Learning the Kannada Script

So tomorrow is International Mother Language Day, as declared by UNESCO. No, this isn’t a WhatsApp forward – and even if it was, it would be one of those rare ones which were true. Tomorrow is also a holiday at University, and as a result, one of my professors decided we’d celebrate the designated celebration day today. The best part about this is that he didn’t reveal his master plan to us immediately. Usually, he begins class with a positive thought for the day – something to catch our attention. Today, however, he played us this video at the start of class:

I’ve enjoyed listening to this song for a few years now, ever since I discovered it. Ever so often I learn some new trivia about it. As soon as it started to play, I discussed with my deskmate how it was written by Piyush Pandey: someone whose work at Ogilvy I admire a lot. We weren’t really taken aback by this change in routine by our professor – although he felt we should be. Once he declared why he had done it though (to show off the kind of diversity of tongues we have in India), we were stunned, and rapturous applause could be heard in our section. He then asked us all to greet him in our mother tongues: initiating a competition between the classes in our batch. We indulged him. I had to be prompted to speak in Kannada because I was put on the spot and I wasn’t entirely sure how to say “have a nice day” in Kannada. It was something that bought me some shame for a few seconds before my brain switched wiring to think in the language.

I love Kannada. It’s given me so much over the years. I don’t think I held an affinity or love toward the language till I moved to University. It was here that I discovered how much I missed hearing the language being spoken all around me. That led to some excellent things, including friendships in which only Kannada is spoken. I picked up Kannada because I heard it being spoken around me on one of my vacations, and my Kannada knowledge is limited to my ability to speak it in bits and pieces. I can’t speak the fancy Kannada – the spashtu version that the literary figures in my family talk in. I weave in English whenever I feel like and rarely follow the traditional grammar rules.

I can’t read or write though, so the script looks like flying popcorn to me too. Most Devanagiri scripts do.

However, I was adamant to change that. Today seems like a good enough day to announce this to the world, but I’ve been teaching myself how to read and write the language. I purchased a few copywriting books – the ones that kindergarteners use, and started to follow a few Kannada accounts on Twitter. I’m also indulging in my family group a little more and reading through random Kannada messages they send. I can’t understand most of the letters yet, but identifying the shapes I do know, and making their sounds, is enough for now.

The goal is to be able to gain enough proficiency with the script so I read Kannada literature one day. Then I’ll move onto another language.



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