Learning new languages are hard.

When we first got to Pune we started learning Hindi, thinking that would be useful and versatile, being the national language of India and whatnot. Then I switched to Marathi, thanks to our good friends who are enthusiastic language coaches, plus one book and the internet. My rationale is that while Hindi is indeed very useful and very versatile, the fact is that we’re living in Maharashtra, where Marathi will 99.9% of the time be useful, and leave the survival Hindi for the traveling around India. I’d rather be able to have a meaningful conversation with my neighbors and just get by while touristing, rather than the other way around. Fluency in any one language is hard enough, and learning two new languages at the same time as an adult with a not-so-squishy-anymore brain is almost impossible. So, though most of the Hindi that I started to learn at the beginning has faded from my brain, TA has thankfully managed to retain it. Another extremely fortunate point is that because Hindi and Marathi both use Devanagari, there was only one script for us to learn! Phew.

Sidebar: I’ve learned that in Mumbai, everyone speaks in Hindi. Part of the reason is that even though it’s the capital of Maharashtra, Marathi is not the de-facto language in use because there are significant linguistic communities from all over India who have been residing in Mumbai for generations. So Hindi is the go-to language for most people. You can see this on street signs, in shops and restaurants, with taxis and autos, basically everywhere. And if you’re more knowledgeable about these things, you might know which parts of the city speak certain languages over others. I’m still a noob at this. The moral of the story is, learn some dang Hindi, self. Another reason it might be helpful to learn Hindi is that people often assume that TA and I are from the Northeast States of India because of our East Asian faces, sometimes Nepalese or Tibetan (or maybe even just general foreigner category), and are therefore expected to speak in or understand Hindi. This is always a little bit confusing because when I try to reply in Marathi, we end up having a conversation* in two different languages. (*Also, I use this term very loosely.)

I’ve heard lots of arguments for and against learning Hindi here. One Marathi speaker said that even though most foreigners tend to learn Hindi in these parts, the kind that I’d learn here, would be the bastardized Bollywood version and wouldn’t be so nice to learn with regards to linguistic purity and all that. Another Marathi speaker said that I’d be better off learning Hindi because it would be more useful when traveling and speaking to people from different states. There was another instance in which I was taking an Ola Share (analog of uberPOOL) and I was trying to explain to the driver on the phone where I was. There was some confusion which involved them thinking I was in a different location, and when I tried to explain where I was in my failing Marathi, the other dude just kept going on in Hindi until he just said “kya bol…” like annoyed-ly “what are you saying…”. Anyways we ended up speaking English somehow which was a shock to me, like when you find out your best friend has hidden powers, except not nearly as dramatic. Turns out the person on the other end of the phone was not the driver but another passenger who was just a pompous, condescending-but-overly-helpful, and frankly kind of arrogant type who for some reason kept insisting on taking the driver’s calls. And I guess he didn’t speak Marathi and expected that I knew Hindi.

Okay, so maybe there are many reasons why learning Hindi would be really good for ourselves. My point is that I’ve been learning Marathi, and in Pune thus far it’s been pretty dang useful, so I’m sticking with it, but one thing at a time, amirite?! So most of my time my head is spinning, but I guess that’s what happens when you enter a multilingual society and you try to get used to the nuances of said society. At some point you (meaning I) have to realize you’ll never fully get all of it, call it good enough and be okay with that. But at the same time I want to have all of the knowledge in my brain already right now! Agh, impatience is futile in such situations. For my Marathi-speaking friends who are reading this: Thanks and sorry in advance for dealing with my eavesdropping on your conversations. Let’s call it listening practice. 🙂


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