Learning Hindi

How to Learn Hindi According to a Hindi School for Foreigners

I found this section from the Landour Language School’s Course Book really interesting, it details their Hindi learning philosophy for foreigners.

Introduction to the Language of Northern India

There is a language, based largely on Sanskrit, which is spoken throughout the area covering Bihar Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Central India, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

It has many, many dialects. In some parts of the country, the dialects change every twenty or thirty miles. Each of these dialects has its own grammar according to which it changes the endings of verbs, nouns, pronouns, etc. But the unity of the language lies in the fact that the words whose endings are changed are largely the same words, and that the general method of sentence construction is the same throughout the area.

One of these dialects has come to be the medium of newspapers, literature, polite conversation and public speech. Strangely enough, it is spoken in very few homes as the everyday speech of the members of the family. But its use in its pure form is on the increase.

This language has three forms distinguished by the names Hindustani, Hindi and Urdu. That the three forms are one language is shown by their possessing the same grammar and method of sentence construction. The simplest form, Hindustani, distinguished by the simplicity of vocabulary, is understood throughout the whole area mentioned above. It might be called the Least Common Denominator of Hindi and Urdu. It is a language capable of real humour and much raciness of description but to achieve real depth one must turn either to Hindi or Urdu. Hindustani is the language taught in this short Introductory Course.

Landour Language School From the Side 2
Landour Language School

Learning Hindustani by the Direct Method

Learning a language has become very much easier with the rapid development of the science of linguistics since the 1940s. Also, the invention of the tape recorder has given us an extremely useful tool so that we may hear ourselves as others hear us.

This course uses the Direct Method, a result of these scientific advances. to teach Hindustani. In the Direct Method the nouns and verbs, etc., are directly related to the objects and actions experienced.

This is in contrast to the indirect method which uses the translation of the nouns and verbs into the mother tongue of the student in order that he may understand.

The aim of this course is to have you understanding and speaking Hindustani as soon as possible, not to make you a Hindi scholar or an expert in Hindi literature. Thus, we have aimed at answering the question, ‘How do I say this?’ rather than, ‘Why do you say it like that?’

Work on grammar and the writing exercises are left to home assignments so that the maximum time can be given in the tutorial or class to hearing or speaking Hindustani.

In this course, then, despite this large book which we read with our eyes, the ear is the medium of language. What is written in this book is to be listened to rather than read by the student, especially in the first instance.

This is a textbook providing the controlled structures and indicating the techniques by winch the language is to be learned. The spoken language can only come by listening to it and speaking it. Therefore, this is not a ‘teach yourself’ course; it is designed to be used with a teacher.

Learning with a teacher is the quickest and most effective way to gain correct pronunciation, inflection, intonation and idiom.

In pronunciation and idiom, Hindustani is so vastly different from English that to learn them we have to remould our throats, tongues and lips, and often reverse our method of thinking.

For instance, in English there are almost no pure vowels but in Hindustani most vowels are pure; there are hardly more than three English consonants which can serve unaltered in Hindustani. Add to this that pronunciation is more important than grammar or idiom in speaking a living language and you will realise the importance of learning the true utterance of each letter.

To help you (and your teacher) we have provided in Appendix I, a set of homophonic sentences which should be practised regularly throughout the course. Your teacher will have other phonetic drills (in the Teacher’s Handbook) which you can use in practising new sounds. Here a tape recorder is a great asset, both in listening to yourself and in listening to good Hindustani (e.g., as recorded by your teacher). The advantages of using a recorder are that the model given is always the same, we hear ourselves as others hear us (which is different from how we hear ourselves) and we are able to analyse our weaknesses.

There is no way of learning a language without memorising material. Think of language learning in terms of the development of skills, say, learning to play a piano. Your vocal organs (vocal cords, mouth, tongue, teeth, palate, lips) are the keyboard and you will need to memorise where each note is, i.e., the position of each parts of the vocal organs for each letter. Then you need to memorise chords (words) and short exercises (sentences) so that eventually you can play a piano concerto (hold a conversation or give a speech). Different students have different ways of memorising: find which way best suits you. Repetition is bound to be part of any method, and constant review, whether by reading or listening, either alone or with another person.

Learning a new language can be fun and can be an adventure, or it can be monotonous and dull, hard work. We hope that you will have fun learning Hindustani. It is not a difficult language to learn. We have provided some ideas for you to have enjoyment learning it: we hope you do.

Except from Introductory Hindi Course Course Book by Landour Language School.

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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