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25 Random (Language-Related) Things About Me…

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on February 4, 2009 5 Comments

After being gently prodded to do a “post” on this, rather than simply offer an “aside,” I thought I’d write up “25 Language-Related Random Things” about me, inspired by the Facebook phenomenon taking the Internet by storm.

1. Sometimes when I am writing quickly in Bengali, I use Hindi letters.
2. When I was two years old, I used to spend a lot of time with neighbors from the state of Orissa, and apparently started speaking Oriya almost exclusively for a while, to my parents’ amusement.
3. I went to preschool in Holland. The only Dutch I remember is the word “Dag.”
4. The first word I learnt in Bahasa Indonesia was the word “gila” (crazy).
5. The moment I arrive in Delhi, India, my hometown, I dispense with the “word-initial aspirated [p]” rule (pot, paper).
6. I once contemplated a career as a French-English interpreter.
7. My parents and I use basic Sanskrit at home some times. For laughs.
8. I once started a Spanish course in India, but had to stop after the course ended abruptly: my instructor eloped with another instructor.
9. I started the Spanish course to rebel against my father, who wanted me to enroll in Portuguese (we were living in Goa, a former Portuguese colony, at the time).
10. I find it very difficult to read cursive Bengali. My mother has to write out letters in print for me.
11. I took tutorials in writing Urdu in the Perso-Arabic script (thanks, Aftab ji!), but gave up and continue to write it using Devanagari.
12. I am fascinated by some of the similarities among Indo-European languages. I first discovered a passion for this when I was gifted “History of the English Language” by Albert C. Baugh at the age of 12. I fell in love with the book so much, I scribbled in “This book belongs to Mrs. Baugh” in the first page.
13. I regret never having learnt Russian from my father. My father did his post-doc in Moscow, and our home is still full of hundreds of technical books in Russian.
14. I don’t understand my own French poetry anymore.
15. I came up with my own “language” at the age of 9. I still have a “text” floating around somewhere back home.
16. I had a collection of Coke cans in different languages including Arabic, French, Bahasa Indonesia, and Finnish.
17. One of the most fascinating things about talk in my family is that in 43 years of marriage, my mother has only called my father “Are you [formal] listening?” (Bengali, “Shunchho”) and my father has only called my mother “O go” (untranslatable-“O you?”). In letters they just start off without a salutary preface, and end with “from-” or “yours.” This is not unusual among Bengali couples. As a child I used to call my father “Shunchho,” thinking that was his name.
18. I drive my German friends crazy sometimes by adding “-en” to English verbs and using them in German sentences.
19. I consider myself a native speaker of Bengali, Hindi, and English. They are languages I feel in, and that’s enough for me to compartmentalize myself that way.
20. I find film subtitles very distracting.
21. As a child I was addicted to my Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. I wanted to memorize the whole dictionary.
22. A related point: I have a MASSIVE collection of French dictionaries in India.
23. I recently had a long conversation at the Delhi airport with someone who spoke only Punjabi, while I stuck to Hindi. They are somewhat mutually intelligible languages. If you’re patient.
24. Language eludes me.
25. The most treasured word for me in any language is: “Ma.”

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5 Responses to “25 Random (Language-Related) Things About Me…”

  1. daveski on: 4 February 2009 at 9:18 pm

    This is great! I think we should take this directly to Facebook and start a “25 (or maybe 15?) Random (Language-Related) Things About Me” phenom.

    I’ll do this on FIT for sure. Hope to see them from others too…

    What are some examples of #18?

  2. Usree Bhattacharya on: 4 February 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks, it wasn’t my idea-it was someone else’s.

    I “conjugate” them using some German grammatical rules and come up with stuff like “Ich habe ge-fail-t” (I failed).

  3. Shay (Akshay B) on: 5 February 2009 at 3:23 am

    #12 – Yes, me too!
    #21 – Apparently, me too. So say my parents, anyway.
    #17 – Yeah I remember when I was in India, we would always joke that the wedding invitation for my buaji must have said “marriage of mr ‘singh sahib’ to miss ‘suniye’ since that is the only way they would refer to each other.” 🙂

  4. Usree Bhattacharya on: 5 February 2009 at 3:32 am

    Hey, Akshay!

    #12. You wanted to be Albert C. Baugh’s wife?

    #21. Heh.

    #17. OMG that’s hilarious. REALLY laugh out loud funny. 🙂 and all too real…

    ps. You know, it would be SO cool to read a 25 random language-related things list from you…esp. about your stories speaking Hindi with your grandmother, or for that matter…with me! 🙂

  5. jeff shieh on: 9 February 2009 at 12:19 am

    #16. i have coca-cola bottles/cans from korea, china, taiwan, japan, italy, and the u.s. several of them have never been opened and were lugged back in suitcases from their respective countries. i’m working on expanding my collection. something interesting is that in japan they don’t make coca cola with the name written in japanese letters (katakana) any more. it’s always in english now. i don’t know when it changed.

    i suppose i am a bit of a coca-cola addict…

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