My Journey through Hindi learning

First I would like to say it irritates me when people say I am learning “Hindu” . Once for all guys, Hindi is the Language and Hindu is someone who follow Hinduism, the religion.

In my opinion, learning a foreign language opens more doors to discover a country,  and its people. The locals can even change attitude if you have at least a few words. The message behind it is “I make a step towards you and your culture” which cannot really be taken the wrong way.

For some reason, a passion for India has hit me some time ago (and that is what led me to this Volunteering opportunity and that is what this blog is all about).  I started going to see Hindi films at the cinema here in Ireland. Whenever I could make the link between a word and its translation, I was writing it down on a memo on my phone. The first word I have learnt by myself is “zindagi” (life), a coincidence I find quite beautiful.

I then realize I could not understand a whole sentence without having the grammar. So I started classes here in Dublin with the Sandford Institute, having in mind just trying to grab some notion of the language just for fun and thinking I would never use it. But the fun became addictive.

A few months later I decided to leave my job and go for my one in a lifetime experience in India. My knowledge of Hindi became handy when teaching. I felt I was meeting my little students half way in their own language learning (of English). I had to cover the colors with them, so I could tell them that the meaning of “green” this unknown word to them, was in their native language, the English for “hari”, that “white” meant “safed” and “orange” was the equivalent for “narangi” – and here you go, you can describe the Indian flag…or the Irish one :).

Next thing, I was working in Geneva (Switzerland) and HR decided to grant access for free to employees to the Rosetta Stone online program. Most of my colleagues who requested access were expatriates who wanted to learn french, simply to be able to better socialize outside work, as Geneva is a french speaking part of Switzerland. I took Hindi (I am french, I speak french already :). From what I know, I am the only one who finished the program.

Rosetta Stone uses the immersion learning method. As we all know, the best way of learning a language is to live in the country. But when this is not possible, Rosetta Stone, I would say, is what comes to the closest.

There is no translation whatsoever. Only photos and a native speaker describing that photo in the language. You are the one who has to work out what it means. Surprisingly the brain does that very well. I am still amazed at it.

For example if you have a picture of a man running, and the next is a woman running, you automatically isolate the word that is not changing “running” as it is the “common denominator” and you work out what is “man” and “woman. It is very intuitive.

Some parts of the lessons make you practice and speak. The speech recognition technology evaluates how close your pronuciation is to a native speaker You cannot go further until you pronunce it correctly. You can replay the native speaker as much as you like.

Then the great thing you can do (but I have not done enough of it) is to book a session with a native speaker – teacher, via webcam – somehow they see what chapters you have covered and they will ask you questions relating to what you have studied. Depending on how many people have booked the same session, the teacher allocates time to each student for practice within the hour.

And finally, if you are not in the mood to study but want to keep practising there are some games (in the language of course). In that section, there are stories. As Hindi has a different alphabet, called the Devnagari script,  you can choose if you want to just listen to them and see how much you understand, or  try and read the script yourself, see what you managed to read and then listening to doublecheck.

When you finish Rosetta Stone, it is said that reach a level B2. So that is my level in Hindi at the minute.

As I said, Hindi uses the Devnagari script, and it was a headache to study grammar/vocabulary on top the script, on Rosetta Stone I have to admit I left it aside. I felt it was a mountain to start this huge piece of work on my own.

And as in 2013 I went back to India to see my host family and friends, I have booked 1 week of travelling and 1 week of Hindi classes in Jaipur with my friend Subhadra as well as Indian cooking.

The school she has set up is this one:

And I have concentrated one full week on the Devnagari script, how to read & write. She made wonders in such a small amount of time, even if we did not practice a lot the “matras”. I still felt some secrets were revealed to me and I was let it a very colourful place! And I had caught up with my Rosetta Stone program.

When I came back, I tried reading the “patrika” (newspapers) and read a small article. I could understand almost all of it – that is what I mean when I say the language learning path this so rewarding! And it makes it even more addictive. Now I try to read a few lines every now and then in order not to forget what I have learnt.

So from wanting to just have a few words for fun, I can now understand up to a full sentence (eg when I watch a Bollywood film), read and write a different script and my last purchase was a dictionary in Devnagari script.

When I look back I just feel awkward but the main thing is I am doing something I like for myself  only, not for others or any other purpose. I have enjoyed every single minute of the learning, and to be honest, when I went through tough days at work, it was the one thing I was getting up for – I knew my lunch break would be spent on my Rosetta stone program learning Hindi.

Last wednesday I have just finished the only Hindi class available in Dublin, with Isha, another beginner class again, but it was a good refresh, and she taught us as much about the Culture than the Language, it was like a kind of immersion, she shared personal stories with us which makes the country even more present in our minds. I am so looking forward to the next level with her! Having classes keeps the learning consistent. Otherwise it is easy to say you do not have the time…

Main hindi sikh rahi hoon aur mujhe bahut pasand hai (I am learning Hindi and I love it)


Sandford Institute – Dublin – Ireland

“Teach yourself Hindi” by Mohini Rao – bought in Jaipur, India


Rosetta Stone – Entrerprise

Sans titre

Step by step Hindi Learning – Subhadra Kothari – Volume 1 & 2


Oxford dictionary Hindi – English



So looking forward to the Hindi version of Duo Lingo!