The White Hindu has moved

The White Hindu has moved! This blog is no longer updated, but Ambaa is still writing The White Hindu every weekday at

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Dreaming in Hindi"

Thanks for the kind comments, everyone. I'm finding such inspiration here and so when I feel down or frustrated about this, I can come here and re-read everyone's encouragement. It's wonderful.

I know I said I would do a post about Marrying Anita, but this new book has swept me away! I went to the library to renew the first one and I found that they had a copy of Dreaming in Hindi.

It's an excellent book, about a white American woman who decides to learn Hindi in mid-life. She joins a program for learning in India for a year and she documents her fascinating experiences there, as well as mixing in all the latest linguistic research on second language acquisition.

Some food for thought for me:
"I'm perpetually bemused by how entwined this language is with Hinduism. Sometimes I think I can't being to speak it without a thorough grounding in the religion...They say there's no conversion rite into Hinduism, but there is: learn Hindi."

"The Canadian psycholinguists Wallace Lambert and Robert Gardner had just come out with their observation that people learn languages from one of two broad motivations: either they're doing it to make a living, or they have some compelling desire to slip into another community. Sometimes this second aspiration stems from the fact that they feel masked in their own. 'Why do people want to adopt another culture?' Alice Kaplan writes. 'Because there's something in their own they don't like, that doesn't name them.'"

Though it is only vaguely about Hindi and more about the change in one's mind and culture from experiencing someone else's language, I did learn some Hindi tid-bits. I can't believe that I never noticed that the word for "to have" is the same as "close to." The author pointed out that there isn't a sense of ownership in the Hindi language. I had the "Mera pas jacket hai" (I have a jacket) and the "Ladki ke pas ghar hai" (the girl is near the house), but I had never noticed they were the same words! Light bulb moment. And those feel great, particularly since they aren't happening as much as when I first started.

And one more tip it has given me for learning Hindi. One of the tricky things for me is the gender of words. English being a language without gendered words, this is a very difficult thing to pick up and the genders have to just be memorized. The author talks about a study where they had German and Spanish speakers describe certain objects. These were objects that had opposite genders in each of the languages. They found that for masculine words, the people described the objects in masculine ways and the same for feminine. I wonder if I could force this sort of thing and help to memorize words by thinking about the objects in ways that call to mind a particular gender to me (i.e., think of a key, feminine, as delicate and small...) This would be my own ideas and attachments about gender, obviously, just to help me remember.


  1. Don't will eventually learn Hindi one day...but you need have a gentle dose of Bollywood films..Hindi songs...and yes! couple of months of Delhi will surely become master of Hindi:)

  2. I do love Bollywood movies! And I sing the songs in my car :)

  3. This is very interesting, hearing someone speaking about learning Hindi. More please, more.

  4. It is good to know that you are learning Hindi.
    Even I have to make an effort to learn the language. I am a South Indian Sri Vaishnava and my mother tongue is Tamizh. So, apart from Sanskrit we study things in Tamizh and English.

    So, it is actually not necessary that one should learn Hindi to be a Hindu(Of course that is more true for a native than a non-Indian who usually interacts with Hindi-speaking Hindus).