Friday, April 14, 2017

Pat yourself if you are polyglot

Pat yourself if you are a polyglot

A Polyglot is a person who is conversant with many languages. I had a senior citizen friend, late Sri Chincholi Sarvotthama Rao (80+), a retired Director of AP Forest Department. He boasted of knowing – hold your breath – sixteen languages. Some of those languages are tribal languages spoken by a few thousands of certain tribal communities. He managed to know just enough to mingle with them and avoid being a victim of cannibalization.

People learn several languages, as it was in the case of Mr Rao mentioned above, out of necessity of their job requirements. Sales and marketing guys, doctors in urban cities are good examples. One Dr Madhusudhana Rao, our family doctor of yester years, knew many languages. He managed to diagnose correctly and communicate effectively while dispensing medicines about its compliance.

My daughter, when she was three, was being interviewed by the school principal for admission; she told the principal: “Teacher, I know four languages, how many do you know?” She got admitted without further questions.

If you want to find out the mother tongue of a friend, just give him bunch of currency notes to count or a simple summation problem. He will use the mother tongue, mostly. You can bet and try.

A polyglot has many advantages.

·         Languages are a binding factor.  People gel with each other easily once they know you belong to them, from language angle. You can have a large circles of friends based on many languages you know.
·         If you are skillful in many languages, risk of suffering from dementia in old age is minimized. One reason why the spread of Alzheimer’s disease in India is far less when compared to the west is that most Indians know more than a couple of languages. It is because of diversity of our culture and our school education system.
·         When you are hiring a maid servant you should ensure that you and your spouse know one more language than the maid knows. For instance if the servant knows Telugu and Hindi, you and your spouse must know Telugu, Hindi and one more language that servant does not know. Then only you can converse with your spouse about / against the maid in question, among yourselves. If the servant is talking ill of you with her friends, then also my advice will be useful.

I know Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and English. French and German – I have forgotten as quickly as I learnt them; I have retaining just enough skill to ascertain the language of an article and perhaps translate the title.  Sanskrit was my second language in School. I cannot avoid exposure to Hindi as Modi’s government is imposing it on everyone in devious ways.

When it comes to language skills, we talk in terms of Read, Write and Speak. Again in terms of fluency you may think of ‘working knowledge’, average and fully conversant (expert) etc. Where would you place yourself in such a grid?

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