Indian English pronunciation–the case of bear and beer

Have you ever been in that situation your friends, colleagues or sometimes your boss make fun or scoff you off because you try to be correct in your English pronunciation? The pronunciation that sounds more like American or British or at least foreigner to the usual style or pronunciation of Indians?

I have been through all of these–I have tried to cut my usage of the accent, as we call and know it, and tried to use normal Indian style of English pronunciation.

My problem stemmed from the fact that I learnt or practiced most of my spoken English skills by talking to foreigners. I traveled to Puttaparti often and had a good chance to brush my English speaking skills. But anyways, I recently came across a case where the problem was highlighted and I felt convinced again that no matter what others say, one should not stop learning and using the correct pronunciation.

The case of bear and beer

I was reading the book so nicely lent to me by one of my friends when I visited Kauai Island. The book is Shantaram and is written by author-turned-con Gregory David Roberts, and is a mesmerizing piece of story-telling and such a fluid usage of English language. In the tenth chapter, he mentions an incident where Abdullah hugs him considering him as his brother. The author is taken aback a bit by surprise and mentions that he did not expect the bear hug. Abdullah got confused as if the author meant a naked hug.

Now, why this happened.

Bear (meaning the animal) is pronounced as ‘Bare’ by foreigners. However, Indian pronounce this word as ‘Beer’. So, when the author said ‘bear hug’, it sounded like ‘bare hug’; while Abdullah could have accommodated ‘Beer Hug’.

How I come to know about this difference and tried always to use the correct pronunciation is another interesting story. I was very happy to watch Disney’s cartoons during my childhood and TaleSpin was favorite show. In this animated show, Kit sometimes referred Baloo as ‘Papa Bear’. I was always curious to know why he called him like that. I found out from a dictionary that the real pronunciation of the word ‘bear’ is like that of ‘bare’. From then on, I always tried to use it that way.

When I read about this same problem in the book Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, I laughed inside and felt very happy that I could decipher the problem happening there. 🙂

I hope people soon realize that it is not always about panache and swagger when you try to pronounce the words right. Sometimes, they save a lot of confusion.



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