Friday, December 4, 2009

Do You Speak Hindi?

Next week we will have lived in India for an entire year! As a family we've accomplished quite a bit, but I have to admit, one of my big goals is still unrealized... my Hindi is still really bad. Our Indian friends and neighbors are very polite and encouraging, but it's still a thorn in my side that I haven't done better with the language.
I know a good deal of vocabulary now, but I just can't seem to get it together. And finding a conversational tutor in Noida has been a challenge. Everyone wants to teach, but no one seems to really know how to teach Hindi as a second language - conversational Hindi.
I'll side-step my guilt for now and bring you to the real topic of this blog... After being so exposed to this ancient language, it's been interesting to discover how much of it can be found in spoken English. We use it almost every day and don't realize it.
I'll give you a few quick examples... "Bangle, jungle, cot and sentry." These are all Hindi words and mean essentially the same thing in English as they do in Hindi.
The word "khaki" (light brown or tan) was not a surprise to me... probably adopted by the British Army, but the words "bandanna" (a scarf) and "bungalow" (a house in the Bengal style) were.
The word "cushy" (soft) is from Hindi, as well as "thug" (meaning thief). If you have kids, you use the word "pyjama" almost every evening - I know I do... but then again I live here. I'm supposed to be speaking more Hindi. I should note that Indians wear these during the day, not necessarily to sleep in... And of course we all wash our hair with "shampoo." - this word has its origins from the sub-continent as well.
We listen to the 'pundits' on radio or television - also a Hindi word meaning "scholar" - although I'm not sure its original meaning holds very true. Anyone, it seems, can now be a "pundit."
"Cheetah" and "calico" (colorful fabric) are also words from India. And finally, if you're into computer imaging, or online communities, or maybe are aware of the new James Cameron film, you've also used the word "Avatar." This is Hindi word meaning "incarnation or embodiment." As the story goes, Hinduism's Lord Vishnu projected himself in the form of the original "avatars:" Krishna and the Buddha to name just two.
Oh, and for the language purists who may be reading... yes, many of these words are not only Hindi, but may share common origins in the rich Urdu and/or Persian languages as well.
OK. I guess I'd better get back to trying to speak the Hindi language, rather than just be fascinated by it...
Meri Hindi kucch khaas nahi hai! (My Hindi is really bad!)


David Hoster said...

Wow. Amazing that you've almost been there a year! I envy the wonderful experience you continue to have and cherish what this will mean for the children throughout their lives. I hope 2010 will be just as rich!

HouseBoy said...

Thanks, David. Been thinking of you and the church - especially with the holidays upon us! Hope all is well.
On Saturday we took the kids to the US Embassy for a some early Christmas celebration... just a little slice of home.