The Art(Science) of Learning a Language


Whew! Nowadays, I am sitting in language classes at Great Lakes! Yes, I have to learn Mandarin as a part of my curriculum and trust me this has been one of the hardest language classes I have sat through.

Back in the early days of my life, I honestly do not remember the way I learnt my mother tongue Kannada. It somehow seemed to come from the blood and has stayed there ever since. Be it grammar or the accent (all the three – Malenadu, Mangalooru and Uttarakannada bhaashe- apart form the Mysore side Kannada), I have no clue how I caught them up. Many people who try to learn the language feel its tough to read, write and understand, but well…. Even for me, I started following Kannada only after joining Marimallappa’s Institutions, one of the premier schools in Karanataka State. In fact, I had found it difficult to mingle with non-English speaking folks for the first few days when I joined this school, but when I left this school, I had forgotten the accent/ the slang I had learnt from CFTRI!

Then as I grew up, I got acclimatized with English. Somehow it went on and on, with schools having 1st Language English and 3rd Language as Kannada, I was able to gain a decent understanding and vocabulary of the knowledge. Learning came from books, billboards (At that time, most of the billboards were in English!!!) and many other sources including posters in railway compartments! CFTRI school, where I joined for primary education kind of added the necessary fuel to learn this language and more importantly use it until I joined Marimallappa’s.

One more language that added on to my list at CFTRI was Hindi! Being the national language, I picked it up as the II Language and somehow due to the impact of Doordarshan and amazing teachers, I had no issue in picking up the language to a large extent. But now, if the same teachers run me through a grammar test for the language, they are surely going to stop teaching Hindi!

As I moved  on to Marimallappa’s probably given the value system over there, I picked up Sanskrit as my first language. The school had its prayers in Sanskrit (Titled – Om Shri Gurubhyon Namah) and everyone prayed with folded hands, being from Teresian’s and CFTRI, it took me over three months to get adjusted to this style and  I still remember Shri N R Muralidhar, teaching Sanskrit in the most methodical, yet interesting way! From the basics of Ramaha Paatam Patathi to the most complicated samaasas and chandass somehow Dr. Muralidhar made it look like a cakewalk. I also owe my handwriting to him. My writing was like a hen’s leg, before he trained me in all three – Kannada, English and Devanagari scripts.

Then, there was a pause in the language learning process, though it continued with Sanskrit and English at pre-university levels, no major impacts. Meanwhile, I was almost forgetting a dialect which I was speaking at home called Sankethi – the language has no script, its only spoken. My mom’s family used to speak in that language and I somehow caught it and was speaking very fluently. Well but kind of stopped speaking it after sometime, regaining the lost tongue now.

During the final year of my Engineering, was jobless with only two days of classes. I used to work in Hewlett Packard for four days and under a special arrangement, used to attend classes on Friday/ Saturday in Mysore. Sunday used to go waste and me being me, did not wanna let go of this time. Alliance Francaise under the leadership of Mrs. Meenakshi Sukumaran had opened up a branch in Mysore and I registered for French classes with her. Superman Subramanya also came down for a class, but well did not go beyond the first class given his busy schedule! Took about a year or so to learn basic french, given that I used to attend classes only once a week. Even now, I am in the same state, with no one to converse in French – but somehow it remains a nugget in my collection of the jewels called language.

As I traveled to Scotland, thoughts of learning Galic had crossed my brain, but when my tour guide made me listen to the Scottish National Anthem – The flower of Scotland in Galic – I gave up! But got to know that Scots are striving hard to preserve Galic as hard as we are trying to preserve Sanskrit, the oldest language in India. In a similar way, Welsh, is being promoted in Wales.

And now, the reason for the blog. Of late, whether one wants or not, everyone in Great Lakes are learning Mandarin. In this jargonized world – to gain a Competitive Advantage, one has to learn the language of the country which has the maximum population in the world – China. Trust me, however the geo-political scenario might turn out to be, I pity the Chinese for having had to learn the language. Someone once said, the volume of data coming today every second apparently matches the volume of words used by New York Times a century ago over a year and that probably matches the number of characters in Mandarin. Well, with such a large character set, I really think, Chinese take at least half their life learning their own language! So tough is the language that our professor here has declared that she would be happy if we say Hello in Chinese and ask for ‘Ubhayakushlopari Sampratha’ in Chinese. I meant ask for the well-being (and that was in Kannada)!

If I can claim that I can understand something in Mandarin also, that would be my Seventh language. I am not counting the few words I know in Galic, Welsh as an extended vocabulary – I am not certified in them! And yes, even after trying to learn and still learning Seven Languages I am wondering what is the art or science of learning a Language? How does it happen? May be calls for some research.

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About amarharish
Was working as a Consultant for Five Years. Moved on to pursue a Masters in Management at Great Lakes, Chennai. Interests include Hi Tech, Brands, Quizzing, Leadership to name a few!

3 Responses to The Art(Science) of Learning a Language

  1. Shruti Wani says:

    Good one! Change ‘French’ to ‘Mandarin’ in second last para (second line to be precise)! 😛

  2. Vinay Parameshwaraiah says:

    Hi Amarharish,
    I agree completely with you that N R Muralidhar is one my greatest teachers. He belongs to the class of teachers who inspire, no doubt. I passed out of MMHS in 1997. Which was your batch?

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