Posts Tagged ‘hindi’

A government of piscines

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I am a native Hindi speaker.

This is both factually accurate and entirely misleading. My parents are native Hindi speakers (well, one has it for a mother tongue and the other has it almost), and until I was five I spoke nothing else. Then, of course, the usual story – I learnt English fast, it displaced my Hindi almost as fast, pretty soon I was speaking English at home, etc., etc.

Nowadays I’m luckier than some and I haven’t forgotten it entirely, but my grammar is shaky and my vocabulary more so, and in a lot of ways it’s stalled at the five-year-old level. (I suspect this would have changed if I’d been educated in the language, but of course I wasn’t. I have at some point or another been formally taught English, French, Spanish, Italian, Welsh and Latin, but not a word in my original tongue.)

I learned how to read and write Devanagari script around ten years ago, and while it’s also at a five-year-old level, it means I can at least muddle my way through a dictionary. I have therefore decided that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood, and am going to use the dictionary to Learn Words. They are going to be Excitin’ Words. (In all seriousness – I lack the vocabulary, in Hindi, to function as an adult. “Water”, “sleep”, “house”, “tree”, “cold” – I’m fine with those. “Law”, “government”, “engineering”, “history” – any abstract noun or two-syllable adjective is beyond me. How do you address a lack this significant? By picking pages at random out of the dictionary!)

Today’s words:

लघुगणक (laghuganak) – “logarithm”. Why anyone would ever need this in conversation is beyond me, but that is what the dictionary provides. (So does Wikipedia!)

रदर्शनी (radarshan) – “fair”, as in a World’s Fair or expo. A fair that you go to eat candy-floss at is a mela, मेला.

मछली की जनता (machli ki junta) – which is not three words, and may not even be right. In my defence, “shoal” is one word in the English half of the dictionary, and one does often refer to shoals of fish is one is in the habit of discussing such things. However, in Hindi we apparently use a construction that translates to “the general public of fish”.

…I don’t even know. But, look, I learned words today! I shall update as and when I learn more.

(Also, one day I will learn IAST transliteration, but today is not that day. Please bear with me.)