A Point to Ponder

With the utmost respect towards all Hindustani's, and at the risk of looking foolish or "wannabeish", I feel the need to rant just a little today. I just finished going through my blogroll and read a comment that got my back up, one that focused on firang bloggers and the use of Hindi/Urdu in our predominantly English posts, something that I have been known to do once in a while.

While I realize this may open some healthy debate, here's my two cents:

I have heard several times throughout my lifetime from Canadians and Americans alike (not every Canadian and American, mind you) that if foreigners felt the need to come to our countries that they wished that they would at least learn our language. We are both indeed true melting pot societies which enable our countries to be spectacularly culturally diverse. While I wouldn't think that I'm one of those people who demands language assimilation, I can also say that I have never really been faced with a situation where there was a language barrier to the extent that I was ever frustrated.

When I first discovered Hindi film and started trying to learn lyrics, I remember thinking how beautiful the language was and immediately a desire to start learning Hindi emerged. I know through reading various other Bollywood blogs that this is something lots of people have at least attempted to do as well. It is my opinion that if I ever manage to make it over to India, which I fully intend to do, it is only proper if I understand the language of the country I will be visiting, so as not to come off as an ignorant stereotypical firang.

My question is, if someone is taking the time to learn a language OUT OF RESPECT AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES why should they be scorned or sneered at? I will admit if you don't know what you are saying then you shouldn't say it, a lesson I've recently learned after posting a Hindi/Urdu sentence I found on a translation website (which was very nicely pointed out to me by someone who spoke the language that it wasn't exactly accurate. I appreciated their feedback and will no longer post them). The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, but I think education should be celebrated and encouraged rather than stifled.

So, my final thought is so what if every once in a while you see the words haa.n, nahiin, dil, hai na?, pyaar/mohhabbat/ishq in a non-Indian blog? Good Lord, there are bigger problems in our world than whether or not we are trying to be something we're not. Maybe if we decided to help each other rather than put each other down we could start to eliminate cultural misunderstandings. To those bloggers who have been helpful and kind, this Canadian girl thanks you.

26 Response to "A Point to Ponder"

  1. theBollywoodFan says:
    November 11, 2009 at 11:07 AM

    I can't say I understand your situation entirely, although I have been laughed at and almost mocked (and in how I perceived it, all in jest) in other countries for trying to speak a language I wasn't fluent in, but...

    ...please don't let this stuff bother you too much, Shell. It is obvious that you and other bloggers who don't speak Hindi invest all that time and energy into Hindi film viewing and blogging of sheer love and admiration of the culture, of which film is a reflection. Please know the admiration is mutual, at least for anyone who appreciates the ability of art to transcend language.

    So, as Salman would say, "Just chill, chill, JUST chill!" :D

  2. Nitu Says:
    November 11, 2009 at 12:29 PM

    Hi Shell, as a silent observer of your awesome blog which touches my dil :) I'd like to say that I love it to see you trying to learn the language. Learning a foreign language is hard and you are doing a great job trying. From mistakes we learn, so there is no need to feel that you cannot or should not try to refine your skills using this blog. Please don't give up using hindi sentences either, I'm sure that plenty of us reading will not take offence (I fail to understand why one would if you are making a genuine effort). If there is a mistake, we will guide you as a friend.

  3. shell says:
    November 11, 2009 at 12:29 PM

    theBollywoodfan - It just bothers me when some people get targeted unfairly with negative comments directed at them for something that like use of a couple of words. If it had been in jest I probably wouldn't have had a problem with it, but it very clearly wasn't. However, I'm not going to let it stop me from my journey.

  4. shell says:
    November 11, 2009 at 12:31 PM

    Nitu - I appreciate your words very much and am glad that you enjoy the blog. The aforementioned criticism wasn't directed towards me, but I feel a kinship with all of the bloggers out there who share the same passionate interest as me. Maybe it's the protective mother side in me to try and defend those wrongly accused. And, hey, don't be so silent!!!!

  5. theBollywoodFan says:
    November 11, 2009 at 1:15 PM

    I'm with you, of course, and I think I know which comment you're referring to. But dude, that kind of intolerance and 'the unfair, negative comments' are so pervasive no matter for what and where...(turn on the local news in any city/country!)...probably best to ignore. And of course, cases such as this are not going to affect your journey!

  6. Fleur says:
    November 11, 2009 at 2:23 PM

    When I pointed out that sentence to you because sounded too 'high' and 'pure', I didn't mean for you to get offended, I'm sorry if you did! I definitely don't think it is wrong for foreign fans to use a few Hindi/Urdu words casually. I myself do it all the time!

    Anyway you are very sweet and respectful and I completely support you on this matter. It's great that you want to learn Hindi/Urdu (I think its awesome whenever somebody wants to learn another language. Being multilingual myself I try to spread the joy of it wherever I go!

    And if you want some Hindi/Urdu (or even Farsi (Persian), Turkish and French) lessons I'm ready to help you out anytime!

  7. ajnabi says:
    November 11, 2009 at 2:32 PM

    Haha, you beat me to it; I thought about doing a post in response to that comment. In fact, I still might. For what it's worth, though, she sounded very immature and I won't let it affect my writing style. I've learned that the only way to really learn a language is to be willing to look like an idiot with native speakers--because who better to learn from than native speakers? :-)

  8. shell says:
    November 11, 2009 at 3:15 PM

    theBollywoodfan - I'm a sensitive girl, what can I say? I know that that kind of stuff is rampant everywhere, but ignoring it doesn't accomplish anything. May as well bury your head in the sand. At any rate, I value your opinion. Nothing like a good healthy exchange of ideas!

    Fleur - Rest assured that I was not offended in the slightest at your comment. In fact, I always kind of wondered if the words matched the translation exactly. It's always risky to take stuff for face value when it comes to that, as I would have no idea if it says what I think it says. I could have offended multitudes and not known it.

    Thanks for the lessons offer. I'm hoping to expand my knowledge drastically with RosettaStone after Christmas. Hopefully they won't steer me wrong!

    ajnabi - I rarely get negative comments on my blog and if I read something on someone else's I usually stay out of it, but as a westerner trying to familiarize myself by many different means, I couldn't help but be slightly offended by her tone and choice of words.
    Anyway, we can make fools of ourselves together!

  9. theBollywoodFan says:
    November 11, 2009 at 5:42 PM

    I meant to say not everything is as black or white. So, ignoring it, in my eyes, is not equal to burying ones head in the sand. It *is* equal to more focus on the goal of having an enriching, positive, fulfilling, learning experience, assuming that's the primary goal.

    Be grateful you rarely get negative comments! I wouldn't blog if it weren't for the comment moderation feature! Okay, last comment here. Sorry for flooding your post here. :)

  10. Anonymous Says:
    November 11, 2009 at 6:23 PM

    As I said in my comments on Ajnabi's site under "Kidnap"

    "A note to Salima, instead of carrying a tirade against bloggers, it would be good if you could gently point out the correct expression so that the person can learn. I think the important thing is to appreciate non hindi/urdu speaking bloggers attempting to say something and also trying to understand their reason for doing so (some times it is a humorous reference)."

    Like TBF, I would encourage you to continue using hindi/urdu phrases in ur posts. We will guide you if we can.

    I am a regular reader of ur blog and do leave comments.

    To lighten the mood, quite often anglo saxon aussies remark " u speak english quite well" when they interact with me. I usually smile politely and say I am from India and have done all my studies in English. It makes me wonder if people are really generally aware that the subcontinent has had english language influence esp India due to their long 300 yrs presence. I wonder what would be their reaction if i said that the first alphabets I learned in Kindy in India were English alphabets!

  11. Anonymous Says:
    November 11, 2009 at 6:28 PM

    My apologies - I meant "learnt" rather than "learned" in the last sentence- LOL! Sometimes when u r in a hurry u don't realise stuff until u have hit the send button!

  12. shell says:
    November 11, 2009 at 7:03 PM

    theBollywoodfan - I totally get your point about focusing on the goal, though, and agree wholeheartedly. As for the negative comments I don't tend ever to really rock the boat, but I thought this post for sure would have some strong opinions.
    Please don't ever feel the need to apologize for commenting, whether it's once or a dozen times. I love the interaction!

    Anon - I read your comment on ajnabi's blog and was happy to see someone backing her up. Thanks for your support as well.
    Also, I'm sure that there are a lot of people that have misconceptions about India in all sorts of aspects. I was surprised when I first learned (I think that is the correct spelling otherwise I don't know how to spell English!) how much English was spoken over there. It almost makes me feel like we are not so different after all!
    Thanks again for your comments and thanks for visiting me so often!

  13. bollyviewer says:
    November 11, 2009 at 7:05 PM

    That comment on Ajnabi's post was very annoying, but rest assured, people like that are in a miniscule minority. Most of us do appreciate "foreigners" taking the time to learn Hindi/Urdu and love what all of you come up with in the Hinglish department! So, do carry on...

  14. shell says:
    November 12, 2009 at 7:04 AM

    bollyviewer - I know that almost everyone I've come across has been truly wonderful. Every once in a while though I get so irked that I have to respond even if the people that end up reading it aren't the people that commit the offense. But I sure appreciate this fine group that supports me and the others like me! Thanks for your kind words!

  15. E says:
    November 12, 2009 at 8:07 AM

    I second your efforts and applaud them!
    the ONLY way to learn a new language(and I speak 3) is to practice out loud, make tons of mistakes and learn from them so the next time you'll know it.

    I can't believe anyone would discourage learning hindi out of pure love for the movie genre. I get a kick of being able to understand little phrases now and repeat them.
    And not to get too heavy here, but leaning new languages keeps your brain fresh. Learning it from a Hrithik Roshan movie helps it to seep even better..!

  16. shell says:
    November 12, 2009 at 10:53 AM

    Learning it from a Hrithik Roshan movie helps it to seep even better..!
    lol, E! One of the reasons I wanted to learn was so I could shut those subtitles off and focus more attention on the actors *ahem* acting! Thanks for the words of encouragement!

  17. theBollywoodFan says:
    November 12, 2009 at 11:17 AM

    Shell and Anonymous: Neat little discussion on learned v learnt. I thought you might find this interesting. :)

    When I moved to the U.S. (after attending schools, through high school, operating under the British system), my instructor in a Freshman Composition class marked down my use of 'learnt'. Of course, we discussed it later, and she, much more learned than I, insisted learnt is incorrect. A few dictionary searches later, she concluded learnt is antiquated and not to be used, and learned is correct (for the past tense of learn).

    I didn't agree entirely on the antiquated bit, but but of course, I learnt quickly that 'learned' is what's used way more commonly in North America (in text and speech, in academia and in the media) for both learned and learnt, so I had to learn to adapt to the change. (It's reflected in my text now.)

    Language across cultures is fun!


  18. shell says:
    November 12, 2009 at 12:21 PM

    lol! Thanks for that tidbit tBF! I know there are several words in the English language that I don't know how to spell...I wonder how many more there are that are like that. Probably lots!

    ps. I thought you were done on this post! Just kidding!

  19. theBollywoodFan says:
    November 12, 2009 at 1:34 PM

    LOL, right! You did say it was okay even if for a dozen times. ;P

    There probably are countless. The cultural preferences ensure no such thing as absolute correctness, I think. And that can be rather fun!

    So, just like the black/white comment above, the correctness of something doesn't mean the incorrectness of something else! Almost like how we can be fans of both Aamir and SRK! Okay, I'm clearly off topic now! :D See you around, dost!

  20. shell says:
    November 12, 2009 at 2:49 PM

    LOL! Thanks for cracking me up today!

  21. Anonymous Says:
    November 12, 2009 at 4:58 PM

    Thanks TBF for that bit on learnt vs learned.

    If u do a Thesaurus check in Microsoft Word under "learned" - u get - erudite, educated, scholarly,academic, cultured and well read. I did this check after reading ur post TBF. Obviously this is not referring to the past tense of "learn".

    Of course printed dictionaries may have more options and meanings.

    It is good to know that learnt is not entirely wrong although considered outdated by American scholars.

    Perhaps it is a relic of the British Raj in India? (LoL)

    Thanks Shell for sharing ur blog space on this dicussion.

  22. Anonymous Says:
    November 12, 2009 at 5:16 PM


    Pls see http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Learnt+

    Learnt is very much a word in English and according to the above link it is used as a lexical verb (past participle) 65% of the time and lexical verb (past tense) 35% of the time.

    The above link gives examples from speech, poems, literature, screen plays (both past and present) which makes interesting reading.

    The Australian Macquarie Dictionary uses 'learnt" as the past tense of learn.


  23. Jules says:
    November 12, 2009 at 7:35 PM

    Bless you sis, for having mind to post such a controvertial topic. I am glad to see that the majority of people here think it's okay for non Hindi speaking people to dabble in it and try to learn it. I loved the comment about what better way to learn it than to make yourself look like a bit of an idiot speaking it to those who know it... Hindi is such a difficult language to learn, it's essential to have the help of others! Beautiful language that it is, I hope to someday be even as understanding of it as you already are!

  24. shell says:
    November 13, 2009 at 7:48 AM

    Anon - I'm glad I could generate such an interesting conversation. I'm glad that I've had the opportunity to have leanrt from such learned people!

    Jules - While I honestly didn't think I would receive negative feedback over this post (as the people who usually comment are absolutely wonderful), there was the risk that someone would find it and speak their mind as well.
    Now that you've got your mp3 player and we know how to get stuff on it, we need to get Pimsleur on it and then you can catch up. I'm serious.

  25. Rathi says:
    December 2, 2009 at 10:18 PM

    Go ahead and use more and more Hindi/Urdu in all your posts. As an Indian speaking Tamil at home, I feel really happy when non-Indians make an attempt to learn one of our languages!! It is cute when you try and I love the sincerity behind it.

  26. shell says:
    December 3, 2009 at 7:56 AM

    Welcome to my blog Rathi and namaste. Thanks so much for your encouraging words. Even though this post was a rant against those who would discourage growth, I have found that it is very very few who do and most people, like yourself, have been very supportive. Though I'm focusing my efforts on learning Hindi, I was surprised at how many different types of dialect there are in India (I think Wikipedia lists over 20). Are the languages much different from each other? If I was to go to Chandigarh (where I believe it's mostly punjab spoken), would my Hindi get me by? Just curious about this.
    Anyway, thanks again for stopping by. Please feel free to visit again and comment as much as you'd like!