Indian Accents- Just Another Version of British English?

One thing I commonly hear from people who were born and raised in India is that their difficulties being understood in the U.S. stem from their British accents. Indian accents are indeed influenced by British English, but that is not the end of the story. Indian Accented English has its own unique patterns that set it apart from British English.

Some aspects of Indian Accented English and British English are similar in comparison to American English, such as dropping of vocalic “r” sounds (such as the “r” at the end of the words “for” and “car”) and the pronunciation of a clear “t” sound in words like “butter” (pronounced as a quick “d” in American English). There are, however, many distinct differences between British English and Indian Accented English.

The melody of a person’s speech, the placement of stress within words, and the placement of stress within sentences may be different in Indian Accented English from both British and American English. In addition, speakers with Indian accents have a different production of some consonant sounds. Indian accented speakers tend to stop the air for the “th” sounds (e.g. “thigh” and “then”), making the “th” sound like a “t” or a “d.” The “v” and “w” sounds are often used interchangeably, so “vine” may sound like “wine” and vice versa. In addition, some speakers may curl their tongue back to produce sounds such as “t,” “d,” and “l” giving these sounds a different quality than we hear in American or British English. Speakers with Indian accents may also have several differences in the way they produce vowel sounds.

Here is a video I found called “A Sampling of Indian Accents” where you can hear a lot of classic features of Indian Accented English such as vowel changes, consonant changes, and stress changes, as compared with British and American English. In contrast, this is an entertaining clip that shows one woman demonstrating the regional variations of British English. Some commentators on the clip praised her skills while others were not completely impressed. I think it is still an interesting overview to watch.

Speakers with Indian Accented English have their own unique pronunciation patterns that should be recognized. I’m sure if you are a speaker with an Indian accent, you could also provide us with some interesting tidbits about regional accent differences within India!