WHY is Konkani such a difficult language to learn in Goa itself?

WHY is Konkani such a difficult language to learn in Goa itself? I’m sure almost anyone who has attempted to learn the language has come up a cropper, unless you learn it for years in school, have a sharp ability to learn new tongues, or you just heard so much of it that you somehow managed to pick it up (which is also unlikely).

Goa is such a multi-lingual place that one can get by speaking little or no Konkani (which has been sometimes almost affectionately called ‘Aamchi Bhaas’, or Our Language). Besides, script and dialectical differences within Konkani only complicate matters. Plus, there are few organised, easy-to-master courses for Konkani.

That apart, the language has a charm of its own. For returned expat (Goans coming back from elsewhere), learning the language can also be a tough task. Once you get through that, though, there’s a charming lingo awaiting you. On my bookshelf, I recently came across the waiting-to-be- read Goycheo Kotha (Goan Stories). It is a book in the Roman script of Konkani, which means it’s easier to read for those more fluent in an English-like language. (This book, published by the Porvorim-based Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr, offers both options, one printed back- to-front from the other.)

It contains stories with ‘Father’s Lesson’, ‘The Two Loafers’, ‘The Farmer and his Five Daughters’, ‘The Old Lady Who Got Fooled’, and so on. You could perhaps guess, to some extent, the kind of stories from their titles. ‘The Raya Pond’ is a unusual — or is it unusual?

Another interesting book is ‘Konknni Oparincho Kox’, a treasure of Konkani proverbs, edited and compiled by Edward de Lima. Though 532-pages in thickness, and hardbound, this book is priced at a fairly reasonable Rs 400 only. It lists, alphabetically, literally hundreds of sayings and proverbs.

What’s interesting is that in those politically-incorrect times, the Konkani sayings often put across their wisdom bluntly. There is no mincing of words. Take: ‘The greater the greed, the shorter the life.’ Or, ‘He eats dung and wipes his hands on the face of others.’ And, ‘He sh*ts in the plte he eats from’ (said of an ungrateful person.)

Yet others are pithy: ‘One treads one’s own shadow.’ ‘For nine misfortunes, there are twelve ways to get rid of.’ ‘Good gold needs no refining.’ Or ‘Hold the winnowing pan according to the wind’, meaning, make the most of the situation and adapt. Some are hard to gauge. For instance: ‘Where is the peakock gone? Where the gold is.’ And, ‘Where there is a dead cow, there are vultures.’

By Frederick Noronha: After a quarter century in journalism, Frederick Noronha is now managing trustee of Goa, 1556, an alternative book publishing initiative that focuses on promoting the printed word in Goa. He can be contacted on 9822122436 or fredericknoronha2@gmail.com

Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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