Ciao a tutti, नमसते, and hello to all!
You might be wondering why I chose the languages above to begin the long-awaited reboot of my blog from last summer. Isn’t Bliss a Classics guy, you might be wondering. Or isn’t he the guy who went to study Mayan in the Yucatan last summer? Yes, all that’s true. However, I have decided to restart posting on my blog to encapsulate a new chapter of lingblisstic adventures, as outlined below.
I’m currently sitting in Terminal C of Newark Liberty-International Airport, with about an hour until my flight departs. The destination? Rome, Italy. Along with my friends from Exeter Joonho Jo, Kofi Ansong, and Grace Stinson, I have been selected to participate in a three week archaeological project digging Etruscan ruins at a site outside Orvieto, Italy, a wonderful hilltop town situated right on the border between the regions of Tuscany and Umbria. The field study is led by Professor David George and a team from Saint Anselm College, who were generous enough to let a few of us high schoolers tag along.
For many reasons have I decided to accept this opportunity. First, the Etruscans captivate me greatly as the native inhabitants of the Italian peninsula, before the (allegedly) Trojan-descended Romans under Aeneas settled in Latium’s furtile plains. Just as I studied an indigenous culture (Mayan) last summer, I am thoroughly excited for the chance to study the material culture and traces of the Etruscan civilization. Another particular part of this field study which appealed to me was the prospect of working with and attempting to decipher Etruscan language inscriptions. Etruscan, just like Mayan is to Spanish, is a language completely different from Latin and to this day has not been deciphered. Professor George, when presenting at Exeter back in the fall, outlined some of his efforts working with actual snippets of Etruscan found in the trenches and I, as a budding linguist (lingblisst, whatever you want to call me), would love to partake in such linguistic cataloging and puzzle-solving. Third, for someone like me who intends to study Classics through college and beyond, archaeological experience is a must, and I am curious about digging methods and technique. Lastly, I would love to practice my Italian and acclimate to Italian culture just a little bit more before spending all of next winter studying in Rome— more about that later, though.
Okay, he’s explained the Italian— but what is that other language? If you’ve already identified it as Hindi (the word is quite familiar— namaste—just a different alphabet), you might be wondering why I, a non-Hindu, Western-studies focused, classicist, would have any interest in such a language. The short answer: long story.
A few months ago, I received news from NSLI-Y (National Security Language Initiative for Youth) that I had been selected to receive a scholarship to study Turkish in Bursa, Turkey for 6 weeks from early July to mid-August. For those of you who don’t know, NSLI-Y is a U.S. State Department sponsored initiative which offers fully-paid scholarships for U.S. high school students to study a critical, or national security language— one vastly important to U.S. diplomacy but not commonly taught in schools—in countries across the world, from Morocco to Estonia to South Korea. I had originally applied to participate in the Turkish program because of an interest in Turkey’s fusional history and the complex linguistic nature of the Turkish language.
However, about a month ago, NSLI-Y notified me that all Turkey summer programs had been cancelled. Many of you have probably heard about the recent turmoil and tourist-directed bombings there, and when there was in explosion in Bursa, NSLI-Y decided to pull the plug. Mercifully, though, the administration offered us the chance to choose another language and country for relocation. And, confronted with a choice between Hindi and Russian, I decided upon Hindi.
My program information soon followed—I will be studying Hindi in a city named Indore, situated right in the center of the country, about halfway between Delhi and Mumbai, for six weeks beginning June 29th and ending August 18th. I will be living with a host family, details of which are to be announced soon, and my in-class learning–five hours a day for 6 days a week– will be supplemented with cultural instruction in traditional Indian history, music, dance, cooking, and more.
Although India had never really been on my mind before I was faced with such an opportunity, I am now quite excited for the chance to study there for six weeks. India possesses arguably the world’s greatest cultural heritage– from the Indus River civilization of Mohenjo-Daro to today’s booming Bollywood cinemas. Although Hindi is one of the top-five spoken languages in the world, it is sparsely taught outside of India, and learning it would prove a great first step towards unlocking one of the world’s most up-and-coming nations of one billion people and its culture. (That’s nearly a seventh of the world!) . Hindi is also a descendant of Sanskrit, an ancient language crucial to research in Proto-Indo-European; as one who revels in historical linguistics, Sanskrit is a must-know language and Hindi would be a great gateway. Lastly, after so many years of studying Greco-Roman culture and influence, it would be a welcome relief to learn more about another equally great but wildly different society.
I could go on and on and on, but the announcement for my flight’s boarding just sounded, so I’ll end there. I’m so grateful for both of these opportunities and the chance to represent Exeter and America in general both in Italy and in India. Stay tuned for more updates!
Until next time (very soon),