Thursday 7 February 2019

Giving a little

My working day at The Institute is 9-5 between first class and last. At 1705 the corridors are really quite dead-o. But if I get delayed an hour - marking lab books or making paper-copy for The Blob archive - the places comes to life again for the parallel world of Evening Classes. The concourse fills with grown-ups registered for vocational courses and qualifications which start class at 7pm. One such is an MSc in Pharmaceutical Regulation. This year, I've been asked to mentor three of the MScPR students on the matter of their research thesis. I know much less about PharmRegs than I do about HumPhysiol but this isn't seen as a handicap: I am a native English speaker; I know how to spell apostrophe; my crap-detector is good; I am not discombobulated by sesquipedalian verbiage baffled by long words. Each of 'my' students has sent me a 20 page research proposal and I've met 2/3 of them for the first of 10ish meetings between now and August.

One of the these essays was really really difficult to read. I googled up the chap's name and surmised that he came from Tamil Nadu in S. India. Being the pretentious git that I am, I started my response e-mail with வாழ்த்துக்கள் which is the Googletrans Tamil for 'Greetings'. 90% of the people of the province use Tamil as their kitchen language. Well it turns out I guessed wrong because my chap speaks Tamil but prefers Telugu, a related Dravidian tongue. Kannada and Malayalam are the other substantive branches of the Dravidian tree. Telugu and Tamil are about as related as English and French and have a different script: Telugu 'greetings'=  శుభాకాంక్షలు and is a totally different word. Think "Greetings" vs "Bonjour". The reason his proposal was so hard to read was because he ran his first draft through Turnitin plagiarism software, got a lot of hits and then went thesaurus-crazy: "Nourishment, Medication and Modernization Act (FDAMA)" instead of the Food & Drug Administration Modernization Act.

Like my pal from Kerala call Murphy Jimmy, in Tamil/Telugu the convention is family-name first, given name afterwards. Actually it's family-name + father's name + your name, which has a whiff of Icelandic patronymics. I've just twigged that even in two bordering countries with very similar languages the naming conventions can be upside down. Typically in Portugal it is Given-name, mother-name father-name while in Spain it is normally Given-name father-name mother-name. I wish folks would just keep it simple for my class registers at The Institute: which of the following is essential FFS: Maria do Carmo Mão de Ferro e Cunha de Almeida Santa Rita Santos Abreu ??

I asked my PharmRegs student who could help him with written English but he turns out to be sharing a flat with two pals from Tamil Nadu - they all came over together and all registered for the same course at The Institute. My boy reckons he has the best English and is thanking heaven that one of his roomies can cook; although he himself is learning to manage domestic issues from his mother via Skype. He can wash dishes though and has volunteered to do that at the local homeless soup-kitchen . . . as well as teaching first-aid in another venue across town. Sounds like an asset to me; I hope he doesn't go straight back to India with his qual.

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