Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book for review.
Hubert van den Bergh’s How to Sound Really Clever is a compilation of 600 odd words that we aren’t habituated to employ in our day to day usage, be it written or spoken language. Not only does the book incorporate pictorial representations of some of the words but it also breaks down each word into pronunciation, origin and examples for smooth learning. The author’s extensive research is churned into readable paragraphs that provide us with detailed insight into how the word came into being. Therefore this novel, in addition to building your vocabulary, heightens your knowledge of world history.
This book is more of a guide in dictionary format than a novel that you can read in one sitting. And so, I’ve taken some time in getting familiarized with it before writing this review. It is true what the synopsis says, some of the words in here, while being a mouthful, are truly impressive if integrated into your vocabulary. While I’ve met with some blank stares in putting these words to use, I have also experienced the joy that is in imparting the meaning of the words. I think it is very beneficial that the origin of the words is included. The sketches (of select words) are simple enough and nothing too extravagant. All in all, this book is wonderful and serves its purpose without fail. Reading a page everyday, within a month, you’re easily well versed with some great terms like mutatis mutandis, gadfly, waggish etc. It is a great coffee table book and also something that you can keep on your nightstand and read a snippet of, before you head out in the morning. I recommend this book to everyone who wants to improve their vocabulary and general knowledge in a fun, convenient way.
In order to fully accept the constantly evolving sense of my self, I must take into account every single phase of my life. I can’t speak in just any one language. No. I need to be a mixture of the Keralite born and brought up in Ahmedabad, who spent quality time pouring over her English books since childhood, while enjoying the company of her multiple North Indian, Hindi-speaking friends.
You ask me where I am from? It’s not the easiest to answer. I may stutter and pause, causing you to assume of an existing identity crisis. But really, where am I from? Kerala? Because that is my native. Gujarat? Because I was born there and spent a good portion of my childhood flying kites and eating the yummiest of Gujju cuisine. Bombay? Dubai? Bangalore? Because I have spent enough years in each of those places to last me splendid memories of a metro city that I once called home. You see this is why I can’t give you a short answer, so all I have to say is that I’ve been around – here, there and elsewhere. To say that, because these places have left an indelible mark on me, is the reason I speak multiple languages at a time would not be completely accurate. I have grown to love learning languages, with possessing the ability to feel one with different communities.
I loved being able to read billboards in Dubai, albeit not understanding it. I loved hearing Korean songs and gleaning the subject matter. I loved watching Jane The Virgin and gathering bits and pieces of Espanol spoken between Jane’s abuela (grandmother in Spanish) and herself. It’s rather amusing when my brother mutters words learnt from Japanese anime (with the expectation that I wouldn’t understand anything) and I can retort with some rather fascinating Gujarati profanities (equally inscrutable to him).
That being said, I abashedly admit, I haven’t reached proficiency (or even intermediacy) in any of the languages I have begun learning. I do aspire to get there some day. What glory would it be to watch Korean dramas without subtitles, to roam in the streets of Spain equipped with their tongue, to dance to Arabic songs knowing full well what they mean. But until then I shall have to build up my vocabulary by constructing sentences of a mixed nature. I don’t think I will ever want to speak in just one language. Ask my family! They are used to hearing Korean, Gujarati, Hindi, English, Malayalam all warped and sown together.
I think for as long as I live, I shall be dwelling in the beauty of words that not just about everyone understands. But to me, they would mean a great deal. To me, they would be an entire realm full of possibilities and life choices. To me, they would be the invitation to be anyone I desire to be.
I have always enjoyed learning new languages. I think some of that can be attributed to all the shifting around we (family) did since my childhood. From place to place, meeting and befriending people of the region, I have tried to grasp bits of words and phrases. If my memory served better I would have been able to speak in around 4 Indian languages now. But as we moved on, new languages made way and disuse of others resulted in forgetting. I can still understand them just not speak very fluently.
This year in college for extra credit course I picked Spanish. So far its been real fun! For fluent English speakers, Spanish is very easy to learn as long as you can memorise the grammar rules and vocabulary. But then again that’s a given for any language. I would most probably continue with learning Spanish even after the course is over. Maybe try out one of the advance courses online. People often ask the question is it easier than so-so language or not. I feel as long as you are interested in any language, it naturally becomes more easy. Ofcourse you need to work hard, but if you put your mind into it, nothing is really that difficult. Like the saying, “If there is a will then there is a way. ” So I should be able to converse in Spanish by the time we approach the end of 2014, atleast basics.
I have also been learning Korean by myself for a few months. Right now I am not making much progress but once my summer break starts in April I would have a lot more time to focus on Korean. As of now I can say the Hello-Hi phrases, introduce myself, ask and respond to general questions. But I don’t think too great of that. And also the fact that there is so much I don’t know makes me kind of shy to talk in another language. I feel that as long as I haven’t perfected or atleast come close to perfecting a language, I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to someone who is fluent. 😛 Probably a weird notion, but yeah!
Another thing being I watch the TV show called ‘Witches of East End’. If you know anything about it you probably would have figured out what I am talking about. The hunger to know more languages has me incessantly typing out Latin words (from the show) into Google Translator. A little silly, I know, after all who am I going to talk to in Latin. Nevertheless I try to learn what I can.
You see, I have a lot in mind for 2014. Hopefully at the end of it, I would have mastered one of these languages. I know, I most probably will 🙂 Oh and also I just re-read my post, I am not as crazy as this post may seem to you 😀