Big Gora Learns Hindi

Big Gora Learns Hindi

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kya main thik se bol raha hoon?

Am I speaking correctly? क्या मैं ठीक से बोल रहा हूँ? [kya main thik se bol raha hoon?]
At this stage of learning Hindi, I'm asking myself this all the time. I need a native speaker whom I can ask these questions constantly by my side.
For example, in my question above, here are all the little grammar and diction questions I have to ask myself, and am forced to answer the best I can, solo:
1) The *book* I'm using says I should most often begin questions with "kya" [क्या] or the other question words, कैसे, कौन, कहाँ, क्यों, and so on. But do actual Hindi speakers drop it habitually in everyday usage? I get that impression from the Hindi TV and movies I watch.
2) Would "ठीक" or "ठीक से" (thik or thik se) be correct grammatically? I *think* that "ठीक" is just used as an adjective--right?
3) I still need to slow down and think of all the verb parts: Let's see, the root of बोलना is बोल, and I use that rather than the imperfect बोलता because I want to indicate I am speaking right now rather than habitually ("I am speaking" [main bol raha hoon/मैं बोल रहा हूँ] as opposed to "I speak"); then "raha hoon," masculine of रहना + हूँ (rather than + है, third person, the most common form).
This is a lot of mental calculation happening in half a second! Just to ask if I'm speaking correctly--about which I'm rarely sure! It's definitely a mental challenge that I'll continue as long as I'm learning Hindi.
I was thinking particularly about getting my Hindi exactly right at the recent Diwali celebration in Tulsa. Over the summer, the India Association of Greater Tulsa sponsored a writing contest for adults and children on the topic, "Why I Love India." I was deeply honored to have my essay, "Falling in Love with India," chosen for the adult first-place prize. I received that news the first weekend of November, with the celebration on the ninth.
On the drive up, I composed sentences in my head, in case I happened to be handed a microphone:
"बहुत धन्यवाद इस भेंट के लिए!" [Bahut dhanyavaad is bhent ke lie!/Thank you very much for this gift!]
"मैं भारत से बहुत प्यार करता हूँ." [Main Bharat se bahut pyaar karta hoon/I love India very much.]
(By the way, it's always mystified me that it's so difficult to say "I love X" in Hindi. It's one of the first things we learn in any other language, right? But in Hindi you have to say, literally, "I India with much love doing am.")
Playfully, if I were to receive a compliment from the IAGT president Santanu Das, with whom I'd spoken on the phone: "आप बिलकुल मालिक हैं." [Aap bilkul maalik hain/You (respectful) are totally the boss; roughly, "You're the man.")
Fortunately for everyone, I was not handed a microphone. 8)
Here I am receiving the award/recognition:
video
I don't mind a little mispronunciation of my name under the circumstances!
Anyway, on this issue of getting my Hindi not-quite-right: I keep flashing back to a wonderful book by David Sedaris called Me Talk Pretty One Day. That title is how he figures his attempt to say "One day I will speak beautiful, fluent French" must sound to native French speakers. The words may be more or less accurate, but it's those little nuances that turn the latter sentence into the unintentionally funny one. Someday… एक दिन? कुछ दिन? कभी? [Literally: ek din/one day? kuch din/some day? kabhi/sometime?]
P.S. Thank God, the Hindi transliterator, which has been nonfunctional for a couple of months, is back in order here on Blogspot. I was forced to use Shabdkosh.com in a way it wasn't really built for, to get transliterations; it's much easier not to leave this page.
P.P.S. Still no word on the Fulbright. Insert the Hindi curse of your choice here.