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James Riley

Ruby, Javascript and Friends. Part of the SupaDupa team. Living a life of learning. Join me.


All good things do not come to those who wait. They come to those who put work in. A busy weekend meant little in the way of study, but with the MangoLanguages Malayalam course saved offline on my phone for the morning commute, and with my trusty textbooks, the basics (the very basics) are coming together. The ‘Learning Malaylam in Six Weeks’ book dedicates two pages per day. This initially had me feeling like I’ll run through it in no time, achieve fluency in mere hours, and start penning a novel with my newly obtained abilities. Turns out, it’s two pages a day for good reason.

Malayalam is fascinating, and daunting in equal measure - in that there are a mass of rules to the language, a truck load of grammar to learn, but then it appears to follow those rules pretty predictably. I’ve dabbled in German, and see a parallel here. While flicking ahead through the textbook and seeing what’s to come - I was quickly reminded of the mountain ahead of me. What begins as a bunch of letters to learn, is then augmented with vowel modifiers, characters that appear both before and after a character, sometimes both - which are them themselves combined, followed by consonants often being combined when they appear together, and the consonants themselves having multiple forms which affect how they are pronounced. When combined, these characters take on a whole new shape in many cases. Oh and the vowels are different characters when they standalone vs being part of a word. And all this is literally within the first seven pages of the book.

Importantly though, progress is being made. I’ve managed to memorise a good 15 characters/vowel modifiers thus far, have a few phrases learnt such as ‘How are you?’, ‘What is your name?’ and ‘Nice to meet you’. Even with the limited knowledge thus far, I’m able to flick through the Malayalam dictionary I have, and make sense of many of the words - which is pretty rewarding, when just a few days back I’d affectionately only be able to describe what I’m looking at as a scribble. Interestingly, there’s a lot of Malayalam music on Spotify, and I’m finding tracks like Poove Oru Mazhamutham pretty wonderful. There’s a Lyrics button within Spotify which allowed me to follow again. Not aloud. I wouldn’t subject even myself to the attempt.

Commuting in the melting pot that is London, I’ve found myself subconsciously looking around for a Malayalee to talk to. Which I would do without eye contact. This is the London Underground after all.