A short interview with Willy about learning Malayalam.
Q: What do you think about Malayalam so far?
A: Well, it’s complicated. It’s different than English in many ways, but overall fun to learn.
Q: When I look at the letters, I can’t see letters– how do you learn a whole new alphabet?
A: During every class I basically learn a new letter set. I copy down those letters all through about two pages of my notebook. Then the next lesson, I copy all the letters I’ve learned so far.
Q: What’s a letter set? In ABCs we learn them in one big group.
A: So there are groups of letters and you learn them differently. You learn the vowels as one group, but for the consonants each row is one set.
Consonants: വ്യഞ്ജനങ്ങൾ (pronounced venginakswara)
Vowels: സ്വരാക്ഷരങ്ങൾ (pronounced swarakshara)
Q: I still see the letters as pictures, so I think “bug head,” “squiggly B,” and “golden arches,” when I see some of the letters– do you use pictures to remember them, or do you see them as sounds now?
A: At the very beginning when I only knew 8 letters, I associated their names with their shape. The first letter [rha] is a simple arch. When I saw it, I connected it with the picture of a rising sun and the Egyptian sun god Ra.
Q: That’s a great way to remember it.
A: I know. For my second letter [na], I was stuck. I couldn’t associate two arches with anything. This is the one you called “golden arches.” I eventually just remembered them.
Q: Do you think you’ll learn Malayalam while you’re here?
A: Fluently, no, but I’ve already picked up some useful phrases like:
How are you (Sugmarnoh) and I’m Fine (Sugmarnoo)
What’s your name (Peru Endarnuh) and My name is ______ (Ente Peru ______)
A: I’ve also learned some words that I can recognize when my friend Shambhu and his family talk to each other, especially the names of family members. I found it interesting that the word for younger brother and younger sister are very similar. And older brother and older sister are very similar.
See how some Malayalam letters are made here.