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Indian English

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I continue to be intrigued by the differences between British/American English and Indian English.

I also wonder regularly if some of the grammatical problems I see in submissions written by South Asian writers are merely examples of Indian English. Some day, I should sit down and read more published South Asian writing to try and get a better feel for Indian English.

(I've read a few novels by South Asian authors, but not enough for a representative sample yet.)

See also: the online Dictionary of Indian English; 108 varieties of Indian English; a 2004 paper from Language in India on linguistic majority-minority relations in India; and a page of audio pronunciations of English words in New Delhi.

That last, btw, is from the extremely useful-looking Accents of English from around the world website. I hope to spend some time poking around there and listening to pronunciations in the future.

I was working on various things while listening to music in the background, and the song "Marathon" came on, from the 1968 cast recording of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. As Wikipedia puts it, the song is "a charming encapsulation of the United States in the 20th century (mentioning, among others, Charles Lindbergh and Sacco and Vanzetti)." (Lyrics)

I've been listening to this album since I was in high school or college, but it never occurred to me until now to wonder: why was a Belgian singer/songwriter in the 1960s writing a song about the American ideas of the various decades of the 20th century?

That seemed possible, but it also seemed possible that the original song was (for example) a European view of those decades, and that the translators had substituted corresponding cultural references.

So I went and checked. And I was startled and amused to learn that in fact the original song had nothing to do with the decades of the 20th century, nor with history or pop culture, American or otherwise.

It's called Les Flamandes (lyrics), and it's about why and how Flemish people dance at different ages/stages of life (or maybe specifically Flemish women, I'm not sure). (I gather that the background of the song is deeply imbedded in Belgian ethnicity-politics--one YouTube commenter says that Brel was making fun of people with negative attitudes toward the Flemish, for example--but that discussion is beyond the scope of this entry.)

The two songs' lyrics both feature dancing, and both cover a century or so, but beyond that there's no resemblance.

I'm always intrigued by translations that take big liberties, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a "translation" that so completely ignores the original; really, this is more like a filk, in the sense of a different set of lyrics to the same tune.

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