Kannada Academy: Weekend 1

I have waxed eloquent on this blog about my desire to learn the Kannada script before. My ambition in the past two years has remained unchanged. The unfortunate part is that I have done nothing about it. That is not entirely true. I have tried. My mother and my chikkamma taught me the script briefly in 2019 winter. There was a brief window where I could write out the script from memory, but could not read anything. Since then I’ve been start-stop with the copywriting books. One of my second cousins tries to motivate me, but I lose this pretty fast. It hurts when you can’t really read anything. Since I’ve come to Cambridge though, my sense of identity has heightened. While this is a bit of a joke now at home (I’ve watched more Kannada films in the UK than I have in India), the Cambridge University Kannada Society, and colleagues here make me really want to learn everything I can about the language and the people.

Realising that my attempts (modest ones) were not going to get me anywhere, in March, I started hunting around for teachers. It was around this time I saw the Kannada Academy website. With my current income, I live a relatively frugal life. Ambitions I have are added onto my ever-expanding bucket-list, and become goals I save toward. I knew I had a pay day in the week after I first noticed the website, and so, I saved it to Pocket, and set a phone reminder to return the weekend after. So I did and sent through the fees – explaining clearly what my ambitions were with the course, and being fully aware that the course outlines seemed to teach the spoken Kannada before the script, knowing I needed help with the script predominantly.

It took just one nudge, but fifteen days later, when I was about to ask for a refund, someone from their team got through to me. We exchanged a brief call over WhatsApp, and I was set up for classes this weekend. These classes took place yesterday and today over Google Classroom.

What a joy they have been. Easily the best two hours of my weekend. I do not say this lightly, it has been a particularly wonderful weekend: some golf was played, friends were met, excellent food was consumed. I have been unable to contain the smile on my face while being taught these concepts.

Here is what I have learned so far: the five main sounding vowels (this has a corresponding Kannada word I am forgetting now), and five consonants with their forms (short vowels & long vowels both + the glottal stop).

While this may sound dry, the Kannada script is so unique to my eyes (although I’ve seen it before), that the shapes becoming familiar to me has been a very fun process. Today at the start of class, my teacher asked me to read some words aloud (they mostly had no meaning), but the heart suddenly gaining the knowledge and appreciation that the brain could recognise the script – phenomenal.

The last bit that I think deserves commendation and is noteworthy is that my teacher is a pop-culture machine. Several of my colleagues here have a deep appreciation for Kannada pop-culture. I’ve heard lots of new songs and stories of the film industry from them. My teacher is adding to this growing knowledge, and I’ve now got a new Spotify playlist where I am documenting the different songs he tells me about. My notes jot down where the references come up. I will share that maybe when it’s populated.

Now onto keeping this momentum by practicing through the week. I am motivated now by the external accountability these classes present, but equally by the absolute fear of embarrassment. My teacher’s very kind: in some struggles today, he laughed along and commented, “that’s what learning is all about!”

I tend to agree, but not putting in the practice to learn, and having to go over things again in class – that’s where the real embarrassment lies.