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.