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Sunday, March 29, 2015

You don't say!

Although it's kind of fun surprising or pleasing local folk when I speak in Telugu, I'm often humbled as I continue to learn which expressions are appropriate, and which are not, when, and in which situations.

I remember the hilarity of American friends who'd lived in India for a number of years, when they asked me to demonstrate how much Telugu I'd learned at lessons with the munshi (language pundit who tutored foreigners).  I confidently rubbed my tummy and patted my head while saying "I have a
head ache," and "I have a stomach ache," in that order.

Once I heard a woman addressing a man with the expression 'Emandi,' which appears to mean 'what, sir', which sounded polite enough to me.  But when I used it to a friend at a social gathering, my husband told me, on the way home, not to do that.  It turns out to be a more endearing, however polite, way for a wife to address a husband.  Oops.

Telugu has an honorific, or respectful way of adding '-garu' to their name, while talking to a person of greater age or deserving of deference. Imagine my chagrin when my friend's husband, a doctor, answers my phone call, and I hear myself blurt, "Doctor, this is Shirley-garu."  Oops. Fortunately, we are all friends, and have a good laugh over it.  Thank goodness, laughter is international.

"This year I learn that "ayyo" ('oh-oh,' or 'too bad') is not used as frequently as I've thought, or used, although I've yet to learn the reason, or fine tune its usage.

And so the learning goes on.

I request my Telugu speaking blog readers to give me other suggestions where I and other American English speakers may be missing the boat in the way we (try to ) speak their language, and/or send the link to useful sites for learning more than beginning tourist conversation.

In his book Better!, Atul Gawande suggests that we put as much effort into refining what we have or do, as into inventing something new.  Because we all can do better. I am aiming to become better at speaking and using Telugu.

Ade sangati! ('That's the thing!")