Adventures in Hindi Part 4: In the end is the beginning, or, more observations, a summing up and a way forward.

The temptation to seek elusive patterns by examining random snippets is rather high, but I have this self-imposed criterion that I cannot “play around” under the garb of “investigation” for more than a week–I must do something tangible before I get the next “quota” to play. It may sometimes be a blog post, sometimes page on my website, or a video. For someone who has been working from home as one’s own boss (and office boy) for years, such a rule is necessary for sanity…

So, having made three meandering posts, I am determined today to wrap up my ideas and learning in this fourth and last post of the series.

(For those who don’t like the upside down reading that serial blogs entail, the earlier parts are as follows: Adventures in Hindi Part 1: A mother-tongue fading behind a veil, Adventures in Hindi Part 2: The failed experiment of Have-English-can-translate-to-Hindi, Adventures in Hindi Part 3: India Shining, Internet, and the entertainment override)

I embarked on this adventure prompted by the lack of Hindi material on dementia. It is now my impression that other than the most desperate, no one expects helpful material to be available online, and no one other than the desperate look for it. And even the desperate may not check on the Internet because they don’t know Hindi material can be found there, or are clueless about how to find it.

And this impression could really let me off the hook– no one is expecting it or looking for it, hey, there’s no problem! No demand, so no need to supply, that’s cool 🙂

But here is another way to think of it: If there were material in a format attractive to Hindi speakers/ readers, and if such material was visible to an audience grappling with problems related to dementia care in their family, such material would help. The audience I refer to is persons who speak Hindi and consider it a language they know and are comfortable with, and who are not as comfortable with English. Such an audience will also be unfamiliar with concepts discussed in English but not usually discussed in Hindi.

Which means, the wriggle-out space to avoid work on Hindi reduces.

(And as before, what I write of Hindi would probably apply to Kannada or Gujarati or Tamil or any other Indian language)

There is some Hindi material related to dementia already present on the web. Many are news articles thanks, in part, to Suresh Kalmadi, single-page news items or some comments/ blogs on them (sarcastic ones). The news items that I’ve chanced upon do not explain dementia (other than calling it a memory problem), nor do they explain the relationship between dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some experts are quoted, often using out-of-context snippets and distorted statements. Dementia symptoms are not identified, and there’s contradictory stuff on whether dementia can be prevented or not, treated or not, cured or not.

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Adventures in Hindi Part 3: India Shining, Internet, and the entertainment override

Going back to the drawing board regarding my Hindi project, I decided to look at some basics. Who, exactly, were these Hindi speakers I was concerned about? Given that Hindi came in so many forms, could a single approach work for most persons? I felt the answer was yes, mainly because of the success of Bollywood and also the way Hindi words have crept into so many of the advertisements.

(This is part 3 of a four-post entry; you can see the earlier parts here: Adventures in Hindi Part 1: A mother-tongue fading behind a veil and Adventures in Hindi Part 2: The failed experiment of Have-English-can-translate-to-Hindi)

To paraphrase an old ad, Kisko Hindi Mangta?

But I was not making movies or ad jingles; I was thinking about websites. Who visited Hindi websites, and for what? What sort of websites existed, and whom did they cater to? How did one locate Hindi websites of interest?

From what I understand, when people say they know Hindi, they usually mean they speak Hindi and watch movies and all that, but do they read Hindi? Even if they can read Hindi, do they want to read Hindi, do they read articles in Hindi if they chance upon them, do they *look* actively for such articles? How many Hindi-reading people use the Internet and how do they use it?

One keeps hearing of the Internet revolution and of Indians being experts in computers—does that have any relevance at all with respect to Hindi material on the web?

The two things go hand-in-hand: having online material available on a topic and having people who look for it. If there is no material, people will not look; if there are no people looking for material, other people will not create it. How has this balance panned out for Hindi? What’s the future? (If any of you know of any papers on this, please add the information to comments below).

Anyway, this post is not a coherent collation of thought-out stuff, it is a collage of random tidbits as I thrashed around for some weeks for information and ideas and I played around with whatever I could find.

Here’s one tidbit: There’s an interesting site that contains some world-wide statistics on the Internet at www.internetworldstats.com.

And here is the link where we learn that there is no Indian language(other than English) in the top ten Internet languages (see http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm

Some interesting numbers on Internet users: China 485 million, India 100 million, USA 245 million.

And some more: percentage population penetration (% of population using Internet) is 8.4% in India as against 36.3 in China, 78.4 in Japan, 1.1 in Bangladesh, 10.9 in Pakistan, and 78.2 in USA.

We’ve got some catching up to do, India Shining…

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Adventures in Hindi Part 2: The failed experiment of Have-English-can-translate-to-Hindi

Continuing my narration of my office-chair adventures related to Hindi. This is the second post of a four-post entry (see part 1 here); I’ll use today’s post to describe my (since aborted) forays into translation. It took me a few months to step past that (what I now think of as) translation trap.

My initial thinking was simple and clean. Here’s what I thought: I have a fairly exhaustive dementia care website in English. I know Hindi. Let me translate it myself. How difficult could that be? Or if it takes too much time (or, er, is difficult), I can get the translation done professionally. It is just (so I thought) a matter of being willing to spend either time or money—and people do say there is an equation whereby time is money 🙂

I usually tackle any challenge in a two-pronged way: buy books, and start Googling. This was no different.

Within a week of my initial doodle recognizing this new self-imposed project, I had cleared out shelf-space, bought a Hindi grammar book, bought English-Hindi and Hindi-English dictionaries, bought a bunch of Hindi magazines and other health books. I had also located the Google transliteration facility and translation facility, installed the Indian language pack of my Microsoft Word (I hadn’t even noticed it had come bundled with the software). And I had even found a bunch of good online dictionaries for Hindi and Urdu.

It took some playing around to understand the basics of the transliteration package, and how it did not always work, and how to use the on-screen keyboard instead. It was interesting, for example, to see how the transliteration was not always the way Youtube songs are transliterated. “Ki” became कि, and not की (for which I needed to type “kee” ) And also, one can “train the transliteration software”; I trained mine to transliterate “dimenshia” to write out डिमेंशिया and reached a point where डिमेंशियाwould pop up as a choice even if I had just typed “dime”, which is a sort of tip-of-the-fingers way of speed-typing in a fairly different way.

Time to actually translate stuff, eh?

I knew, of course, that “Hindi” has many shades and versions. I remember the time it had taken me to orient from my Delhi Hindi to the Mumbai (then Bombay) “Hindi” and I even remember how years of living in Patna as a child had made my Hindi acquire the Bihari style (the effect took some months of Lucknow Hindi to go). Luckily, of course, we have Bollywood which gives us a range of Pakeezah to Munnabhai to educate us on diversity.

I did not realize how much that diversity would impact my attempts to translate. After all, people do translate stuff….

I surfed to locate bilingual sites, Hindi health-related documents, or sites created in Hindi. Not much choice existed. Many websites used impressive words that reminded me of news bulletins and Hindi exams. But if my intention was to retain the reader’s attention as well as communicate, I wondered how I could balance “brevity” and “purity” against “normal everyday Hindi”, whatever that was.

To begin with, I got stuck with the word “caregiver”.

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Adventures in Hindi Part 1: A mother-tongue fading behind a veil

For the past few months, I’ve found myself exploring language, specifically Hindi, in an office-chair adventure. What started me off were some stray comments and even more stray thoughts, and then the subject grew like Frankenstein’s creation as I obsessed with how Hindi is (or is not yet) used by various people on the Internet, in life, and so on. I hit blocks repeatedly as I couldn’t locate enough on the topic to satiate my craving for knowledge.

This post is the first post of a four-post entry, and while this series describe my “adventures” with Hindi, I suspect that my experiences would hold good other Indian languages.

But before I start, a warning. I’m not someone into culture and language and preserving stuff like that. To me, culture and language evolve with people and times, and while there is surely merit in preserving literature and nuances of less-spoken languages, I’m not involved in that. My concern with language–any language–is only to the extent that one person can speak or write it and another understand or read it.

What got me into this avenue of exploration was some volunteer work, culminating in an incident that made me feel I was a character in a comic strip, and the joke was on me. And a desire to break out of that comic strip.

Some background first.

Hindi is my mother tongue, the language my mother spoke from her childhood and also studied in till she switched over to English in college. But Hindi was not my first language; my mother wanted me to be fluent in English and pointed out that I’d anyway pick up Hindi from people around me, so why not give me a good foundation in English instead?

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