Archive for October 2012

Translation 38. Hindi Learning Shortcuts. Introduction to a New Series

26 October 2012

Preliminary Note: This is the full Introduction to the series as it appears on my language website India page.

All subsequent articles in this series for English-speaking learners of Hindi will be briefly announced on this blog with a link to the full versions available only on that language website page.
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Introduction to a series of Hindi Learning Hints

After spending most of my life learning, studying. using, teaching or writing about European languages, and after several visits to India, I decided four years ago that it was time to try to learn Hindi. My aim was not to be able to order a succulent curry or even to talk to Hindi-speaking Indians (who know infinitely more English than I will ever know Hindi) but to be able to follow what the Indian media and Indian citizens talk and write about. So the main criterion in selecting materials for this series was (and is) the achievement of greater comprehension of that language.

Four years older and wiser, I remain engaged in a time- and energy-sapping struggle with this fascinating but quite difficult language. Some of my previous language-learning strategies have proved very useful in keeping me on a slow learning curve but the real foreignness of Hindi vocabulary, morphology and grammar has presented a formidable linguistic Himalayan range to conquer. With Hindi there are none of the usual convenient and comforting ‘toeholds’ or mnemonics for “us”: all those familiar COGNATE European (latinate, and even germanic) words, prefixes and suffixes which are quickly recognisable to the English learner in a flow of Romance writing and speech (or even, to a much lesser extent, in German and Dutch).

One slight but interesting advantage has been the vast – and constantly growing – number of English loanwords used in educated and media Hindi. That will be the subject of a later Hindi Hints chapter. Another early chapter will deal with Hindi acronyms (with both local and international references) which, mainly because of a historical accident, are phonetically based on English. Hooray!

The planned series of hints and shortcuts for greater or speedier comprehension of Hindi by Anglo and other foreign learners has (at least) three motives:
1. To share some of my very hard-earned knowledge with other Anglo learners.
2. To encourage Hindi speakers and fellow Anglo learners of Hindi to point out my misunderstandings and to correct my errors.
3. To force myself to study and observe Hindi more carefully.

The Reference lists posted in each article will also point to those books or websites that I have found useful in learning Hindi, in particular in relation to transliteration of the difficult (but nowhere near the difficulty of Chinese script) Hindi Devanagari script, for quicker (romanised) deciphering.

I wish to express my special gratitude to my patient tutor, Indramohan Singh, who for the past three years has also acted as my translator, transliterator, interpreter and scientific advisor and has also supplemented my bilingual (romanised) dictionaries on the many occasions when they failed to enlighten me (or, perhaps, when I failed to locate the information in the exhausting labyrinth of the anti-firangi Devanagari alphabetical order). To give credit where credit is due, these life-saving lexicographical works were:
Allied’s Hindi-English Dictionary, Father Camille Bulcke’s posthumous Hindi-English Dictionary and, much more recently, the late Dr Hardev Bahri’s first-class 2-volume Advanced Learner’s Hindi-English Dictionary) and, at the eleventh hour, Arvind Kumar’s HEROIC opus and life’s work, the Hindi AND English Thesaurus.

Nevertheless, the errors in this series of articles are entirely of my own making and I look forward to benefitting from readers’ corrections (and, perhaps, additions), which would be most welcome by me – and excellent karma for such benefactors.

Notes for the Series

1. My simplified Hindi transliteration system should not be too difficult to understand. One of its advantages is that it stands a reasonable chance of being recognised by transliteration systems like those of Google (for conversion into Devanagari script, where necessary). (Thank God for transliteration as a partial antidote to the Devanagari script, however artistic the latter may be!)

2. In most articles, an English alphabetical order for Hindi words (a further utilitarian desecration!) is deliberately used since it allows Anglos to make quick searches for words and also allows the speedy extraction of useful materials using the “Sort” and “Find” features of Microsoft WORD and other word processors. Without this subterfuge, I would not have been able to accumulate (and benefit from) my private 14,000 word romanised Hindi Glossary! Although totally artificial, this unorthodox Hindi word order thus speeds up reference work enormously for foreign learners.

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Misogynygate? Not at all. Annabel Crabb cuts through the dubious local and global hype.

14 October 2012

(This is a necessary addendum to my initial brief blog on the matter.)

Following the extraordinary national and international attention to a speech by (embattled – NB) Prime Minister Gillard a few days ago, in today’s Age (a venerable but parochial Victorian newspaper struggling for survival), Ms Crabb, a leading light and VERY gifted observer on the (Australian) ABC TV’s political staff, offers an article titled ‘Grubby, grotty, silly and sexist, but misogyny is a sledge too far’. With a title like that, further comment may seem superfluous. Nevertheless, it may attract a few more readers to Ms Crabb’s solomonic thesis if I simply add the following.

The sub-heading of the article (which may need one subtitle for non-Australian readers) is: ‘Right now, our over-excited politicos could benefit from a dictionary, a Bex [a tranquilising pill] and a good lie down’.

While we are re-assessing this meteoric media event (and the influence of the Internet and individuals on its dazzling trajectory), Andrew Bolt today offers more enlightenment (inspired apparently by information from reader Alan R. M. Jones) on the possible input of Gillard’s principle media advisor in the instant ‘viralisation’ of the affair.

Additional character reference, for the unaware, and in personal homage to Ms Crabb:
Annabel Crabb is currently presenting her second ABC TV series of politico-foodie interviews: Kitchen Cabinet. Very yum-yum for the mind and palate.

Internet Viral Opinion. Caveat Lector. The Current Julia Gillard Misogyny Episode

11 October 2012

The embattled Australian Labor Party, which appears destined to be thrown out of office in a year’s time for its many egregious shortcomings, broken promises and its serial incompetence, is currently congratulating itself on the ephemeral respite provided by the viral Web response to its leader’s impassioned rebuke of her Liberal counterpart, Tony Abbott, on debatable sexist grounds rather than political ones.

The worldwide (English language) Internet and media reaction which has belatedly provided Ms Gillard with 15 minutes of international fame seems to be based on a crude knee-jerk response for all male treatment of females, including misogyny. As far as I can see, the virus spreaders in London and New York pay NO attention to the political Australian background or the real circumstances leading up to the parliamentary tirade 2 days ago. This is in keeping with much similar viral reaction on the Web and is (or should be) a very worrying feature since it undermines the principles of true debate and democracy and closely approximates to the procedures of twentieth century populist political propaganda, at its worst. (Enhanced by ever more numerous advisers, generously remunerated (bought?) with taxpayers’ money.) [14 October Update: Andrew Bolt has just published an interesting link to one of P.M. Gillard’s advisers. Worth examination.]

In your search for the real truth of this complex matter, you might wish to begin by reading this article by John Birmingham, especially between the lines. Then you may need some background on the two years of very chaotic roller-coaster government by Gillard’s uneasy coalition government with the Greens and half a dozen motley independents. This minimal research will make it clear that she came to power in the Labor Party in 2010 by overthrowing her colleague and boss, the electorally triumphant Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. That is quite a lot of baggage which the virus-spreaders have not told you – and may well be unaware of.

A Lesson in Positive Chutzpah for Surviving Print Authors and Publishers

2 October 2012

(2 October 2012)
In today’s print issue of The Australian, I was impressed to see a costly full page advertisement by Paul Ham about his book, Sandakan: The Untold Story of the Sandakan Death Marches, released yesterday by Random House Australia. The advertisement was titled: ‘An Open Letter to the Emperor of Japan’. (Perhaps there is a copy on the Random House website. It is worth reading.)

Subsequent reference to the Internet revealed an accompanying article that I hadn’t seen in the print version. (Was it only posted on the paywalled Internet version of “The OZ”?) I reproduce it below.

The inspiring aspect of this interesting initiative is that it shows that printed books and printed media should not be prematurely dismissed as moribund. Here surely is proof that they are both alive and kicking, especially for the under 40 age group and other serious researchers.

Here is how journalist Rick Morton is recorded as reporting the audacious initiative in today’s Internet version of The Australian (2 October 2012).

‘Paul Ham doesn’t beat around the bush: what happened at Sandakan was abhorrent’
“The Australian historical author Paul Ham has used a full-page newspaper ad paid for by the publisher of his new book to accuse the Japanese government of failing to account for war crimes committed in Borneo more than 60 years ago.

The advertisement, in The Australian today, which calls on Japan’s current emperor Tenno Heika to apologise for war-time atrocities, and specifically for the Sandakan prisoner-of-war death marches that killed thousands, says some Australians still “hate” the Japanese.
“I do not share in the slightest degree the racial intolerance of some of my countrymen and women, whose hatred of the Japanese people festers decades after the last drop of blood fell on the earth in the dying months of the Pacific War,” Ham writes.
“It is absurd to hate a whole people. I therefore appeal to our shared sense of humanity, in presenting you with my book Sandakan: The Untold Story of the Sandakan Death Marches (Random House Australia, 2012), the history of the little-known war crime that occurred between 1942 and 1945 in Borneo, when the island was an outpost of the Japanese Empire.”

Ham denied the advertisement was part of a publicity stunt designed to stir old hatreds. “It’s not a publicity stunt, no, the publisher really liked the letter which I’d originally written as the introduction to the book and decided it should reach a wider audience,” he said.
Japanese leaders have apologised for atrocities during the war, including in 1957, when prime minister Kishi Nobusukesaid: “It is my official duty, and my personal desire, to express to you and through you to the people of Australia, our heartfelt sorrow for what occurred in the war.”
Ham said these, and others like it, were only “half-hearted” apologies and denied his strongly worded letter could lead to diplomatic tension.

“This is not a diplomatic issue, it’s an appeal to a human issue,” he said. “It doesn’t beat around the bush; what happened at Sandakan is really quite abhorrent, the most disgusting stuff.
“Japanese politicians have individually expressed remorse and regret in the past but I wrote this letter on behalf of the families who lost loved ones at Sandakan for the highest figurehead in Japan to apologise specifically to them.”

Some 2400 Australian and British POWs died at Sandakan, and only six Australians escaped.
National President of the Returned and Services League Rear Admiral Ken Doolan did not wish to comment on the letter, saying only that Ham was “entitled to his opinion”.
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I wish Paul Ham and his sponsors healthy print sales! With e-versions to follow, no doubt.