Skip to main content

The Language Barrier

For those of you who've been checking back to this blog on a regular basis to see if there's any new content (and if you haven't, why haven't you?), I think I owe an explanation as to why you haven't seen any. You see, two weeks ago, I hurt my right wrist in a car accident. Don't worry, I'm OK and also probably alive (I see a white light!), back at the old stand and churning out blog posts at the fantastically lazy rate of once a week. Luckily for us, no one got hurt, and we're all safely at home.

Our car after the accident. Once upon a younger year, it looked a lot more like an SUV.

I didn't write this article to tell you about my near escape, though. I wrote this article to talk about local languages and just why it's important to speak them. In the case of our car crash, for instance. A couple of minutes after the car had landed (on its roof, no less!), a bunch of onlookers had gathered. One of them took a large stone and smashed our window so that we could safely crawl out. All of the people around the car then began to ask, in English, if we were OK. When we responded in Kannada, you could see just in the way that their expressions changed that their whole idea of us had changed. We were no longer random people whom courtesy dictated should be helped. We were their own kind. After that, an ambulance was called and we were taken to the police station, where the policemen did everything they could to make sure we were comfortable. They'd have done it if we hadn't spoken Kannada as well, but I think the fact that we did made them happier to have helped us.

This thing about languages isn't really that obvious in Karnataka, though naturally, people will smile at you and be more helpful if you speak to them in Kannada. In North India, however, it's quite a different story. In Delhi, for instance, some people only responded to me after I spoke to them in Hindi. Until you speak in Hindi, I guess you're just another Madrasi. 

This is one of the main reasons I like to learn different languages. Speaking to a person in their own language allows you to feel like you belong with that person. Talking to a person in their own language doesn't just spare them having to try and communicate in a language that is difficult for them to understand, it actually makes them understand you better. 

Also, please stop calling us Madrasis.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Exam Fever

As anyone currently in the twelfth will tell you, with varying levels of dismay, the final exams are right around the corner. Parents everywhere are seizing their children's phones and taking time off from work. Panicked screaming ensues at intervals.


I don't believe there's a person on the planet who genuinely enjoys exam season. Actually, I take that back - there's no one in India who enjoys exam season. Partially, I think this is our own fault. Exams are the most important things in an Indian student's life, so parents seem bent on bottling up all the worry and concern they have about their kid's education and allowing it to spew forth in a torrent of "No more video games!" and "Delete WhatsApp!" commands during the two months surrounding the exams. Small wonder, then, that at 17, I believe the purpose of exams is to seasonally blot the sunshine from otherwise happy lives.

This whole exam fever thing does have some upsides. Okay, one - it…

No Good Place To Do Mutra Visarjan In This Country...

At least, that's what Chatur Ramalingam seems to think. However, many of our fellow Indians seem to disagree with him. According to them, there are nothing BUT places to do mutra visarjan (for all you poor, masochistic folks - ah, I mean, non-movie-going folks - out there, mutra visarjan means urine expulsion). In case you haven't guessed already, we're going to be talking about one of India's most widely criticized and even more widely practiced issues - public urination.

I'm not exactly saying that it's our people's fault - I mean, come on, we have so much urine-related cultural history! Just in the past 50 years, we've had people who've used their urine for everything from watering plants to drinking it (I believe that some people also flush it down their toilets. How wasteful of them). Besides all the historical precedents, however, we also have some more practical reasons for peeing wherever and whenever we feel like.

If you've ever seen a …

Learning to Learn

There's an interesting concept that's gotten a lot of traction over the past couple of years called "meta learning".  It's a term coined by one Donald B. Maudsley, who defined it as "the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized". Translated from Sciencese, Maudsley is talking about how we figure out ways to become more efficient at learning new information.

HR managers (you know, those overpaid dimwits you complain to about your coworker stealing your lunch?) like to call it "learnability". Most people with real jobs don't call it anything at all. In reality, though, it's an extremely useful thing to understand, together with the techniques you would use to get good at it.

Myself, I'm a decent-ish learner. Mostly, that's because I've had to learn things on my own quite often - I had to teach myself web design, app…