July 29, 2014

Learning a new language and other lessons from a 6 year old

I get to see this on my way to work :)
My last trip to India overlapped with the school holidays. This meant that my six year old niece had all the time in the world to force me into taking her to the different parks in Pune. It was during our trips to these parks that she taught me two games that I find really useful in learning a new language.

1. Guess the word

We would first select a category such as vegetables, things seen in schools, etc. Then one of us would describe the thing or answer questions that helps characterize the thing, and the other one had to guess what it was and say its name in different languages. At times, she improvised by clarifying the description using multiple languages such as Hindi, Marathi, and Konkani, followed by a cheeky and huggable smile.

2. Words Antakshari.

You begin the game by selecting the language (lately, she prefers English). Then one of us starts by saying a random word that comes to the head. The opponent now has to say a word that begins with the last syllable of the word. Now that her spelling has improved, she tries to use words that begin with the last alphabet instead of the last syllable. When English is the chosen language, she tricks  me by repeatedly using words that end with an "e" to exhaust my vocabulary.

Playing these games also improved my patience: these games were frequently interrupted because the little one would tend to focus on some bird, or a tree, and enter into her world of dreams (स्वप्नसुंदरी). And the abrupt and ingenious questions she asked on re-entering our world were an even bigger challenge to answer. For example, why was it evening in your India when it was night in my India? Why cannot I write on the walls in my house but the teacher can use chalk to write on the wall in school?

To be honest, I do not know how much I will be able to put to practice the innumerable things she taught me during these last two months. Regardless, I look forward to learn new games the next time I visit her.

March 24, 2014

One sentence per line

I have been using a new style for writing tex files and emails.
It is one sentence per line.
It was suggested by my flatmate and it sounded a bit weird in the beginning.
But with time, I realized it is useful for tex files and emails.

For tex files, you can see clearly see how long your sentences are.
For beginners like me, it offers a handy way to see if you are using the same set of words to start the sentence.
I remember editing a paragraph where each sentence began with an indeed :). 
Another benefit of this style is that it helps identify really loooong sentences.
For example, if your text editor starts to wrap the text then it means you might need to rephrase the text under question because you might have a lot of redundant text which is an outcome of the convoluted thoughts screwing your brain  when you are trying to focus on writing.
This style also aids in identifying missing punctuation such as commas because it makes it easy to focus on individual sentences.

For emails, one can reply to individual sentences.
This is particularly useful when people bottom post replies.
For example, if you ask a question in your email then the response can be written just below the question.
Individual sentences can be replied to, and the auxiliary sentences can be ignored or removed in the replies.  

I have been finding this style useful.
Thank you Filip for this wonderful tip!

February 16, 2014

India according to VP Menon

Given the profound importance of the opening sentence, V.P. Menon used the following words to describe India in his book The Story of the Integration of Indian States. "INDIA is one geographical entity. Yet, throughout her long and chequered history, she never achieved political homogeneity." He could have used all the adjectives to glorify India but he described it as "one geographical entity that has never achieved political homogeneity." By using these words, the man largely responsible for the current political boundaries of the subcontintent silenced all the emotions associated with nationalism, sub-nationalism, and other forms of racism that are periodically rekindled to define new boundaries in the subcontinent.