Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

* a stove with waist oil collator

Posted on May 18th, 2012 by Alex. Filed under Language.


In “The Hindu” on 18/05/2012: A truly remarkable invention: A gas stove with a collator for waist oil. No matter how much you eat, the collator critically compares your current waist oil with probably previous statistics and informs the user about his/her progress in gaining or loosing weight.

An integrated collector for waste oil in the kitchen hood is so obvious that it is not required to be mentioned here.

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* names

Posted on December 28th, 2008 by Alex. Filed under Language.


In foreign languages names given to towns, states, persons, etc differ a lot from the names someone is used to. For Westerners it is quite easy to remember “Washington”, “Berlin” or “Steve”, “Paul” and “Mercedes”. But if a foreigner visits a different country, it might be difficult not only to pronounce the names correctly, but also to remember them in the first place. In addition towns are being renamed in India currently, making it necessary to remember two different names for the same place. For instance: Madras became Chennai, Bengalore -> Bengaluru, Calcutta -> Kolkatta.

Usually I cannot recall names of persons. If someone greats me with “Hi, Alex!”, I usually reply with “Hey, man!” to avoid embarrassing moments. This happens even if I know this person for years. Personally I maintain a hit list of the most difficult names for persons and towns that I can remember.

Just recently a new name entered the rank number one in the list for persons:

  1. Kasireddy Jayaprakashreddy (Fortunately I am allowed to call him JP. Thanks, Madi)
  2. Prof. Dr. R. Bhakthavathsalam

and for towns:

  1. Thiruvananthapuram (in Kerala, India)
  2. Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu, south of Chennai)

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* languages

Posted on November 29th, 2008 by Alex. Filed under Language.


Each language in the world has some particular sounds which makes the distinguishable to foreign speakers. E.g. Tamil has the AaaA-ending, Bengali has lots of “Thik-Ache”, “Bhaaalo”, and “ache” and Telugu has many “u” and “ulu”. I do not know, how German sounds to the foreign ears since it is my mother tongue. But I can imagine that it is very much forced. For instance, if we say “Zug” (train) then the Z in the beginnning is very much forced, so that is sounds like the s sound made by a snake. Or the CH in Nacht (night) which is a sound as if someone snores hard.

Since most people in the world have a mother tongue different from English, it is quite interesting to guess from where someone comes from. The Americans roll the R in the back of the through and the British have a nice intonation. In Indian languages there are some things quite different:

First, many sayings and sentences are translated one-by-one into the English language. So sometimes you understand the single words, but the meaning of the total sentences is a mystery. One example: If you tell a story wbout something that had happened or the conversation get stuck, many times my friends asked me “Then?”. Then? I do not know. I mean the story is over or I do not know, what else to say. It can be quite irritating. Just imaging someone keeps saying “Then?” all the time, when you tell something.

In many Indian languages there are two different pronounciations for T: One is a dental T spoken with the tongue touching the teeth, the second one is produced by touching the gum with the tongue. Although I do not hear the difference, many Indians can tell, what kind of T has been just said. However since the existance of a dental T many Indians do not know the difference between the dental T and the English th, since the position of the tongue is almost the same. In addition the R is not spoken in the back of the throat, but with the tip of the tongue vibrating against the gum. This make sometimes funny sounds, such as TttRRRRilleRRR for thriller (a cycle brand) or “Absolutely notting was tere.” 😀

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* certificate of physical fitness

Posted on January 17th, 2008 by Alex. Filed under India, Language.


A DAAD scholarship for India is co-financed by the Indian government. The institution which takes care of all this, is called ICCR (Indian Council of Cultural Relations). So after passing the first stages of application and interview at the DAAD, it will suggest your application to the ICCR. Therefore some forms have to be filled out among others also a certificate of physical fitness, which states, if the applicant is in a good shape to join an Indian institute, and which has to be filled out by a registered medical practitioner.

On the first page it contains a matrix of 30 sicknesses, which someone may had in the past. Each sickness has to be marked with a minus for a negative finding or a plus for a positive findings (see copy below). If any of the findings is positive, the applicant is rejected. Unfortunately no applicant who was born with a nose or had coughing in the past, is eligible for a scholarship. Even sweating or night sweat is not allowed. So only people from Greenland or North/South Pole, without noses and without coughing can get a scholarship by the ICCR. Fortunately I never had a nose and even in Chennai I have never sweated :). The question is, how many are there with a history like this? My guess is, that this form has been translated once and the interpreter did not know English so well. Oh, does anybody know, what sickness is called “Type”? Is it a sickness or more a description for a character property?

cut out of the certificate of physical fitness

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* tamil

Posted on October 12th, 2006 by Alex. Filed under Language.


My high tech bicycle I used in Chennai. Thanks to Vinu, who borrowed it to me.

My high tech bicycle I used in Chennai. Thanks to Vinu, who borrowed it to me.

Tamil is a language mostly spoken in Tamil Nadu in south India. Although I have been there, I just learned one single sentence. For someone, who does not speak Tamil, one thing is very easy to recognize: almost all sentences end with a long spoken and specially pronounced AaaA (an captial A means a slightly higher voice than the lower case a). So once I had a puncture with my cycle and I needed some air. Since I did not know, how the compressor worked, I looked a little bit helpless. Then a guy came asking me: “AirAaaaaaAAA?”, which I did not understand at first.

In that sense: Aaprom paarkalam (This one without the AaaA-sound. Do not ask me why. Maybe you can explain it).

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* bengali

Posted on October 12th, 2006 by Alex. Filed under Language.


I started to learn Bengali, which is mostly spoken in some parts in north India. It took me a while to learn the alphabet and still I have difficulties to read and write the conjunct consonants. I started to learn it from a book called “Teach yourself Bengali” by William Radice, which also comes with two CDs. But since I started to learn it from a book, I am not able to speak or to understand this language (just some basic words sometimes). But fortunatley I found some friends from West Bengal and Bangladesh, who are willing to teach me. So I have started to learn all the unknown vocabularies.

Some words are derived from English words (like cycle, table, post office), but they are written in Bengali letters and sometimes I do not recognize them. So I am flipping through the dictionary searching for that word. But by pronouncing it a little bit different and playing around, you get an idea what it is about (e.g. shaikel is a cycle or john, which is written as j and n since the o-sound comes automatically).
The audio CDs contain the reading part of the book. If you do not understand the people, because they talk much faster than you are able to read, do not worry. You will be able after a few days or weeks (depending on how much you learn in that period of time).
Let’s see, how long it takes till I can speak my first basic sentences besides the normal and memorized sentences. Oh, if someone has the ultimative solution on how to learn to speak the “R” with the tip of the tongue, please let me know.

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