Learn Kannada

January 2009

This section is specifically written for the benefit of our kids. We'll try to teach Kannada quite similar to the way they teach English to the kids in schools here.

The English language has 26 letters from A through Z. Kannada has 49 letters. This means that almost every syllable you pronounce has a distinct letter for itself. This means that there are very few grammatic rules in the language.  To fully appreciate and easily understand this need for almost twice the size of the alphabet set in Kannada, it becomes necessary to see it from an English perspective.

English is a language full of rules. It is also a language that has more exceptions than the rules. Here are just a few of the many English grammar rules

  • a vowel can be reused to make a short sound and a long sound  (pronounce A in cat and cake)
  • a vowel does not make the same sound always (pronounce U in cut and put)
  • some letters make more than one sound (pronounce C in cute and cite)
  • some sounds can be made with more than one letter (C sometimes makes the same sounds as K)
  • silent letters do not contribute any sounds to the word (L in walk)
Think of other rules you have come to learn and accept in the English language. Think of the way you learned English phonetically in kindergarten, by stretching out the sounds a word makes. Now if you ever wished you could do away with all those rules and have a unique letter to represent every sound a syllable makes, you would be wishing for a very easy language like Kannada.

Next month, we'll see what those 49 letters are and how they correspond to the letters in the English language.

February 2009

In the last issue of Sampige Samachara, we learned that the Kannada language has 49 letters. By comparing it with just 26 alphabets in English, we learned that if a language has a large number of alphabets in it's set, it will have a unique letter to represent every syllable we speak. This means that there are very few rules to be applied in putting the letters together and in composing a word. Thus the language becomes easier to learn.

Vowels

Kannada has 14 vowels. Except for and , every other vowel come in pairs and has a short and a long version. The vowel (RU) is no longer used. It is unclear if this vowel was ever used.

 ಅ

 ಈ





 ಐ


ಅಂ
ಅಃ
a
 aa i
 ee (v)u
 oo  ru  roo e
 yay ai
 o O
au
 um aha
 ultra  all in
 eat hook
 hoop ~hurt
 -  end ate
 idle  one over
 out hum
ah ha


Consonants

 ಕ  ಖ  ಗ  ಘ
 ka
car
 kha
Khan
 ga
gun
 gha
guffaw
~gna
 ಚ  ಛ  ಜ  ಝ  ಞ
 cha
church
Cha
~change
 ja
jar
jha
hedgehog
 ~jna
 ಟ  ಠ  ಡ  ಢ  ಣ
ta
tom
 tta
anthill
 da
dumb
 dda
duh
-
~pond
 ತ  ಥ  ದ  ಧ  ನ
 tha
third
 tha
thump
 dha
the
 dha
Buddha
 na
nut
 ಪ  ಫ  ಬ  ಭ  ಮ
 pa
punt
 pha
up-hill
 ba
bar
 bha
clubhouse
ma
mars
 ಯ  ರ  ಲ  ವ  ಶ  ಷ  ಸ  ಹ  ಳ  ಕ್ಷ
 ya
yak
 ra
run
 la
lump
va
van
sha
shamu
 ssha
hush
sa
sum
 ha
hut
 La
world
 ksha
rickshaw

Next month we'll see how the vowels mix with the consonants.

March 2009

In the last issue of Sampige Samachara, we learned about the 14 vowels and 35 consonants. In this issue we'll see how the vowels and consonants mix to form words.
But first let's see how this happens in the English language. This will hopefully help us get a better understanding of Kannada.

In English, there are are just 5 vowels. So special rules are needed to sound the short vowel and long vowel. For example, the U makes the short vowel sound in the word cut and makes the long vowel sound in the word cute. The special rule here is that when the word ends in the letter "e", the vowel preceding it makes the long vowel sound.

The most important thing to remember when blending consonants with vowels in Kannada is that the consonant undergoes a slight change in the script. This is unlike English. For example,  ಕ್  +  ಅ = ಕ.  (sound C makes + sound U makes = sound  Cu makes, as in Cut).

Here are the vowels again -


This is what happens when the consonant  ಕ್  blends with each one of the above vowels



 Bag  b + a + g = bag
 ಬ್ + ಯ್ + + ಗ್ = ಬ್ಯಾಗ್
 Bake  b + a + k + e = bake  ಬ್ + + ಕ್ = ಬೇಕ್
 Beg  b + e + g = beg
 ಬ್ + + ಗ್ = ಬೆಗ್
 Big  b + i + g = big
 ಬ್ + + ಗ್ = ಬಿಗ್
 Bite  b + i + t + e = bite
 ಬ್ + + ಟ್ = ಬೈಟ್
 Bog  b + o + g = bog
 ಬ್ + + ಗ್ = ಬಾಗ್
 Bore  b + o + r + e = bore
 ಬ್ + + ರ್ = ಬೋರ್
 Bug  b + u + g = bug
 ಬ್ + + ಗ್ = ಗ್
 Duke  d + u + k + e = duke
 ಡ್ + ಯ್ + + ಕ್ = ಡ್ಯೂಕ್

Notice how the consonant ಬ್ (makes the sound that B makes) changes script in the 3rd column above (shown in red block).

In the square below, the very first alphabet (ಅ) pops up the other 13 vowels. The rest of the boxes are consonants. Place your mouse on each box to see the transformation that the consonant in that box undergoes when it blends with any of the 13 vowels.

 

April 2009

We'll practice more blends this month. But first let's continue the other practice of looking at how the English language handles it.  It will help us understand and appreciate the simplicity of Kannada better when we compare it along side the inexplicable inconsistencies in English.

As if the spellings in English aren't confusing enough, English language also has a whole class of words called Homophones, Homographs, Homonyms, Heteronyms, Polysemes and Capitonyms.  Click here to learn more about those.

 put  p + u + t = put
 ಪ್ + ಉ + ಟ್ = ಪುಟ್
 but  b + u + t = but  ಬ್ + ಅ + ಟ್ = ಟ್
 walk  w + a + l + k = walk
              l  ?
 ವ್ + ಆ + ಕ್ = ವಾಕ್
 milk  m + i + l + k = milk
 ಮ್ + ಇ + ಲ್ + ಕ್ = ಮಿಲ್ಕ್
board
 b + o + a + r + d = board
              a ?
 ಬ್ + ಓ + ರ್ + ಡ್ = ಬೋರ್ಡ್

May 2009

It's about time we learn some Kannada words. This is akin to A for apple...

 ಅ
a

aa

i
 ಈ
ee

(v)u

oo

ru

 roo

e

yay
 ಐ
ai

o

O

au
ಅಂ
 um
ಅಃ
aha
ರಸ
arasa
(king)
ನೆ
aane
(elephant)
ಲಿ
ili
(mouse)

eesha
(god)

usha
(dawn)

oota
(food)
ಷಿ
rushi
(sage)
-
ಲೆ
ele
(leaf)
ಣಿ
yay-Ni
(ladder)

ಒಂದು
ondhu
(one)

Ota
(run)
ಷಧಿ
aushadhi
(medicine)
ಅಂಗಡಿ
ungadi
(shop)