Vani’s Musings

Archive for the ‘English’ Category

One of my colleagues, P is taking an examination which requires her to study Julius Ceasar.

Last evening, P and I were doing an analysis of the various characters of the play, and we came to Marc Anthony.

I think his speech at Ceasar’s funeral describes him best.

It was also one of the pieces we had to learn at our school elocution competitions.

Here it is, just for memory’s sake.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar … The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it …
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,
(For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all; all honourable men)
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral …
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man….
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason…. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Brings back all the memories of school days, when we had to mug up this bit, and recite it atleast two dozen times to our English teachers, who would then painstakingly correct the pronounciations, the waxing and waning of the words, the pauses and the continuations.

A Masterpiece is the least I can describe the speech as.

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No, I am not speaking of the gifts we exchange during weddings and other events. I want to focus on the importance of communication skills, which play a vital role in interactive forums like trainings, conferences, lectures and their ilk.

 Most of us in our professional life would have come across trainings at least once. I am witness now to one such training program which makes me laugh and cry because of the very poor communication skills of our trainer. 

 We have grown to believe that a teacher is like God, but unfortunately, many teachers, or people in associated industry have really underdeveloped communication skills. They would be masters in their chosen field, but because they cannot communicate well, lose out on reaching their audiences.

 My trainer himself, is equipped with nearly half a dozen degrees, but is extremely bad at speaking grammatically correct English. And he claims to train employees at reputed organizations. I am sure there would be hundreds of nit pickers like me who would concentrate more on his faults and miss out on the vital aspects of what he would want us to understand. Why do this? And it is pretty important to lose your native accent. Why give a clue of which part of the country you belong to by way of speaking English as though you were speaking your native tongue?  Why don’t people give the language the respect it deserves by using it a little more sensitively? 

In the global scenario, it is very important for a person to be as much comfortable with soft skills, as their technical expertise. We cannot present ourselves as a nation that is only technically good but very poor in communication. And I don’t think it is such an uphill task either. After all, English is the language we use to communicate with most part of the world. 

 I feel very guilty that I only find fault, but that’s what catches my attention. And by way of good communication skills, I don’t suggest the use of heavy complicated words in our day to day conversation either. All I feel is they must try to be grammatically correct and ensure that at their age, they must not make silly spelling errors, because their word would be taken very seriously and people would use the same spellings and same language in future when they would be asked to, And then, if there were to be someone pointing out this error, it would reflect very poorly on the trainer. 

My point is this. If you are or want to be a faculty or trainer or just about anyone who is part of an interactive forum, please, please brush up your communication skills and if need be, attend a couple of English speaking classes to hone your talent. It would be of great help in making your audience understand what you want to convey, in a much better manner. 

 It is very similar to serving good food in an unclean vessel. However tasty the food may be, our eyes would warn us not to eat it. Even the simplest dish is made tasty by presenting it in a good manner. 

 How many of you share my feeling or think otherwise? A penny for your thoughts.  

A long hiatus……Its time I made up my mind to write something. So here goes. 

I have to endure a long journey to work, coupled with traffic jams and bottlenecks (of course, which working Bangalorean does not endure that?).

Boring bus journeys can be very lively if one were to keep their eyes and ears open to their surroundings. 

In the mornings, I generally hear the same dialog “Ayyo….the traffic in Bangalore…..” this is mostly from the people who work for Private Establishments, and of course, our dear BMTC drivers. I now sympathize with most of the drivers for their patience in driving bus loads of people to their destinations.

There is another segment, that of ………. ahem …….. ahem………. Govt Servants, who spend most of the travel time discussing CLs, ELs, DA, GPF etc….then the bunch of School and College Students….this is mostly a giggly lot who isn’t very much bothered about being late or so. I think they are the ones who enjoy journeys most. Then the immigrant workers who come from the Northern states, haggling with the conductor for change.

 In the evenings, it is the same mixture of people, but the topics generally range from the day’s work to the evening cooking to the movie they watched in the weekend to the rising cost of living.  

There is a separate group of people, who are tight lipped and have a sort of “Touch me not” attitude. They look as though they have forgotten how to smile and the world rests on their slender shoulders. They keep aloof and snap at others at the slightest inconvenience. 

Many enjoy a much needed power nap and I envy those lucky souls who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. 

Then there are people who aren’t everyday travelers. Their discussion, if women, is usually about mother-in-law problems, children’s school or the latest soap on TV etc. The men usually keep aloof. I haven’t come across two men, complete strangers to each other strike a conversation. That art comes easily to us lady folk.  

Then there is me. I usually do not talk much, but once there is a familiar face, the ball starts rolling. Another habit of mine is to read all the sign boards and hoardings thoroughly. I like to find spelling mistakes and grammar errors in them, and I have a hearty laugh thinking of them whenever I recollect them. For instance, there is this sign board of some quack doctor who has pitched a tent near one of the signals I have to cross each day. I will try to give a verbatim account of the sign board displayed. 

“SOCIAL WORK IS GOD WORK, DOCTOR FOR ALL ILLNESS. DON’T BE AFRAID OR SHY. COME TO CURE FOR ALL PROBLEMS. BP, SUGAR, DIABETESS, POLIO, HURT, WEAKNESS, TOILET, RED AND YELLOW, CHILDREN WEAKNESS, POLIO, LAKWA, SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE, JEANS PROBLEM. CHECKING FEE- RS 10. HOME COMING-20 RS.” 

Each morning, I read this and wonder what Red and Yellow may mean, and does Sugar and Diabetess mean two different illnesses? And what exactly do people with “Jeans Problem” suffer from?

  I enjoy my journeys and feel that they are the best time for people to observe their fellow beings, and a chance to connect back to themselves. My journeys also give me a fresh insight into my city. Each day is a new discovery, though the route and destination is the same.  

I know most of you travel to work by your vehicles, but would love to hear from you, your experiences. Do let me know.

Its nearly a month since I logged off from the blog world.….I had to ensure smooth transfer of responsiblities at my former work place, and had a blast at the farewell. I had a hectic vacation that lasted exactly 7 days,which were spent getting ready for my new assignment…Couldn’t get time to talk to Su who was in Bangalore…. Couldn’t enjoy the stay at home I was yearning for…but that is life, and accept it gracefully, we have to.

 I am at my new workplace now…finding my feet in the maze….it’s 10 days since I started work…10 days of new experiences. I  had the company of  ten other novices and so I was not alone as I faced the dragons there… 

Recently I met an old friend who is actually my ex teacher.We got talking about people’s needless fancy towards English and the aftereffects of such a hangover.

She shared some rare gems. I thought I can share them here:

 She said,”Each  answer sheet I evaluate is a specimen in itself. Most of the applications are written in full seriousness, but being the nit picker I am, I only see faults in them, for example, I cannot accept bad grammar or bad spellings. Initially it is anger and then the sheer nonsense sends me to fits of laughter, and most of my colleagues cannot understand what’s happening to me. My only question to most of the people writing them is why trouble yourself writing in a  bombastic language that is unfamiliar ?Why make life complicated?

  “I  have requested  all  their goodself to search the buffaloes  and back them”( notice !!)

 “I have parked my vehicle opposite Park Plaza.. It was missing when I come back. I respect it has been stolen. Homes is near to Dr XYZ’s resistance. Please stress my vehicle for me”.(letter writing!!)

 “I was coming near to Centrle Libry at 9.15 PM, some robber attacked me near my Nix Lips….” (letter to the editor!!)……”

No doubt my ex teacher still looks young and energetic–laughter IS the best medicine.

Pray, can anyone tell me which part of the body “Nix Lips” are located? 

 I mean no harm or offence to anyone here, but is our education system so terrible? 

My friend G and I were talking about different facets of human emotions and behavior last evening when he suddenly remembered this poem we studied in Primary School. We studied this poem may be in 5th or 6th Standard, and probably even forgot about its significance, but come to see, it has so much to tell us about life in itself.

The Poet has used the mountain and the squirrel effectively in conveying how much one overestimates himself and how one need not feel intimidated about his or her physical appearance or success measures in life. 

The mountain and the squirrel

Had a quarrel,

And the former called the latter“Little prig.”

Bun replied,“You are doubtless very big;

But all sorts of things and weather

Must be taken in togetherTo make up a year

And a sphere.

And I think it no disgrace

To occupy my place.

If I’m not so large as you,

You are not so small as I,

And not half so spry:

I’ll not deny you make

A very pretty squirrel track

Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;

If I cannot carry forests on my back,

Neither can you crack a nut.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Thanks G for reminding me of this wonderful poem.

No, this post has nothing to do with loans, or about the specific loan jargon on the bank documents….yeah, in the broad perspective, it is about how a language itself evolves by borrowing from others .

Loanword (or loan word) is a word directly taken into one language from another with little or no translation. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept whereby it is the meaning or idiom that is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort.  Loanwords can also be called, “borrowings.”

 Words which a language inherits from an ancestral language from which it develops are not borrowed words. Inherited words usually constitute most of the vocabulary of a language. Although loanwords are typically far fewer than the native words of most languages (creoles and pidgins being exceptions), they are often widely known and used, since their borrowing served a certain purpose, for example to provide a name for a new invention. 

Our own “Lingua Franca”, English has many such loan words. Here is a small list of such words that we use in daily conversations. Most of us are unaware of the origins of these words, and it is a curious exercise to find out where these words came from.  

  • absolute, from Middle French, compare modern Fr. Absolu
  • academic (Fr. académique)
  • accusative (Old Fr. accusatif)
  • adieu, which literally means “to God” (à Dieu), farewell
  • advertisement, compare avertissement (warning)
  • affair, from Old French, compare modern Fr. affaire (business)
  • Algorithm  from the name of the Persian scientist Khwarazmi
  • Balcony  from balcone (Italian)
  • Bandicoot, from pandikoku (Telugu)
  • Bother (from bodhar, “deaf” or “to deafen”) To annoy or disturb – Irish
  • Cash: from Sanskrit karsa, a weight of gold or silver but akin to Old Persian karsha-, a weight. a unit of value equivalent to one cash coin.

o                    coffee – disputed; either from the Ethiopian region/Kingdom of Kaffa, where coffee originated, or Arabic kahwa

o                    Chit  from Hindi chitthi “a letter, note”,

o                    Dhole, from tOla (Kannada)

o                    Jack fruit from Chakka, (Malayalam )

o                    jive – possibly from Wolof jev (African Origin)

o                    mamba – from Zulu or Swahili mamba

o                    Mongoose, from mungeesa (Telugu) or mungusi (Kannada)

 o                    wee small, tiny, minute. – Scottish 

These are very few of the enormous collection of loan words in the English language. Just goes on to prove that each language shares a symbiotic relationship with others in the world.

 And yes, before I forget, this is my 50th post.