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Get Curious: Learn A Language



Get Curious: Learn A Language

Travel to see and learn to speak

Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.” – Roland Barthes (French philosopher-linguist-writer)

So far we’ve been talking of the obvious arts – dance, music, paint – but in this post we Get Curious about the basic art form that lets us communicate: Language. That certain vibrations produced by movement in our mouths are processed to mean the same through sound waves reaching another person’s ears, isn’t it magic? What’s even more interesting is that there are thousands of ways of doing it.

Thousands of languages that reach out to millions of people. Each language carries its root with it – its culture, without which it is incomplete. You could learn Spanish sitting in Delhi, but chances of you picking it up in Barcelona are nearly 100% higher. The ambience does the trick every time. Here are 4 places in India where you can get inspired to learn, places that are worth travelling to specifically to pick up a new tongue.

Chandernagore for French

Everyone thinks Pondy is the go-to adda for all things French, but in Eastern India it is Chandernagore that occupies that haloed position. This sleepy town was a French colony for 250 years, right until 1950, and remnants of that past can be seen along the Hooghly where some French buildings still stand. While leaving, the French signed a treaty with India to put in joint efforts to preserve the French culture there, which led to the Cultural Institute. Since 1962 they’ve been running certificate and diploma courses in French in a heritage building.

Varanasi for Sanskrit

Nowhere has Sanskrit language and literature been preserved better than in Varanasi, and it makes sense if you consider that it is one of the oldest cities in India, if not the world. A lot of the credit for keeping traditional styles of education alive goes to the Banaras Hindu University founded in 1916. The campus looks ancient in a beautiful way, and their postgraduate course in Sanskrit is the best in the country. They also offer a certificate in Pali.

Hyderabad for Urdu

The charm of Urdu can only be conveyed in Urdu:

“Urdu hai jis ka naam hamin jante hain ‘dagh’

hindustan men dhuum hamari zaban ki hai”

This famous sher by Delhi’s great poet Dagh Dehlvi captures the emotional spell this language casts on its speakers and listeners. There are few places in India where it still thrives, and of these Hyderabad is the most peculiar. The Maulana Azad National Urdu University here offers not only Urdu language courses of various levels, but also 6-month ghazal appreciation and poetry appreciation certificate courses. No surprise that this is where Dagh too ended up being buried.

Arunachal for Tribal Languages

All of the above are well-known languages, but what about those dialects whose existence we aren’t even aware of? They feature in the official Endangered Languages list and are on the verge of disappearing completely, some of them down to their last 500 speakers! Many amongst these are tribal languages, and if this is something that interests you then consider a long break in Itanagar. The Arunachal Institute of Tribal Studies here offers a 3-month certificate course in tribal languages of Nyishi, Adi and Monpa – all filed under the ‘Vulnerable’ category of endangered languages.

Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar




Mineli Goswami is a 24-year-old Assamese-East Indian, which usually translates into pretty good weekend feasts. When she’s not at her desk struggling with poetry – more often than she’d like – she’s seen wasting time on an assortment of things such as lugging an antique SLR, breaking nails climbing boulders, and chasing turtles. She’s graduated in history and has an unofficial PhD in Bandra-style jiving.

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