Recently, I listened to an interesting Afternoon Magazine (WILL AM 580) radio interview with Katherine Russell Rich, related to her book, Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language.
It’s her own story of learning language. When Rich lost her job at a New York magazine, she didn’t just file for unemployment compensation, she decided to immerse herself in Hindi and in India, as she says on her website;
I’d recently lost a job, I was watching the business I’d been in and loved, magazines, begin to crumble. My world had been turned upside down. Compounding that was the fact that in the decade before, I’d gotten smacked around twice by breast cancer. I barely recognized my own life anymore. Or the way that I put it in the book was, “I no longer had the language to describe my own life, so I decided to borrow someone else’s.”
There are many examples revealing about Hindi, English, language in general, culture, and Rich herself, e.g.,
…the word for yesterday and tomorrow is the same: kal, from Kali, the goddess of death and destruction. There’s a philosophy embedded in there—it’s only when you’re in today, aaj, that you’re here; if you’re in yesterday or tomorrow, you’re in blackness.
And of course child has no gender in Mandarin! (Separate words for mother and father, but filial piety is about both boys and girls.) This is all very interesting.
I love that example.
In Italian, there is only one word for grandchild/niece/nephew. I have sometimes felt that they were missing a word, but I also recognize that it might reveal their attitudes towards nuclear and extended family relationships that are different, closer than ours.
she looks very pretty in sari