Learning Hindi

Behind the Teaching of Hindi to Foreigners at Landour Language School

I found this extract from the Landour Language School’s Introductory Hindi Coursebook really interesting for Hindi learning. It gives great insight into how to teach Hindi and Landour Language School’s teaching method. It follows…

This Introductory Hindi Corse was in its final stages of preparation the year that marked the centenary of the publication of the first edition of Grammar of the Hindi Language by Dr. .S.H. Kellogg (1875). A great deal of the work done by the staff and administration of the Laodour Language School was done in “Kellogg Memorial Church”. Landour, Mussoorie, where the school has been located each summer since 1905.

In these years over 8000 students have achieved a working knowledge of North Indian Languages using the facilities of the school and the learning materials prepared by its staff and administration.

The Introductory Hindi Course now presented is the third course prepared and published since 1943. Many supplementary aids to learning Hindi were prepared and in use before 1943 and all the experience of staff was available and used in preparing the first course. The first complete course was prepared and published from 1943 to 1947.

Parallel courses in Urdu and Punjabi were also printed. The second course was printed in 1951. The influence of Urdu in North India was still great so it was deemed advisable to prepare a Hindustani course parallel to the new Hindi Course. Both these courses used the Devanagari script.

Both these courses were bound in dark green cloth and were affectionately referred to as the ‘Hari Kitab.’ This third course serves as a general introduction to Hindi, especially spoken Hindi, as it has developed in popular use throughout North India. It represents the accumulated experience of staff and student through the years.

There were four reasons why a new course was prepared:

  1. The stock of previous texts was exhausted and just reprinting did not seem advisable.
  2. New methods of teaching had been developed resulting in the production of supplementary teaching materials which had the disadvantage of being prepared within the vocabulary and grammatical limits previously established.
  3. Our experience and the experience of others convinced us that an introductory course could be developed that would make it possible for the average student to master the basics of Hindi in three or four months of intensive study rather than ten months required previously.
  4. Language developments in Indian had made it clear that the previous distinction between Hindi and Hindustani was no longer necessary.

In preparing this Introductory Hindi Course we have been guided by the principles given below:

  1. Each pattern of speech must be valid in that it represents one way an Indian might have said it under given circumstances. We are not so naive as to claim that each pattern represents the only way an Indian would say it nor even that it is the most probable way an Indian might say it. Possibilities of valid expression vary too much from person to person and from area to area to permit such a claim. All the Hindi materials were prepared by Indians in their ‘mother tongue’. Patterns to speech, particularly, were scrutinized by many staff members and a great deal of the material presented in this course was used in actual teaching before now appearing in print form.
  2. To keep within a basic vocabulary of 1000 useful words (actual total including casually introduced words is about 1400).
  3. To build lessons around everyday life situations which would introduce ‘word clusters’ permitting natural though limited conversation.
  4. To start each lesson with a dialogue which would introduce and give examples of interrelated grammatical forms and provide patterns of speech which could be expanded in conversation and supplementary drills. Through careful mimicry, these dialogues provide excellent pronunciation habit-building drills.
  5. To establish an understanding of grammatical structures through ‘Inductive’ processes.
  6. To introduce lexical items in a narrative or conversational context.
  7. To provide sample oral drills to establish the grammatical forms and idioms introduced. The purpose o each drill is made clear. These drills are such that they can be placed on ‘Language Teaching Machines’ for Language Lab. drill purposes.
  8. To introduce and establish the reading and writing skills of the Devanagari script with reading material and writing exercises correlated at each stage with the material being learned orally. Reading and writing are conceived of, primarily at this stage, as reinforcing the oral learning process.
  9. To teach Hindi in such an order that students build habits of speech, one upon another in accord with a rational plan.

It was a pleasure to have had a part in starting this effort and a joy to work with friends-teachers, students, administrators, Board members in the early stages of the preparation of this course. I congratulate Rev. Roy D. Smith and his colleagues on completing this course and having so significant a share in the long tradition of teaching Hindi to ‘non-Hindi’ speakers.

Duarte, California, January 1978


By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

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