Yes, you are reading right. I’m about to learn Hindi now! I do really think it make sense to try to learn at least a bit of a local language when you live abroad. And this thing that all Indians speak English is really not the case. Yes, almost everyone in the IT-industry does, but not all auto drivers and all security guards and all the other folks. Luckily there is a Swedish colleague also here in Mumbai. She knows an old lady who used to be a Hindi teacher. This lady has agreed to learn us. Her only condition is that we have to come to her. That is no problem for us, so about twice a week we are going over to her to learn…
The first day we were there I got a book which is first grade Hindi. Most often I think that book is given to kids at the age of 5-6, and the purpose of the book is to learn the alphabet. So almost every evening, or at least on the evenings when I’m not too tired, I do try to sit down and learn a few new letters. And I can promise you that learning a completely new alphabet is not that very easy.
But I really think I have progressed a bit. This weekend I decided to give myself a bit tougher challenge, and to try to read a newspaper in Hindi. Not easy at all. Just to buy the correct newspaper was actually quite difficult. Here they sell newspapers in English, Hindi and Marathi, which is the local language spoken in Mumbai. Marathi and Hindi have almost the same letters, but just almost, so I had to ask the paper seller which paper was in Hindi and which was in Marathi. The second problem was that the font in the paper was not the same as the one in my dictionary, so some of the letters did not even look the same! But when I came over these slightly difficult barriers I could go on and translate. I have managed to translate a few words, and am quite proud every time I do see a word I understand. Most of the words I translated, I don’t know what means, which make it more difficult.
My ambition has never been to write perfectly Hindi, so I also try to speak some Hindi. Every morning, I do try to speak a few words with the security guards in Hindi. One morning one of the seemed quite surprised, and asked me: “Do you really speak Hindi?” Off course I said yes, yes, or rather “Haan ji”, which means yes sir or yes madam (ji does not distinguish between genders). And now I try to speak a bit also with my colleagues. Mostly they laugh of me, but I do think that I’m slowly making some progress. And it is also quite fun. For some reason, it also seems to help with a few beers. This Saturday, or was it Sunday, I don’t really remember, I did meet a few new friends. After some time, and some beers, I almost managed to convince them that I could really understand what they said, even if they spoke Hindi! Which was off course not the case…
At the office almost everyone have their own nameplate. Those who don’t have, I try to create one for. Not even that is easy. I mean, how could I know that the name Priyanka should be said as three words Pri ya nka, and then also been spelled in a completely different way? But, well, I will have a class this evening, so maybe a few colleagues will be surprised with their new nameplates tomorrow morning.
Talk to you soon (in English)