Gujarati Language

My dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,

Everyone is screaming, ¨This Covid era has gone on for just too long.¨ I am sure that’s exactly what people were thinking when the World Wars began, i.e.,¨This will be over in a few months!¨ And how long did they continue? Our generations never experienced the Wars, so this is the modern version of the Wars. This time though the whole world is involved!

The best solution would be to think outside the box-‘Lateral Thinking’.

A phrase coined in the 60’s by Dr. Edward De Bono. I did read his famous novel many years ago, and at that time I had concluded that it was too philosophical for my simple mind. I will certainly read it again, not that my brain has climbed any ladders. According to Dr. DeBono, lateral thinking is the birth of creativity.

One of the consequences of the lockdown is: we all now have a lot more free time to pursue all those ideas we had been putting off. The result: I am now a member of an active Gujarati Book Club. Thanks to the experts in this group, I am privileged to be amongst a group that can improve my Gujarati. Like me, many of the participants have East African background and our Gujarati is definitely ‘regional’. All our discussions have happened over internet and we are patiently waiting for that face-to-face meeting some time in the future.

So far we have discussed short stories written by old and new generation authors.

Hopefully by the time we start reading novels, my Gujarati reading speed will have increased! I am struggling to discuss the stories in Gujarati without using English words. With the Indian history as it is, English has infiltrated our language extensively. On my first visit to India in 1975, I was so eager to polish my Gujarati skills that I used to get annoyed reading English words written in Gujarati on shop fronts, e.g., garage, hospital, ambulance, juice stall, printers, international…..the list goes on. I still get annoyed when Hindi songs contain English phrases. Of course reading is not the only way to improve language skills, another great medium is the internet. There are numerous Gujarati short and long films, plays, and compelling orators to watch. I endevour to set some time for watching these instead of the umpteen repeats on the television.

The Gujarati language is more than 700 years old . It is an Indo-Aryan language that evolved from Sanskrit and is based on the Devnagiri script. These days it is spoken by more than 55 million people world over and is the 4th most commonly spoken language in London! Gujarati has many dialects and East African Gujarati is an official dialect! The present day language contains many Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Portuguese, Swahili and English words. In contrast to Gujarati, the south Indian Dravidian languages(Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam) are vastly different and much older than even Sanskrit.

The Gujarati Letters showcasing the Devnagiri script

How are you all doing with your gujarati skills? I was fortunate that in your younger days we lived in England. It gave me the chance to send you to the local Saturday Gujarati classes. As I was working every Saturday, the onus was on Dad to take you for these classes. On my return from the Pharmacy all I heard was the heaps of fuss you made as Gujarati school interfered with your Saturday morning children’s television and particularly ‘Superman’! Unlike now, in those days programmes were only available in real time! Due to all your protests and the fact that the Saturday school was a bit rowdy, I moved you to a wonderful teacher who gave classes in her home.

Komal, look what I found in my treasure trove! A message to you from your teacher when we terminated the classes in preparation of moving to Switzerland.

Kanchanben Shah
Gujarati Classes

Today I am really glad that I made you attend these lessons. So did my Tiger-Mum attitude work ? Amar you were very young then, so perhaps your Gujarati language knowledge is minuscule, but I hope that is not true for you young ladies. Anjli’s acquired skill in Hindi at university is certainly a great step forward. Komal perhaps you can write me a letter or two in Gujarati, like you used to write to Ba. Communicating with Ba was an exceptional way to keep your Gujarati skills alive. I had every intention to continue your lessons when we moved to Switzerland, and I even bought relevant books to aid me in my quest. Alas I never made that time. My sincere apologies. At this rate, this mother tongue of mine will become obsolete within our family by the next generation…… so many parental duties we failed in. As I always say, there should be a university degree for all future parents to learn how to raise children correctly.

In Jinja we had the choice of taking either French, Swahili or Gujarati as the second language and I am glad I took Gujarati. In the early days of my married life, when Dad used to travel a lot, I did try to learn French using the Linguaphone method. Unfortunately I have only retained a few words of this sweet romantic language. Knowing another language is an important skill and I am proud to say you have all picked up a language or two over the years. Evidently many people took up learning a new language during the lockdown period/s. Some people just have the knack of picking up a new language, unfortunately I am not one of them. After over 20 years I am still struggling with the German and I blame this partly to the fact that most Swiss can speak two to three languages fluently and that too at the drop of a hat!

So do you read in any other language besides English? And are you involved in any book club? I had always promised myself to cultivate reading in another language, and joining the Gujarati book club has certainly forced me to do so and to improve my mother -tongue. On our next meet-up let’s discuss the phrase ‘mother tongue’ and what would you classify as your mother tongue?

Food for thought right?

Bye for now, and wishing you all the best of health,

With loads of love, hugs and kisses

Vishfully yours


5 thoughts on “Gujarati Language”

  1. Thank you for your comment Nayna. I remember being reprimanded severely by the headmaster in Naranbhai Primary School for conversing in Gujarati during school recess! A good measure for improving the English, but nowadays I feel quite the novice in my Gujarati Book Club meetings.

  2. Apparently Anjli, Gujarati films are on the increase. I will ask Maya Aunty to recommend me some. We can watch one together.

  3. Hi mum – very interesting insights about Gujarati I had no idea about! I definitely don’t think you failed us in the Gujarati department…we’re probably one of very few who grew up in the Western world and can still read & write Gujarati (though I must admit I also haven’t kept up practice with reading & writing). I was able to read off the whole alphabet above so hopefully I still have it! Understanding Gujarati was a huge help for me in learning Hindi, which I’ve tried to maintain over the years by watching the occasional Bollywood movie. If you come across any food Gujarati films let me know, good way to discover more classic Gujarati worlds (fumtu, ponkvanu etc. haha!)


  4. Vishavala very nice Iwish my grandkids can learn Gujarati if their parents speaks Gujarati

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