Friday, June 18, 2010

No Online Courses on Indian Languages

"Why not an Indian Language?" I thought.
I mean, if BBC offers online courses on 36 languages, and RFI offers French courses, surely our Akashvani (aka All India Radio or AIR) would offer online courses on Indian Languages.
That would make sense, surely, in a country that boasts of 15 recognised languages, besides Hindi and English.
But would you believe this?!?
I could not find a link on the the AIR website to any language course.
Extremely disappointing!
What a waste of opportunity!

By the way, and here is a surprise, you can download free language learning software for learning Hindi (here), Bengali (here) and, my favourite, Urdu (here). These are the famous (limited in scope, since these are free) BYKI series by Transparent Langauge. Learning from BYKI can really be fun. Try it. I have.

And if you wish to learn some basic words and phrases in different Indian langaues, then visit here. This site has a list of everyday useful words (no audio!)

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Free French Lessons from RFI

I have been foolish not to check. Especially since I was aware that Radio France International had co-produced the Mission Europe radio programs. Besides, if BBC can claim to teach French, can you imagine Radio France International not to?

Sure enough, the RFI has an excellent page dedicated to teaching French. I am currently listening to L'affaire du Coffret, which is an excellent introduction to the French Language. It is presented as a crime thriller, which should keep you hooked. You can either work through the associated exercises one by one as you listen to the recording from the RFI website. Or, download the complete podcast of 60 episodes from iTunes and work on the worksheets later.

Coming to Mission Europe: I recommend you download all the three - Mission Berlin, Mission Paris and Mission Krakow, and have a listen. These are fashioned after computer games and will be liked by both children (Note: Mission Berlin and Mission Paris have some heavy duty kissing sounds for a short while; not sure about Mission Krakow. I am not being a prude, just noting a fact) and adults.


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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oil Spill for the Goose, Nuclear Reactors for the Gander and Liability Cap

The unlimited nuclear liability cap (or the lack of it) is a hot topic in India. Interestingly this topic has reared its head in US also, with the BP Oil Leak being labelled as the "Environmental 9/11". Here's a very interesting article by Richard A. Epstein, a professor of law, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

It is instructive to note what he has to say about liability cap:

"The legal system should never allow self-interested parties to keep for themselves all the gains from dangerous activities that unilaterally impose losses on others."


"... we'd all be much better off if there were no statutory liability cap and if operators both big and small were required to purchase insurance—amounting to the tens of billions if necessary—when they operate in dangerous waters or terrains."


"A tough liability system does more than provide compensation for serious harms after the fact. It also sorts out the wheat from the chaff—so that in this case companies with weak safety profiles don't get within a mile of an oil derrick."

Now compare this with what Mr. Prithviraj Chavan has to say about the proposed nuclear liability cap (see here):

"If we don’t keep the caps reasonable, nobody will invest in India."
Oh I see!

Actually, nobody needs to fear. In India one can get away with genocide, if one has to go by the example we have set for ourselves with the 26-year-delayed 'justice' in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Being Curious

There is an accident.
The metal hitting metal draws your attention.
You stop!
You are curious.
And so are the other 50 people who have already gathered around the accident site.
Perhaps you can help.
But are you really?
Really curious, I mean.

Something happens out of ordinary and you want to find out what happened.
But that is not being curious. Is it?

You are curious when a chance remark that you heard yesterday while talking to a colleague keeps bothering you till you find a solution why.
You are curious when you are unable to bridge the gap between an observation and the cause with your existing knowledge or logic.
You are curious when you when you see a spinning dinner plate and dig deeper to study its dynamics. (Feynman did that and went on to win a Nobel Prize for QED).

Curiousity takes away your sleep. It burns like a fire in your heart and mind.
Any thing else is just a waste of time.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Treasure Trove for European Language Learners

Learning language on your own?
And do not wish to spend a penny?
Look no further than the BBC Languages Page.
Catering to the beginners and intermediate stage, it offers French, Spanish, Italian, German and a few other languages. Multimedia is very effectively used. Very professional.
Try it. You may never have to buy another language course.
And even if you are not into language learning, it is worth a visit. Who knows? You may be tempted to start off on Chinese.

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