Posts Tagged ‘Language’

North Tour: Jaipur: What language is that?

April 17, 2011

Wednesday, 2 March

JAIPUR TO JAISALMER: India is a land of many languages. But even though it has 29 languages with at least 1 million speakers, those aren’t sufficient for its exchange students.

Despite having just three different mother tongues, the 13 of us use at least ten different languages. We’ve increased our use of Hindi at least fivefold since the South Tour, our vocabulary now extending beyond bas (enough) and chalo (let’s go). Select Marathi words such as fukta (only) have made their way into our conversations. Because of the efforts made by some to stretch their high school knowledge, Anaïs can occasionally communicate with some of us in French, and the three Germans have no trouble speaking their native tongue amongst themselves. We’ve used Spanish, Italian, Sanskrit, Korean and Japanese with various degrees of fluency and success. And of course there’s English – the Indian variety, at that.

So what do you call the language we speak? Fre-Ger-Spa-Ita-Kor-Sans-Jap-Mar-Hinglish? Spicy English? Or my favorite: The exchange student language for dummies properly perfectly itself only?

Whatever language we use, we can always understand each other, even if our lack of knowledge in one language creates more confusion than comprehension. So as not to take tension, one of the activities I do whilst one of us is speaking non-English is speak a made-up language with Serenity, Jordan, and whomever we’re not driving out of their mind. We’ve yet to decide on a name for it, but it has many kha‘s, badada‘s and words fun to say, such as chalakamata.

It’s harder than you’d think to carry on a fake conversation, but I think we do quite well. While conversing with Serenity at the Hawa Mahal, one half of a couple we passed distinctly asked the other “what language are they speaking?”

Good question.

As for the settings in which we had such conversations, they once again proved spectacular – or whatever the accompanying synonyms in Exchangese. I’d already seen three majestic forts since coming to India, but I took no issue with visiting a fourth today. Both that and the Hawa Mahal gave us great views of Jaipur and the surrounding area. The 12 km long “Great Wall” of India adorned the surprisingly lush countryside, and we spent the better part of the afternoon hunting for bargains in its wake. Finding souvenirs in Rajasthan has not been a difficult task, and while I already have three keychains, a decorative string, and a mini-wire bicycle to show for it, that’s still less than the haul most of the others have added to their suitcases already.

Today, too, was a good one.

🙂

P.S. See the glossary for more information on how we speak!

Advertisements

An Indian Year: Now in Fre-Ger-Spa-Hin-glish!

February 6, 2011

Thanks to the powers of Google Translate, you can now read my blog in five languages!

This may be – and probably is – a superfluous addition to the upper right-hand corner of the home page, but the fact is I have friends with at least seven different mother-tongues. (Sadly, Google doesn’t translate into Bengali or Marathi.) That’s one of the great things about Rotary Youth Exchange: You meet people who speak a lot of different languages.

I’ve gathered from my limited knowledge of Hindi that some things are lost in translation, and I’m curious about how well my writing translates to other languages. Your feedback is appreciated!

🙂

Hinglish, soccer in the streets, and Indian video games: Answering your questions about India

July 25, 2010

August 12, 2010: UPDATE: Marathi is also commonly spoken on the streets in Maharashtra. Hindi is a secondary language for most people. See this post for more updated information about language in India.

Ask and you shall receive.

How many host families will you have?

I have only one host family the whole year. So I’m very happy that I got placed with a good one! Everyone in the family has been supportive and helped me learn all the new facets of the culture. One of the students I met at the conference had five though, if I remember correctly, so the number of families varies from student to student and country to country.

Are you going to go through an intensive language week or two through Rotary during your first few weeks? I know they do that in some of the European countries.

No, but I actually wish I did. Almost everyone I’ve met speaks English, and most speak it well. When someone wants to talk to me in English, I’m usually able to understand what they’re saying without any difficulties. I have become self-conscious of my American accent, since it’s quite distinctive.

But almost everyone here speaks three languages fluently: English, Hindi and Marathi, the latter two of which are quite similar. I find it remarkable how so many people are so fluent in all three languages. In the house, Marathi is commonly spoken. On the streets, everyone understands Hindi. Friends often talk amongst themselves in Hindi and Marathi, so I wish I had learned more of each before I came. They’ll interchange between Hindi and English a lot, so I guess you could say everyone speaks Hinglish.

Are you taller than anyone you see?

Yea… In fact I haven’t seen a single other person with blond or brown hair since I left the Nagpur airport. But I haven’t gotten as much attention for my difference in appearance as I thought I would. A small child noticeably pointed at me a couple days ago, and a baby girl stared at me as I rode by in the car, but if adults have been looking at me, they have been discrete. No one has come up to me and tousled my hair or anything like that.

Are there kids playing soccer in the streets?

Cricket is the big sport here in India, but it’s definitely not the only popular sport. Basketball and football (I’m just going to call soccer football, so hang with me) are very popular. Field hockey, badminton and volleyball are also played a lot. But these are all played on well-maintained courts and fields for the most part.

So no, I haven’t seen kids playing soccer in the streets. 🙂

As for football, I was going to go play this morning with my host brother, cousin and friends, but it was raining too hard.

Have you got a phone yet that works?

No, not yet. Everyone I talked to beforehand said I shouldn’t bring a phone, so that’s why I remained one of those weird people without a cell phone in the months before the trip. One of my friends here recommended I just change the SIM card on a phone from the US, but I really didn’t know enough to do anything.

I don’t know if I’ll be getting a phone eventually, but seeing as I survived 15 of my 17 years without one, I’ll think I’ll be able to survive one more. 😛

Watching tv??? What about… video games ?

TV is to India what the internet is to the US. Actually that’s an overgeneralization. But TV seems more influential here than in the US. My host brother, cousin, and friends watch a lot of movies in their free time, clicking between HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and the Indian Disney Channel. We’ve also watched the WWE.

Yes, I know. I didn’t come to India just to watch TV…

As for video games, some people play video games on their PCs. Internet cafés, I’ve heard, are filled with teenagers on World of Warcraft and Age of Empires. I haven’t had the chance to play anything yet.

I did, however, sing YMCA and We Are The Champions on the family karaoke machine…

Did you take your malaria pill?

Only you would ask that, mom. Yes, of course! No worries.

🙂

Facebook Facebook Twitter Retweet Delicious Delicious Stumbleupon Stumbleupon Digg Digg Reddit Reddit