Speak English in Kerala


When you visit us in Raheem Residency undoubtedly you will want to show a certain sensitivity to the local culture. This can be done in many ways but for those who like language an obvious entry point would be to learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in Malayalam, the local language in Kerala. Or so you would think.

Not so. Don’t even bother.

The Malayalam language, like certain other Indian languages, has none of the romance of sound that is in French, for example. It has none of the curves – the soft swoops of idiom – of the English language. All direct and to the point. So no need for extras like please and thanks.

In fact, the easiest way to hear the word ‘please’ in Kerala is on those frustrating recorded telephone messages where a very cheerful lady tells you that the caller is busy so PLEASE (DEV-aye) call later. You won’t pick it up in the course of normal communication. It’s not there.

For certain westerners, it feels like a stripped down language in both sound and idiom. Full of rolling ‘rs’ with tongues thrashing around the mouth in all arts and parts. And startlingly curt when it comes to giving orders.

I remember once reading an American author (name lost in the sands of time) who said that he couldn’t imagine an Indian man saying any kind of romantic lovey-dovey stuff to his wife. Maybe they do. But here in the south where the languages such as Malayalam, Tamil etc are from the Dravidian School of languages the rolling of the ‘rs’ is varied, loud and needs serious tongue acrobatics. And no, it certainly doesn’t sound like it’s cut out for sweet nothings.

So if you want to show a certain sensitivity to the local culture just speak English. The local folk welcome any opportunity to get in a bit of practice. And you will be welcomed with open arms……….well, no, because touching is not culturally acceptable. But that’s a whole other story.


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