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!