Moments: Navigating a New City with a New Language

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Nearly every day I traveled in India there were interesting adventures in Hindi practice: One of my favourites happened not long after I arrived at the Mumbai airport after a lovely and easy flight from Jaipur. There was a nice meal and even a short nap on the plane. Smooth and easy baggage claim and booked a cab easy as pie for a nice fixed price.

I find the car really easily and all is good. And then I tell the driver the address. “Bandra West? Bandra West malum?”

Wait, do I know where Bandra West is? This is my first trip to Mumbai. (For my Toronto friends, imagine someone at the airport saying they don’t know how to get to King and Spadina, for instance or what the High Park neighbourhood is)

Time to get creative. I fire up Google Maps. Except my work isn’t done then. The driver motions for me to move up front and take shotgun position. Off we go. Oh, and no English allowed – this driver speaks about as much English as I do Italian. A couple of words and that’s the end of it.

So there we are: Google’s voice speaking to me, my brain changing it to Hindi, giving updates as to how many kilometres or metres come before the next turn – what direction. He’s operating the car and of course the horn and even occasionally nudging the car in front of us with his front bumper.

30 minutes later here we are – at the apartment. He drops me off. Easiest navigation yet.

And as we did this I can’t help but think how glad I was I studied some of my basic numbers before coming here.

I have to say, I really miss the interesting opportunities for language practice that would present themselves several times a day.

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