Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Dear Jellybean,

Are you ready for a little geography/history/linguistic lesson? 

Okay, On y va, chéri.

As you probably know,  I am from India. The South to be more exact.

India has 35 States and Union Territories. The official language of India is Hindi with English as an additional language for official work. India also has 22 officially recognized regional languages, and
has hundreds of active dialects in use. Therefore, choosing any single language as an official language presents serious problems to all those whose "mother tongue" is different. Confused yet? Allow me to confuse you a little more. 

Most languages are written using a script specific to them, such as Bengali with Bengali, Punjabi with Gurmukhi, Oriya with Utkal Lipi, Gujarati with Gujarati, etc. Urdu and sometimes Kashmiri, Saraiki and Sindhi are written in modified versions of the Perso-Arabic script. With this one exception, the scripts of Indian languages are native to India. In a nutshell, each language is written in a different script.

You are probably wondering how Indian's communicate, right? Generally, we use English if the person is from a different State/Region. But if the person is from any part of the North of India they would use Hindi. The South is a little different because as you move from each State, there is a marked difference between the languages, vocabulary has changed and road signs are unreadable. Fear not, we speak English that is highly accented. 

You know that I live in the Southern most State of India, my Mother is Tamil and my Father is Malayalee. They both grew up in steel towns in the North. They speak Hindi that I am jealous of. They can sing, read and write at will in Hindi. I sometimes feel ashamed that I don't speak a word of Hindi. But I console myself and say, "At least you speak a smattering of Tamil..." 

My Tamil is pretty hilarious. I can communicate but I make so many grammar and conjugation mistakes that everyone who has worked with me has given up. On my Father's side of the family Malayalam is not used at all. In fact, even my Grandfather finds it hard to phrase himself in Malayalam. But I will explain why this is at another time (don't worry the reason isn't one to do with age or memory loss). 

I also learned French in school as my foreign language. My Paternal Grandmother is pretty well versed and I used to practice often with her. When I went away to University in Switzerland, I was in the French speaking part so with the immersion my French is almost fluent now. 

University in Switzerland was so international, there were so many students who were from all over the world. You name the country and it was represented. I swear it was like the United Nations. I learned how to say kiss me in Turkish, and swear in Greek. I learned how to tell the time in Swedish and how to sing a Russian song. 

While I was there I started speaking Spanish with all my new found friends from Central and Latin America, and slowly but surely I developed another language. I think once you learn a language with a Latin base learning another Latin based language is fairly easy. My Spanish is pretty fluent. En serio, creo que tengo el alma de una latina. Sabes?

I speak four languages and a smattering of many more. I apologize if, when I am drunk, I give you a monologue in French or tell you a sad story in Spanish. Forgive me if your Mother and I have broken conversations in Swedish (about the time) or if the person in the plane next to us is from Turkey and I tell him, "That I love him too" (Ben de Seni seviyourm) or to "Kiss me" (Opp en ne) or I say Hello (very enthusiastically) in Swahili to a stranger from East Africa.

No matter what you speak or what you don't, I want you to know that I love you. Love is the only language we need.

However, it would be nice to have bilingual babies... 

But we'll get to that when the time comes.



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