FYI : bangla = bengali language, bengali = person of Bengal descent
This is probably one of the hardest blog posts to write, as I'm not entirely sure what angle to write from!!! Learning a new language above the age of 25 (which I am!!) is quite difficult, and that too a Indic language.
I took a 1 year course, 6 months of Junior level, and 6 months of Senior level, at Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Golpark. The classes were held 2 days a week for 1 1/2 hours each. There were about 10-12 people in my Junior class, which consisted of about 5-6 bideshi (meaning foreigner in bangla), from Germany, US, and Canada, and 4 Indians from all over India. Whereas in the Senior class there was only 3 of us, and we were all American (and we knew each other from the previous year).
In the beginning we started by learning to write and read the bangla script. That was an adventure!! DH made me practice over and over while he patiently corrected my mistakes until my script was legible and looked somewhat like...bangla. Also, we learned about conjugating verbs, and the normal grammar. For example, we have a friend who is a probashi bengali (meaning non-resident / migrant bengali) who can speak bangla but he can't read it. We had been waiting for a bus to take us near the airport and some of the buses have the destinations written only in bangla. We were waiting, and he was like come on! The bus is coming. I looked at him and said, "What are you smoking? That bus goes from Tollygunge Metro to Ultadanga. Not to the airport." DH looked at me and started busted up laughing, and then every time a bus comes that is only written in bangla, I will tell him where it goes. =] Because I'm a mean bou-di!
Now, I am always anxious to show off my awesome bangla reading scripts, well...except the conjoining of some letters leaves me confused!! I must admit, I still have problems with the conjugations, but like I keep telling DH and myself that I've only been learning bangla for a year, and I wasn't even fluent in English at age 1!!!
I'm still learning slowly, but I'm to the point where I can understand more than I can speak. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but I can get my point across.
I've had many experiences of shocking and surprising many people with my bangla skills. Once when I was taking a bus home, I was waiting to get down, and the bus driver asked me, "ekhane namben?" (will you get down here?) and to which I replied, "Na, aami opere nambo" (I will get down above, meaning above the circle.) Then the usual went on to be asked, that I knew bangla, and how I learned it, and why I'm here, and how long I've been here. I usually give my standard answers. I usually just say that I learned bangla at Ramakrishna Mission at Golpark, and I'm here because my husband is bengali, and I've been here for about a year and half. It's always a conversation starter when I speak to them in bangla.
Also, one day we had a friend from out of town come to Kolkata and DH and I had decided to pick him up from the airport and then go out for dinner. Usually we are able to get a taxi from the stand in front of our house. Well, this time there wasn't any to be had, so I took a bicycle rickshaw to the crossing. I asked the taxi, "airport jabe?" (will you go to the airport?) naturally he said yes. I got in the backseat and said, "dada, aamar saami pick-up korte hobe. O aamar jonno Silver Spring Club-e dariye achhe, tarpor airport jabo" (meaning Dada, we have to pick up my husband. He is waiting for me at the Silver Springs Club, then I will go to the airport). He said, ok, and off we went. We went off to the area, and DH told us to go through the bus lane, and so we started that way, and the cop told the driver, "jete parben na" (you can't go) and the driver told him that a person was waiting for us. The cop asked, "ke?" (who?) and from the back seat I said, "aamar saami" (my husband) and after seeing me speak bangla the cop, said "jan jan" (go, go). So after successfully picking up DH off we went to the airport!
We also learned how to say certain phrases and some idioms. My favorite being "bhul bhal bhaje kotha bolo na" which roughly translates to "stop talking utter crap!!"
This school was good for the amount of money we paid, I think we paid less than Rs 150 (less than $5) a month. I will be attending it again to learn hindi.