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Posts Tagged ‘written word’

Has there been a time when you were feeling out of sorts and then you happen upon a phrase or hear a snatch of a song, and violá, your mood improves?

Wherever I am, whatever time of the day, all I have to have is Louis Armstrong crooning to me, “What a wonderful world!” and I begin to see colors brushed into the air around me.

When I hear Simon & Garfunkel asking, “Are you going to Scarborough Fair?” the concrete walls around me fall away, and I step into fields of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

The Indie Rock band American Authors tells me: “This is gonna be the best day of my life.” Suddenly even the most mundane day turns into something memorable.

Isn’t the power of words amazing?

Which words pick you up and make your feet tap out a rhythm? Please share!

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I grew up in India immersing myself in the English language almost as much as I did my mother tongue. Although English was termed my second language in school, and later when I came to the US I was told I was a non-native speaker of English, the language never felt secondary or alien to me.

I’ve been told several times in the past two decades here in the US that I have a lilting cadence to my English speech that makes it exotic. I never heard my accent nor noticed the variations in the way I modulated certain sounds and syllables. I was too busy learning the American idioms and adding new vocabulary to my repertoire.

Until recently, that is. A few months ago, I observed a certain shift to my listening. It suddenly dawned on me why I say some words differently than a native English speaker in the US. It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that I learned speaking English in India, which although retains few traces of the British English after all these years, still favors the British turn of phrase and pronunciation.

It has everything to do with the fact that my mother tongue, Telugu, is a non-phonetic language. That means, unlike in English, what you see written on the page is exactly how you pronounce the words. There are no two ways of saying the same word. Telugu has over 50+ letters in its alphabet, so there’s no chance for confusion. The same is true with most Indian languages.

In an Indian language, not all words have emphatic syllables in them. If you need a particular syllable in a word to be stressed harder, then you write it a certain way that leaves no doubt of the pronunciation. Not so in English.

Each and every word in English has at least one syllable that is emphasized in speech, even if it’s a one-syllable word like “a.” The syllable you choose to emphasize, the way you articulate it, the inflection you place on the sound… all these figure into your accent.

I realized that, as a native speaker of Indian languages, I sometimes neglect to enunciate a certain syllable in an English word because I don’t see the stress highlighted in the written word. For instance, take the word banana. The middle syllable na is stressed harder and stretched longer than the rest but it looks in writing as do the rest of the syllables. The word is not spelled bannaana to focus the stress. No book or teacher can teach this; it’s a matter of listening and emulating.

After this epiphany, I’m listening to spoken English with keener ears. Words and sounds that were mundane before reveal new personalities and interesting facets to me at every turn.  My ears perk up at once-familiar words that now tease me with a host of possibilities.

Does this mean I’m going to work at losing my “accent?” No, because that modulation is part of who I am. Will I stop confusing the heck out of my children by pronouncing “year” as “ear” because I forget to accentuate the beginning “ya” sound? Probably not.

I am, however, very much looking forward to this phase of my relationship with the English language. A phase where I get to acquaint myself with it all over again.

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Old Friends

Posted originally on: February 4, 2010

Today seems to be more of a day to muse than ramble. I’ll leave you all with some passages from some of my all-time favorite books – in both children’s and adult categories. Pick up any one of them from a bookshelf and spend some time with it, if you haven’t already done so, and you would’ve made a friend for life. I promise.

 

  • They set off to the east this time, across the thick, springy heather, and almost at once found signs of the passing of caravans: twigs broken off the bushes, a wheel rut on a soft piece of ground.
                              – “Five Go to Mystery Moor” by Enid Blyton

 

  • But her cooking made up for everything: three kinds of meat, summer vegetables from her pantry shelves; peach pickles, two kinds of cake and ambrosia constituted a modest Christmas dinner. Afterwards, the adults made for the livingroom and sat around in a dazed condition. Jem lay on the floor, and I went to the back yard. “Put on your coat,” said Atticus dreamily, so I didn’t hear him.
                              – “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

 

  • As soon as they entered, Bingley looked at her so expressively, and shook hands with such warmth, as left no doubt of his good information; and he soon afterwards said aloud, “Mr. Bennet, have you no more lanes hereabouts in which Lizzy may lose her way again to-day?”
                              – “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

 

  • A robin hopped about the growing pile of soil looking for worms. The morning sounds of Thrush Green were muffled by the height of the earth walls about them, but in the distance they could hear the children playing on the two swings on the green.
                              – “News from Thursh Green” by Miss Read

 

  • “Wait a minute then,” said Swaminathan and ran out. He had one last hope that his granny might be asleep. It was infinitely safer to show one’s friends a sleeping granny.
                              – “Swami and His Friends” by R.K.Narayan

 

  • A train went through a burial gate,
    A bird broke forth and sang,
    And trilled, and quivered, and shook his throat
    Till all the churchyard rang;
                              – “Time and Eternity” by Emily Dickinson

 

  • “C’mon we’d better go outside for a while. Mom’s getting that look.”
                 – “The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

 

  • “It is bush tea,” said Mma Ramotswe as she reached for the tea-pot. “Mma Makutsi – my assistant – and I drink bush tea because it helps us to think.”
                              – “The Full Cupboard of Life” by Alexander McCall Smith

 

  • He had missed the old rectory, too, with its clamor and quiet, its sunshine and shadow. Never before in his life as a rector had he found a home so welcoming or comfortable – a home that seemed, somehow, like a friend.
                             
    – “A Light in the Window” by Jan Karon

Happy Valentines Day, everyone! Hope you are surrounded by both old and new friends with whom to share this day!

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Here are ten simple things (among many more) that we all consider to be facts and never even think to question them.

What makes us believe they are set in stone even though not all of us have exactly seen them (happen) with our own two eyes?

The people who have knowledge of these facts (either by having witnessed them themselves or through scientific investigation) had the presence of mind to record it for posterity – be it in words as we understand them now or in ancient symbols and pictographs.

  1. No planet in the solar system other than earth supports life.
  2. Several ancient civilizations flourished around the world thousands of years ago.
  3. Early human ancestors were apes.
  4. Dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago.
  5. Plants release oxygen into the air.
  6. Christopher Columbus landed in America in 1492 A.D.
  7. No two people have the same finger print pattern.
  8. Mt. Everest is the highest mountain on earth.
  9. Among Emperor penguins, the males are responsible for hatching the young.
  10. The continents on earth are continually moving relative to each other.

What are we going to leave behind for our future generations?

 

  • Post Script: Friday, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day. Please wear blue that day – it may start a conversation, which will provide you with an opportunity to spread awareness.

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I have finally taken the plunge into blogosphere. (Yes, splash, wade, plunge … detect an underlying theme here?) 

That’s exactly how I feel – like I have jumped off the diving board before I had a chance to analyze the pros and cons and change my mind.

That is not to say that I’m afraid of reading, or even writing, for that matter. On the contrary, the written word has held a strong fascination for me ever since I can remember. From picture books all the way up to adult novels, I like ‘em all.

With all that said, why name my blog “Wading Through Words” and make it sound like such an arduous task? Let me explain:

The word wade means:

  • plod through <a medium>.  Who wants to try out something that sounds way too easy? Besides, “Words on a Silver Platter” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? (It does? Well!!)

 

  • to set to work or jump in. See, I’m an author of children’s literature (an aspiring one, but a mere technicality, that one). I have loved every minute of the past few months that I have spent on writing my first manuscript. However, not many people know about my passion, because I have zealously guarded my secret.  Recently, I have been seeing signs everywhere telling me that it’s time I let go of my writing — no, no, not let go as in ‘stop writing’, but let go as in ‘stop being so protective of my writing’. So, here I am, gone public, and poised to make that next big splash in the world of children’s books.  :)

So, come on! Yes, I mean you! Hop on board the raft. Let’s wade through the meandering waters of reading and writing together. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get to harvest a few priceless pearls along the way. (A mishmash of idioms and images, if you ever saw one?  Couldn’t agree with you more on that one!)

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