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Learning Hindi

Before Learning Hindi, Find Your Motivation

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how you can avoid all the pain I went through learning Hindi, we need to identify your passion and motivations behind learning Hindi. Without these, it’s impossible to learn a language.

Languages are notoriously hard to learn because they require commitment and discipline. But when you have a passion and a motivation for any goal in your life, the road to get there becomes meaningful, enjoyable, and far easier to accomplish – especially with a long-term goal like learning a language.

I didn’t capture much of my Hindi learning journey on video, but I did capture my entire Urdu learning journey. This is what it looks like to learn a language.

My Hindi Learning Story

My passion for Hindi started a few years after I discovered my passion for India. My first ever girlfriend as a teenager is responsible for igniting my interest in India through one of the two things on a growing teenage boy’s mind – food.

It was only 6 pm, but it was already pitch-black outside. I was sitting in Sarah’s (name changed), ‘unusually plain for an art students’ room when she entered and told me she’s cooking curry for dinner.

“You’re what? You know I don’t eat curry!”. “Try it Karl, you’ll like it”, she said. I’d heard that line before when my mother would sit me at the table and make me eat disgusting food like broccoli, and force me to finish my plate. My trust in that saying was long gone.

“You’ll like it, trust me!” Sarah said again in her always bubbly voice. I unwillingly, like the 5-year-old me, made my way into the kitchen for the taste test. I walked over to the stove where the curry was simmering away. It was orange with little specks of dark green spices in it. “Yuk!” Sarah dipped a teaspoon in the curry and handed it to me, “Try it, please Karl.”

I took the spoon from her, to show her I didn’t like curry and to stop her nagging that, “You have to try something to know if you like it or not.” A little bit of curry sauce wouldn’t hurt me, and at least it wasn’t a vegetable.

As the spoon entered my mouth, the flavours began to explode. I could feel my taste buds expanding. It was like a nuke went off in my head. I’d never experienced such complex spicy and sweet flavours all at once.

Western flavours are simple compared to the variety of spices used in Indian food. I quickly realised it was time to fall on my sword, albeit trying not to let Sarah know what had just happened in my mouth. “Hmmm. Ok. I’ll eat it.”

From then on, I kept requesting Butter Chicken for dinner. It was obvious to her that I’d fallen in love with that inauthentic, watered-down and overly-sweet Butter Chicken from a can. That was precisely the moment my passion for India began.

In the years that followed, I kept exploring Indian cuisine, making Indian friends, watching Bollywood films, listening to Hindi music, and moving on from Sarah to date an Indian woman too. All of that fuelled my interest in India and my desire to learn Hindi.

Karl Rock and Manisha Malik's Marriage Photo
Eventually, I ended up falling in love with my wife Manisha Malik in Delhi. If I couldn’t speak Hindi, I wouldn’t have been able to chat with my in-laws. This is us signing the marriage certificate in India in 2019.

What’s Your Story? Your “Why”?

Think about your story now. If you want to learn Hindi, then I’m sure you have a passion for India too. Where did your love for India come from?

From that passion I have for India, I started to find motivations to learn Hindi. Unfortunately, most language learners don’t decide to learn a language out of a passion. They choose to learn a language because they think “Employers love it, it’ll help me get a job”, “It’ll make me smarter, better at learning, improve my memory, perceptiveness and decision-making skills” or “It’ll make me a more interesting person.”

Those are all benefits of learning a language, but if a learner is only looking at the benefits and has no passion for the language or its country of origin, then they’ll get bored quickly and give up early.

The benefits I mentioned before never entered my mind when deciding to learn Hindi. I was doing it out of my passion for India, and from passion comes the motivation for your goals.

From 2013, I began visiting India every year. After my very first visit to India, I knew I wanted to live there. It took me two job redundancies and 5 years since my first visit to decide that I was going to risk it all and move my life to India.

Once I moved to India, my motivation to learn Hindi increased too. I knew that if I wanted to assimilate into the North Indian culture, I had to speak Hindi. If I couldn’t speak Hindi, I couldn’t connect with the common man.

Karl Rock in a Village in Punjab Pakistan
Without Hindi, I couldn’t have connected with these guys in a village in Punjab.

According to the 2001 census, only 12% of Indians speak English, and 54% speak Hindi. Without Hindi, I was limited to a small number of city-dwelling Indians and Expats. If I didn’t speak Hindi, I’d always be seen as an outsider. Those motivations to assimilate into Indian culture and connect with the common man are the reasons that drive me every day.

What’s your motivation? You don’t have to move to India like me to have them. Maybe you have an Indian partner and want to share her language with her. Perhaps you love Bollywood and want to watch it without subtitles. Or maybe you’re involved in the Indian community or have Indian friends you want to communicate with. These were all a few of my early motivations that began my Hindi learning journey before I moved to India.

Here’s the reaction of locals in Gurugram, Haryana, when they hear me speaking Hindi.

Now that you’ve thought about your passion and you know your motivation for learning Hindi, keep them in your mind, and they’ll help keep you focused on your goal of learning Hindi.

If my content has helped you, please leave a comment.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock is a Hindi speaking expat who left his career and life behind in New Zealand to take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India.

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