Konkani, with a Romi and Bardeshi touch


Spoken KonkaniReviewed by Frederick Noronha

One problem with books in Goa is that you never know when a new one is published. Obviously, book reviewing is a task not done very much seriousness here (except for a few publications like Goa Today). While castigating others, this reviewer also needs to accept blame for some long delays sometimes. This very title, for instance. That it is a labour of love is no excuse for not getting it done on time!

Reviewing Edward de Lima ‘Spoken Konkani: A Self-Learning Guide’ 2006 cannot be an easy job. He’s an agreeable person, one you couldn’t pick up a fight with in public. And he was also in charge of our National Cadet Corps troop during the lone year one tried this out almost a generation ago. He could immediately build up a rapport with boys in the troop.

This is a simple book by him, which promises to teach you a bit of spoken Konkani, not too much, in a simple and easy manner. It has 20 ‘units’ — the author’s long years in academia shows. Dr Lima recently did his PhD on the Dharwad-based Goan writer Armand Menezes.

This is a welcome addition. One says so because of where one comes from, and one’s belief in the need to promote and encourage a diversity of languages (Konkani, whether Devanagari and Roman and its many other scripts, Marathi, English, Portuguese, Kannada, Malayalam, Sanskrit too … and anything else).

It is obviously a departure from the dogmatic days of Devanagari-Konkani-alone approaches. Strange how so many writers (of the non-Devanagari camp) just took a break in their writing, without even realising how dogmatism was blocking creativity, ever since Devanagari became the lone accepted script post 1987.

Lima proffers to teach you Konkani by way of conversations at situations you are likely to encounter. The post office (with email around, it’s not that important anymore), the hotel, the doctor’s, the restaurants, and so on.

At the start of the slim book, there’s a guide to pronunciation. What one found useful was, at the very end, a listing of months, Konkani numbers, time, useful words and phrases, spices (mossalo), taste (ruch), nature (soimb), cereals (dhanya), vegetables (tarkari or bhaji), fruits (folam), Goan fish (Guenchem nustem), parts of the body (kuddiche andde), animals (zanvaram), birds (suknni or sonvnim), and the ever-complex set of relationships in Konkani (nathem). As an aside, I just disagree with Lima when he says “hippy” is a derogatory term for a foreigner in today’s Goa.

People in coastal Bardez will use this term for any Caucasian, without the bat of an eyelid. And why blame them, when hippies are the foreigners they first encountered (post Portuguese departure)? Even my decent academic friends get labelled thus quite frequently.

This is Lima’s third release. The second was a reprint. When we met many moons back, and I promised to do the review, he told me the earlier publications — in 2001 and 2002 — had done well. Artist Ramanand Bhagat has a neat illustration on the cover. Maureen’s at Panjim is the printer. The book, priced at Rs 100, was printed with a 50% financial assistance through the Goa Konkani Academi’s educational scheme.

It’s devoted, rather quaintly, “to my mother whose words I first learnt to lisp”.

Released in February this year, the book was inspired, says the author, by his several cousins — second-generation Goans in England, Canada and Australia — who were keen to learn to speak Konkani, while just on holiday in Goa.

Says Edward da Lima (58): “I wrote the book in the Roman script because it would enable all English readers easy access to the language. To learn Konkani in the Devanagari script would have been a formidable task, as they would first have to learn the script.”

It’s written in the dialect predominantly used in Bardez in North Goa, or Bardeshi. “I found it easier to write in that dialect as I speak that dialect myself,” the author told me. He says Konkani has the strong form of consonants like n, t, d, ch and l — which do not exist in English — and hence his transliteration guide could help readers navigate this “treacherous sphere”.

Any challenges while doing this work? Says Lima: “The problems are the same faced by all translators. There cannot be an exact translation of any sentence from a source language like English to a target language like Konkani without compromising its core meaning. It is a difficult task to find an accurate, meaningful and creative synonym to each word.”

Did you know that the the English words “please”, “excuse me” and “sorry” do not have their Konkani equivalents. Of course, this does not make Konkani a rude language! Check out the wealth of words to describe fish, different forms of rice, and so on.

On the script row, Lima feels: “There are many reasons as I see it. One is, Roman script writers do not get due recognition. The second is that financial assistance is only made available to the Devanagari section by the government. And the third is that Roman script writers face discrimination at government interviews, as they are required to write in the Devanagari script.”

He’s pragmatic when he says knowledge of English the international language is essential, even while “Konkani is our lifeblood”.

Incidentally Lima belongs to a generation that never had to — or got the opportunity to — study Konkani. He learnt English, Hindi, French and Portuguese. An alumni of Monte de Guirim in Bardez, he recalls times when it was the biggest school in North Goa, with 400 boarders at its height. He was there from 1953 to 1963, and recalls times when “boys from all surrounding villages used to come up like ants” climbing up that hillock.

I guess purists would attempt to write off this slim book as too basic. But, then, we have long complained about the lack of accessible language learning tools in Konkani, isn’t it?

%T Spoken Konkani
%S A Self-Learning Guide
%A Edward de Lima
%I Vikram Publications, 515 Lima Vaddo, Porvorim Ph 832.2413573
%C Porvorim, Goa
%D 2006
%O paperback, references, bibliography, index
%G ISBN not available
%P pp 63
%K Konkani, language, Goa, Roman script

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2 thoughts on “Konkani, with a Romi and Bardeshi touch

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