Thursday, September 24, 2009

In Search of a Rapid Language Learning Technique

I have been on a personal mission to find out a technique that helps me learn language faster. I think I have managed to find one. Check out my Squidoo lens on Learn Spanish Rapidly. What do you think? I would love to hear your ideas - you may leave a comment here or in the Squidoo lens. Thanks!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Great Indian Drama ... Continues

The Congress Party leadership evidently doesn't read a lot. Otherwise, Shashi Tharoor definitely wouldn't be in Congress Party. The tweeting ("cattle class") controversy pales in front of this.

In the brilliant satire, The Great Indian Novel, Shashi Tharoor has very cleverly casted the Indian Leaders as characters of the Mahabharata. And guess who is Jawahar Lal Nehru in the novel? The blind king Dhritarashtra and so it obviously follows that Indira Gandhi is Duryodhana - she is called Priya Duryodhani, the autocratic villain, daughter of Dhritarashtra and head of the Kaurava Party.

I am surprised that the Congress men known for their unflinching devotion to the Nehru-Gandhi family are not baying for Tharoor's blood. Or perhaps my original assumption holds good - The Congress Part Leadership does not read a lot. Ok, it is not to end a post in a negative note, so ... perhaps the inclusion of Shashi Tharoor into Congress and Ministry is a sign of a mature leadership that has a great sense of humour and recognises the experience that Tharoor brings into the External Affairs Ministry.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Spanish Understand Marriages

The Spanish language has two words for "be".

Thus, for example, "I am" could be "soy" (=saw-ee) or "estoy" (=es-toy-ee).
Soy is used for things that are permanent in nature, whereas Estoy is for those things that are in transition or if it is about location. (the infinitive forms are "ser" and "estar")

I am Amitabh = Soy Amitabh
I am ready = Estoy listo

I am from India = Soy de la India
I am working = Estoy trabajando

Just wondering why the ancient Spanish people decided to use the 'temporary be - estar' for marriage?!?!?!

Estoy casado = I'm married.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Our Collective Escape Mechanism - Temples

I compose this blog in my mind as I stand in a temple wondering at the milling people around me, eyes closed and palms clasped, mouthing barely audible prayers. Normally, I wouldn't be dragged into a temple by ten wild horses but in a battle of strength between the wild horses and my wife, my wife wins hands down - one command and I follow her into temple(s).
Anyways, getting back to the point ... what are all these people praying for? If they are praying for that promotion, then they are asking God to deny someone more deserving; or are they asking God to bend the existing physical laws just for him/her - in other words a miracle?
Don't they know, that God does not exist; or if God does exist, then s/he does not interfere with our daily lives?
Actually temples are our escape mechanism.
To assume responsibility for every action we take is difficult and, possibly, unnerving.
Assign responsibility to some non-existing force/power/whatever is so damn easy - "You screwed up my life, you fix it."

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Calculus of friendship

When you come across books that have titles such as this ... The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life while Corresponding about Math ... you wonder who would buy these. After all how popular could a book written by a maths professor be? But then you realize that good books transcend genres. Good books need to be promoted and so here's my attempt to boost its sales. Please click on this link and be prepare to be enthralled.

And oh! I almost forgot!
This one is no. 500 - my 500th post on this blog.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Goddess On Your Tongue

Someone told this to me long, long ago. Once in day Saraswati, the goddess of learning sits on your tongue. One doesn't know exactly when; she does so randomly. And at that instant whatever you say comes true. So you should always say good things ... you never know what comes true.

I have not yet found a better logic(?) than this to promote politeness and decency among humans.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Essential Aid To Language Learning

Of all the online translators available, I think the Google Translate is by far superior. I used the Yahoo Babel Fish all these days. To put it as mildly as possible - the translation stinks. You need numerous attempt to coax the desired result. And to think that I translated a 200 page document from German to English using Babel Fish! Some patience!

It was quite by accident that I hit upon Google Translate and I am mighty pleased. (Actually I feel quite dumb about it - this service has been in existence for some time now).

The translation is 'live' - the text get translated as you press "enter"(I find this aspect missing and terribly annoying in Babel Fish. After entering a text, you have to click on the translate button. At times nothing happens.)

Don't like the translation provided by Google? Go ahead and recommend a better translation.

Yet another good feature of the Google Translate is that it also displays a tiny dictionary that can be explored. You can also search the word in the web from a link.

A good test of a well translated text is to reverse the translation. Google Translate allows you to swap the languages at a click of a button.

And, oh yes, Hindi is one of the languages that you can translate into or from. This is yet another instance of Google coming in late into a domain and providing a better solution that all existing ones.

I think this is an invaluable tool in learning a language.

Now if only I could have a mobile version of this ...

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Spanish Potatoes

My fascination for the connection between Spanish and Hindi continues (see here). At times the connection stuns me. I hope you also will be.

The word "ki" (कि) in Hindi is equivalent to the English "that". "He said that ..." is "woh bola ki..."
Guess what is equivalent of the Hindi "ki" in Spanish?
You guessed right! It is "Que" - pronounced "kay". "él dijo que ..."

Ok consider this now ... slightly complicated.

है (ha-ay), in Hindi, is difficult to explain and can mean "is" or "... is there". Example, "Is there anyone?" is " कोई है?" (Ko-ee ha-ay). The word for "is there" in Spanish is "hay", pronounced aa-ee.

I find such similarity amazing. It is easy to ascribe such similarities to Indo-European langauges (Sanskrit, Spanish, German, all belong to this group of languages.) However, Hindi did not evolve from Sanskrit. It evolved from Prakrit, like other dialects, such as Braj and Awadhi. But absorbed heavily from Sanskrit to become a standard version. So the basic structure still remains different from Sanskrit.

Thus, the word है does not have any equivalent in Sanskrit. But yet, has similar sounding word in Spanish. I wonder what the connection is?

The only other strange connection I can see is in an entirely different domain - culinary. There is hardly any day when potato does not form part of the North Indian meal. Potatoes were introduced to India by the Portuguese - who were, of course, once upon a time part of Spain. Spanish and Portuguese most definitely have got this from Peru and Chile. I do not know the exact mechanism of how Potato was made popular in India by the Portuguese but I find it very difficult to believe that it was merely a case of dumping a sackful of potatoes on an Indian door step.

So is there a connection? After all both - language and cuisine - are the subject of the tongue.

This post is merely a flight of imagination. I do not claim any scholarly knowledge on this subject. There are much more learned people than I in this domain. If you are one such and happen to read this blog, I will be obliged if you could throw some light on this.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Don't buy that jeans! Save Water!

Oh! You love that jeans.
It has the cut that you think will be a perfect fit.
So what you have two already?
This one is just perfect.

Consider this: the amount of water it takes to produce a pair of denim jeans is about 11 cubic meters. This is equal to the capacity of a standard-size tank truck.
That much!

It is easy to lose sight of the fact that freshwater that is so essential for our living is in limited supply. Not sure where I read this: The third world war will be fought over water. Increasing demand for more water for drinking, hygiene, sanitation, food production, and industry, tends to support this.

While there are many low-tech approaches that can help prevent scarcity - the governments need to be wise enough to plan for and implement them, though - we need to do our bit. As with Global Warming, preventing Fresh Water Crisis demands, first and foremost, change in life style.

Like carbon footprint, there is something called water footprint. A person's water footprint is the volume of freshwater the individual uses directly and in production of the goods and services he or she consumes.

Find your water foot print at:

Do you still want to buy that new pair of jeans?

PS: I have taken the above information from an old issue (August 2008) of Scientific American India.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do Yoga and Become Ms Universe

I do not recollect any Beauty Pageant that did not feature a South American in the top three. Venezuela of course is going great guns now.
Could it be that Yoga is a contributing factor?
It seems so - read this article.
Of course, the Venezuelan's have raised the beauty industry to a fine art and science form.
So, Indian beauties what are you waiting for? Read the article and thank me for showing you the way!

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