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Language Khichadi

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by satchitananda, Feb 28, 2021.

  1. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dedicated to all those wonderful teachers who taught me and still teach me a foreign language.
    _______________________________________________________________________
    My journey with foreign languages started in school. Actually I had an option of learning Marathi at the higher level and basic French in the IXth and Xth standards. To say I was torn between the two would be an understatement of sorts. The default Maharashtrian (a Punekar, to boot) in me with my love for the language and culture kept pushing me to continue with the language. But you all know our educational culture in India. It is all about competition and examination marks. Here I was competing at two levels - with others in school and with an older sib who had done her masters in French and had spent a year at the Sorbonne Univ. Add to that, I heard that French was a 'scoring' language in the Xth Std exams. Like all things default about me, my decision was made for me ..... also by default. So I learned French in the last two years of school and enjoyed the experience.
    Next came "Junior College" - Stds. XI and XII with a board exam to be faced at the end of it. So 'marks' were once again a criterion. and I decided to do French once again. Now here came the twist in the tale. What we learned in Std. IX was taught in Std. XII (although with a different and classic - read fatally boring - text book) and what we learned in Std. X would be repeated in Std. XII - yes, using the same murderously boring book. By the end of Std. XI, I was done, not being able to face the prospect of having to sit through French classes for one more year. So the decision was made. I switched over to German. I attended my first course of German at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Pune between the two years, so as to help me to switch over to German in Std. XII ..... and oh, how I enjoyed it. There was just one S.M.A.L.L issue. In the middle of the course, I had to complete my French certificate exam at the Ranade Institute, Univ of Pune. (I had attended classes there to be allowed to take French for the two years, as it was not taught in college). The exam was in the afternoon after my German class. The written exam went off fine. It was when it came to orals that my world fell apart. I opened my mouth and out came ..... yes, German. Five hours a day for more than 4 or 5 weeks I had been hearing, reading, speaking and writing German. Now my neurons refused to do a switch in connections all of a sudden ..... something like the starter of a tubelight, I'd say! Mercifully my examiner was a kind soul who realized where the problem lay and I got through the exam without much sweat (even though it was midsummer). The German exam, of course, ran a smooth course without any complications. French was done by then.
    Of course, after the first level, I wanted to do the second and the third ... but life and academics came in the way. In the meanwhile I had learned a lesson the hard way ..... never mix two languages at least at the beginning. Now the question again was: continue with French or German? The choice now was clear. I did not want to run into any more difficulties. Besides, remember the competition on the domestic front? The older sib was a French expert. So I wanted to become one in German. And I knew some French, so I had learned 2 foreign languages ..... oh, alright, I admit 1.25 languages ..... but it was still better than her 1.
    Life went on. There came a point when I decided to say good bye to all the microbes and viruses which had been my companions during all those years in between and return to languages. So it was that after almost 20 years, I picked up the threads of German where I left off. My teachers were so inspiring that I wanted to be one myself and to do for others what they did for me. I truly enjoyed learning the language.
    Another decade and a half flew by and I was bitten by the learning bug again. I could not decide what it was that I wanted to learn, so I decided to pick up the threads of French again. Yes, I was also wary, because I did not want the threads getting entangled into a knotty mess all over again.
    To the exasperation of my teachers, I'd open my mouth in class and German would flow out. It took a lot of effort to separate the two in my head, but I can't say to this day that I really got rid of the khichadi in my brain. To complicate issues, this semester I was doing an exam preparation course every Sunday morning, followed by a one hour break for lunch and then a 4.5 hour run of teaching German in the afternoon. (I can almost see the expression on PuLa Deshpande's face if he were to be narrating what happened on the first day of my afternoon German teaching).
    Well, French class got over. The old fears were still there in my mind ..... and for good reason. As soon as the class ended, I started thinking of what I'd say to the students. 'Bonjour'. No, that is French. 'Comment ça va?' "NO, idiot! That is still French!" Panic started gripping my throat. I picked up a piece of paper and wrote down after a minute: "Guten Tag! Wie geht's?" Phew. I wrote down a few more sentences. Then I started formulating my plan in detail. Things fell back in place. Ever since then that has always been my habit to do so before stepping into class (virtually speaking, of course).
    Often I used to wonder, what if I decided to travel to Germany and from there to France or vice versa? How would I sort out the cross-connections? I now have my answer. Pick up a book in the language to which I have to switch over and hopefully by the time I land at the airport the knot should have been unravelled.
    Today French class has come to an end. Sigh. Some relief at last. No offence to my brilliant teacher. It's just that the 'learning bhoot' has taken temporary leave of me and will be allowed to rest for a while before I set out on that path again!
     
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  2. HariLakhera

    HariLakhera Platinum IL'ite

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    Good. Knowledge of languages is a big advantage. I think reading and writing is easier than speaking fluently. Besides, at advanced age, there are some handicaps of quick recall too.
     
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  3. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    I agree. When reading and writing, one has the advantage of time to think whereas when talking, that is lost. One often has to fall back on techniques to gain time. I don't know about how efficacious it is in prevention of Alzheimer's even though it is claimed to be. If at all, it will not be for lack of trying.
     
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  4. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    :hello:Hilarious dharmasankad moments when one suffers loss of right words while speaking a particular tongue other than his or her own. Very interesting thread thanks to mon ami @satchitananda that offers scope for many fellow viewers to reflect and offer their parallels here.

    Personally, I had experienced wide variety of confusion and difficulties in reading writing and speaking languages foreign to me. For example in Hindi for one and half and two and half, yesterday and tomorrow, half and three fourth. As a result every retail transaction, i tender only currency notes that resulted trunk full of coins during initial days of my joining Bombay office. Once I used Mali in place of Malik in a negotiation meeting that produced rib tickling laughter among fellow officers.

    Being encouraged by fellow officers, I used to speak using Hindi with English. The case files after attaining certain number of pages would continue in another volume. Such volumes pertaining case would be carried in a binder pad that is with red tape -string (nada). Case files with varying volumes in a binder pad tied with red nada . I desired that length of these nada of the binder pad to be increased by few more inches so that tying & untying would be more comfortable.

    With penchant for uttering Hindi with confidence, I said in that context in the meeting “ Chaimanji- nada kole nay may bhaooth Waltham nasht hotha hai aur mushkil hotha hai”. All members in the meet including chairman burst into laughter. You know what I mean!

    A British boss found it hard to instruct gatekeeper in Hindi to close & open the door. His ManFriday suggested two sentences - for opening the gate there was a cold day and the other - there was a brown crow. With British accent when boss uttered these the gate keeper understood it well .

    In Britain - one to go up use Lift. But in America they use Elevator. A Santa of US knowing this was stuck in London highway, stopped vehicle asking for Elevator.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2021
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  5. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    :hello: @satchitananda
    A rejoinder to my previous FB here.
    Speaking of learning language other than mother tongue, this comes to my mind:

    Officers joined from the non Hindi speaking belt were compulsorily trained to attain proficiency in usage Hindi for official purposes.

    In that context trainees were asked to speak on pre selected topic for five minutes on Hindi Diwas.

    I selected topic on national integration but I could not prepare to say anything concrete yet I managed. How I managed for five long minutes Hindi speech narrated in the link:

    Disintegration On National Integration Desideratum
    Thanks and Regards.
     
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  6. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Satchi,

    A very nice snippet explaining the complications one faces when you learn multiple foreign languages. Even with one language, I struggled so much writing and speaking when I moved over to the US. Learning English the way Americans write was hard, I had very little time to adjust especially when the Company listed its stock in NASDAQ and I had to contribute to the preparation of the prospectus. Luckily, I had a good guide in the form of our in-house legal counsel who was good in wordsmithing. Understanding the words spoken was not hard as I had 3 years of communication with the Americans when I was working for their Indian operations before I moved over to the US.

    How come when you speak in English, no French or German words come out?
     
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  7. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Interesting write up.This confusion arises when we mix up malayalam, tamil kannada and Telugu also.We had many funny moments talking with neighbour maami .

    jayasala 42
     
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  8. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    That made for very interesting reading. It reminds me of the story I have heard of the fil with family in Delhi when the kids were young and he was working there. Hindi was their bete noire. Apparently one day they were boarding a DTC bus and fil managed to get on while mil with kids were still struggling to get in. Meanwhile the bus started off leaving these 3 at the stop. FIL in his panic produced his best Hindi and shouted "Ruko, ruko, mera parivaar neeche pada hai". Whatever you might say of his Hindi, he had communicated his anguish very effectively. The bus came to a grinding halt and mil + 2 managed to board the bus.
     
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  9. Thyagarajan

    Thyagarajan IL Hall of Fame

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    At #4 above highlighted portion there the word
    Waltham
    Is incorrect . it should be read as
    Waqth.
    It means you all know -it is moments aka time!
     
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  10. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Viswa, I guess it is because we speak English from childhood like a mother tongue - we are taught everything in school in English, we talk to people around us in English ..... the interesting question for me would be, would there be confusion if we were to learn an Asian langauage and an European language at the same time? As for French or German words coming out when speaking English, it does happen occasionally when learning especially if one is attending daily classes for 3-4 hours, leading people to think you are 'showing off' or 'putting it on'.
     
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