maeve66: (raja sketch)
I think I am coming to the end (man, I hope I am coming to the end) of a horrible chest cold which has made me whiny and inarticulate -- except I have been well able to articulate the whinyness -- for more than a week. I guess I am glad that it is a chest cold than a head cold, as long as it doesn't metamorphose into fucking bronchitis. If it stays away from that, I far prefer a chest cold, but it's exhausting.

All weekend I did nothing but endure this cold, stay in my nightgown and fuzzy robe, drink liquids, appreciate matzo ball soup made by my mother (who will be leaving again for Chicago in a couple of weeks, which is sad...) be whiny, and learn Hindi. The matzo ball soup -- from a Streit's packet; I'm not proud, and nor is my mother -- and the learning Hindi were very good, at least. I am tempted to make more tonight, in fact, but perhaps I should preserve it in case of dire need later on. Ah, that's dumb. I can buy more matzo ball mix at will.

Anyway... I've been feeling energized around Hindi lately -- I did some this summer, and have been doing much, much better at keeping at it even though school has started. I would say, at this point, that I have come much, much farther than the only other time I attempted to learn a language on my own without a class. That was Gaelic, with a "Teach Yourself Gaelic" book and cassette series, and it was an absolute washout. I think I learned how to say "the big white cat is sitting by the fire". I don't know why I learned to say that. I didn't even HAVE a big white cat when I was trying to learn Gaelic, which was... let's see... twenty-one years ago. I do have a big white cat, now, and I can say that -- well, minus the "by the fire" bit, though I could probably cobble something together -- in Hindi, now. But I could say I had an old white cat named Rilke last year... what can I do NOW, you ask?

I can say hi, how are you, my name is.... what's your name? I can say I'm fine. I can say good night. I can count to ten million (no, seriously, not that I am planning on doing that). I can name the colors of the rainbow. I can compare things as to whether they are bigger or littler, longer or shorter, cheaper or more expensive. I can use the present progressive tense. I can ask some simple questions and tell straight up hours on the clock (but not say it's a quarter of two, or it's 4:40). I can identify some animals and some shapes. I can say I want to shop, or eat, or go somewhere. I can use all kinds of endearments. Those come from Bollywood movies and filmi music, though, not from Rosetta Stone.

Actually, I am supplementing Rosetta Stone with a few things. I bought the Rupert Snell "Teach Yourself Beginner's Hindi" and the accompanying "dictionary", which is almost identical to a Hindi Dictionary and Phrasebook I already owned... I have the Oxford Hindi-English and the Oxford English-Hindi dictionaries... and the Oxford English-Hindi dictionary goes from "menial" to "mental", skipping right over that pesky word "menstruation", or "menses". I use some sites like the Avashy Hindu Script tutor (thank you SOAS, for that resource)... and SOAS recently directed me to yet another resource, which is the best supplement to Rosetta Stone YET.

Two grad students at North Carolina State University decided to create an online Beginning Hindi class with 24 lessons, called "A Door Into Hindi". It has 24 videos, accompanying grammar lessons, vocabulary, and scripts. You can download the audio portion as MP3 files. And the videos were shot in India and Pakistan in 2000 and 2001, at least so far. I'm on lesson 3. I don't want to go too fast, because it's so good! So much more engaging and funny than Rosetta Stone. Not that I mean to complain about Rosetta Stone -- I am still hella grateful to have it, since I cannot afford or even find any accessible actual in person Hindi classes. But Rosetta Stone, while definitely good at basic rote teaching in the i + 1 theory of language acquisition, is not the most scintillating in terms of content. The last lesson compared red circles to blue rectangles and green triangles and yellow squares, for instance. When I was showing Mark Rosetta Stone last weekend (not this most recent, cold-enhanced weekend), I skipped ahead and my heart kind of sank. The language samples do get longer... but they seem to switch from actual frozen photos of girls and boys inexplicably crouched beneath picnic tables to complicated hand drawn cartoons.

Anyway, the NCSU video program is much more enjoyable. I like seeing places and the scripts are excellent. Mark could understand most of what was said in the first two lessons even without the crutch of a script, since he reads Arabic, not Devanagari script. Apparently the makers of the video lessons planned to make an Urdu script equivalent, but have not, yet. And they're using Hindi cultural phrases even in the Pakistani parts of the videos, which is probably kind of fucked -- certainly from the Pakistani point of view. It's very odd seeing a young woman applying for a job in an Islamabad jewelry store say "Namaste" to the proprietor. It seems like the two grad students had a really good time plotting the video episodes, working in jokes and so on. I appreciate their effort. Hm. In case anyone wants to see it, here is a link. Enjoy.

The last supplements to the Rosetta Stone curriculum are, of course, actually the first -- in the sense that I was using them long before Rosetta Stone... Bollywood films and filmi music and YouTube clips. Now, those are language samples and linguistic input I would have loved to have in high school learning French, though I didn't do too badly in their absence. But it's wonderful to be able to watch clips from a talk show in Pakistan with three professional women called "Golden Girls"... they're fucking awesome. I can't stand that kind of thing in English, coming from a studio in New York or Los Angeles, but man, I love it coming from Karachi. They're women of, I guess, a certain age, very cosmopolitan and sassy, who spend as much time giving each other shit about their hairdos and salwar kameezes as they do chatting with the celebrities -- none of whom I have heard of -- who appear on their show, in the plush living room set.

It's strange to me that upper middle class lowland Pakistanis are so incredibly different from the Northwest Frontier Provinces... and it's weird to me that this tiny, thin stratum of Pakistani society spans such a political spectrum as well, as the well-educated go from the socialist Labor Party of Pakistan all the way to the right wing supporters of intertwined military and political might. I bet it's so small that lots of them know each other, in fact. Hm. On that note -- I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea, which I'd reluctantly started ages ago and abandoned as soon as I read all this fluff about the son of Lutheran missionaries to Africa who became a mountain climber. Mountain climbers are fucking insane. And obsessed. But after I forced myself past that first chapter, suddenly it was pretty fascinating, I have to say. And Mortenson -- the school builder who learns the lesson of three cups of tea -- manages to hew a pretty careful political line, actually, despite being funded by a pioneering computer millionaire, and befriended by Sonny Bono's equally Republican widow. And meeting with both Donald Rumsfeld and Pervez Musharraf.

Okay, I am rambling. Time to close this post.



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