So I’m going to be doing a series on why you should learn certain languages. Of course every language is good to learn, I encourage anyone to learn any language. But the two I will start out with is Hindi and Japanese. This blog post will be on Hindi.
I have been learning Hindi for over ten years now. And one thing that always baffles me is the reactions I get when I tell people I’m studying Hindi. People often tell me Hindi is useless and that all Indians speak English so why bother? I have noticed that even in the language learning community that there is little interest in Hindi or any other Indian language for that matter. I see people who have never even studied the language often tell people not to learn Hindi because of how hard it is-which is a complete myth! There aren’t many colleges that offer Hindi and there is little interest in the language overall. Which I hope will change soon. So in this blog post I will give reasons of why you should learn Hindi! Hindi and Urdu are pretty much the same language just written in a different script so I will be including Urdu in this list as well.
- Hindi is the most spoken Indian language and has a huge diaspora. Hindi is the fourth most spoken language in the world, ranking in at 310 million speakers and comes in after English and right before Arabic! Plus the Hindi speaking diaspora is huge and you can probably find a Hindi speaker in every corner of the world. It is true that most Indians have their mother tongue for example Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali or Marathi. Many of these speakers also know Hindi and I have practiced Hindi with Gujarati speakers, Punjabi speakers and I even once practiced with a Tibetan who lived in Nepal for most of her life. Hindi is less spoken among Bengali speakers and Dravidian language speakers. For example it is true that many Tamil speakers and Malayalam speakers may not know Hindi. However many Indians have learned Hindi from school or more popular from growing up listening to Hindi songs and watching Hindi films. Also knowing Hindi would give you a huge advantage to learning other Indian languages if you are interested in that. After learning Hindi you could easily learn Punjabi (I have never formally studied Punjabi and can still make out some sentences from Hindi). When I studied Bengali knowing Hindi was a huge help especially with Bengali’s complicated case system. The southern Dravidian are a total different language family so it may be more complicated and Hindi may not help you much, but still there are loanwords and cultural similarities. Another huge plus if you know Devanagari (the script Hindi is written in) you can read Nepali and Marathi!
- Hindi is easy and extremely regular. There are myths that Hindi is a difficult language. I don’t know where these rumors come from. First the script is almost completely phonetic, once you learn it you can read anything in Hindi. If you see a new word even without knowing the meaning you will be able to pronounce it. There are no upper and lower case letters and no cursive letters you have to learn. Next, Hindi is a very regular language. At a beginning stages there are really only six irregular verbs, these are common verbs but they are easily learnt. The rest of the language is pretty much regular and there are very few exceptions to rules. So once you learn a grammar rule the chance is that it will be like 99% of the time. The main exceptions come along with gender or from loanwords from Sanskrit, however many of these exceptions can be learned easily. The main problems for English speakers when learning Hindi would be the pronunciation and the gender. If you are familiar with a romance language then gender shouldn’t be too hard for you. Another problem may arise with the fact that Hindi has three cases, however we have cases in English also. If you didn’t know already Hindi is a part of the Indo-European language branch which means it is distantly related to English. Hindi being portrayed as a super hard language is just ridiculous. I don’t know why people think Hindi is a hard language and my only guess is that they have not studied and just making assumptions. It is not a difficult language to learn.
- Accessibility! As I mentioned before Hindi has a lot of speakers which may be why the language is so accessible. By accessible I mean that it is not hard to find media. Hindi has one of the world’s largest film industries. If you decided to learn Hindi you have access to nearly thousands of films and most of these films have English subtitles and sometimes subtitled in other languages as well. Besides films, Hindi has a massive music industry and television industry. So even if you don’t feel confident yet practicing with native speakers you will have access to films, television, and music. All these can easily be found with English translations and there are even websites dedicated to Hindi song lyrics. If you really like music you can find a variety of different Hindi music from pop to classical to ghazals to qawwalis and to even hip hop! With Hindi films although they often get a bad reputation, there is also tons of variety. You can watch big over the top Masala productions, to arthouse films, to romance and social dramas. If you rather read news and politics there is a plethora of Hindi news websites out there. Another thing is (at least in the United States and UK) that most cable providers offer premium Hindi programming. At my house I get Star Plus, Zee Tv, Star Gold, APB News and other Hindi channels which is a great asset when trying to learn the language. If you rather practice with Hindi speakers this isn’t very difficult either. Most cities have Indian restaurants and Indian shops. In my own town we have six Indian grocery stores! And many of these grocery stores sell Hindi magazines, DVDS and other things. So it will never be too difficult to practice your Hindi.
- Did you know if you learn Hindi you are actually learning two languages at once? Hindi and Urdu at a spoken everyday level are completely mutually intelligible. The differences come in at a higher level, when Urdu looks to get its vocabulary from Persian/Arabic, Hindi looks to get its vocab from Sanskrit. The other major difference is that Urdu uses the Perso-Arabic script. But if you learn Hindi and are talking to an Urdu speaker chances are you will understand each other perfectly. You will also be able to watch Pakistani dramas (I highly recommend HumSafar), listen to Urdu songs and films and be able to understand everything. So when you learn Hindi you can speak two languages!
Hindi is listed as a critical language and I believe over the time with the Indian economy expanding, the importance of Hindi will grow rapidly. Learning this language has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Hindi speakers love it and generally try to help you when show an interest in their language. It is a truly wonderful language to learn.