Learning a new language, with all those new words and phrases, is always going to be a challenge for any learner, no matter how smart you are or how easily you learn new words to use in conversation. Even though many of us can get by when it comes to communicating with people who speak a foreign language, becoming proficient in their language generally takes time and a lot of effort. That is why learning the Hindi language is well worth it!
That said, learning a new language doesn’t have to be difficult. While it will challenge you, when you learn to speak a new language it is incredibly satisfying and many say that being bilingual or even multi-lingual makes you more intelligent.
You will certainly impress if you come out with fluently spoken grammar and vocabulary in Hindi next time you visit India!
So, what is there about the Hindi alphabet that resembles our own language? Start learning Hindi, which is said to be the language of India, and you could also then find easier to learn other languages and dialects spoken by Indians (as well as Indo Aryan languages) such as Bengali, Pakistan, Mumbai, Korean and Gujarati.
Hindi is unlike English in many ways, but that doesn’t mean to say that it is hard to pick up. Sometimes learning a new language that is completely different to our own helps us to retain it better and to not get mixed up. Imagine if all languages were a similar version of one another – we would all become so confused with each sentence!
One thing to remark is that Hindi is written from left to right, so that’s a good start, right? At least this is something that English speakers are familiar with! It’s also fairly easy to read Hindi as words are generally written as they are pronounced because each character of the Hindi alphabet has a different sound.
Hindi is written from left to right, which most Europeans will be familiar with. Photo on VisualHunt
This is quite refreshing for speakers of European languages who often have to learn words one at a time as opposed to chunks of sounds and memorise exceptions to the many grammatical rules!
This official language of India is already sounding much less daunting, isn’t it?
As you’d expect, Hindi shares similarities with many other Asian dialects and languages, which means that if you come from an Asian country then you may find the transition slightly easier. But how does it compare to European languages that we all know from our school days? While different from our mother-tongue, there are some things that you may recognise when it comes to English and our close neighbours…
Let’s start with Spanish, a language that you wouldn’t think resembled Hindi but actually shares some strong connections to it from a tutoring point of view, with many words translating to the same meaning.
-The word ‘Tu’ in both Spanish and Hindi means ‘You’.
-The word ‘Das’ in Hindi means ‘Ten’, whilst ‘Diez’ is its similar translation in Spanish.
-The Hindi word ‘Narangi’ (meaning ‘Oranges’) has a similar name in Spanish, which is ‘Naranja’.
-In Punjabi/Hindi, a shirt is named a ‘Kameez’, with a shirt in Spanish being a ‘Camisa’.
-In Spanish, you say ‘Que Huba’ for ‘What happened?’, and in Hindi you say ‘Kya Hua?’.
-The word ‘Mez’ in Hindi/Punjabi has a similar word in Spanish: ‘Mesa’.
As you can see, these are only small, perhaps even insignificant similarities in the grand scheme of things, but this goes to show that you can make connections easily which could be the difference in you remembering a word or spelling or not.
A tutor will work with your strengths and, if you already know how to speak Spanish, may suggest these memory tricks to help you in mastering Hindi.
In a way, Hindi is also similar to the French language, probably because Spanish and French are also quite similar (both being Latin-derived languages).
Moving away from words and their spelling, let’s consider the placement of pronouns/direct objects. In Hindi and French, they’re placed before the verb, unlike English where it’s placed after the verb. But this grammar rule isn’t always that helpful until it’s something you’ve learnt and are able to look back on.
Another glaringly obvious similarity is the fact that almost every noun has a gender attached to it in both French and Hindi, and the verbs or adjectives have to be modified accordingly in each instance. Practising saying these words aloud really helps you to remember which words are male and which are feminine, as it starts to sound right as you hear it. Try improving your listening skills by listening to the language being spoken slowly at first.
Now, going back to our roots (or our second mother-tongue, as the case may be for each individual), let us look at how Hindi resembles English.
In fact, it is not that Hindi looks like English at all, us Brits have actually taken words from Hindi and adapted them for our own dictionaries. For example, did you know that a Bungalow is so named after a house in the Bengal style (from बंगला banglA)? Or that Jodhpurs got their name from a place where similar trousers were worn by Indian men?
For more interesting word plays that connect English with Hindi, see below (courtesy if Wikipedia).
-Bangle: from bāngṛī बांगड़ी, a type of bracelet.
-Dungaree: Heavy denim fabric, also referring to trousers made thereof, from Hindi डूंगरी (ḍūṅgrī, “coarse calico”), the name of a village.
-Guru: from Hindi guru “teacher, priest,” from Sanskrit गुरुः guruḥ “one to be honored, teacher,” literally “heavy, weighty.”
-Jungle: from جنگل जङल् jangal, another word for wilderness or forest.
-Karma: from Sanskrit, the result of a person’s actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect.
-Pashmina: from Hindi पश्मीना, Urdu پشمينه, ultimately from Persian پشمينه.
–Pyjamas: from Hindi and Urdu, पैजामा (paijaamaa), meaning “leg garment”, coined from Persian پاى “foot, leg” and جامه “garment” .
-Shampoo: Derived from Hindustani chāmpo (चाँपो [tʃãːpoː]) (verb imperative, meaning “rub!”), dating to 1762.
-Thug: from Thagi ठग,ٹھگ Thag in Urdu,meaning “thief or con man”.
Some words, like ‘pashmina’, have become common in English but in fact derive from Hindi. Photo credit: Roubicek on Visual Hunt
As much as you might be tempted to enrol on a language course, just because that is the done thing when you want to learn a new skill or official language (and there are SO many different courses for each and every need out there!), you can teach yourself a new language fairly easily to be honest with certain levels of immersion.
If you consider that the most important things when learning a new language are listening, reading and speaking, then it’s not surprising that YouTube videos tick all of the right boxes. By watching tailored videos, you can place yourself in either a classroom environment or even in the country itself, and immerse yourself in hearing the language being spoken by fluent people and repeating after them.
Just a quick search of the net will throw up a number of highly useful videos and tutorials such as Basic Words for Beginners, An Introduction to Hindi, 11 Phrases to Greet Someone in Hindi, Learn Hindi through English and Learn Interactive Hindi. What’s more, you can do this intensively if you’re confident or you can go at your own slower pace.
Games & Apps
Keeping the momentum up when learning a new language is key, and it couldn’t be easier to do this than with a language app.
Some of the most well-known apps are of course DuoLingo and Rocket Languages, but with the first being free many people will start with this cheaper option. What’s more, with an app like DuoLingo, all you need to do is spend 5 minutes a day, 7 days of the week, studying or playing to progress your skills. While this sounds arduous, you will probably find yourself hooked and will spend far more time looking at your screen and going through the lessons than the bare minimum!
However, you don’t have to restrict yourself to apps designed as teaching resources. You could always search your chosen app store for games published in Hindi and try your hand at muddling your way through! Playing games definitely sounds more fun than studying for hours on end and it lets you have fun along the way!
Radio and Podcasts
While videos can offer something for your visual senses as well as your hearing, radio and podcasts shouldn’t be ruled out as a method of language learning.
If anything, having the radio playing in the background whilst focusing on other tasks around the house can sometimes be as beneficial as sitting down and studying for an hour or two. It’s a bit like white noise – the comfort of the sounds you hear will envelop you and become second nature, making it so much easier to pronounce words when you get around to speaking Hindi with others.
One fabulous podcast for Hindi beginners is HindiPod 101, which features over 880 Audio and Video Lessons with engaging hosts. As well as the listening advantages, the podcast creators provide followers with learning tools like vocabulary flashcards and PDF lesson notes to take away and revise.
Furthermore, there is a lively discussion forum for any queries relating to Hindi!
Listening to the radio or podcasts is a great way to improve your language skills. Photo on VisualHunt
Finally, the easiest way to absorb a new language is to see first hand the culture of the country and hear the locals communicating with one another. In the county, you’ll have visual prompts all around you such as road signs, places of interest and much more to help you to get by and have exchanges with the residents.
By working or attending a study group in the country, you will no doubt master the language far more quickly than if you were sat at home at your desk. By using the language in its context, it is much more likely to stick in your brain for a lasting effect.