Anyone who knows me by now – and most people who don’t – know I love words. They’re the world to me, the thing to study, often the only thing to pull me outside myself and interact with others. Forget mathematics, music, theatre, cars, paintings… none of it can hold a candle to words. If I don’t have words in my mouth, words in my brain, words in my ears, I am nothing and I am utterly at a loss. Thankfully, Adam enjoys them almost as much as I do, albeit in a less scientific fashion (6 years of linguistics background on my end).
Thus, it is not unexpected that I’m studying Hindi, nor having my own bouts of struggle with it as I try to get back into a comfort zone I haven’t felt in a foreign language since Denmark from ’99-2000. I still slip into Danish unexpectedly, when angry, frustrated, happy, or otherwise on an emotional extreme. German and French follow along with smatterings of Mandarin, but Hindi… Hindi hasn’t gotten there yet, no matter what I try to do, and how I try to interact. Everyone lapses to English because they want to practise it, or can’t be bothered to even play around a bit in Hindi if they’re learning. Speaking English is prestigious… yet at the same time, those speaking it are clearly bored with it more often than not, but do occasionally rebuff the Hindi attempts.
I’m competing in the “6 Week Challenge” for languages – letting my competitive nature out freely, pushing to see if I can really make leaps and bounds competing with people I’ve never met, never will, in the attempts to jam yet another foreign lexicon into our brains, let it ripple off our tongues. Adam indulges me – he gets his Hindi lessons once every couple of weeks, if our tutor remembers to show up. I have more time, I can self-study and focus, but it’s noticeably at the point where he can understand bits and pieces… but I can generate sentences, paragraphs, careful conversations.
Of course, I hate people – interacting with them, being with them, socializing. “Hate” may be strong, but our alternatives are “terrified of”, “petrified of”, “awkward around”, and so on… so ‘hate’ works. Obviously, the way things work is clear: when the coolie with the groceries comes, or the man with Adam’s dry cleaning, or almost any knocking-on-the-door, I’m the one who gets to play translator and interpreter (when I’d much rather be hiding in the bedroom until everyone goes away). Adam’s the one who likes people; he can talk to them! … If only it worked that way ‘in real life’.
So naturally on Sunday, Adam is off at chapel, and the groceries and dry cleaning come up at once, and I have very awkward conversations that are full of me mentally running in circles flailing and saying ‘Go away!’, and externally offering people water or tea and how are you today, and आपका परिवार अच्छा है (how is your family)?
In the past week or so, I’ve put in over 24 hours of Hindi, and will hopefully add another hour or two to it today (at least 3 hours a day is my goal). I’ve been using a variety of texts: Teach Yourself Hindi (both Get Started & the Speak Hindi with Confidence audio-only), Assimil’s audio-only, and the ever-useful but uncomfortable “real human interaction” method.
It’s a fun language, and very straightforward grammar thanks to its influence from Sanskrit; three cases, simple and regular conjugation, only a handful of irregular verbs I’ve run across thusfar. The problem is, as ever, pulling out of the academic study of it and letting it run free in the bazaars and conversation. Wherever we end up travelling this summer, I can use it, and hopefully will get over this fear of social interaction that I have to let it get to where it should be: second nature, and what I default into speaking outside of my house.
(fun fact: Assimil doesn’t have an English/Hindi. So I’m using the French/Hindi one. Two languages at once: yay!)