Reading Kannada aloud

I’ve never learnt much Kannada formally. Of course, it is the first language, and the language I’ve always spoken at home. However, I’ve not learnt it much formally. While we had it in school as a “third / fourth language”, the focus there was largely functional – that we learnt the language sufficiently to get by in South Bangalore.

The little I remember from the Kannada lessons in school is that we made fun of some words. Basically, the way they were written is very different from the way we spoke them. “adarinda” became “aaddarinda” or even “aadudarinda”. “nintOgatte” became “nintu hOgatte”. Basically, Kannada as a language in which it was written was very different from the way we spoke it.

That said, during those days (early 90s), the only newspaper we got at home was in Kannada, and I learnt to read it fairly well. I still made fun of the “aadudarindas” (and my parents agreed it was weird), but I had figured out how to parse the “written Kannada” as “normal Kannada” and got the information I needed to.

In adulthood, my Kannada reading skills have atrophied, primarily because there isn’t much need to read / write Kannada (apart from the occasional addresses or sign boards). In terms of speaking, Kannada is still my first language, but when it comes to the written text (either reading or writing), English has taken its place.

Recently, my wife has gotten our daughter a few Kannada and Hindi story books, so that she can practice reading the two languages. And last night, before she went to bed, my daughter asked me to read out one of the Kannada books to her.

What I found is that Kannada is a language that is very tough to read aloud, primarily due to the large (in my mind) differences between the way it is written and spoken. I read the sentences out alright, but struggled to make meaning out of it since the words were all formally written.

Soon I gave up and resorted to what I used to do with “Kannada Prabha” or “Vijaya Karnataka” back in the 90s – I would see the words in the formal way but call them out “informally”. So I would see “aadudarinda” in the text, and just read it as “adarinda”. I would read “hOguttade” and say “hOgatte”. Wasn’t easy business, but I managed to read out the whole story.

Nevertheless, Kannada is not a language that is easy to read aloud, because the way it’s written is so different from the way it is spoken. It almost feels like the spoken language has evolved significantly over the years, but the written language hasn’t ┬ákept up. If you have to read silently, you can just substitute the “normal words” for the “formal words” and get on. However, reading aloud, that is not a choice.

In any case, now I’m worried that with my way of reading aloud (speak the words as I would speak them, rather than the way they are written), I’m messing with my daughter’s Kannada reading skills. And having spent two of her first three years in London, Kannada is not even her first language (she basically learnt to talk in her nursery)!