I Speak 4 Languages: English, Hindi, Swearing, Sarcasm. Some Speak 20


I think learning languages is fun.

I can’t say I’ve been very good at it though, the only languages I speak are English, Hindi, Swearing and Sarcasm.

Yes, there were 4 years of French in school. I even lived in Saudi Arabia without ever learning Arabic. My Urdu speaking grandmothers have given up on me. Then my failed experiment with Japanese. So when I came across Tim Doner, a teenager who spoke over 20 languages, I was envious.


On a Tedx, Tim spoke about coming into the spotlight because of his hobby of learning languages. His appearance on TV shows went something like this-

Host: Tell out audience how to say ‘good morning’ in Muslim.
Tim: Uh….Arabic. (Speaks in Arabic)
Host: How about a tongue twister in Chinese?
Tim: Well…we could talk about Chinese. A lot of young people these days are learning Chinese-
Host: No, no, no- just give us a tongue twister!
Tim: (sighs) (speaks in Mandarin)
Host: How about one more?
Tim: I’d prefer not to. We could talk about China, you know there’s a lot you can gain by learning a language-
Host: Oh Tim, I’m sorry that’s all the time we have. Up next- a skateboarding bulldog in a bathing suit.

The media sensationalized his ability, but he maintained that he learned languages because he loved it. He would speak to native speakers and “embarrass” himself, but he learnt that language was not just about learning the words for ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, and ‘how much does that cost’.



Language in essence represents a cultural worldview. It helps us communicate with people and learn about cultures. I have a friend who would attend her college classes, then take a bus to my Dadi’s house to learn Urdu. Her dedication was amazing- she could write small words within days.

I love the internet for all of its resources. I love it even more for English subtitles. Otherwise I would never have known how entertaining Chinese variety shows can be, or how original Japanese anime plots are and how different Korean words in K-Dramas tells you about the hierarchal relationship between the speakers.

Jokes on everyone who ever cracked those ching-chong jokes, because I know exactly how distinct these three languages are! If only I had a rupee for every time the conversation ended when I said I wanted to learn Korean- I’d be able to afford a trip to Seoul to get away from all the close minded people

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
-Nelson Mandela

What I’m trying to say is, it’s a big world, and the more languages you know, the better you can navigate it.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to speak an extra language fluently- till then I can still call you an idiot in five.


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