Speak proud

At work, my team comprises of people from all over the world. So as part of our Friday evening fun, we sometimes have these sessions where people teach languages from wherever they come. So far, we've been taught how to ask a girl out for a date in Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi. Yeah, thats on the last slide. ;) So it usually begins with the first greeting of either hi or hello in the language, good morning, good bye, etc.

So at least we try to learn a few phrases and repeat them in front of the people who taught us those. In front of the elevators, perchance near the cafeteria, or just plain dropping by at someone's cube -- it is kind of fun trying to babble out things you don't understand and get greeted with a smile and another phrase you don't understand either :D Well, the smile is what matters I guess.

Our Hindi lesson came after a few other sessions. And of course, the familiar question came up, "How do you say hello in India?" Well after the jokes subsided, the team was very curious. So how do people greet each other in India, how do you say hello, how do you say good morning? How about thank you, or good bye when you're leaving in the evening. We did tell them about the corresponding Hindi phrases, Namaste (hello), Suprabhat (good morning), Shukriya(thank you), Alvida (good bye). But then we had to chime in and tell them, "Nobody really uses these phrases so much in India -- the English ones would get you around pretty well". But they still insisted and learned the phrases. And then they would greet us at the hallways with "Namaste" with hands folded. Or when I help them with some problem, they would stammer "Shuker... shuker" and I correct them, "Shukriya"; they would say "Oh yeah thats the one -- shukriya!".

Since then, I've been humbled. It is a strange feeling, when people from Portugal insist that they really want to say Namaste and you show them how. The more city-bred you are, the bigger your snigger will be if someone ever tells you Kripaya (please) or Alvida (good bye). In the more mofussil areas, its still a little more common to say Pranam (greetings) or Suprabhat (good morning). It probably not you or me alone, but I think our mad rush to globalize and learn to sing "Jingle Bells" has somehow made us forget the charms of our own language, and how to be proud of it. Its part of our globalization, yes, but we shouldn't abandon ship altogether.

I know what you're saying -- look who's talking in what language. Well, I'm not asking us to suddenly become language fanatics and abandon every other langauge and start your new linguistic crusade. No, thats not what I think we should do. That will defeat the whole purpose: these must co-exist. Instead, let us start doing our bit to bridge the gap. I have a Bengali blog. I can probably help out some open source projects helping them translate a few documents into Bengali. Go over to the Ankur Linux page and see what you can do to help. And yes, if cou can greet some of your friends with a Namaste, even for fun, try it. It feels good.


  1. in my family and also in many similar tamilian families, it is still common to greet family members and acquaintances with a 'namaskaram' or 'vanakkam'. but as you say, as part of the younger and more 'westernized' generation i can feel the practice slipping. and there isn't a damn thing i can do about it.

  2. Another observation...I belong to MP and there had been only 2 languages in my life..hindi and english. I spent first 23 years of my life in MP and then headed out to other states for jobs...only then i realized how backward(add sarcasm here) i was as compared to others using slangs and Hinglish....people always combined english with hindi and or there native state language...and here i was a primate speaking total hindi and words like..."sankhya" (number), "avlokan" (analysis) "maaf kijiyega" (sorry) ...etc etc... its not that my english was not good...it was as chaste as hindi thanks to the convent education...but i was always against the marriage and the outcome called Hinglish...till date people are amused of my total hindi...but i am not leaving my ways....

  3. I've always wondered about this phenomenon. People in Europe or any other place manage to speak in their own language and still be world famous. The press conferences given by sports stars from Europe are mostly in their own language and not English. Somewhere down the line, we people had this urge to speak in English, we lost the respect for Indian languages. Maybe the whole Imperialism and pre Independence era have to do with it but am not sure.

  4. I agree. Our mother tongue is being shut out of our vocabulary and we feel smug saying hi to our friends. Corporate India demands communication in English, urban centers have had a culture revolution where not knowing western greetings is snickered upon, and not so urban centers are scampering to catch up. And how many keyboards have our native letters on them?
    Somewhere along the road, we seem to have forgotten the beauty of the clasped-hand slightly bent-head
    namaste. And namaste hasn't found it's way into the dictionary yet. I write it, and it's underlined in red in the browser.

    This website
    has been created by an IIT passout.

    Writing, typing and expressing in your mother tongue has never been more fun.

  5. hahahaha... good ONE... Smartass!!

    ROTFL @ how to ask a girl out for a date in Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi.

  6. Nice. Your group actually has people from places other than India :P

  7. Galadriel, yeah it seems we the younger generations and all of us who came behind us are forgetting what it was like to say the proper hello in our native tongue.

    Whatever, I'm proud of you! Don't ever quit.

    Gradwolf, yeah it may be partly the colonial hangover. But do read the incident of Richard Feynman's life when he goes to a conference and gives his entire lecture in Portuguese, which basically starts the tradition there!

    Arunava, yeah -- interesting observation. But I think we need to be the change we wish to see in the world and start greeting each other in our mother tongue. And thanks for the link -- it is great!

    Elithraniel, :) So, which language would you prefer?

    Supremus, heheh -- now you know which team to join next. :P

  8. Great time you must be having at your company.

    How to ask girl out in different languages... :D Now thats something I would die to learn...

    btw, its great that we are bestowed with so many different languages in INDIA and gladly I could speak and understand few of them...

  9. My children are taught to wish in Punjabi and I like the way they carry themselves in front of the elders now. They were initially shy of using the traditional Punjabi way to say Sat Sri Akal but now they are proud of it.

  10. one that i understand ;)

    blogrollin ya, mate

  11. Aniruddha, yeah we are blessed indeed. And I'm trying to practice some more languages -- one of them should work!

    Mampi, great! Sat Sri Akal, madam... :)

    Elithraniel, thanks! :)


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