Monday, April 20, 2009

Trouble with Hindi

The peapod can speak only Malayalam fluently and so it is a tad difficult for her to communicate with people other than family. She understands Hindi and English but she cannot form sentences. We had always thought she would pick up both the languages in school and it shouldn't be a problem. But we very much wanted her to learn/speak Malayalam well. She still manages with broken Hindi or English with Malayalam words to convey her message, like for eg, "Tu kidhar poguva"(Poguva=going), Mein Ammachy vetil chor khaya, (I will eat rice at Ammachy's place). Instead of correcting her we just laugh and kiss her for the cuteness of it all. It has never bothered us that she can not communicate in Hindi/English. Its OK if she isn't making friends by the dozen because she can not speak Hindi or English. She keeps running around, laughing, just generally playing and if she has to say something it will be her broken Hindi. We believe she will eventually pick up.

Over the weekend I happened to visit a friend of mine who has a 2.5 year old son. I had fun talking to him in Hindi. She is from Patna and her son speaks beautiful Hindi with the "aap" and "hum" added for good measure. I came back home to tell P we have to teach the peapod Hindi and ranted about how that would make her life easy outside home. I decided to start speaking in Hindi to her. It was already noon, and time for a siesta. As usual the peapod came over with a handful of story books. P reminded me of my resolve to teach her Hindi and so henceforth all story telling should happen in Hindi. I began the story of the Elephant and the birds and I could see P smirking. After a few minutes into the story I was fumbling for the right words and to complete the sentences as they should be. P laughed out loud at one such instance. "Your Hindi is atrocious", he said. "What nonsense", I replied. Given a chance to jump off the difficult Hindi story telling session, I immediately handed it over to him with a why dont you do it if you think you can do better attitude. As I listened to him narrate the story I realized, my Hindi is actually atrocious. I am incapable of speaking polite Hindi.

Its not like I am new to Hindi or sort but 8 years in Bombay has spoiled my Hindi forever (or maybe I should just blame the company I kept :) ). I think I spoke better hindi when we were in Gujarat. My Hindi has no "aap" or "hum". "Aap" is rendered only if you have grey hair and a walking stick. The sentence is never completed the way it should be with a "hai" or any such niceties, its all purely about communicating your ideas like "woh gaya or "tu ja raha hai kya" or "mein jake aati hoon" and the kinds. When talking to friends it probably doesn't matter but you can't teach your kid such atrocious Hindi. I have had trouble talking to people from Delhi or from the north basically where they address me as "aap" and themselves as "hum" and I just don't know how should I politely get to the crux of the matter or should I just ask "tujhe aana hai kya?". I have had delhities stare at me with their mouth wide open and probably thinking "How ill-mannered can one be". I try my level best not to speak Hindi to the "hum and aap" kinds knowing I can never speak that polite language. It can last only untill "Namaste, aap kaise ho" and after that it is holy shit in the name of Hindi.

So I shall just let the "teach Hindi" movement rest for now untill we have better people who can give the language its due respect.


Vidya said...

Similar situation with me. I also try to teach my child Hindi but then when I hear myself it is so much unlike the Hindi u learn in school. I wonder if i should teach her :)

Reshma said...

:) I think she will learn with time.

Sue said...


I speak rotten Hindi too, and am quite proud of it. ;)

Rohini said...

10 years in Mumbai has destroyed my Hindi too and both Ayaan and I speak a completely Mumbaiyya version of the language now :(

Hip Grandma said...

Coming here after a long time.And that was an entertaining post.I learnt Bombay Hindi at the age of five and shifted to Meerut where the aap,hum type prevailed.I later moved south and lost touch with spoken Hindi and for the past 36 years I've been speaking the Bang - Bihari Hindi unique to Jamshedpur.My colleagues say that I surprise them by using words that are uniquely Jamshedpurian!Good luck to peapod and do let her talk the malayalam mixed Hindi.She has all the time in the world to learn proper Hindi.BTW my g'daughter in America has picked up Punjabi mixed Hindi.

Smitha said...

I have a similar situation with my daughter. I started with exclusive Malayalam - hubby was supposed to do Hindi :) She now speaks English - which she just picked up, with some Malayalam words inbetween and laughs when Hubby tries to talk to her in Hindi:) But I guess they will pick it up:) As for your Hindi, I was brought up in Jamshedpur which has its own brand of Hindi - but I kind of, picked up good Hindi, somewhere along the way:)