style Carnaval Parade. The Passista is one of the sexiest performers of this event

CARIMBÓ – One of the many native Brazilian dances and worth mentioning because of its’ sensuality. Carimbó is a sensual dance of opposite sexes- with a woman trying to cover a man with her skirt and the man trying to attract attention by picking up a dropped handkerchief. An act all carried out to the beat of the drum, or the Carimbó in Tupi. More recently, Carimbó has evolved into the new dance form of Lambada, which literally translated, means strong slap or hit… probably as a result of the spicy lyrics and dancing! In fact by the late 1980s Lambada had spread with the French song ‘Lambada’ creating global interest and amassing over 5 million sales. Not maybe the best hit but some good publicity for our Brazilian ‘ballet’!

 Needless to say, Brazil is a fascinating country with even more fascinating cultures and Brazilian languages. Brazil is well worth a visit and if you are lucky enough to be from Brazil – you don’t need us to tell you what is great about your language and culture!

Click here for information regarding professional Portuguese translation services.

The Romansh Language Lives

Rhaeto-Romance, generally called Romansh, is a subfamily of the Romance languages. It has officially been the fourth national language of Switzerland since 1938. It is an official language in the Swiss canton of canton of Graubünden. In 2000 Romansh was recognized as the language which approximately 35,000 called it there mother tongue and approximately 61,000 used it as their primary language. The population censuses carried out between 2010 and 2014 cited Romansh as the primary language spoken by about 41,000 people.

GTS Translation’s David Grunwald high in the mountains of the Engadin (July 2019)

The language is not spoken by many and is furthermore very complex. The complexity arose because the valleys of the Engadin are far apart and communication between the villages in the Engadin was difficult. Therefore, Romansh has been divided into five dialects, called idioms, each with its own standardized written language: High Engadinish (Puter), Low Engadinish (Vallader), Surmeirish (Surmiran, spoken in Surses and in the Albula Valley), Sutselvish (Sutsilvan, spoken in the anterior Rhine area) and Surselvish (Sursilvan, spoken in the anterior and posterior Rhine areas). In 1982 the common written language for the Romansh people, the controversial Rumantsch Grischun (RG), was created.

Romansh is above all used as a spoken language for most people. As all Romansh native speakers are at least bilingual and also speak German, the predominantly written language for the majority is German. However, there is a rich Romansh literature and the publishing house Chasa Editura Rumantscha was founded in 2010. Moreover, Romansh language newspapers have existed for more than 150 years. The Romansh paper with the largest circulation at the moment is the daily La Quotidiana. There is also a television company called Radiotelevisiun Svizra Rumantscha (RTR) with programs in Romansh. It is among other things responsible for broadcasting TV programs in Romansh, which can be watched on the Swiss channel SRF 1 with German subtitles. Some of these programs are also broadcast at the channels SRF info (with German subtitles) and RSI LA 2 (with Italian subtitles). The Romansh radio started 1925 and has been a part of RTR since 1954. The radio broadcasts 24 hours per day and almost only in Romansh. The exceptions are the German programs Rendez-vous and Echo der Zeit as well as the news from 00.00 to 5.00 pm. Currently, RTR also publishes the programs online on its news portal.

Another aspect of Romansch which should not be overlooked is its rich musical culture. Choirs have a long tradition in the Romansh-speaking areas. Today Romansh music also exists in many other genres like pop, rock, hip-hop, country, reggae, punk, chanson, schlager music and jazz.

The demand for professional Romansch translation exists for many different types of texts and for a wide range of clients. The translation service of the State Chancellery of the Canton of Grisons is responsible for translations into Romansh for the Grosser Rat of the Canton of Grisons (legislature), the Cantonal Government of the Canton of Grisons (executive), the State Chancellery of the Canton of Grisons as well as the other cantonal administrations. The types of text that are translated are: official texts of the Grosser Rat, the Cantonal Government, the States Chancellery as well as cantonal administrations, especially legal texts, governmental resolutions, departmental decrees, reports, press releases and correspondences.

The Swiss Federal Chancellery also translates some texts of the Federal Administration into Romansh. However, most of the texts that are translated into Romansh are done by the Lia Rumantscha, which is the umbrella association of all Romansh associations. When I worked at the Lia Rumantscha I translated among other things: texts for the teenage magazine SPICK from German into the Romansh idiom Sursilvan and the common written language Rumantsch Grischun (unfortunately the journal does not exist anymore in Romansh); complex technical texts for the project VerbaAlpina into Rumantsch Grischun (cross-linguistic online portal); texts from German into Rumantsch Grischun; the calendar of the Swiss Ornithological Institute from German into Rumantsch Grischun, texts for the platform nossaistorgia (photos and videos can be shared) from English, French and Italian into Rumantsch Grischun and texts from English into Rumantsch Grischun for a Chinese picture dictionary.

Since I started working as a freelance translator I have translated, among others, a picture dictionary from German into Rumantsch Grischun, a press release from German into Rumantsch Grischun, a package insert for a bracelet that can identify knockout drops from German into Rumantsch Grischun and subtitles for a institution that fights for the rights of the children.

Only 0.5% of the Swiss population speak Romansh. That is why it has been pronounced dead long time ago. However, the language is not dead, it lives.

About the author:  Prisca Derungs is a professional Rhaeto-Rom (Romansch) translator. You can find more information about her here.

The state of the translation industry in North Korea

North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, are in the news today after President Trump initiated an impromptu meeting with the North Korean dictator in the DMZ. North Korea is shrouded in secrecy in just about all matters, including the translation industry. This post will try and shed some light on the state of the translation industry in North Korea. This information was obtained through an interview with a professional translator who used to work in North Korea and has relocated (defected?) to South Korea. For obvious reasons, this translator chose to remain anonymous.

In general, all dictatorships like North Korea control all media and communications very tightly. Translation is clearly a part of the communications chain and as such, it is very tightly regulated and controlled by the government.

Are there professional freelance translators in North Korea? How many?

There are professional translators in North Korea. The number of them is unknown, but as far as we know, they are communists and work for the government. If you search for freelance translators who live in North Korea on Proz, the leading directory of freelance translators, you will find 4-5 freelance translators. However, none of them have websites or a CV available and it is unclear whether these entries are real. So it appears that are no commercial freelance translators in North Korea.

Are there commercial translation companies in North Korea? How many?

There are no translation companies in North Korea. All North Korean companies are owned and controlled by the government.

Who provides language education to translators in North Korea?

Language training is controlled by the government. One of the main training centers for translators and interpreters is the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies. As far as we know, this and other similar North Korean language schools accept nearly no foreign students.

Where do North Korean companies buy translation services from? Do they use South Korean translators?

North Korean companies do not buy translation services. The government supplies translation services to the companies which need them. So the answer is no, North Korea does not buy translation services from South Korea.

How do professional translators get paid? Can they use online payment (like Paypal)?

There is no access to online payment systems in North Korea. So in effect, North Korean translators can’t work for anyone outside of North Korea.

What languages are the most in demand in North Korean? What language pairs are most ordered?

English, Chinese, and Russian are the most in demand in North Korea. Courses of study in North Korean language schools are available in Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Hungarian, Arabic, Malay, Khmer, Thai, Lao, Persian, Hindi, Urdu, English, German, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish.

Do translators in North Korea need a license to operate? Is the industry controlled by the government?

Every single industry is controlled by the government and all translations must go through the Foreign Languages Publishing House.

Do translators is North Korea have Internet and email access? Any restrictions?

Internet use in North Korea is allowed to very few people, with strict limitations on use.

Are there language differences between the language used in South and North Korea or is it exactly the same?

Since the two countries have been divided for 70 years, there are quite a few differences between the Korean used in South Korean and North Korean. North Korean is basically similar, but some words they use are completely different from that of South Koreans. Read more about that here.

Do translators in North Korea have access to MS Office and CAT tools, etc.?

Translators in North Korea do not use commercial software available to the world public. They use custom tools developed in North Korea.


Grading the Democrat Spanish speakers at the debate

The Democratic party debates took place on Tuesday and Wednesday (6.26 and 6.27) in Miami. There were two sets of debates, each featuring 10 candidates. The first set on Tuesday featured no less than three Spanish-speaking candidates on the same stage:
Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and Julian Castro. Since Miami, Florida has a large Spanish speaking population, each of the those candidates wanted to show off their Spanish skills to the constituents in the obvious hope of currying favor with them. The press had a field day with this, stating the motives of these candidates as “pandering.” If you ask me, it’s just politics as usual. All politicians engage in pandering of one sort or another. Watch the Spanish performances in this YouTube video.

Pandering or no pandering, we wanted to check how each of these candidates did. How good were their Spanish speaking skills? We put this to two senior members of our Spanish language team (Lucia and Tany) at GTS and this what they had to day:

Beto O’Rourke gets a B

Beto was the best of the lot.


Beto’s Spanish is fluent. He has good pronunciation and he corrects himself when making a mistake. Here are some of the mistakes that he made:
Missing prepositions
Gender mismatch: “nuestro democracia” should be “nuestra democracia”
Subject-verb disagreement: “cada votante necesitamos” should be “cada votante necesita”
Wrong word order: “cada voz necesitamos escuchar” should be “necesitamos escuchar cada voz”


His overall pronunciation is not native but is acceptable and understandable.
There are several mistakes:
He says: “incuir cada persona” He should say: “incluir a cada persona”
He says: “en nuestro democracia”  He should say: “en nuestra democracia”
He says: “cada votante necesitamos la representación” (grammarly incorrect)
He should say: “necesitamos la representación de cada votante”
He says: “y cada voz necesitamos escuchar” (sounds unnatural)
He should say: “y necesitamos escuchar cada voz”.

Cory Booker gets a D


Cory has poor pronunciation and it is a little difficult to understand what he is saying. He seems uncomfortable with the language. But he had no grammar mistakes.


His overall pronunciation is very unnatural and difficult to understand.
Besides he makes the following mistakes:
He says: “Es de presidente ha atacado”  He should say: “Este
presidente ha atacado”
He says: “ha dimonadado” (it is ununderstandable, it does not mean anything)
He says “ha dimonadado los inmigrantes” (grammar mistake)
He should say “ha ????? a los inmigrantes”
He says: “Es inaceptable, voy a a cambiar este”.
He should say: “Es inaceptable, voy a cambiar esto”.

Julian Castro gets a D


Says just one sentence. Too little to evaluate.
“Me llamo Julián Castro y estoy postulando por presidente de los Estados Unidos.”
Personal pronoun missing, the correct version would be: “me estoy postulando…”


His overall pronunciation is like a native Spanish speaker, very understandable and natural. Nevertheless in his few words he makes a grammar mistake:
He says: “Estoy postulando por presidente”
He should say: “Estoy postulando para presidente”

Julian may actually not even be a Spanish speaker as he was born and raised in the USA. His grandparents spoke Spanish but it was probably not spoken much at his home. Most probably he practiced his 1-2 sentences until they came out OK.

In Summary

Beto O’Rorkue is the only fluent Spanish speaker of the three candidates who spoke Spanish on the stage. Hailing from El Paso with its relatively close proximity to Mexico and large Spanish speaking population, Beto obviously has good language skills as well. Is that enough to get elected to the White House? Probably not, but if Beto doesn’t make it he can always find a place for himself in the translation industry.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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!


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!


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.


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.