- 17 Jun 2017
- Devika V Menon
Scrolling through Instagram, I came across this lovely profile where this one man was learning Malayalam, as his profile claimed to say ‘I fell in love with a girl and her language’. I decided to investigate a bit further and saw that he was on his 21st day of learning Malayalam, according to his Instagram account malayalam.study and for each day, he posts a picture of what he’s learnt that day. He’s giving himself 90 days to learn the language, because that’s how long it will take for his girlfriend to come back, as she’s currently back home in India for three months. Whoever said love has no language is so right. Read on to discover Tim’s and Aishwarya’s love story!
Was there a reason for you to pursue Malayalam? Tell us a bit about your romance- was it a plunge or a whirlwind romance?
How does someone born and raised in the Netherlands end up studying a beautiful and unique language spoken 8000km away from the place he calls home? I can't answer this first question without telling you a little bit about how it all began.. Though I wouldn't want to describe our falling in love as a whirlwind, it was definitely a very pleasant summer breeze, picking us up together as we instantly felt at ease side by side. When I fell in love with Aishwarya, it opened up a whole new world for the both of us.
Even though we fluently communicate in English at all times, we quickly started teaching each other simple words the way we learnt them in our own languages. It didn't take long for words and phrases like ' thank you ', ' please ', ' I like you a lot a lot ' and later ' I love you ' in both Dutch and Malayalam to be randomly thrown into our conversations. Whenever she does a cute attempt to express herself in MY language it really gets to me, I feel like it's a very powerful thing. Languages really do bring people together!
Our love was the initial spark for me to discover Malayalam as a language. Once I started investing some spare time learning more about the language, I think I fell in love with the actual language itself as well. I don't think I would've made it this far if I was merely doing it for her though, by now I'm doing this for myself as much as it is about love.
How hard, or easy, is it for you to grasp the language?
At first sight, the Malayalam alphabet looked unlike anything I had ever seen before! I was definitely intrigued and that is when I started really digging into it, a few months later I knew every vowel and consonant by heart. I really enjoy the flow of writing certain letters, learning it has been a lot of fun and it really kept me motivated to learn more and more. When you search for 'the best way to learn Malayalam' you'll find that being in Kerala with people who speak the language is said to be the best and perhaps only method to learn the language fluently. But, being 8000km away from Kerala I like to believe otherwise.
For anyone wondering how hard it is to learn Malayalam or any other foreign language, the only way to find out is to give it a shot! It is definitely hard sometimes.. Learning the alphabet and learning how to write required some repetition to get used to but it was fairly easy, the hardest part for me so far would be pronunciation. There's a lot of subtle differences in the sounds of letters and words, and it is something I do not fully understand yet. Hopefully by listening and repeating I will fill in those gaps of knowledge step by step. I think you have to accept sometimes that you do not fully understand something you've learnt just yet, but it will have to come with time.
Who is your Guru? Your sweetheart or the Internet, or a bit of both?
So I've been learning very basic Malayalam with the help of my girlfriend for months now, but only recently I decided to take it to Instagram and share it with the world. Aside from my sweetheart's expert opinion, I rely on the internet as a source to learn the language. There are a few free sites out there offering basic information and simple lessons on Malayalam. Some sources are outdated or simply incorrect though so it's really hard to find the right learning materials. I've taken all the information I could get my hands on like websites, YouTube tutoring videos, dictionaries and translation websites to solve the puzzle piece by piece.
However, I soon realized that the best source for learning Malayalam would be the people who speak it themselves! Aside from it being a creative passion project, creating my Instagram account to share my studies with Malayalees and people all over the world has truly helped me take my knowledge of Malayalam to the next level. I'm amazed at how many people are willing to help me by sending me messages and answering my many MANY questions with love and patience! I'm extremely thankful for that. ( nanni ) I've also received some positive reactions from people that what I do is helping them learn too, which makes me really happy to hear!
You were on day 21 when I spotted you on Instagram. How long will this project continue?
My girlfriend is currently back home with her family for the summer, which means that I have to miss her for about 3 months until we see each other again. As an added layer of motivation to this journey, I decided to make it a 90-day challenge on Instagram to practice Malayalam daily while she's gone, posting every day on what I'm learning. At the time of writing this e-mail, I'm at the beginning of day 23 so there are at least 67 days left on the calendar! I post a daily picture dedicated to this countdown every day so you can always check it out to see the latest count. This project has been a pleasant distraction from the distance between us at the moment, I can't wait to see her again and show her all the things I've learned!
P.S. Tim concluded the mail with an open expression as to how much he loves Aishwarya!