Learning the Kannada Alphabet, Part 3

Yesterday I made good on my promise to renew my efforts to learn Kannada.  I went through the alphabet and now have all my flashcards made for the alphabet.  I think the count is 16 vowels and 34 consonants.  My heart fell when I discovered that all does not end there….there are more combinations that must be memorized-all the combinations of consonants and vowels.  Those are called “kaagunitha”.  I’m trying to look at the bright side though…maybe written Kannada matches up better to spoken Kannada than written and spoken English?


Besides memorizing a new alphabet, detecting and reproducing the sounds is tricky too.  For example, there are two “l” sounds that sound very much the same to me.  The example words for those letters are “lathe” and “kalavu”.  For “lathe” the tongue is straight and goes right up to the front of the mouth.  For “kalavu” the “l” is made by curling the tongue at the top of the middle of the mouth.  I am still working on making that “l” sound.


I’m a little optimistic because that things are starting to make sense.  For example, many syllables have hard and soft versions ( “soft dha” and “hard Dha”).  They are the same character except for a dot at the bottom of the character.  Some words are very telling of the culture too.  The word for “cow” and “wealth” are the same except one is hard and one is soft.  I guess it points again to how beloved and sacred cows are to Kannadigas.  (There is also a compliment for a person that says, “tame as a cow”)


I think I will skip ahead to the lessons on phrases though.  I think it helps to see how the letters fit together.  Satya will become important for this part though because some of the phrases are laughable to him and his family because they are overly formal.  Already, with the alphabet lesson there are some words that are completely unfamilar to him and some words that are pronounced much differently.  My plan again is to rely on flash cards.  I’ll have the phrase written on one side in Kannada and then on the back will have it transcribed to English with the translation. 


Besides flashcards, listening to Kannada songs, and watching Kannada movies what other language learning techniques are there?  I suppose after I master some phrases Satya and I can do practice conversations.


My main motivation now is learning as much as possible before we get to India.  I do not want to just smile dumbly at his elderly aunts.  Another question…what kinds of phrases will be most useful in talking to elderly aunts from Karnataka or is it universal (“how are you?” “isn’t the weather nice?” “you have a beautiful house”?)?