The Beginners Guide to Learning Goan

My family comes from a little state in India known as Goa. To most people in the world, the people of Goa are known as Goans. To most Goans, the people of Goa are known as Portuguese. Perhaps some of us still cradle fond memories of our land being pillaged by Portuguese imperialists.

But I suppose Goans do possess certain age-old attachments to our colonist. After all, we practice their religion, we have their food and my parents` generation still speak a basterdized version of their language.

Most Goans will tell you that there are primarily three languages spoken in Goa. The first being Konkani, which is the state language, Hindi which is the national language and Pig English which is a language you pick up by watching Bollywood movies.

To those of my readers who are Goans, this post might inspire some guilty laughs and maybe even a nostalgic tear. To those of my readers who have Goan friends, please be inspired to shamelessly pass on this post to them, and to those of you who are not Goan, this post might inspire boredom. But consider this a free lesson to fitting in if you ever decided to visit Goa.

The Goan language is very simple. The knowledge of English, which I assume you already have, is helpful but minimally required. This is because:

Lesson #1: Major portion of the Goan language consists of sound effects.

The use of sound effects had always been a very important tool in written accounts like comic books to portray the magnitude of punches, gunshots, slaps and incessant crying. Goan is a language that uses sound effects in verbal communication. These sound effects exist simply to aid the main verb. Just in case you weren’t paying attention.  

So for example, when my grandmother in Goa decides to gossip to the neighbours about my broken foot, she would say “DUPP! She fell.” If the fact that someone fell down and had a serious injury doesn’t get the desired reaction, yelling DUPPP (sounds like cup) will certainly wake the listener up from any indifferent comatose state they might have been in.

Other examples of sound effects are ZUP! (sounds like soup) to signify speed and “FAATAAK!” (pronounced as faaat-aaak) to signify anything from a popping sound to bitch slaps. Now when my grandmother gossips about my broken foot with her cronies she will say:

 “Areyy… vot to tell you Marilou, ZUP! Karen was running and then DUP! she fell and FAAATAAAK! her foot broke.”

Poor Marilou nods understandingly and has images in her mind of some airhead who ran  faster than the roadrunner on crystal meth, had a coma-awakening fall and then a domino effect of bone breakage starting from toe to femur. “She must have been vearing heels vhen theese happened.”, Marilou finally concedes.

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Lesson #2: Word repetition

Word repetition is a phenomenon born out of the one character flaw of most Goans: laziness. Lazy behavior is not just confined to finishing a work day at lunch break. It also extends to language. For example: I was an incredibly slow eater when I was a child. My mother had the patience of a Nazi soldier when it came to meal times. With good reason too since dinner would have extended into the wee hours of the night had she not barked out:

“Eat fast-fast!”

‘Eat fast fast’ is the shortened version of “Get your act together and eat your damn curry, kid!…or there’ll be a stick”. Today, I’m a well-rounded individual who loves food and hoovers everything put in front of me at the table. Evidence to show that (the threat of) corporal punishment works swimmingly when done right.

Other examples of word repetitions are: “Look!..that buffalo is running-running!” (Translation: That buffalo is running really fast and will probably overtake those dumbasses on the Honda Kinetic scooter who were poking him with sticks.)

Or, “Areyy Seby!…your tie is matching-matching!” (Translation: Hey Sebastian! Your tie matches the rest of your clothes. Good job, buddy!)

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Lesson #3: There are no numbers. Just hand gestures.

As you have seen above, sound effects aid verbs. When you keep talking like this, you will soon find that sound effects can sometimes actually even replace a verb. (example: She was running-running and then DUP!) In the same way, hand gestures are a great way to completely get rid of numbers. To all you Math haters out there, you will never have to use numbers if you acquire the skill of guesstimating measurement, age and shoe size through hand gestures.

Some examples: The sizes of small items like chillies, pills and tiny fish are determined by finger size. This works well because the fingers in a hand come in 5 different sizes.

The sizes of slightly larger items like ginger, green peppers and bigger fish are determined by hand size. Slightly less convenient than fingers.

And the sizes of very large items like genetically modified papayas, altar linens and really big fish are determined by your whole arm. The good thing about using a whole arm is that you can adjust the sizes according to the joint dividers of your palm, hand, forearm and arm. Coincidently, this is the same way one would guesstimate the age/height of newborns and toddlers.

As for shoe sizes, all you do is cut out the outline of your foot on a piece of cardboard and take it with you to the shoe store.

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And that my friends in a nutshell is a basic guide on how to get by when you go to Goa. Of course there are many aspects in the Goan culture that contribute to the language but for now this should be enough for you to converse with the locals and take in culture with slightly less confusion. After all, the Goan experience of beaches, parties, food and relaxation cannot be fully enjoyed without the lingo. At least not for me 🙂 

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17 thoughts on “The Beginners Guide to Learning Goan

  1. I almost choked on my food laughin’ when I read ” “Areyy… vot to tell you Marilou, ZUP! Karen was running and then DUP! she fell and FAAATAAAK! her foot broke.” LMAO. Kithey go?! Dreenking Whiskey or vat men?

  2. Dammit, Karen ! WTF. That was brilliant. I’m dyin’ here, laughing.

    What did you do to our language? Our mother tongue?

    Zup! down the drain.

    Glad our dinner table conversations inspired you…

    • LOL thanks homie. And for the record, I didnt do ANYTHING to our language. This is what it looked like when I got there. I’m simply pointing out what already has been done to our mother tongue lol. And you know your dinner table conversations always bring out the best in everyone lol. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure how people were going to take it.

  3. Pingback: The Beginners Guide to Learning Goan « The Skinny Jeans and … | A Beginner's Guide To

    • hahah thanks Prenin. I haven’t been to Goa in while but I hear not much has changed except maybe a few new sound effects. But all jokes aside, Goa is beautiful so if you ever find yourself having some spare airfare you should definitely consider it! The foot’s coming along slowly but surely lol

      Thanks for the kind wishes as always 🙂
      Karen

    • hahahh thanks a lot Laura! 🙂 I don’t know if you know any Goan people in England but now you can impress them with this ridiculousness if you ever meet them. lol

    • I just read that post and was laughing aloud. Its soo true and so funny. I’m going to be visiting my parents this christmas. I’ve decided to follow them around with a notebook lol. Thanks for reading 😀

    • haha..no falas portugese. But my parents do! I think they talked to to our pets in Goa in Portugese, but their children inherited no such bilingualism.

  4. Hey Writer,

    There is one fundamental mistake in your article. You should speak for yourself only and not generalize that all Goans are like you.

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