What Buzzfeed Needs To Know About Opening An Office In Mumbai

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Buzzfeed is opening an office in Mumbai later this year, and will publish an India-specific website to add to its collection of existing sites, which already includes those in the UK, Australia, Brazil, Spain, and France. Will the publisher run into any uniquely-Indian obstacles to their success?

Many local Indian languages are barely used in online publications, with publishers preferring to showcase their work in English, yet the next phase of growth in internet users is expected to come from those literate in local languages only.

The Internet Mobile Association of India released a report in 2012 that showed only ten percent of the Indian population used the internet regularly, and of those ten percent one third preferred to access content in their local language.

Hindi content is currently in the greatest demand, unsurprising considering the language is the most widely spoken, and the opportunity for online businesses to tap into the local content market is huge.

One of the main barriers to generating content in local languages is the lack of local expertise, which leads many international publications to partner with media companies in India in order to get a foot in the door. India Ink (launched by The New York Times and published in English) and ZDNet are two companies that have taken this route.

It seems that Buzzfeed may avoid this path, setting up a new office in Mumbai rather than joining forces with a local publisher as many western publishing companies have done in the past. 

Hinglish

English and Hindi are the two official languages of India, but their love child, Hinglish, is perhaps used more widely than either language alone, both offline and online. Spoken by over 350 million people in the urban areas of India, Hinglish spreads towards every corner of India at a fast pace.

Speakers of Hinglish use the language to convey meaning that might otherwise take longer to type or say, or be more difficult to explain in one language alone. Basically, it has evolved to aid communication between Indian people, in the incredibly diverse language landscape that separates them.

Hinglish can be used with Hindi as the main language with some words or phrases replaced for their English counterparts, or vice versa, with English making up most of the sentence.

Another style of language given the label Hinglish is the combination of two English words to make a single word or phrase that has a similar meaning, but is considered incorrect from an English grammatical point of view.

Is It All Good?

Rahul Dev says, as part of a conversation in the 2011 book Chutneyfying English: The Phenomenon of Hinglish, “I was once talking to students at an Indian Institute of Technology, the youth regarded as the cream of India. Most of them were ill-at-ease and couldn’t manage either of the two languages well. In fact, they could not frame a single question in one language alone.”

He views the students’ inability to phrase a question in one language alone as a weakness, but is it really? Hinglish could well be emerging as a distinct language that can no longer be separated into its constituent parts.

One Language To Rule Them All

Hinglish includes terms such as “mango people” (coming from the Hindi “Āma” which can mean either mango or common), “eve teasing” (sexual harassment), “badmash” (naughty), and “glassy” (in need of a drink).

English verbs are used out of place or serve the creation of new phrases, such as in the sentences, “Are you knowing how to speak Hindi?” and “He was charge-sheeted” (when a criminal’s name is added to a charge sheet).

Apart from these manipulations, many other English words and phrases are used in Hindi-dominated sentences for their added simplicity or lack of a better word in Hindi.

Common Hinglish Phrases

Do the needful – To do what is necessary. For example, “Do the needful and we’ll meet up after.”

Ji – A respectful addition to names, meaning sir. For example, “How are you, Gandhiji?”

Chello – Meaning let’s go. For example, “Come on, chello.”

Where do you put up? – Where are you staying?

Co-brother – brother-in-law (a sister’s husband rather than a spouse’s brother)

Timepass – an activity to pass the time. For example, “I’ve taken up reading as a timepass.”

Pre-prone – The opposite to postpone, to bring something forward. For example, “I decided to pre-prone that article and publish it today.”

Especially amongst the youth in India’s more urban areas, Hinglish is now essential to their communication–a reality and demographic that sets up the language to spread throughout India and the internet at a rapid pace.

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