March 02, 2006

India Plays the Anglosphere Card

Via Vodkapundit, here's a wrapup of Bush's visit to India and the new US-Indian deal signed there. The Vodkapundit titled the link "Welcome to the Anglosphere". The comments on his post are interesting, too. My favorite (referring to media reports of 10,000 anti-Bush protestors there) was:

10 thousand protest Bush? Bah! More people gather to watch when a cow upsets a hawker's handcart on an Indian Street!
Bush's approval is at 40% in US, v/s 54% in India. That coupled with our population being more that thrice that of US means we have much more Bush fans than entire US population! We love him because we are a pragmatic bunch who can cut through the PC/lefty/dhimmi cr@p and see who is fighting the good fight.

Posted by Tushar D at March 2, 2006 02:18 PM

As to where India stands with the Anglosphere, well, that's a work in progress. The key issue at this point is the rate at which English fluency and Anglosphere-linked jobs (IT and call-center) penetrate below the traditional English-speaking elites of India. That appears to be happening at a fast, maybe even exponential rate. At some point before too long (probably between 2015 and 2020) India will have more home users of English than the US; not much longer afterwards, there could be more home users of English in India than the rest of the Anglosphere combined. This (especially given the cheapness of electronic publishing and dissemination) will mean that the bulk of English-language media will be produced in India. (If Bollywood learns how to appeal to US audiences, which it eventually will, that will also be true of visual media as well.) That means that not only will the Anglosphere change India, but India will change the Anglosphere.

Not many people are thinking about what this really means. They should be. Bush's trip to India, and the deal made there today, may end up being the single most consequential act of the Bush presidency.

Posted by James C. Bennett at March 2, 2006 05:22 PM

I've never heard better support from Bush from anyone outside the conservative blogosphere than come from my (multiple) Indian co-workers. They do truly look up to the man. He is very prescient to make this future world power an ally early on.

Posted by: Tartan69 at March 2, 2006 08:20 PM

I doubt whether India will ever have more "Home Users" of English than US. Speaking English at home is still a rare phenomenon, restricted to the snobbiest of the elite bunch - a little like how Kerry speaks French! But use of English outside of home is growing fast. Another emerging language is Hinglish - a fusion of Hindi and English. Quite funny and popular among urban teens. Been around and growing for a decade now, but don't know how much staying power it has.
I think Indians will end up influencing the English language itself a lot. Just the way America has been shaping the language for last 60 years, rather than Britain.

Posted by: Tushar D at March 2, 2006 08:51 PM

I think its a little extreme to say that the "snobbiest of the elite bunch" in India speak English at home.

Pretty much anybody who attended a 'convent' school (i.e. parochial, e.g. Jesuit) school in India does, as do most Indian kids who got into their teens in the 90s, when Western/American TV channels were first introduced into India.

And pretty much 90% of white collar India speaks English at the office, because thats the only language (other than Hindi, to a LIMITED extent) that unites the country.

There won't be as many home users of english as the US, but there will be more than any other country in the world, very very shortly (when the 90s generation starts having kids, especially).

Posted by: Rahul at March 2, 2006 09:20 PM

Great insights all. However, it remains to be seen whether or not India's large english population will affect world english in the way it's being described. Though the United States had a larger population than Great Britain for awhile, global interaction in English was usually of the British mold (or should I say mould?) because that was where people around the world went when they wanted to learn the language. It also didn't hurt that Britain was the contemporary hegemon.
That said, until India eclipses the United States geopolitically (could happen, but maybe not?), I don't know if Indian english will have the same effect on global english that US english will. Then again, with the way globalization is going, our versions may end up coinciding as India and the USA become economically (think of those call centers) and perhaps even culturally interdependent (as in the fluidity between the film industries in the anglosphere).

Worth thinking about.

Posted by: Anton Traversa at March 2, 2006 09:23 PM

I think we are going to see more fluidity between India and the old Anglosphere, and between the Indian languages and English, than people think. There are three sets of actors; the old Anglosphereans, the Indians in India speaking English, and the Indo-Anglospherean emigres. Michael Barone said that the Mexicans will be to the 21st Century America as the Italians wre to the 20th, and the Indians will be what the Jews were. That's about right, as a minimum. Think of what Yiddish has done for English; Hindi will do at least as much. And if you don't believe it, you're a schmuck!

Posted by: Jim Bennett at March 2, 2006 09:30 PM


I agree for the most part but if you're going to run with that analogy, you have to also consider that yiddish cultural penetration has largely been confined to the northeast. If Hindi is expected to follow a similar pattern, one would expect there to be that sort of thing in Northern California, New York, and Virginia. Being a part of a community with many Indian-Americans in it, the one thing I have noticed is the fact that my Indian friends, unlike many of their East Asian and Middle Eastern counterparts, almost exclusively speak to one another in English. But maybe I know Hindi and I don't even know it?

Posted by: Anton Traversa at March 2, 2006 09:55 PM

Jewish cultural influence is more pervasive in general American culture than people realize; it's just become part of the background. Many things no longer are even recognized as Jewish unless you're in the Northeast or Los Angeles -- I've run a cross many people who don't know the origin or non-metaphorical meaning of the expression "the whole Megillah", for example.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at March 2, 2006 11:49 PM

Anton says:
"my Indian friends ... almost exclusively speak to one another in English."
Two reasons for that: one, we usually would not talk in Native tongue, if a non-Indian is even passing by. That is insulting to the passer-by. pardon the snark, but we leave that to the Chinese. Two, some of us, e.g. people from Tamil Nadu, Andhra etc are not comfortable with Hindi. Thus, English becomes the common language. That does not mean we speak english when we meet friends over the weekend.

Posted by: Tushar D at March 3, 2006 05:06 AM

>I think Indians will end up influencing the English language itself a lot.
It has already, considerably, here are just som...

Hindi, Sanskrit,

Posted by: Nick (South Africa) at March 3, 2006 05:53 AM

More to the point:
China + Muslim world + Russia (?) vs the Anglosphere. They got the population and the energy supplies. We got a narrowing military advantage. Europe sits this one out, wringing its hands.

Posted by: ps at March 3, 2006 08:21 AM

The English langauge will penetrate. Why do I say that? MTV India. Pyaar Vyaar and all That

But it will be in Hinglish and Mr. Bennett is correct, India may change the Anglosphere as much as the Anglosphere may change India. Which is all good because the capability for cultural fusion is where the Anglosphere draws its strength, IMHO.

Posted by: Bill White at March 3, 2006 09:00 AM

Much of my family is fluent in both Telugu and English. Far fewer of us know any Hindi beyond catchphrases. You have to remember just how many languages there are, as well as the fact that there are two distinct and historically separate language families in India. Hindi shares a lot more with European languages in terms of grammatical structure and word form than it does with languages like Telugu or Tamil. Although no linguist, I'd put these differences on par with the differences between the slavic languages and the germanic or romance languages.

Another thing is, Hindi-speakers don't seem to be the largest group of Indian immigrants. If I had to say which were, the top three would be Andhra, Tamil, and Gujurati. Andhras and Tamilians can just barely communicate if we talk to each other really loud and slowly. Gujaratis speak a language fairly similar to Hindi.

Indians tend to see each other not as fellow Indians but by which province they're from. Andhras socialize with andhras, tamils with tamils, etc. Although there is much more overlap in smaller communities (like in Lubbock, TX where I grew up).

Finally, don't forget the fiscal side of things. While India's economy is booming, the populace has discovered that they can vote themselves money out of the treasury, as i briefly discuss in my blog. This has already happened in Andhra Pradesh, and the results are pretty startling. Maybe not at the economic analyst level, but definitely at the "feet on the ground" level. They're in danger of going the stagnant European 'social model' route.

Posted by: IndianCowboy at March 3, 2006 09:31 AM

As I sit here on the veranda of my bungalow, drinking a cup of char, I must say I think all these wallahs who don't realize the considerable effect of India on English have gone a bit doolally. Any pundit worth his salt would recongnize the pukka words that have entered the language. Unless they've been in purdah or partaking a bit too much of the bhang recently. Thugs, the lot of 'em!

Posted by: Burkean at March 3, 2006 10:37 AM

What happened to tiffin and curry, Burkean? Char, I suspect, comes from Chinese. Chai turns up in every language.

Posted by: Helen at March 3, 2006 10:52 AM

Indian English hybrids:

Posted by: PN NJ at March 3, 2006 10:58 AM

Does "stadium" really refer to a man with bald on top surrounded by a fringe of hair? (Its supposed to be the spectators and the clean playing field.)

I find Hinglish phrases to be breathtakingly droll. Eve-teasing and all that.

Posted by: Bill White at March 3, 2006 11:37 AM

Here an intrsting tidbit. When I was in Singapore last year, there was an article in the Strait times reporting that many Indian call centre bosses were scraed because there was a shortage of Indians who could speak French, Russian, Italian, Spanish as well as English. The shortage was calculated to be about 400 000 workers. I thought tht was fascinating and wonder if India will be a huge market for language schools?
Here's my counterintuitive perspective: some Indians won't learn English because it won't distinguish themwhen competing with their compatriots for jobs and contracts but to learn another langauge like Arbic or Russsian will help them stand out.

Here's a question: will international business strat relocating to India? I'll assert that yes. Already in the Chinese costal towns, the average worker's salary is rising and the Chinese managers cost as much as a European or American. Companies are moving to the hinterland but are discovering that there's no infrastructure and the transport costs are rising. By contrast, India's train system while rickety appears to cover the entire country, also the Indian are as well instructed as the Chinese and the hinterlands have more infrastructure (though as Bombay discovered it sucks real bad after a major rainstorm)

So will India become the world's workshop and be less dangerous to the world?

Posted by: xavier at March 3, 2006 04:25 PM

More to the point:
China + Muslim world + Russia (?) vs the Anglosphere. They got the population and the energy supplies. We got a narrowing military advantage. Europe sits this one out, wringing its hands.

Tell me again why China will line up against its principal market and strongest potential adversary in favor of a movement that is actively supporting anti-Chinese separatists? And for that matter why Russia will line up with the people who supplied and supported the Beslan child-killers, against a country that does Russia no harm, and who is the most useful partner for exploiting its energy supplies effectively?

Posted by: Jim Bennett at March 3, 2006 04:28 PM


I think that some Indians will learn other European languages to be competitive, but probably they will learn them in addition to English rather than instead. It's rather heard to do high-tech business in india if you don't know Eglish, i would imagine.

Are there any French-speaking Indians left in Pondicherry? Are young people there growing up learning it? or Portuguese in Goa?

Posted by: Jim Bennett at March 3, 2006 06:09 PM

When I was a kid growing up in India in the 1980s, there was a lot of enthusiasm for learning Russian. The Sovs were our greatest friends after all. Thankfully, I did not bother. Would have been a waste. As early as 1978, Grandpa would tell me, "Soviet Union is our friend, and America is not. But that does not mean Soviets are the good guys and Americans are the bad guys". He explained me the difference between capitalism and communism, democracy and communism etc. For a lawyer, he was pretty smart!

Posted by: Tushar D at March 3, 2006 07:12 PM


I have to disagree with you about Russia and China. Beslan was used merely as a ruse to consolidate Kremlin power, and right now Putin is very happy outsourcing Chechnyan security to Muslim warlords. His recent perceived alignment with Muslim nations has granted him a hudna of sorts and Russia looks like the great defender of the third world. As far as China is concerned, Uighur separatists are hardly conducting a mass-terrorism campaign and their fight is more nationalistic than religious. In fact, Chechnyans, Dagestanis, Tatarstanis, and Uighurs practice an Islam that, for the most part, rejects a lot of the Wahabbi stuff. It was in flux in the nineties, at the height of the Chechnyan conflict, but it's reverting already. China and Russia are buying cover for themselves to not only undermine the west, but to get a pass to crush restive domestic insurgencies that are lukewarm about militant Salafi Islam.

Posted by: Anton Traversa at March 4, 2006 11:06 AM

Tushar - Hinglish! Ha ha! Had to happen. After all, we have Franglais, Spanglais and in Singapore, Singlish.

I don't agree with Jim that English is spoken by the elite - although I agree with you that only the elite speak it in their own homes! But the entire middle class - around 400m people - speak English, Jim, much of it better English than that spoken by the products of the school system in England.

Posted by: Verity at March 6, 2006 08:30 AM

Now it's 400 million people? i usually read the middle class is something like 300 million but I also see figures saying 4/5 of the population lives on under 2 bucks a day. Well, which is it??

Posted by: Anton Traversa at March 6, 2006 05:29 PM



Posted by: bcxbgcbc at April 3, 2007 08:45 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?