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GOA'S VERY OWN "WREN & MARTIN"

Last Updated: 25 February '09

 

GOA'S VERY OWN "WREN & MARTIN"

•-          By: Walter Menezes (Gomantak Times)


Great persons, someone said, are no different from the rest of us. They only do things differently! On September 29, 2007, Fr. Matthew Almeida did just that. He celebrated his birthday differently. To a "sizeable section of Goan society" and a great number of Indians and foreigners who wanted to learn Konknni without having to learn a new alphabet, Fr. Matthew gave a precious present: ROMI LIPIENT KONKNNI KORS. For nearly two months the book remained on my bedside table, always staring at me. Then one day I had to leave for Baroda and I picked up the book, dusted its cover and said you are going to be my companion for the next few days!


All through the days of the journey, the book remained my constant companion as I leafed through the pages and found that ROMI LIPIENT was indeed a precious present. The amount of time, energy and midnight oil that must have been burned by Fr. Matthew and his "textbook team" of Fr. Pratap Naik, S.J., Joanita D'Silva, Fr. Ave Maria Afonso and Shilpa Salvi to complete the Konknni Course can best be summed up thus: the book is simply outstanding!


The Konknni Course is primarily meant for beginners and uses the  Bardeshi dialect which is adopted by all the Church publications in Goa. The graded lessons are based on grammatical structures of Konknni. The grammar is explained in English and there are extensive exercises for the learner. With structural table drills, vocabulary at the end of each lesson and 50 pages of Konknni-Inglez / English-Konknni dictionaries, the book at once reminds you of Wren & Martin, that old classic for a generation of students and teachers alike.

In a brief write-up in the Nov-Dec '07 issue of The Goan Review, the magazine highlights the advantage of Roman script being universally used script and any one who wishes to learn Konknni can make use of this book. This could well be the reason for an enthusiastic response that the book has stirred up.


According to Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr Report 2007, the publishers received pre-publication orders coming in from all over the world. The course uses all the letters of the Roman alphabet except q and w and an additional symbol â called tilde or til with a or o to give the accurate Konknni nasal sounds, e.g. pay (foot), and teaches one the typical patterns of sound, forms, words and sentences found in Konknni. Fr. Matthew informs us that the optimum age for language learning is from birth up to eleven to twelve years of age. But that should not discourage anyone. Though not written as a teach-yourself tutor, the course, with certain adaptations, can be used to learn Konknni by oneself.


Once the introductory lessons are behind you, Fr. Matthew takes you through everything that is so special about Goa. In Lesson 5, the children get a taste of "ambeachim kapam" and "ponnsachim sattam" when they go to Saliganv. Up the hill, they find "zambllam, bhennsam, churnam ani charam" and I couldn't but remember my own childhood days when we went in search of such berries during the summer holidays.

"Sobit Ghor" is another lesson that gives you an inside view of the ancestral houses we grew up in, complete with "zollvachi khomp ani dukrancho ghudd".


And with the kind of frenzied development that is taking place all around us, we may very soon find such houses only in history and coffee-table books.


There is a beautiful line in one of the lessons: nisteachea nanvan mel'lim jitim zavpi ami! It means, without fish, Goans really feel like fish out of water. Even to read the very mention of such words like sungttancho balchanv, sukea bangddeancho parra, nisteachi mol ani rexiad in the book, is to leave a tang on your tongue.


In some lessons there is sadness also. Sadness at the way Goans are selling off their houses and properties. At the way we celebrate our wedding receptions, where time is always the first casualty. And sadness to find that more and more players from Africa and Brazil are signed by the football clubs in Goa.


Konknni uses are, ago, aga, age and the dependent forms re, go, ga, ge. Fr. Matthew cautions us that "care must be taken to find out the social acceptability of the forms to a particular group. Rather than run the risk of insulting some person, it is best to avoid them altogether", he suggests.


Saying numbers and fractions, too is made that much simpler by using the old, decimal oriented practice as in English. 23 becomes vis ani tin and 1/3 is tinantlo ek vantto. From Lesson 23 onwards, if the narrator or speaker is Hindu, Antruji dialect is used and if he is a Catholic, Bardeshi dialect is used to prepare the learner for the real life situation in Goa. One cannot help but notice a few slips. Xarak vortolo (page 149) should be xarant. And is dovornnem the right word for a bus-stop?

Apart from being a basic course for learners, Fr. Matthew Almeida's book takes the student through the hills and houses, the customs and everything that makes Goa truly fascinating. Like the good earth after the first showers, the pages literally "smell" of the Goan way of life as seen through the discerning eyes of a great educationist like Fr. Matthew.

Porbim tumkam, Fr. Matthew Almeida. We eagerly look forward to your next birthday and your next present!


Title: ROMI LIPIENT KONKNNI KORS                 

Author: Dr. MATTHEW ALMEIDA, S.J.

Publisher: THOMAS STEPHENS KONKNNI KENDR, PORVORIM

Pages: 252

Price: Rs.250/-


Walter Menezes



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