#6: Lost In Translation
We’ve always spoken my mother tongue, Tamil at home. But at school, we were told to speak in English most of the time in classes, only except during language classes where you’d have to speak in Tamil or Hindi or Sanskrit. My father’s family is from Kerala, so whenever I talk to that side of the family I automatically feel my Tamil accent transforming into something else, dotted with a few Malayalam words. But I think that’s slowly changing thanks to college, where everyone speaks in a mix of Tamil and English. Chennai Tamil has now been labeled as “Tanglish” and I feel like some English words have permanently replaced the Tamil ones in a sentence. Thinking about how the suffix “fy” came about really is mind boggling ( in words like adichufy ).
My cousin and I started translating English songs into Tamil. What started for the mere fun of it has now become a way for us to tap back into proper Tamil and get closer to our heritage. Make no mistake, this exercise still brings about heights of laughter leaving us in a fit of happy tears. For example, take Ariana Grande’s (we’ve done extensive work on her songs) No tears left to cry -
Ariana says, “Ain’t got no tears left to cry, so I’m picking it up”. To that, we say, “azharthuku kanneer illai adhanaal na edukkaporen”. It honestly sounds weird typing it out or reading it but do try, this is what we do whenever we’re bored.
I started learning French last January at Alliance Française and I’ve completed two levels. Learning a new language was a breath of fresh air. I loved the ambience at Alliance and made plenty of new friends. The teaching was unparalleled, I was learning the language indirectly by getting familiar with the culture in France (I promise you this isn’t me marketing for them). Their accent is high speed, one of a kind and the hardest to master. Before lockdown, we used to learn through games. To learn the numbers, which was quite complex at first, as some mathematics was involved - 80 is said as 20x4, quatre-vingts, Madame wrote all sorts of numbers on the white board. The class was split into two groups and one person from each group had to go up to the board. Madame would call out a number in French and the rest of the members have to help their group member on stage to locate that particular number by saying whether it was on the left, right, top or bottom of the board, this too in French mind you. The group which finds the most numbers wins. It was high stakes, stressful, yet a fun way to learn. Unfortunately, most of my learning had to be done online owing to the raging pandemic. We also sang children’s nursery rhymes in French to understand the alphabet and listened to songs to get to know a particular tense. I adored this manner of going around a concept rather than bluntly teaching it to students.
My cousin knows quite a bit of Spanish, having lived in Spain for about two years to finish her Masters in Advanced Architecture. At first, she claimed not to know much, but the fact that she seemed to know all the nuances came to light when we started watching Las chicas del cable, a Spanish show about four girls who work as switchboard operators at a telephone company in the 1920s. I picked up Spanish pretty quickly, this show was filled with drama so I learnt these phrases as they were repeated quite a bit - “What are you doing here?”, “Get out!”, “I love you”, “Where is my daughter?” and “I’m pregnant” to name a few. My cousin and I keep comparing Spanish and French, some of the words are pretty similar in both the languages as they originated from Latin. “I know” in French is je sais and in Spanish is lo sé. It’s fun drawing parallels and I think it prevents my brain from turning into mush during quarantine. My cousin is learning Japanese as well and we keep muttering a few key phrases. If a stranger gets to observe us at some point, I’m pretty sure they’ll think that our brains are malfunctioning.
A connoisseur of languages in my family is my grandfather. He has learnt French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian and Bengali amongst other languages. He’s always onto the next one. Us granddaughters have finally understood the beauty in conversing in different tongues. Sometimes it automatically comes out of our mouths in another language leaving our family to scramble and decipher which language it is!
A few resources, French, that I loved:
Paradis- Instantané - I recommend reading the lyrics as well, which I found refreshing.
InnerFrench - An intermediate level French podcast where interesting topics are explained in simple French.
Links you’ll love
Six Indian women describe how rideshare apps have transformed their lives ( via The Internet Personified ) - It really has, but personally I avoid cabs and take autos instead because if things go awry with respect to safety, I feel like I can always jump out of the auto any time I want to. It’s sad that things have come to this, it’s sad that women have to plan so much in advance and think of way too many things and worst case scenarios before doing something as simple as going out.
How to make a zine - I’ve always found zines to be über cool, hopefully I get to making them someday!
With an astonishing amount of fresh Covid cases every day, India is running out of oxygen, beds, medicines and of people. Meera Ganapathi Ayappa wonderfully writes about how our Indian citizens are going above and beyond to extend their help.
Proof of evolution that you can find on your body - I had so much fun trying this out, I hope you do too!
Stay safe everyone, and just hang in there. I read somewhere that it’s okay to grieve over lost time with friends, lost plans and the fact that one’s whole life has gone south. Thinking that you shouldn’t feel bad just because you haven’t lost someone to Covid and thinking that you have it better may work sometimes. But it’s okay to feel sad, everyone is going through trauma whether they realise it or not, so give yourself a break. Check up on your loved ones when you can.
Hahahaha... loved the closing sentence.. yess Alliance France on Nungambakkam high road.. wow what a serene locale .. used to take my son there fir his French classes whenever I was there during the summer holidays.. the French learning family was such a great Gang!! They really rejoiced each other’s company.. yessss flair for languages is a unique joy... all the best to your quest for learning more languages.. if I may try to learn the sign language as well.. you know how moms are we want our kids to learn all that’s there in this planet.. 😁I always wanted to learn...
Reminds me of the time that my brother and I used Google translate for the phrase 'pathogenic insult' into Tamil (and laughed our heads off over it for no reason).