Learning to speak Kannada

When I moved into Bangalore, one of the first things I felt happy about was that I would be learning a new language. I took up my daughter’s textbooks and learnt to read and write Kannada, and can do so (including Kannada numbers.)

Alas, I found that in the Cantonment area, Kannada was NOT the lingua franca. My knowledge of the spoken language remained rudimentary, and with a busy life, increased proficiency in spoken Kannada took a back seat.

I thought that once I moved to the suburbs of Bangalore, my spoken Kannada would improve. But no. The reasons for this were:

I was living in an apartment building, where many languages were spoken when residents meet, and the link language remains English. And neither shopkeepers, servants, or service providers spoke Kannada. There being no need to speak the language, my knowledge improved only very marginally. Yes, I have still been making efforts to learn, as I believe that learning another language can only enrich me.

With my increased interest in wildlife and the many trips to the jungles of Karnataka, I have WANTED to improve my Kannada, and have been trying to speak it, and keep trying at every opportunity where I interact with someone who may not have a good command over English.

But I was really sad today, when I found that rather than appreciate the fact that I am making an effort, these people actually have been laughing at me behind my back for my fractured Kannada. The person who told me this has also told me,on an earlier occasion, not to speak Kannada (as I murder it)! True, no doubt..but then, how am I going to learn?

Well…NO ONE can speak a language with the fluency of one brought up to speak it as a child. And the fact is… that in the very cosmopolitan Bangalore there is NO NEED to speak Kannada at all;I know several friends who have lived here for over 20 years and do not know more than 3 of 4 words. Those of us who are trying to learn are doing so out of a respect for the language. Instead of being encouraged, if I know that I am being laughed at, my instinct is to stop the effort altogether. And when I say this, I am told that I cannot take criticism! And when I try to speak, every small mistake is objected to, instead of trying to see the broad picture.

There are no good conversational Kannada classes in my area; the language is generally taught as a “subject” and not as a living language at all.

Pouring scorn and laughter over someone’s efforts to learn anything is surely to put the greatest obstacle to the goal. I am sorry..but if this is the attitude of Kannadigas to those who try to learn the language, I am not surprised that so few people do try to learn it.

I must, however, give thanks for my friend Nirmala, who is taking a great effort to encourage me on the path to speaking Kannada….but I must confess to a great reluctance to speak it now!

18 Comments so far

  1. Bala (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 3:11 am

    Don’t be disheartened. I am glad that you are making an effort to learn Kannada. I have found that a very practical way to learn a new language is LSRW: Listen, Speak, Read and Write (in that order). As most languages are taught the other way around, it is difficult to learn. Also, since Kannada is no longer spoken in Bangalore properly, your best bet is to watch Kannada movies (pre 2000 ones, most of the new ones are crap). Since all Indian movies have the same story line, you will be able to understand the story without subtitles or translation (you ask your friends for the occasional clarification). After you listen to spoken Kannada for a while (something like six months or so) then you will be able to speak easily.

    As for the so called Kannadigas who are discouraging you in speaking Kannada I don’t think you should classify them as Kannadigas when they don’t speak it readily.

  2. Rao (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 6:46 am

    Deepa avare,

    Neevu Kannada bhasheyanna kaliyodakke prayatna madthirodu bahala santhoshada vishaya. Naanu helodishte – nimage nijavagiyu (100%) kannada kaliyo utsaha iddare, nimma benna hinde gaeli maduvavarige gamana kodabedi. Nimma manassinalli naanu tappagi bhashe mathanadtha iddini antha anisidagle alvaa, neevu nimma sutha muthalina janara pratikriyege gamana kododu.

    Nimagishtu artha aadre saaku.
    Ee links nimage sahayavagabahudu –

    Sirigannadam gelge.

  3. Walter Solbchak (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 7:21 am

    Watch serials like Manthana on ETV or programs on Chandana (DD kannada channel). They speak good kannada and it might help you get a good dose of kannada regularly so that you can improve yours. I remember when I was very young, me and my sister learnt Hindi by watching serials on DD.

  4. chethan (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 9:41 am

    Dont be disheartened. This is the case with learning any language i guess.

  5. Ravi (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 10:15 am

    This is the case with most of them. You should not give up learning kannada just because some people make a joke out of it. Did you give up in many other walks of life when u were in the same situation. I guess u would have worked hard and come out of it. So learning kannada should also take that route.

    You cannot get to know everything about the language in few years (even i am sure i have not learnt everything being a kannadiga). So give yourself some time and try to meet people who really care for kannada. Try to meet and connect with such kind of people and your kannada knowledge is certain to grow.

    I love Kannada and i am proud being a Kannadiga and I wish you would also be one day

  6. M O H A N (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 10:44 am

    Welcome to kannada. Hats off to the fact that you want to learn and jell. Keep trying dont give up.

  7. SHADOW (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 10:50 am

    Deepa, I appricate your enthu , Keep trying n you will win the game.

  8. Haresh (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 11:20 am

    You can watch pre-1990 Dr.Rajkumar movies and also some of Ananthnag, VishnuV movies. Some of the serials in DD is also good.

    For Kannada blog aggregation check out

  9. Raghu (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 11:45 am

    Over reaction. The whole of North India laughs at a “Madrasi” speaking hindi. Those who have never tried learning a language other than mother tongue or english, always find it funny.

  10. mouna (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 11:53 am

    all the best deepa. it’s nice to hear u making an effort in learning kannada. and yes, learning a new language is such a wonderful thing.

  11. Sanjay (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

    10years back when I came to Bangalore, the then BTS buses were my mode of transport. I learnt all my basic Kannada by hearing the conversations happening in the BTS buses. Of course, some words I heard there were not their purest form. For example, the word ‘thagoli’ sounded like ‘thakkali’, meaning tomato, to me. Having a kannadiga roommate help me validate the words.
    Today I can proudly say that I speak better Kannada than my other mallu friends who came to Bangalore together. I therefore think that the best way to learn Kannada is to mingle with Kannadigas and try and speak.
    People will laugh…I would also laugh at a Kannadiga who says ‘chetta’ which can mean ‘elder brother’ or ‘scoundrel’ depending on different emphasis given to the ‘e’ and the ‘tt’.
    Let that not affect you. Watch Kannada serials, listen to HDK’s press conferences, validate words with helpful kannadiga friends. You’ll learn very fast.

  12. Arun (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 2:03 pm


    You should not be disheartened with idiots who speak on your back. A friend of mine who can read and write 11 languages (most of them, he has not learned professionally) has had this problem too. Such a problem exists only in India. We seem to have lesser tolerance towards failures. Neways, the only way to combat these idiots is to say “Look, I am learning a language – takes some time to perfect it. learn to appreciate the fact that atleast I am giving it a try when lakhs don’t even have the courtesy to learn a word.”

    Good luck on your endeavour to learn kannada :)

  13. MP (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

    Don’t give up lady. Maybe this will help – http://bengaloorubanter.blogspot.com/2007/06/bengalooru-slonguaze-dictionary.html

    At least you did not face the situation of an innocent Kannadiga friend who went to a potti kadai in TamilNadu in the middle of the night saying “Pen Venum”. He nearly got beaten up.

    Cheer up – you will learn.

  14. tarlesubba (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 9:41 pm

    apparently in a recent kannada movie they discuss the same situation. wherein some character narrates some thing similar to what you have written in your blog.

    perhaps you should visit the west side more often and let the flipper rest at channel 37 or listen to morning AM radio even. i picked tamizh in a third world through movies. (as in neither KA nor TN)

  15. Anton (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

    Hi Deepa, kudos on your efforts at Kannada! I find that mixing English and Kannada or Hindi and Kannada helps me a lot and endears me no end to the listener! They know I’m trying to learn, and gradually, the Kannada component increases and improves! As for the endearing effect, check out what happens here:

    Cop, furiously waving me down for going through a red light (there was no amber!!!): “Red light nodillva?”
    Me: Sorry saar, naan thappe madide, swolpa excuse madi!
    Cop: Ha! Ha! Nek-sht time slow-ah hogi, okay?!

    I agree that going to the west is a good idea, there’s good eats to be had there: Vidhyarti Bhavan dosas! Yummm! I’ve even gone there searching for the elusive gulkand, swayed by the hype in TOI: that was another experience altogether! But asking for directions and describing the sweet in my schoolboy Kannada was hilarious! Lots of giggles!

  16. Anton (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2007 @ 1:43 pm

    @tarlesubba, I read your comment in praja.in. Why don’t we pressurize the govt to spend some of that big tax corpus on a Learn Kannada Channel?

    I used to watch Arabic TV in the Gulf and they had this foreigner practicing the language with some locals.

    See some video on demand here:

  17. S.RAMANAND (unregistered) on June 24th, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

    I believe that if you are genuinely interested in learning a language you can definitely learn the langauage .If you are not you will not.You will be surprised to know that many Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in UK and USA do not know English. Now don’t tell me that they do not find english speakers in UK/US.So try genuinely and NEEVU KANNADA KALITIRA NAANU HELKODTINI.

  18. shylaja (unregistered) on June 25th, 2007 @ 8:54 pm

    Deepa avare,

    I am so happy you want to learn kannada. Keep up the good work! You should seriously not feel disappointed with the way they might have tried to make fun of you. I believe it is a mistake in their attitude which my entire state has paid for, for the past half century.
    As I said, kannada kasturi is the best place to learn kannada.
    I am also suggesting you start a blog in kannada. And probably show it to that person( who laughed at you, if he/she understands the supremacy of the blog!) Then, once you write something veritably kannada, there is no way your confidence can be out run!

    Indeed, learning a language can only mean to enrich you and instill another superior part of your personality. And you are certainly going to be accessible to many advantages sooner or later!

    btw, I almost forgot, about the blog. Assuming you already know a script, there is an automatic spell checking kannada key pad called Quillpad.in/kannada/

    Visit the link in my url and type away to glory!

    All the best!! And do keep us( your readers) updated on your efforts.. :D

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.