Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reading India

My ten day trip to India came to an end on February 25 when I boarded a plane in Bengaluru (Bangalore) at 2:20 a.m. and, after a change of planes in Paris, arrived in Detroit about 4:15 p.m. (Both times are local times so it came to about 24 hours in transit.)

There are many things I want to tell everyone about the trip and my thoughts about India, but since this blog is tied to libraries and reading, let me start with my attempts to read in India. Yes, I read several books but I also spent a lot of time reading and attempting to read street signs.

My husband and I arrived in India at Bengaluru which is in Karnataka state. From there we went to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu where family members met us for the road trip to "home" in Kozhinjampara in Kerala. Because India has many major languages and most are related to state borders, this means that we went from trying to read Kannada to Tamil to Malayalam. Many signs are also in English so I had something I could easily read as we traveled along, but I enjoyed trying to understand these other languages and there three different scripts. All three languages are Dravidian in origin. This means that there many similarities. I could see some of them in the scripts and could even occasionally hear words that sounded very similar. I am sure that if I were a speaker of any of them, the similarities would be even more evident.

For me, the struggle to read the signs made me think of the miracle that is reading. How does our brain manage to take these funny-looking marks--and every written language is portrayed with a bunch of funny-looking marks--and turn them into sounds and meaning? It is amazing.

My guess is that learning to read Tamil is easier than reading English because each letter makes just one sound. There is none of the educated guessing that is so much a part of English.

If you would like to learn more about these languages, take a look at these sites.




I have delusions of learning to read any of these languages, but for now, at least, I am happy to relax into books in English.

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