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Friday, June 3, 2011

More on Hindi

It is ridiculously frustrating that I've been studying a language for two years, and steadily studying it, and still can only say very basic things.

However, languages are not easy to learn, particularly for someone who has only one language.

I think perhaps I need to let go of the goal of speaking and focus on a goal of understanding. If I take the pressure off myself to produce something and just be happy with how much my ability to understand is improving, maybe someday, after a lot of listening, I'll begin to be able to speak.

I've wanted so badly to be bilingual, and I chose this language because it's one that would have practical purpose in my life!

I will attempt some more simple sentences at some point soon, but I'm going to try not to get angry with myself when they're wrong!


  1. Well, languages are easy to learn but you have to follow the right approach. Indic script has more sounds than the english language. So it is easy for me to learn english than it is for you to learn hindi/indic languages.

    There are around 10-15 major spoken languages in india. An average indian knows about 3-5 languages by the time he/she reaches 20(without professional help). How is that possible?

    There are some commonalities. Most of these languages have common delivery styles. Imagine the strong non-verbal gestures one makes when he/she asks someone "where have you been?". All languages have that; even non-indian languages.

    The other similarity is that most of these languages have been influenced from sanskrit. Around 20-30% of the major words used in a sentences(of any indic languages) can be of sanskrit origin. So even though you do not understand all of the words(while eavesdropping), the few major sanskrit words in the middle will give away the meaning of the message. Off course, you need to pay attention because these words have been changed slightly before being borrowed from sanskrit and may also be accompanied with a strong regional dialect.

    for eg: I can speak gujarati, marathi, hindi, telugu, kannada. I can understand punjabi.

    In fact, punjabi has influenced several more languages. Kashmir languages like pothari, dogri, pahari, gojri or hindko are close to punjabi and anyone who can understand punjabi can make out these languages. I found that many afghanis can understand hindi.

    I cannot speak bhojpuri, rajasthani, bengali or tamil but i can listen to these people speak and i can understand what they are talking about.

    The majority of indian languages are influenced by sanskrit. If you can understand sanskrit, you should have no problem understanding indo-aryan and dravidian languages.

  2. I grew up with Sanskrit, but not enough to fully learn it. I knew the script and the sounds by the time I was a teenager and I took a semester of it in college, but I don't like the academic approach to language. I want to be using it and having fun with it, not memorizing charts of endings. My parents have been studying Sanskrit for thirty years, that's their thing. I want my own. I want a spoken language.

    Interestingly, despite all the study, my parents do not understand Hindi. Perhaps because of pronunciation differences? I know there's a lot of vocabulary differences too. My mom and I will compare words ("This is how you say it in Sanskrit" v.s. "This is how you say it in Hindi.")

  3. the best way to learn a language beyond the basics is watch movies - initially with subs, then without them.

  4. I've been watching the hell out of bollywood films over the past week and I'm surprised to say I have picked up on some of the language. Mostly Q&A stuff, numbers, short phrases and insults. Bollywood loves to use idiot and fool a lot it would seem.

  5. Hey, I can totally empathize here. I've been studying Bengali, and still feel like my ability is very limited. However, I have some differences. I studied French for 8 years, I minored in German in college, and I taught myself basic things in a few other languages. I just wanted to emphasize, from years of experience, that understanding (hearing) will not automatically lead to speaking ability. Just as there are many people who are quite verbal yet are illiterate, there are many people who can read or hear a foreign language but not hold a conversation. The ONLY way to gain verbal proficiency is to practice, practice, practice. Increase your vocabulary, increase your vocab, but practice. In my opinion, true fluency only comes in an immersion environment. You can become proficient with regular exposure and practice, but stop expecting that it should, at some point, feel as natural as English to you, because I can't say that it ever will. My French was pretty darn good at one point, and my accent was flawless, but it was always easier to speak in English when I had the opportunity. I'm not trying to be discouraging, I just don't want you to beat yourself up. Enjoy the process, respect the challenge, and remember that it's a journey, not a destination. Remember that it's normal in India for people to be fluent in at least 3 languages because they're exposed to them and expected to use them all the time. Take my inlaws, for instance. They're Bengalis, so naturally that is the default at home. School is always conducted in English, so they have that, and my niece is learning Hindi along side everything else at a young age (the young part is important, I think). It's lifelong total immersion. Don't try to compete with that! Just work with what you've got. :-)

  6. Hindi isn't the easiest language to learn. I've been on and off with it for over 5 years now and I'm still not comfortable speaking with natives. I've recently decided that i need to stop trying to be a perfectionist and just practice! hehe.
    Good luck with it!
    xx Rachel

  7. Don't be upset with your Hindi, language learning depends on the person.
    Some time we want something but we don't work that much to get the thing.

    I found my Hindi students who have been Learning Hindi for their partners or for Hindi Language Test ,are improving so fast.

    For example I have started teaching one student in March ,at that time he could barely understand some Hindi and was able to speak nothing in Hindi.But now he has ,his Hindi Language Test, next month and he is 80% ready for his Hindi test.Now he just need to practice what he has learnt.So we are having Hindi Speaking Practice Classes every day.And I Hope he will get a good score at his Hindi test.

    And again for you Carolyn.You just need to get real conception about the Hindi tense and verb modification and need someone to practice your Hindi.I think you must have improved a lot than the last time we talk to each other.And Let me know if I can help you in any way.

  8. have you thought about spending time in india - about an year?

    since you are interested in the country you have added intensives besides learning hindi.

    in my experience the fastest way to learn a language is to go and live where it is in constant use.

    neither hindi nor english is my mother tongue but I have learnt to speak both these two languages in this way. actually my formal introduction to hindi is only for one year in childhood. so i speak erroneous but fluent hindi. since you are learning it more formally you will do much better.

  9. It is very tempting. It's just so hard to break away from my life to pick up and move to another country!

  10. Hi Aamba, it can be tricky to learn new languages but it is not impossible. I like the thought that you visit the country and learn the language here, no substitute for that!
    Hope you learn to read and write and speak in Hindi fluently soon.
    Shubh Din :-)Hi Aamba, it can be tricky to learn new languages but it is not impossible. I like the thought that you visit the country and learn the language here, no substitute for that!
    Hope you learn to read and write and speak in Hindi fluently soon.
    Shubh Din :-)