Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Recently I have kind of been gearing up my efforts at really learning Hindi. I don't think I will accomplish all that much while I am here as I do not really have anyone to talk with. I hope this summer I will be able to practice speaking a lot. Anyhow, today in class, actually after class one of my classmates who is actually from India asked me to look over one of his assignments for a writing class. He actually writes very well. He is an extremely intelligent person. His vocabulary and accent are excellent. You can kind of hear it, but it is more an afterthought than anything else. Lately in class we have been working on translating stories from a children's Mahabharat. (As an aside, I do not know why in English they call these books the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In my Hindi class and most Indian sources I have worked with, they are referred to as the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. For comparison in pronunciation it is like rah-mah-yah-nah and mah-hah-bu-rah-tah versus ruh-mai-yan and ma-ha-bar-ut, well, that was actually kind of butchered, but I think I get my point across? For clarification that is how I refer to them in my head.) We are translating these which has been a very interesting experience. However when I was looking over my friends assignment, I realized the most of the problems were just translating his Indian English into American English. This is where the experience gets difficult for me to describe. It wasn't that he was writing things like "We to the store are going. You are coming with?" or something terribly broken like that. It was just a different way of writing, dare I say a different way of viewing things? He used a lot of big vocabulary, he phrased things in a very round about way, he used a lot of references to idioms and foreign phrases. From what I have seen in India, this is a fairly common way of writing in English. But the thing that blows my mind is that it was so different, but not necessarily wrong or weird. There was no problem with spelling or grammar, it was just in the diction, I guess. This idea has set my mind on fire tonight. How can there be this thing that is so similar, but so very different? Any American who ran into his writing without any context would be left scratching their head. They might even struggle to understand what he is trying to say. I do not have a name for this translation that is not really translation. It amazes me that people can speak the same language and yet a completely different language, even using the same vocabulary. This different mindset has me fascinated. I want to learn as much as I can at this different way of conceptualizing ideas and expressing knowledge. To me it represents more than a difference in colloquialisms. British English writing does not have the same foreign feel that Indian English sometimes does. I think it gets down to a different way of conceptualizing people and the world. I don't know if this relates back into m-time or p-time or not. Maybe this is just another sign of this idea. Most of the literature I have read does not write in this very Indian way. I am going to keep my eyes open for more examples of this before I head to India so I can start formulating some theories on it. I also now have a new mini project to work on in country: become more fluent in this kind of English so that I can better situate myself as a useful intermediary between my culture and that of India.