My hovercraft is full of eels: నా హోవర్ఁక్రాఫ్ఠ్ అంతా ఈలు చేపలతో నిండిపోయింది

UntitledIn 1971 or thereabouts, with what now seems to have been considerable prescience, I purchased a copy of the modestly priced “Telugu without a Tutor” by H. R. Rao (Sahitya Siromani, Etc.) from Higginbotham’s bookstore in Madras. My aim at that time, if I recall correctly, was to learn enough Telugu to appreciate some of the more common carnatic music compositions. That never came to pass, and for 40 years the book languished, unread.

I brought it with me to Hyderabad when I came here two years ago, but it still is something that I only dip into, since the book was written in another age when there were rupees and annas, and when the pace of life was very different. There is a charm to it, of course, and I can now easily find my way around the Aden dockyard, should I be surrounded by Telugu speaking lascars… It does not have the infamous నా postillion పిడుగుపాటుకు చెయ్యబడింది phrase, but there are similar gems on many pages. 

eelsIn recent weeks I have taken to learning some conversational Telugu, and my progress is hastened by having a tutor, a conscientious one at that. Each day I struggle with adi and idi,  the specious similarity with Tamil and my decaying language module that confuses nenu baagunnaanu with genki desu. Hopefully in some time I will be able to understand,  and to an extent, be understood, but I think that with passing years, learning languages gets more and more difficult. 

And then there is the seductiveness of technology. Searching for some phrases the other day, I came across the Omniglot site which lists the very useful translation of “My hovercraft is full of eels”:  నా హోవర్ఁక్రాఫ్ఠ్ అంతా ఈలు చేపలతో నిండిపోయింది (naa hoavarkraapht aṅthaa eelu chaepalathoa niṅdipoayiṅdhi). Ah! to live in a Monty Python universe where this was a common enough occurrence….


8 thoughts on “My hovercraft is full of eels: నా హోవర్ఁక్రాఫ్ఠ్ అంతా ఈలు చేపలతో నిండిపోయింది

  1. This is one of the hilarious one from the basket of your thoughts. I think, the best way to learn a language is; apart from in built skills (genes at work), age and other factors; to throw yourself in the situations. I remember, how I could speak few broken French words to find the correct platform in Paris station to get back to London in 1995. If I had not done that I would have missed my flight to LA. Apart from desperation; one also learns out of utter necessity.

  2. Off and on I spent six years in Madras without learning Tamil. But now in old age I started remembering some of the film songs I heard those days.. There are sites where sometimes kindly souls explain the meanings. But it seems to be working better with Hindi where some sites like Mr. and Mrs. 55 take a lot of trouble to explain. May be combining with another interest may help.

  3. If one happens to know a smattering (just a smattering) of another language like Kannada, the resulting mixture of Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Hindi sounds hilarious even to ones own ears. It’s the “specious similarity” to Tamil that’s one’s undoing……one tends to use Tamil words without even being aware of it……at least that’s what happened to me, though I am a little better now.

  4. Its a good one sir. Glad that we may talk to you in Telugu soon! When I learn a new language, I observe three things. 1.Vocabulary for correct expression 2.Slang and 3.More vocabulary. In order to do achieve this, I try to hear and speak a lot, ignoring primary errors. My earnest request – don’t tune Telugu TV channels, watching Telugu news is not harmful, though 🙂

  5. I envy your progress!
    Some of my telegu students have managed well in TN. Why the reverse will not be true in general baffles me.
    During my student days (Ph.D. era) I had a pet theory: many of the problems in biology can be approached via the linguisitic route. I consoled myself that if french people can read the rosetta, I can also manage tamil. Alas, (you guessed it right) I was wrong, as usual.
    Don’t misunderstand, I have not given up yet. I still am hopeful. One day I can also speak telugu.

    Dr Ramachandran taught me cricket. Prof Date taught me tennis. Prof Kulkarni taught me cycling. Prof Manium taught me tamil. Prof Grover taught me logic and how to argue. I had illustrious teachers.

    As everyone can see today, I do not own an IPL (I cannot even count the score). I do not regret it – I just know the basics. I am happy.

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