Saturday, June 6, 2015

The joy of learning a language

Most of the times when we learnt languages at school, there is hardly joy in the learning process. There are very few a-ha moments.

For example, when we learnt English, we hardly learnt to appreciate the language. The appreciation happened much later via PG Wodehouse. (Our syllabus did have a PG lesson though - and a chapter out of the Little Prince and one from Sherlock Holmes  - so we had one good lesson a year). But the concept of reading a novel or a good story was not there. Some worthy had replaced it with a pathetic book on moral science or some such crap. Net result - zero appreciation.

Take Hindi - again, there were snatches of some good poems and writings - but overall, Hindi was a dreary learning effort and I was thankful that I would never have to learn Hindi ever in my life.

Marathi - similar lines - the selections was better than Hindi, but the overall effect of learning these languages did not leave us with any appreciation of the subject.

The other languages I learnt are not via formal methods.

Recently, I started learning Sanskrit and it is amazing to see the way the language is 'different'.

Most commonly, languages are either subject-object-verb (most indic languages) and the subject-verb-object (English and others). Sanskrit, amazingly has a structure independent of both these formats. Because in the structure of the language the words carry additional meanings with them so regardless of how you arrange the words, the meaning is retained.

That being said, the word rules are not simple, but the way the language is 'constructed' has led to many an a-ha moment for me - because for one, it is different and two, it is amazingly well though through - allowing one to establish nuances that would otherwise be difficult.

Having just started out, it is interesting to see how it evolves as my lessons get complex.

But since I see the little ones struggle with language (Hindi) or learning a language in a functional way (English) - I wish there were a little more joy in learning a language which is presently absent in the way it is taught.

How could you do it? With some songs of different hues to explore the word play? Great stories instead of mediocre ones? Great poems too? Proverbs (and Hindi is replete with them as are other languages). Maybe even Haiku and make kids create their own and play with language. All of this are absent in the methods that are presently used...

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