Saturday, May 6, 2017

The curious case of W & V in Indian English

You have to agree we Indians are one of the best non-native speakers of English language. In my opinion, the measure is based on the probability that the other party can understand irrespective of where he is from and if he is a native speaker. For example, Indian accent is such that it stresses most of the syllables which make them easier to understand of course it is sometimes very very different than how natives speakers (British/American) would say. In this era, English is definitely not just the way the English (people of from England ? ) speak. I think the way Indians speak is far more understandable than they way they speak in most Europian countries minus Britain, after Brexit I can just say most countries in the europian union. Probably that is the reason why we have very good relationship with USA from IT/Software industry perspective.

Having said that, within India itself there are so many ways people speak English depending on their first language. I am sure this is the case in USA and Britain also given that the accent in southern states of USA speaks bit differently than the north-eastern ones. Here in India most of the times you can very accurately tell the where the person is from when you hear them speaking English. For example, the same word "bus" is spoken by a person from Bengal as "baas" but an Odia guys would speak as "boss". Probably the correct pronunciation is somewhere between these. Same for the work "bug", "cup" etc. The sound of "u" that is used in the word bus does not exist in any of the two languages so they just map it to one of the closest vowels.

If you go to the western India like Gujarat, you may hear the word "Snack" as "Snake" and "wrap" as "rape".

South India (for me the state of Andhra Pradesh and south), its a totally different ball game. I tend to generalise because it all look the same for me. I am sure, same is the case from the perspective of a person from the south about the north Indian states. If you are an Indian probably its a piece of cake for you to distinguish people from south India from their English accent, sometimes from the tone itself. Speaking of specific words you may hear the word "Fixed" as "Fix-ed", "against" as "egg-nest", "environment" as "en-vee-ron-ment". These differences becomes more prominent, more the south you go in India. The way words starting with "H" is pronouces is also has a pattern i.e. "Honest" is spoken as "hon-est" not "on-est". Same for "Honour" , people may say "hon-or" not "on-or". Putting all these deviations of English pronounciation aside I must say people in south are better in English than other states becaise lack of familiarity with Hindi. English is the only fall back language if you are talking to someone from another state. If I can take the liberty of steriotyping, they learn English well because ultmate goal is to settle in USA :)

Now lets talk about North !

Most of state speak Hindi. When you hear English you may observ the letter "W" and "V" used interchangably, in fact swapped most of the times. "Venus" is spoken as "Winus" and "Wicket" is spoken as Viket". In fact I have friends who in the chat write "ve" instead of "We",  not how it is a short hand because both are two word letters. Its just how they think it should sound like I guess :)

Its very hard to realise this mistake for a native Hindi speaker but no one really teaches the specifics of pronouciation of the letter "V" i.e. the upper theeth should touch lower lips not just "we, I think the culprit is the hindi letter "व" (wo), which people end up mapping the letter V to. However in Bengal and Odisha people map it to the closest sound "" (ভ in Bangla and ଭ in Odia) because there is no equivalent of Hindi "व". Some some people may end up saying "Bhinus" for "Venus" and "Bherification" for "verification". 

The exclusivity of some sounds to a specific language plays an important role when we pronounce names. We can to literal translation of words to our own language but can't do the same for name. One has to pronouce the names as it is given to the person in his language because that is the point of giving the name, it does not have to have a meaning its just to indentify & address people. Some people just say the name the way they write in English but I believe thats not a good idea. They write the name English in a different way because there is usually no sound available in English alphabet  to depict the sounds that contitute the name. And name is spoken first and then written so does not matter how the name is written in English letters , one must pronouce it the way the person himlef does. The sound takes priority. For example if the name is written like "Jose" I can't say it like "Jo-se" just because I am speaking in English, it must not be translated , it has to be keept same as original ("Ho-se") no matter what language you are speaking.

Ambiguity can also asrise becaise same english letter can have two sounds. E.g. if you see the name "Serge", it could be "ser-ge" or "ser-je" , I have also heard "surge".

 Well I can't blame any of them, if you don't have an equivalent sound of a letter from foreign language and not taught how to make that sound, there is no option other than mapping to the closest sound from your mother toung. However some people can actually adapt very quickly and speak in the foreign sound some just can't which gives rise to stereitypes. Hey that also gives a lot of content for humour :)

While we can make fun of each other we have to understand the variations would exists no matter what. It exists when people from europe and south asia as well. India is such a diverse country the variation exists even within the state for a same regional language. The only goal should be to speak such a way that the other person can understand. You could be travelling or seeking a job and there could be very small window where you can express yourself without putting a lot of cognitive load on the other person. To take full advantage of that its never too late to step back and take a look at the words again how it could be spoken in a more neutral way without any accent. Again it does not have to be phony to impress someone or mimic a native speaker from America or Britain, it just have to be standard enough to be understood by the other person without having to repeat.

Here are some videos, book and DVDs from Dr. Ranbir Sinha, give it a try if you think the way you speak needs improvement.

  • Modern Spoken English for Science Students Textbook + Timed Audio CD

    UPDATE: I also forgot to mention that it could be little annoying and difficult to understand (not just accent, but also if your colleague is unable to form a simple sentence to convey his thought )  if you are not speaking words the way most fluent speakers speak. It does not just apply to Indian English speakers, but also the French and Germans. Probably the key thing is to take your time, speak less and slowly and make sure the other party understands it. Meetings in engineering jobs can go unproductive if ideas and solutions can not be explained properly. There is another book that Dr Sinha has written I would recommend for scientists and engineers. There are fancier and costlier English speaking courses in the market but this is directly based out of personal and professional industry experience, not only from academics. Give it a try.

    Sunday, January 1, 2017

    New Year Resolution

    I never understood what's the deal with New Year. It's just the first day of the gregorian calendar. Why not other calendars like Lunar (not sure what is the first day ) and regional calendar (starts somewhere in April for the Bangla and Odia calendars) ? Call me an asocial person, in my opinion, financial calendar (April 1st to March 31st) matters the most as a lot of day to day work and planning depends on that. Well, the very fact I am referring date of gregorian calendar dates and month to define other calendars tell that it is something everyone is most familiar with even in the eastern word. However 31st Dec and Jan 1 is still I think not very important as a day except some coupons and offers expire. Anyway, if someone wants to party and takes resolution (and sticks to it) with New Year being the reason, I have absolutely no problem. It also so happens people who are not in touch with their friends and distant family for a while, finds a reason to do it.

    Well, this is turning out to be an abstract post. If this inspires me to make a new post in a neglected personal blog, so be it :) Let that be my new year resolution. Haha.. I don't really believe picked a specific date for starting a habit, I think it should be started as soon as possible. Here is a list I want to do start doing, I think it applies to all.
    • Blog frequently, understand its a public thing so everything personal can't be written (may be private post ? ). I think pointless discussion and small talk kills a lot of time unnecessary time.
    • Use task management tool like etc to make a list instead of cluttering the mind with all the TODO things.
    • When bothered by a lot of short term and long term tasks, start doing it in scum style (you either have action item or blockers at any point of time, no other excuse ) instead of thinking about them.
    • Write more code.
    • Always take notes with pen paper/ Google Notes in meetings so that I don't have interrupt others while speaking with a fear of forgetting my points. It's important for healthy discussion, I try to do my best but I think if a single person becomes impatient, the meeting goes to chaos.
    • Volunteer to send MOMs so that people agree or disagree to something.If people ignore it, it means my understanding is correct.

    Sunday, October 23, 2016

    Really Amazon ?

    I have been a user since 2010 and user since 2013 (actually since the day it was launched). No doubt they do try to be the most customer centric company (at least in USA) as they call themselves. Even in India (specially in Hyderabad) I see Amazon winning the race among all other e-commerce portals. I have had terrible experiences with Flipkart where they had refused to take back defective items and delivered items extremely late several times. On the the other hand , with Amazon it has been a smoother experience. Even in India they appeared to have inherited the culture from USA helping out customers in genuine cases. Once they had immediately re-shipped a brand new sterilizer when the original one did not seem to work so that I don't have to wait for the return and repair process complete. My answer in quora. I have always been an advocate and honest about amazon because of such incidents. In this case as soon as the old item started working I immediately stopped delivery for the new item and thanked Amazon. I did not need two of them tough they charged for only one.

    When Flipkart came to existence, even they were very friendly to customer, slowly I saw them degrading their services over the years. This is counter intuitive given the fact that e-commerce competition was getting tougher with the Snapdeals and Amazons who definitely took away a major share of flipkart's customer base. I barely go to Flipkart again after their new policies where they do not generally take returns and no shipping date guarantee. Elusiveness of some branded phones may be the only logical reason why one should use Flipkart any more.

    Now suddenly, I have a fear , Amazon in India might just be going in the same path.

    Amazon ran their sale during 16th to 20th Oct and I happened to be looking for a new phone I bought a Moto G4 Plus with my old phone's exchange and expecting some cash back with my Citibank credit card. I understand the rush days during sale but to my surprise they just shipped it within two hours. May be because I am prime customer and it was supposed to be delivered next day.

    Next day I did not get any SMS or "Out for Delivery" notification. The tracking showed it is in the city. When I emailed customer care they assured it will be delivered end of the day (which is 8pm as per them). After few minutes suddenly the status changed to "out for delivery". It was already 9PM so I was skeptical about it. To my surprise no one showed up and at 10.30 the status updated to "Delivery attempt failed" , with the following email

    This is to inform you that a package from your order, with tracking ID 447106033653, shipped via Amazon Transportation Services, could not be delivered as no one was available to receive it.
     WTH, I had been at home all along, security told me no one from amazon came and there was no call. I tried to call the delivery person's number that was texted to me but no one picked. I kept on trying and finally someone picked at 12 AM and told me he has no idea about any package for my address.

    Next day I followed up with customer care and got following replies
    I've contacted ATS and provided them special instructions to deliver your package as soon as possible. I've submitted a form to ATS to deliver your order on before of October 19, 2016.When your order does arrive, there's no need to contact us. However, if you haven't received it by October 19, 2016​, please let us know through the link below and we'll be happy to get a refund or replacement for you:
    In order to compensate this inconvenience , I've immediately extended your prime membership for a month. So that you can enjoy your prime benefits additionally for a month.

    And several other boilerplate template responses. They extended my prime for one month. Really, you extended the service , the very which you did not serve ? Now I have one extra month of delayed service. With INR 499 a year, you have given me approx INR 499/12 ~ 42 Rs as compensation ?

    When it did not arrive even on the second day, I contacted amazon via chat and they told me there was no delivery attempted. No reason was given to me except "it could be a miscommunication". One of the customer care rep told me they attempt delivery only till 8 pm, there is no way it could have been attempted at 10.30. He offered me 100 INR gift voucher and when I told them delivery is my priority not INR 100, he immediately responded "sorry for the typo". Really the whole sentences of offering me Rs 100 was a typo? Did you mean Rs 1000 ? If yes where is it ? I asked to transfer the chat to his supervisor.

    10:27 PM Delivery attempted

    8:53 PM Out for delivery
    Hyderabad, IN

    The Supervisor said the same old thing but no one gave me correct status and the reason why the fake delivery was attempted. She was stuck like a broken record saying "Please wait for 48 hours" . Seriously? as a prime customer you promise to deliver the item in 1 day and you ask me to wait for next update for two days ?

    Same story next day. There was again a fake delivery attempt (this time ridiculously at 2AM) with no one showing up or calling me. Again I was given a mobile number which was switched off.
    1:59 AM Delivery attempted
    Thursday, 20 Oct
    8:14 PM Out for delivery
    Hyderabad, IN
    I am sure this is just to keep the records clean such that deliveries were attempted on time and it was the customer who was not present. No wonder the customer care rep argued that 95% of the items get delivered on time and mine was exception. Of course if you keep updating fake statues , it will appear to be 95% on time in your reports.

    I continued to follow up. Even emailed Jeff Bozos (I really ran out of ideas as there was not further escalation possible). One of the response was
    "Jeff received your email and asked me to respond to you.
    However, I'm not sure how you'd like us to proceed. Normally we'd create a replacement order for the lost item right away.

    I'm happy to send a replacement order to you via fastest shipping method at no cost. If this solution won't work, I can issue a full refund. Please let us know which option you'd prefer."
    Lost ?? What can I do now,  then again when I asked for replacement order as I had given up on this
    As checked with your order it is returning back to seller and will no longer be delivered to you.Due to certain restrictions, I'm unable to create a replacement order for your mobile.To assist you in a better way I would request you to place a new order and we will make sure it will be delivered to you on time.
    I did not ask for a return but the tracking shows "customer refused to accept the package". I was pretty sure now local amazon guys are running some kind of scam to cover up their inefficiency. New order? Clearly amazon are not even sticking their own commitments they just made in last email. Whey should I go for new order ? What happens to my discounts and offers ?

    Meanwhile their social media reps keeps writing the same messages over and over without any meaningful response. I am sure they fired the people and used bots like Alexa . After all they are focusing on AI these days more than customer's actual requiements.

    Sunday, September 11, 2016

    Back to the clear skies.

    It's been a while I have updated this blog. Lets start where I left. Satellite spotting ! . The monsoon is almost over and clear skies are not as rare as it was for last few months. Recently some of the planets have been clustering together to make conjunctions. I missed Jupiter and Venus's closest approach last month due to bad weather. Jupiter and Venus were so close that they could have been seen within the field of view of telescopes and binoculars. Apparently Venus was closer to Jupiter than Callisto, farthest of the Galilean moons.

    Christopher Becke did make an attempt from the other side of the world.
    I managed to catch the Saturn and Mars hovering around Scorpios.

    ISS and Plane 

    And an Iridium flare and ISS pass at the same time.

    ISS Pass SW Sky Iridium 97 Flare

    Sunday, January 3, 2016

    Shooting Iridium Flares

    Iridium flares are sudden flares reflected from one of the Iridium satellite which looks like a very bright (as bright as -8 magnitude) moving object in the sky , sometimes brighter than Venus (max magnitude - 4.7 ) . The satellite itself is very faint in the sky (around 6 magnitude ) which almost beyond naked eye limit and since they are moving fast they can not be caught in long exposure. (because light doe not fall on a single spot in the camera sensor). I have been lately addicted to spot and capture this.

    Iridium Flare
    Iridium Flare Captured From Urban Sky
     These are so bright during the flare that it can be easily seen even from the most light polluted sky. Here in this photo I could only see the bright stars. I could barely see a 2.8 mag star above 10 degree of southern horizon. Thanks to and its Android app I could easily notified well before the flare and track it live just before its appearance so that I can have my camera's shutter open.

     This particular time it was close to horizon during flare (about 21 degree) so I could get both the earth and sky. I have even captured this closer to horizon where its very difficult to see faint objects.

    Iridium flare
    Flare just 11 degree above horizon.

      In both cases sun was well below horizon and it was evening. However I could not spot or capture this just during sunset despite being magnitude -6.7. It is claimed that these bright flares can be seen in the day time also but I think I did not look at the precise part of the sky due to lack of any star , may be it was just visible. I have got the video footage , probably I will play it over and over in my leisure to detect the bright moving spot.

    Camera Settings

    Since the sky was not very dark and I had to take a long exposure (more than a minute) I had to reduce the aperture of the camera to F/8 so that not a lot of light comes inside over the period of time when shutter is open , I also minimized the ISO to 100 to make the censor less sensitive. Anyway I was shooting in RAW format so that I can play around the exposure and contrast later.

    Since these are polar satellites , they rise in north and set in south. So all the attempts I have done till now are in the similar place of the sky. I intend to capture one in the middle of dark sky with wide angle and along with some recognizable celestial object e.g. planets and bright stars in coming days.