Sunday, January 28, 2007

Everybody Has a Village
Date: January 22, 2007

In my Bangla class this morning we were talking about grams – the small villages that dot the Bangladeshi countryside. The subject came up because we were discussing the differences between the words "bari"and "basha". Basha's closest English meaning is "house" and bari's is "home". Nobody ever refers to their city residence as "bari", however; that term is reserved for their village home.

Over 90% of Bangladeshis in Dhaka migrated here from the villages. Even those people who were born in Dhaka still have a bari in aBangladeshi gram. The bari is your father's house. When a woman marries, her bari becomes her husband's house. When you ask people in Dhaka where they are from, they will always tell you the name of their father's gram.

Since I am on the topic of Bangla lessons, I should mention that last week I started learning how to read and write in Bangla. While the writing is beautiful, it is also very complex because many of the vowels are implied instead of explicitly written. Also, there are 50 letters in the Bangla alphabet plus almost as many combined letters (which are different characters for consonants that come together – i.e. a"k" sound plus an "s" sound has a separate "ks" character.)

After I learned about a character that made another letter silent, I started complaining to my Bangla teacher about how crazy her language is. She then reminded me that we have silent letters in English too and went off on a ten minute tangent about how English spelling makes no sense at all. "At least Bangla is for the most part phonetic," she told me. She then put two words on the board – "but" and "put". "Only one letter is different," she said, "but they are pronounced completely differently." After she put about 15 more English examples on the board, I finally conceded that English is more difficult than Bangla and I pleaded with her to let me continue with my Bangla reading! Her mini-tirade made me very grateful that English is my native language, because it WOULD be harder than Bangla to learn…

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