Me and my languages
My mother tongue is Kannada. So Kannada was the first language I came across with.
My schooling was in English medium. But if you thought I right away started using this foreign language, you are wrong. Not until a headmaster came along, who observed strict rules to make us communicate in English. And what better way than entrust the job to the weakest link (remember- it was decided that I dont deserve to study UKG before 1st standard) in the class to collect the fine from other people if they didn’t obey rules. I dedicated a piggy bank and went around the school collecting the fine Re0.25 everytime anyone fails to communicate in English.Of course I had to evade paying fine. At the end, all this earned me the coveted certificate “Best student for English communication”.
It was then the time to get transfered to a village where English medium was present only upto the class I had already finished. I joined Kannada medium. Here in the first class, they taught “English alphabets”. I had to use the dreaded Kannada script for all subjects and it helped improve the legibility. As soon as I got a bit of hold on purana, rasayana shastra and maggi, we got transferred.
In what was supposed to be English medium school, few shocks awaited me the very first day.
In maths class, I recited maggi in Kannada upto a much higher number than the entire class did in English(tables), I was still punished!
In the first class, we were asked to write Kannada Kagunita to improve the hand writing.
If that was cakewalk for me, I had no idea about a totally alien language – Hindi and an equally frightening teacher. In the first class, I somehow managed to hide my ignorance and shouted the poem in chorus. I actually shouted only one word bandhar hiding my face during other times, only to later learn that I shouted wrong word for ban kar. Before the next class after a week, I had picked enough language to read the text. I later became the most volunteered and fluent reader of Hindi text in the class, sometimes even made up for teacher’s sore throat. Though that effort was not responsible for my topscoring in the language for next 3 years.
Sanskrit, actually Sanskrutam was a choice to score marks,initially. But I was so impressed with its beauty and diversity, rightfully unleashed by one of the most brilliant and talented teachers I have ever met, that I had wished pursuing all degrees in the language and settle as Sanskrit teacher. I didnt fare well in the tests,but my essays were often appreciated.
This was actually the English medium school. I could hardly follow understand first and last word of a sentence spoken in 15 seconds, in between which they seemed to utter as many words as enough for my 1 minute’s writing. My fears to speak English only increased post few embarassing moments. I somehow did manage to pull off the school without communicating much in English.
Pack up and move to Bombay. Choosing to befriend with better of the evils, I started using English, instead of Hindi, for my communication. Similar logic guided me to take French as second language. Though the language didnt attract me to the class, the teacher surely did. The friendly smile she gave when we bunked her class and were caught listening to walkman in the campus, was a good enough coaxing to make us attend her classes. Her voice and accent were so soft that though it didnt help us in the language but it taught us lip reading very effectively.
In what has been my most daring attempt, I handed over some 4 pages (with something scribbled) to a friend. Her response was anything but what I feared. “Ravi, your English is byaaad” with the typical girls’ face and accent when they say “bad”. Time for my enlightment. If my English is any better today (she acknowledged by praising my reviews as “linguistically brilliant”), a part of the praise should be attributed to her. *Proverbial woman* behind man’s success ??
Engineering was quite a relief compared to all these when I enjoyed life with languages of a different kind – Computer languages. This I may write in a separate post.
Training for soft skills – again the very basic English lessons did little help to me.
Working for a company based in Germany does not actually require me to know German/Deutsche. But then, it helps to add one more to my this post. German language class brought all my fun-in-learning memories back. Fun loving nature of our Sir added to his good knowledge made us look forward for the class and provided a deserved break from work.