You probably know the television show “Ready, Steady, Cook!” Competing against the clock and each other, contestents have to produce a delicious meal using random ingredients.
Practising my Hindi was like that, too. After 1.5 years of lessons I had a few seemingly useful items in my linguistic shopping bag: some vocabulary, a selection of tenses, the odd auxiliary verb… But how to combine them to make a nutritious conversation?
Waiting for the school bus one day, I bumped into Neha, our babysitter. She was very sweet and a sympathetic listener to my efforts (assuming she was laughing *with* and not *at* me).
As she approached, I said hi in Hindi and asked how she was doing.
That’s the onions – always a good starting point, right? But then I reached into my bag again. And pulled out… “This is the pen with which I was writing yesterday”.
Hmmm. Not by any stretch of the imagination is that going to come across as intelligent, sane conversation. Even if I were holding a pen.
I scrambled for a different ingredient: “Before I go I will read my book”. No. What about a question: “Can you tell me the price of a ticket to Delhi?” Aaarrgh! Desperate now, I reached for the tin of tomatoes and resigned myself to having spag. bol. again: “Nice weather isn’t it? Bus is late though”.