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James Riley

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

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Today was somewhat of a breakthrough, all triggered by the generous actions of a cousin-in-law (whom I shall refer to as cousin going forward). As stated previously, my partner, lovely as she is, speaks little Malayalam and so it’s been somewhat of a solo mission thus far - fuelled by a love of language, of culture, a curiosity and desire to unravel the magic behind how a near polar opposite culture communicates. Language is the conduit by which our ideas are shared, be it fear, love, or more commonly, somewhere in the many shades between. Perhaps at the core of my love of language and exploration the following quote rings loud: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. What better way to learn about ourselves, by delving into the deep contrast of what we’re not.

Anyway, my point is - I’ve been learning with every intention of being able to speak the language, at least the very basics - but quickly found myself at the bottom of Mount Memorise and feeling a little daunted. But, prompted by my cousin, I’m day three into sending a voice note via Whatsapp each morning. She then responds, pointing out mistakes I make, offering new phrases, and generally encouraging. The result is incredible - it’s given me a remarkable incentive to have a tangible ‘result’ each morning - to put into practice what I’m learning, in a real-world scenario. It also immediately highlighted that, despite having a few decent resources now - I had yet learnt how to say the most basic of phrases such as ‘Hello’ (Namaskarum), an informal ‘How are you?’ (Sugamano?). I’m feeling pretty pumped, near ecstatic… up till a few minutes ago at least. That is, till I watched the following:

Now, by watched, I managed. In that I sat still and glanced at the moving pictures. Sound was even heard. I was multi-tasking! But if not for the subtitles, I wouldn’t have understood a single word. The speed feels incredibly fast, to where I can’t possibly begin to distinguish between individual words, or individual sounds. What’s interesting, in how I’ve noticed Malayalam movies regularly include English phrases, if not whole sentences. I wonder what implications that has, or what it says of the culture.

Nonetheless, a key part to my learning approach is to listen to music, watch films, even if none of it makes sense - the idea being that you’re gradually introducing yourself to the sounds and sights, taking in a little more each time - whether it be inflection, accent, pace, exclamations, to eventually sentence structure, flow of conversation, idioms etc.

As interesting as this journey may be as a casual read, I’ll be making efforts to write up dedicated notes pages and lists of resources. As much as I’m wanting to some-what document the process, I’m fully conscious of the 15 minutes I’ve spent writing this update eating into my learning time. So, final note - YouTube is continuing to surprise me as a learning language resource. Regardless of what you want to learn, forever keep it in mind, it’s omnipresent nature has the most niche and remote of resources available. Pinneh kahman!