Many organizations working with employees experience communication issues with India. While English is widely spoken in India, there some differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and colloquialisms that can lead to confusion. There are still differences in the way certain words and phrases are used and understood.
Here are a few examples of how these differences can lead to confusion for Americans and other cultures working with Indians.
What is a Jugaad?
In one instance, an American team was working with an Indian team on a software development project. During a virtual meeting, the Indian team mentioned that they had encountered a “jugaad” solution to a technical problem they were facing. The American team was unfamiliar with this term and asked for clarification. However, the Indian team was not able to provide a clear explanation, which caused confusion and frustration for the American team.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that “jugaad” is a Hindi term that refers to an improvised or creative solution to a problem, often using limited resources. While the Indian team was familiar with this term, it was not a commonly used term in American English, and the American team was not able to understand the meaning without further explanation.
This underscores the importance of clear communication and the need to avoid assumptions when working across cultural and linguistic differences.
What is the meaning of “tabled”?
In a virtual meeting between an American team and an Indian team, the Indian team mentioned that they had “tabled” a certain topic for the time being. The American team, however, interpreted this to mean that the topic had been “put on the table” for discussion, which was the opposite of what the Indian team intended to convey. This misinterpretation caused confusion and delayed progress on the project.
Upon further discussion, it was discovered that in India, the phrase “tabled” is commonly used to mean that a topic has been “set aside” or “postponed” for the time being. However, in American English, the phrase “put on the table” is often used to mean the opposite, i.e., that a topic has been brought up for discussion.
This example highlights how even common phrases and idioms can have different meanings in different cultural contexts. It underscores the importance of clarifying meanings and avoiding assumptions when working across cultures and languages. By taking the time to understand and appreciate these differences, teams can improve communication issues with India and work more effectively together.
What does “prepone” mean?
In a virtual meeting between an American team and an Indian team, the Indian team mentioned that they had “preponed” a meeting to an earlier time. The American team was not familiar with this term and asked for clarification, but the Indian team was not able to explain it clearly. This led to confusion and uncertainty about the meeting time.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that “prepone” is a commonly used term in Indian English that means to bring a meeting or event forward to an earlier time. While this term is not commonly used in American English, it is widely understood in India.
This example highlights how even simple words or phrases can have different meanings or usage in different cultural contexts. It is important for teams to be aware of these differences and to ask for clarification when needed. By doing so, teams can avoid communication issues with India and work more effectively together.
What does “ring up” mean?
During a virtual meeting between an American team and an Indian team, the Indian team mentioned that they would “ring up” a vendor to get more information about a product. The American team was confused by this phrase, as they had never heard it used in this context before.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that in India, “ring up” is a commonly used phrase that means to make a phone call. However, in American English, the phrase “ring up” is more commonly used to refer to the act of tallying up a bill or making a purchase at a cash register.
This example highlights how even seemingly straightforward phrases can have different meanings or usages in different cultural contexts. To avoid communication issues in India, it is important to be aware of these differences and to ask for clarification when needed. By doing so, teams can improve communication and work more effectively together.
How do you pronounce India names?
In a virtual meeting between an American team and an Indian team, an Indian team member mentioned a colleague’s name, “Rajesh.” The American team was not familiar with this name and asked the Indian team member to repeat it. The Indian team member repeated the name several times, but the American team still had trouble understanding the pronunciation.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the pronunciation of the name “Rajesh” in Indian English is different from how it is typically pronounced in American English. Specifically, the “a” sound in “Rajesh” is pronounced more like the “u” sound in “hut” in Indian English, whereas in American English, the “a” sound is pronounced more like the “a” sound in “cat”.
This example highlights how even seemingly simple differences in pronunciation can lead to miscommunication and confusion in a cross-cultural setting. It is important for teams to be aware of these differences and to ask for clarification when needed. By doing so, teams can avoid misunderstandings and work more effectively together.
What are idioms and phrases used in an India work context?
Here are some more examples of idioms and phrases that are commonly used in India but may be unfamiliar to Americans:
“Chalta hai” – This phrase is often used to express a laid-back or easygoing attitude, and is often used in situations where things don’t go exactly as planned. For example, if a meeting starts late or a deadline is missed, someone might say “Chalta hai” to indicate that it’s not a big deal.
“Jugaad” – This term refers to a resourceful or improvised solution to a problem. It can be used to describe someone who is good at finding creative solutions or to describe a situation where a creative solution was necessary.
“Namaste” – This is a common greeting in India that is used to show respect and welcome. It is often accompanied by a slight bow and putting the palms together in front of the chest.
“Haath milana” – This phrase means “to shake hands” and is often used in formal or business settings.
“Dhanyavaad” – This is a Hindi word for “thank you” and is often used to express gratitude in formal or informal settings.
“Aap kaise hain?” – This phrase means “how are you?” and is a common greeting in India.
These are just a few examples of idioms and phrases that may be unfamiliar to Americans. By being aware of these cultural differences in language, Americans and Indians can work together more effectively and avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings. Below are more examples to resolve communication issues with India.
How would “Chalta hai” be used in a work context?
Let’s say that an Indian team member has missed a deadline for a project. When the American team member follows up about the missed deadline, the Indian team member might respond with “Chalta hai” to indicate that it’s not a big deal and that they can work on a solution to meet the deadline in the near future.
In this case, the Indian team member is using “Chalta hai” to convey a sense of flexibility and adaptability, and to indicate that they are willing to work with the American team member to find a solution that works for everyone. The American team member, on the other hand, may interpret this response as a lack of commitment or professionalism.
This example highlights how “Chalta hai” can be used in situations where things don’t go exactly as planned, and how it can be important for team members from different cultures to communicate openly about expectations and timelines to avoid misunderstandings.
How would “Namaste” be used in a work context?
Namaste is often used as a greeting to show respect and welcome to colleagues and business partners. For example, if an American business executive is meeting with an Indian counterpart for the first time, they might greet each other with a Namaste as a sign of respect and acknowledgement of cultural differences.
The Indian counterpart might also respond with a Namaste and explain the significance of the greeting, which can help to build trust and establish rapport between the two parties.
In addition to being used as a greeting, Namaste can also be used as a way of showing gratitude and respect at the end of a meeting or negotiation. For example, after a successful business deal has been reached, the American executive might thank their Indian counterpart and offer a Namaste as a way of expressing gratitude and respect for their efforts.
Overall, Namaste is an important cultural norm in India that is often used in both personal and professional contexts as a way of showing respect, humility, and gratitude. By understanding the significance of this greeting, Americans can show their Indian colleagues that they are sensitive to cultural differences and willing to adapt to local customs and norms.
How would ” Aap kaise hain” be used in a work context?
“Aap kaise hain” is a polite way of asking someone how they are doing, and is commonly used as a greeting in formal or professional settings in India. Here’s an example of how it might be used in a virtual work context:
An American team member is on a video call with their Indian colleague, and they start the conversation by saying, “Hello! Aap kaise hain?” The Indian colleague responds by saying “Main theek hoon, shukriya” which means “I am fine, thank you.”
In this example, the American team member is using “Aap kaise hain” as a polite way of greeting their Indian colleague and showing interest in their well-being. The Indian colleague responds by acknowledging the greeting and expressing their gratitude.
Using phrases like “Aap kaise hain” can help to establish a friendly and respectful tone in virtual work environments and show that you are taking the time to acknowledge and appreciate your colleagues as individuals. It can also help to build trust and rapport and make it easier to collaborate effectively despite cultural differences.
Cultural Coaching and Training
To prevent communication issues with India, training can help both sides understand each other better and ensure that communication is effective. For more information about our cultural training session, Working with India, Working with the US and other courses, contact us here.