September 8, 2010 | Hindi

Self-Consciousness in Language Learning

It helps to be an extrovert when you are learning a new language.

I keep coming across Hindi words that sound like Arabic words I learned last year. For example, I believe “chair” is pronounced kursee in both Hindi and Arabic, “Egypt” is misra in Hindi and something very similar in Arabic (with differences from one Arabic dialect to the next), and “book” is roughly kitab in each language.

I think quite a lot of Arabic words made their way into Hindi via Persian, but I am still embarrassingly hazy on linguistic history. I have to work on that.

I Bought Teach Yourself Hindi, by Mohini Rao, in Queens

I Bought Teach Yourself Hindi, by Mohini Rao, in Queens

Besides doing some Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur, I also spent some time today reading my new Teach Yourself Hindi book, i.e., not the McGraw-Hill text I bought early on, but the book published in India that I bought in Queens a few days ago.

One thing I find interesting is that Hindi uses postpositions rather than prepositions. As this book points out, the Hindi equivalent of “The book is on the table” is “Book table on is.” In Hindi, the “on” follows rather than precedes its object. I recall postpositions from Korean as well. They definitely require a mental adjustment.

On a more philosophical note, I appreciated this sentence from Rao’s forward: “A book, even the best one, can help only in a limited way if the language is not heard regularly and spoken without inhibition.”

What struck me in particular was the phrase “without inhibition.” I have to work on that aspect of my language-learning personality. I am a little too much of a perfectionist to be without inhibition.

But it is also hard to practice with random strangers, particularly when you are a woman coming from a post-women’s-liberation culture into worlds that are still relatively male-dominated. That adds a layer of discomfort for me, since the majority of the storeowners, employees, and other people I have encountered in some of the neighborhoods I have visited have been men.

In the evening, Brandt and I walked south along the Hudson River. We were stunned by all the evidence of fresh landscaping in Riverside Park below 72nd Street. We saw new plantings, wood-planked paths, stylish seating, etc. It was beautiful—the opposite of what I expected would happen to local parks under assault by recession.

Riverside Park, Freshly Overhauled

Riverside Park, Freshly Overhauled

Looks Like Bodies, But I Think It's Yoga

Looks Like Bodies, But I Think It’s Yoga

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