September 13, 2007

Lost in translation

Language is funny. It's words, gestures, just raised or arched eyebrows (especially with kids around) sometimes. Every language has its own quirks. People say that the Italians speak with their hands and Indians just by nodding their heads. Whatever it is, learning a new language is quite an exciting and interesting experience. Having learnt a little bit of French and Italian in the past, I've since believed that I have a knack for picking up languages.

India has 28 official languages (I think) and a zillion dialects. The national language is supposedly Hindi but in the south, especially Madras, (Tamil Nadu) where I'm from, one hardly has any exposure to it unless they've been bitten by the Bollywood bug. Never having been a movie buff, I would say that my Hindi has always been worse than 'passable'. Anyhow, it was with apprehension that I came to Hyderabad where the local language is Telugu but most people speak Hindi as well (thanks to the Nizam culture and influence). The going was very tough in the beginning. Most of my daily communication with the household help (maids, chauffeur) was through actions. It was like my day was spent just playing charades. The worst part was that I would lose the game all the time as they had no idea what I was saying and vice versa. Over the months though, I've improved a great deal, not by reading any books, but just by talking a lot to my maids. Today I was very thrilled because my oldest (and most honest) friend, whose mother tongue is Telugu, complimented me on my grasp of the language. "Impressive", she said! How exciting! I'm sure she turned a deaf ear to the grammatical errors and focused on the vocabulary. Whatever it is, a compliment is a compliment!

The only emotion that I still have a great deal of difficulty expressing is anger. There are many instances where I see so many inefficiencies and I just want to rant and rave. Those times, I wish I were back in Madras, speaking good old Tamil (especially cheri Tamil) so I can give someone a piece of my mind without having to think so much! It's so difficult to translate angry thoughts and say them in the local language. I'm sure they would sound just purely stupid. My other worry is that they may sound harsher than I intend them to. End result is that I don't say anything out loud but just curse within.

Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe there is a reason why everything can't be translated.

1 comment:

Karthikeyan....KK said...

Landed here from Anu's !

Yes, expressing anger to the right degree is the most difficult - even with the language one is most comfortable with

( funnily, i pick up the "nice sounding" (swear ) words even before i know the ABC's language !!.. might help in expressing Anger :P )

Nice blog..