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Dr Klaus Bung
68 Brantfell Road
Blackburn BB1-8DL

email address and tel number

First published on the Internet: 2010-03-16
© 2010 Klaus Bung


Klaus Bung:
Keep Fit with Hindi-Urdu Numerals (HUNs)

Users' instructions


Hindi-Urdu numerals are extremely difficult to learn. Students in one particular class in Blackburn, UK, are learning the numerals with the aid of a workbook containing exercises in the standard DYLL format. In addition, they need practice in producing the numerals at random. For this purpose they were given the Keep-fit-Hindi-Urdu Number Matrix printed on compliments slips and encased in plastic for greater durability. They then go out and practise the numerals by 'translating' the numbers on car number plates. This article contains the users' instructions they received for the Keep-fit Matrix. You can produce the Keep-fit-Hindi-Urdu Number Matrix for yourself by printing it on stiff board from the file we have provided.

Keep fit numerals matrix in compliments slip format

Click on the image to get the large, printable version.

The problem

HUNs (Hindi-Urdu numerals) are diabolically difficult. This is so, like everything in this best of all possible worlds, by divine ordination.

Therefore we have to learn them. Using the DYLL exercises in the Workbook will take us a long way, it will help us to recite the numerals in sequence but even when we have learnt to do this, we will be far from being able to produce the numerals at random in a real life context.

Our Urdu teacher threatened to throw his shoes at us if we don't learn the numbers. That is a fate worse than death, and we aren't as good at ducking as was sprightly President Bush when he escaped such a missile attack during his press conference in Iraq on 14 December 2008, which has since become a national holiday in Iraq. More importantly, we don't want our beloved Urdu teacher to have to walk barefoot for the rest of his life, especially in sunless Blackburn. (Shoes, we know, cannot be designed like boomerangs.)

There is another version of this story making the rounds in Blackburn. Our beloved Urdu teacher actually has his shoes designed as boomerangs. Now he starts testing the numerals. If I get the answer right, Ustad Sahib (Respected Teacher, Sir) gets ecstatic and shouts Maashallah (Praise be to God) and the class responds by chanting Hallelujah (Praise the Lord). If I get it wrong, which is more likely, Ustad Sahib instantly hurls his slipper. This saves him the trouble of having to say "Wrong" or "Sahi nahi hai" continuously. It is a very effective application of B F Skinner's educational principle of "immediate feedback", but also, alas, of "negative reinforcement". However, since the fatal day when the boomerang shoe removed a section of my left ear, which now has the heart-like shape of the Urdu number 5 (panch) , not only has that number been indelibly inscribed on my body, but the rest of the class have taken to wearing crash helmets, so our poor teacher can no longer get at the solid bone between our ears.

Some people say that this version of the story is an urban myth or that my name is not Malchus, I cannot be sure. Perhaps it is just one of my nightmares.

The problem of HUNs is the greatest that the British nation is faced with at present. The recession or the threat of unemployment are nothing compared to it.

The second greatest problem of the nation is that we are all getting fat and unfit. Why are we all putting on weight?

We can't go for a walk in the park because that is too boring. We can't take the dog for a walk because we don't have one. We can't have one because we mustn't call her "kutti" (bitch). We mustn't call her "kutti" because that is cynically incorrect, too offensive, even for a dog.

Now all of a sudden we realise why God made the HUNs so diabolically difficult: HE did this to force us to keep fit, and he made us fat to force us to learn the numerals and to escape the barrage of slippers which our enraged teacher would otherwise ("How on earth do you say 'would' in Urdu?"), would otherwise hurl at us.

Swing into action

So this is what we do. Together with these instructions we have received this laminated number matrix in the shape of a compliments slip. Even kutta or kutti, if we had one ("How on earth do you say 'if we had' in Urdu?") would not chew it up. We always carry that laminated keep-fit-chart with us, in our jacket pocket or in our hambag. Only goris (better: goriãn) have hambags. God-fearing women have handbags.

So every day, without fail, we go for a brisk walk, for one hour, carrying our keep-fit-chart with us. Instead of the park, we walk through quiet residential streets. There are always lots of cars parked there, owned by people who are unfit because they don't learn Hindi-Urdu numerals (the result of predestination) and who need the cars because they are so overweight that they can't even cross the road to visit their neighbours without driving.

While walking, we smugly think about these stupid, ugly, lazy, vessels of divine wrath and congratulate ourselves that we have such a lovely Urdu teacher, that we are among the chosen ones who have been given the opportunity to learn the HUNs, a total of five people in a large town in which Urdu is the second most widely spoken language (after English), and set to overtake English within eight years and three months. This proves, yet again, that God is merciful - to the five of us.

Number plates

Now we pay attention to the car number plates (car registration numbers). The first we see is F458 1D1QT, owned by a wit, a nitwit or a half-wit.

We see the number 458 and try to say 45 in Urdu, take as much time as we want to figure it out while continuing our walk at a brisk pace and ignoring all the other parked cars we are passing.

When we have worked it out, we check on our keep-fit-chart whether our answer was correct (unless we are dead sure for this one so it doesn't need checking). Eventually we will be dead sure about all numerals, but that will take a while.

Alternatively, we can pick up 58 from 458 (the last two digits) and try to say that in Urdu. Then check on the chart, note any mistake and try to learn from it.

Alternatively, we can pick up 48 from 458, the first and the last digit, and try that.

All the time walking briskly, we pick up another number plate. Sometimes it will not contain a suitable number, e.g. if the number were 04, we can't do much with that because we know the numbers from 1 to 10 too well in any case. At this stage we really want to practise pairs of digits, compound numerals. So we move on to the next car.

When doing this myself, I was surprised how many cars there were out of which I could not get a two-digit number. They provide a welcome occasion for a brief mental rest.

If your brain gets a bit tired, give yourself a rest for a minute or two, passing several cars without trying their numbers, and think about something else, continuing to walk at a brisk pace, until you feel like tackling the next number plate.

Speed does not matter

Speed does not matter. The speed games with numbers on the Internet are pointless and unnecessarily stressful.

By contrast, our keep-fit method allows you as much time as you need. If three minutes per number, so be it. Speed will not come as a result of stressing and forcing yourself (as in the Internet number games) but by sorting things out mentally at complete leisure, resting in between for a minute or two, and by continuing this patiently and joyfully for days, weeks and months on end.

Then all of a sudden you will realise, to your great surprise, that a certain number which was very difficult at the beginning, comes automatically and that you are dead-sure about it.

Yet again, eventually you will be able to handle ALL numerals with total confidence, automatically, instantly and without stress.

If you take the same route back, you will come across the same car numbers again (these people never drive far, it is too strenuous for them, they tend to stay in their own street making three-point turns) and you can have another go at them, either picking different pairs of digits from them, or doing the same pairs again. This is useful revision, and you may find that some numbers which you got wrong on your way out, you will get right on the way back. That's what politicians hope will happen when they decide to make a U-turn.

Of course, whatever you get right today, will be wrong again tomorrow. That is natural and must not upset you. It will induce you to go out again and again and make you as fit as a ferret (or a postman). Don't think of numbers, think of fitness and fresh air, and of defying Blackburn rain: that will motivate you to go out again and again.

You will feel so fit after a few weeks of doing this, daily and without fail, that you will thank God on your bended knees that He has created the Urdu numerals exactly as He has created them, specifically for you, for us, the five chosen people in Blackburn.

New keep-fit challenges for you

Once you can handle the HUNs in your sleep, you will be looking out for another challenge. I suggest the number systems of Breton, Welsh (related languages) or Navajo (North American Indian language) which will again keep you busy and fit for a while. They will, in due course, be published, with their matrix, on the DYLL website.

The ancient English North Country Scoring system, which went only from 1 to 20, was used, i.a., for counting sheep and cattle at auctions (where the auctioneer might be Gerald Fitzjohn and the farmer John Fitzgerald), and contained such Celtic words as: "5 = pimp, 10 = dik, 15 = bumfit and the climax, 20 = figgit") is definitely too easy and inspiring for you or anyone who has conquered the HUNs.

Plans for the website

By the end of the month (30 March 2010), insha Allah, a substantial article on learning numerals in context (in any language) will appear on the website:

(How to learn a foreign language, enjoy it, and remember 90%)

Click on New Articles and you will find it. It will contain a host of other techniques for making your mastery of HUNs absolutely unassailable.

There will also be an article entitled "Why German is child's play", presenting some of the many words which are almost identical in English and German.