First day back to “school” with my brand new copy book, the one I had learnt with at the Sandford Institute in Dublin in 2007, and the “Teach yourself Hindi” book that I had bought here in Jaipur on M.I Road at the Books Corner (yes that is the name of the shop) when I left, thinking I would have the energy to study the Devnagari alphabet by myself…being enthusiastic is a good thing but this was utopia! I tried, but had given up easily, hoping one day I would go back to India and concentrate on that….and here I was!
My teacher is the woman who was helping me on the project in the slums, teaching English in the “Anganwadi“(Hindi word for “Day care centre”) in 2008, as I was the first volunteer on that project, in the Katputali Nagar slums. We were creating material together at the NGO office and at her place, so I could teach the children. We have always kept in touch, time passed, she left the NGO, and started an institute of Hindi classes and Indian Cooking courses. She even wrote an e-book that is now published and available on the internet, with loads of tips, and beautiful pictures to show how the food is supposed to look like at every step of the preparation. She also publishes regularly in the Jaipur Patrika (Jaipur newspapers) nice recipes.
When I arrived at her house, she welcomed me back with a bunch of flowers, how lovely! The class started with facts about the Hindi language, its link to Sanscrit and Urdu (language spoken in Pakistan) – about 80 % similar to Hindi but some words originate from Arabic: for example, “thank you” in Hindi is “Dhanyavad” but in Urdu it is “Shukryia” which comes from the Arabic “Shukran” – and also the reasons why Hindi should be learnt: some statistics are different but people say that Hindi is the third language spoken in the world, after English and Mandarin (Chinese).
I don’t need a reason in order to learn Hindi: I just like the sound of it, and it is the language of a country I really carry in my heart and in my opinion, you learn even more about the culture through learning the language – this is good enough to me! What will I do with Hindi later? Absolutely nothing, in Europe at least! It will not be useful in my work or anything, however, doing the things that I like is important to me.
Hindi has been declared in 1950 as the Official language of India. However each part of India has its own dialect: Punjabi, Gujarati, Telegu, Tamil… and so many more. Demand to speak Hindi has increased by 50 % in the last 8 years.
Through learning the Devnagari letters, you learn how to pronounce correctly the words. I have started the other way round, as at home, I have been studying for a year or so, on the famous online application Rosetta Stone (offered by the company I work for!) where I practice more understanding and speaking (the vocal recognition for that is excellent!). Other students starting with her begin with the alphabet and then learn how to make a sentence with basic verbs and vocabulary that she provides them with. With me, she had to re-adapt her teaching, as I have already some knowledge of the grammar, some verbs, more vocabulary and even have seen what the past and future tenses look like!
She wrote herself the book on which she teaches her students, and her new one, had just been finished editing the day before I arrived and I was the first person to open and use it! She was so proud and I was so honored ! 🙂
We did not have much time in front of us so everyday she was giving me a new line of the Devnagari letters, showing me where to start, so that the writting is fluent, and I had to draw them several times in order to train. Consonants, vowels, and then the “matras” which are the symbols of the vowels when integrated in a word.
Recognizing and drawing letters half the time and the other half, because of my level, we were also doing some conversation: she was asking me questions and I had to build the answer in Hindi, placing the subject, verb and object at the right place (in Hindi, the grammatical construction would be more like: Subject, Object, Verb). For the next day she was writing (in Roman letters!) some questions for me to work on later as homeworks. Busy holidays! 🙂
One day we went together to a Book Fair near the Assembly House of Jaipur, I always find interesting to go to this type of events in another country. I took the opportunity to look for an English – Hindi dictionary but those I found were either only in Hindi script, or only Hindi – English, which means if you do not know the word in Hindi, well, you can’t do anything with it…so I came back only with 2 books of jokes for my Papaji for him to laugh because to me, a day without laughing is LOST!
Source Institute of Hindi and Indian Cooking Classes: http://hindilearning.co.in/