August 18, 2008

Conquering another language

Tazeen Javed

I soooo want to learn a new language.

There is merit in learning languages other than your first language, and English everyone speaks these days. I don't even want to learn a new language because it will look cool on my college application – been there, done that – without ever knowing a third language. In fact, I already have three degrees and if I even think about going back to school (which I secretly do), my sisters will commit me to a mental institution. The doctors at the mental institution will have to coin a new term for my disease which would sound something like “addicted to being a student so that she can do weird stuff and stay unemployed and pretend pursuit of academic excellence”, but I digress.

I don't want to learn a new language because I want to be known as that 'crackpot who can speak Ukrainian. There are enough reasons already for me to be classified a whack job. I don't even want to be called a well-rounded person because I am a well-rounded already. As a matter of fact I need to turn some of that roundedness into lean muscle, but I digress again.

My problem is, every time I decide to learn a language, something turns me off that language. Anyone who knows me knows my love for Ghalib. According to Abba (not the Mama Mia 80s pop act – I call my father Abba), one cannot appreciate Ghalib unless one knows Persian, so I was always a little biased towards Persian and wanted to learn it to understand Ghalib better. My 45-day trip to Iran stripped all the love and affection I had for the language. All I can now remember is how the Irani actor who was working on my play complained about being sexually attacked by a Pakistani actor and how I placated him and requested him not to register a complaint (homosexual advances are a non-bailable offence in Iran).

As a child, I also wanted to learn Arabic because I quite naively thought knowing Arabic would guarantee a palace in heaven. Dealing with a Saudi stalker in university who refused to register the fact that no amount of petro dollars will make him popular with quirky girls, took care of my childish fascination with Arabic. The fact that I can still fool my European friends at Dubai airport into believing that I know Arabic by reading flight schedules in Arabic also contributed to it - why learn a language when people think that you know the language already?

Another language that I toyed with a bit is French. I hate snooty waiters at French restaurants who always correct my pronunciation. I dream of going to a French café and ordering Soupe au pistou, Boeuf Bourguignon and Salade Niçoise without fumbling once. I tried speaking French with my friend Laurent but every time I said voulez vous, he cracked up and dashed my hopes of holding my head high in a French restaurant.

I think I should concentrate on Spanish instead. For one, I know all the swear words in Spanish after attending football matches in Spain. They say that if you know how to swear in a language, it is half the battle won. For another, I have always wanted to sing along Ricky Martin's Spanish songs.

About the Author:Tazeen Javed lives in Karachi. She has perfected the art of rolling eyes…she can roll them heavenwards, downwards, leftwards, rightwards and afterwards; she now fears her vision is ruined for life. Her blog,
A Reluctant Mind, is at:

(Feel like writing a humour story? Go ahead. And shoot it across to me at: i'll upload it here :)