Last night my boyfriend and I went to a Hindi meetup group meeting. It was awesome. Meetup.com has gotten me through a couple of moves to new states. Here it got me a writing group, a knitting group, and this. I've never seen anything like it before. It's a group designed to be a place where you can practice Hindi.
There are hundreds of members and a lot of variety in ability with the language. For some it is their first language and others are just learning. There are people from India and people who are first generation in the U.S. and there are other white people too.
A lot of socializing and networking happens that is not in Hindi. I didn't do a lot of speaking last night, but I discovered that I understood a lot of the Hindi I did hear. I understood the basic introductions and various snippets of conversation. What a great feeling.
The other great experience was that people asked what drew me to learn Hindi and Indian culture (I was wearing a salwar suit, though not a bindi). I explained a little bit about my background and everyone was really accepting.
In fact, it was exactly the easy acceptance that I've been craving. No one seemed to be even the slightest bit offended, just happy that I appreciated their language and culture.
The experience of learning a new language has been different from what I expected.
At first it was astounding to look at my computer screen, at a sentence in another script and another language, and to know that I understood it. It felt like magic.
Slowly that feeling faded. The sentences I could read got more and more complicated, but I started expecting that I could understand them and now I get frustrated easily when I'm not getting something.
The basics have become so second nature to me that it almost feels as though I've learned a new way to say something in English. In the same way that, for example, the word "dog" just means that particular animal to me and it feels as though it really should, as though that is somehow it's true name and anyone would understand that this particular animal is "dog." I feel exactly the same way about "kutta" now.
Some of the words and sentences seem so obvious that I cannot keep it in my head that there are people who don't understand them.
I swing wildly back and forth between feeling encouraged by the amount I've learned and discouraged that I still can only say simple declarative sentences and questions. I'm working on breaking through the barrier of being able to say more complex things. I have to keep going one step at a time and not analyze too much how far I am in the process of learning.
A few weeks ago I was in the Indian grocery store and the man behind the counter answered the phone. He asked, in Hindi, what the person's name was and I understood it so perfectly and naturally that he may as well have been speaking English.
I'm so excited for the time when all of Hindi feels that way!
At this point I am able to understand a lot more than I can produce. I have even watched some Bollywood movies without subtitles and gotten a substantial amount. Watching them with subtitles, I'm focusing on listening to what they are actually saying and I know a lot of the vocabulary.
I used to feel like I wanted to know every language there was. Now I feel very satisfied with two. If I can get completely fluent in Hindi, I will be all set. And I'll get there because I am quite determined.
I'm so grateful to have the supportive group of people to practice with too, because at some point the learning has to leave the grammar books and software and come into the real world.