In 2018, the places around the world that are still completely untouched by the English language are few and far between, and the influence of English only looks set to continue growing in the near future. But did you know that the number of people who speak English as a second or third language far outnumber native English speakers in the world?
With the growing presence of English around the world, countless places are also injecting their own local flavour in the English spoken there just as they adopt bits of English into their own languages.
India is the country with the second largest population in the world, and it is also the country with the second largest number of English speakers if you include those who speak it as a second and third language! Although India has many different languages spoken all over the country including Tamil, Panjabi, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi and Telugu, to name just a few, a very large part of the population can speak and understand both Hindi and English to some extent.
This creates the opportunity for a wonderful mix of those two languages, where you might hear somebody say something like “My sabse best friend bahut nice hai!” My best friend is very nice!
Have a listen to this Hinglish shampoo advert and see how much you can understand:
Singapore is a real cultural and linguistic melting pot with large communities of people speaking lots of different languages. Besides English, most people here can also understand and speak some Malay, Tamil, and various Chinese languages such as Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, and Mandarin, amongst others. Locals often mix up words and grammar from these languages to create the unique and fascinating Singlish.
One cool example of how expressive Singlish can be is the many uses of the word “can”:
Check out this Singlish announcement on an aeroplane taking off from Singapore.
Chinglish can describe the meeting of English with any of the Chinese languages. There are many Chinglish expressions in English such as “Long time no see!” from “好久不见！” and “lose face” from “丢脸”. But increasingly common are English words creeping into Chinese, often with a quite different meaning from the English.
So if your Chinese friend says to you “我们今晚一起出去high吧！” (Let’s go out and ‘high‘ together tonight!), they probably aren’t suggesting that you go and take some illegal substance, they just want to go out and have a good time.
Have a look at this Chinese comedian’s explanation (in Chinese) of 8 different ways you can mix English into your Chinese to sound like a fluent Chinglish speaker:
Perhaps one of the most creative Englishes of the world is Japanglish or wasē-ēgo (Japanese-made English), the Japanese have come up with a wonderful range of ‘English’ words uniquely understandable to themselves.
Here are just some of my favourite wasē-ēgo words:
マジックテープ magic tape – velcro
スキンシップ skinship – bonding through physical contact or intimacy
ハイタッチ high touch – a high five
フライドポテト fried potato – chips/fries
ウォシュレット washlet – a toilet that will also wash your bum for you when you’re finished
West African Pidgin is a language with over 75 millions speakers that has its roots in English and the many diverse languages of West Africa. It began to emerge centuries ago when the region was being ravaged by the Atlantic Slave Trade when people from different places and cultures where thrown together and in need of a common language to communicate with. Since then, the language has continued to serve this purpose throughout the region with large numbers of speakers in Nigera, Cameroon, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea. However each of these countries have their own variations of the language:
Dem dey go for go it res — They are going there to eat rice
Dem dey go chop rais — They are going there to eat rice
Dey di go for go chop rice — They are going there to eat rice
Any idea which country in the world has the most languages in the world? No? OK, I’ll tell you. It’s Papua New Guinea. This small Oceanian country is home to around 12% of the world’s languages (852 of them to be exact).
You might be wondering how a country like that could get anything done with so many languages. Well, just like in West Africa, two new languages developed around places where the most trading was happening. These were pidgin languages, aka, languages with very simple grammar and pronunciation used between speakers of different languages for communication. PNG’s two pidgin languages are Hiri Motu and Tok Pisin, with Tok Pisin now being used by around 5 million people.
Being a simple pidgin language, Tok Pisin has just a few simple words used as ‘building blocks’ to create more complicated meanings. For example:
Grass bilong hed (grass belong head) – hair
Sop bilong gras (soap belong grass) – shampoo
Em i gat bigpela hevi (him he got big-fellow heavy/problem) – he has a big problem
Kaikai bilong moningtaim (‘kaikai’ belong morning-time) – breakfast
Kaikai bilong nait (‘kaikai’ belong night) – dinner
Rob is Memrise‘s English Language Specialist, teaming up with the other language specialists to create language courses that will help you explore the world by unlocking your language superpowers. He also works with Memrise‘s Marketing Team to make fun videos and blog posts to inspire all the language learners out there.
In his spare time, he can usually be found learning languages – currently Hindi & Greek – and exploring the wonders that the London theatre and comedy scenes have in store.