The Hindi language is spoken by over 590 million people in the world - why not make it one more?
This Indo-Aryan language is not only an official language of India (next to others such as Tamil, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, Nepali and many more!), but also (in a variation called Urdu) of Pakistan as well.
Hindi is spoken in much of northern India, in the following Indian states (loosely, from north to south and west to east):
- Himachal Pradesh
- Uttar Pradesh
- Madhya Pradesh
It’s also used as a kind of lingua franca in several other states, making Hindi a useful language to learn when visiting India!
Here are some Superprof tips and tricks for learning the most commonly spoken language of India.
The Best Way to Learn Hindi Without a Hindi Teacher
The best way to learn Hindi is, of course, by taking a Hindi course offered by a native speaker. Group lessons have the advantage of putting you in contact with other students eager to learn this heir to the Classical Sanskrit language. However, private tutoring with someone who speaks the language as his (or her) mother tongue has a few advantages of its own:
- One-to-one lessons tailored to your needs. Your tutor will know you well and can work more intensively on things you have trouble with instead of following a set curriculum.
- Flexible hours that adapt to your schedule rather than a fixed hour of the week you will need to work around.
But how can you learn Hindi outside of Hindi classes? Here are some learning tools to help you along.
Learning Hindi Vocabulary outside of Hindi lessons
When learning vocabulary in any new language, flashcards are an excellent way to practise and learn new words. You can seed them wherever you know you will be spending a few minutes a day, for example:
- the breakfast table
- the loo (never underestimate the power of loo-learning)
- the bag you take with you on your morning commute
- by the sofa for a spot of vocabulary learning while watching the news
- your nightstand for a little spurt of Indic language learning before falling asleep.
Practising your Hindi understanding
If you are planning to spend any time at all in India, you need to be able to understand the spoken word. Trying to learn Hindi pronunciation while learning Hindi is one thing, understanding native speakers talking at full speed is another. Knowledge of grammar and special Hindi phrases is useful, but often not enough when faced with the reality of the actual spoken language.
There are several ways you can train your ear to recognise the verb tenses, nouns, adjectives and special idioms of spoken Hindi.
The main thing is to listen to Hindi being spoken by native speakers. You can learn Hindi online and off by listening to:
- Hindi news on the Hindi TV channel websites
- Hindi bloggers talking about Hindi language and culture or your own interests and hobbies
- Hindi audiobooks of your favourite books
- the dialogue in Hindi movies - careful, not all Bollywood movies are in Hindi! Some are in Sindhi, Telugu, Marathi, or any one of the other different languages of India.
Learning Hindi as a second language through immersion
But the surest way to learn a language is to hear it used and speak it constantly. If you can’t make it to India to speak Hindustani every day with native Indians, you can try and find a language partner. A language partner allows you to:
- Speak Hindi to him or her and teach them English in return
- Meet someone from the Indian subcontinent and learn more about Hindi poetry or history from the Mughal Empire to colonialism, from Hindu temples to other aspects of Indian culture.
There are apps such as Bilingua that pair you with conversation partners about if you don’t have time to meet in person.
If you don’t want to reciprocate and don’t mind paying, make sure your home tutor speaks to you only in Hindi.
Learning Hindi with Books and Newspapers
The methods given above are mostly for understanding Hindi speech. But what about reading and writing? What are good methods to learn Hindi words and phrases?
Before you start, it is important to decide:
Hindi or Urdu?
The differences between Urdu and Hindi, though certainly present, are not as important in the spoken form. The Urdu language uses more words coming from Persian than Hindi, which mostly borrows from Sanskrit. But more importantly, Urdu (the official language of Pakistan) is written in Nastaliq, a Persian script derived from the Arabic alphabet, whereas Hindi is written using the Devanagari script.
How to Learn using Hindi newspapers
Knowing which writing you are learning is important if you want to read Hindi or Urdu. A good way to practice, though, is reading the news in Hindi. You can do it online or buy a physical paper (the Urdu Times is available in London newspaper stands).
The advantages of reading the news in Hindi are:
- A good way to practise the Hindi alphabet with actual words in context.
- A very wide range of Hindi words as they report news both local and international.
- Daily news articles with new vocabulary daily to keep your dictionaries busy.
- Short segments which, with the help of a dictionary, are easy and fast to read if you have a tight schedule.
- Easy sentences at an intermediate level - not too simplistic, but clear and not too convoluted.
Learn Hindi using books
If you prefer a narrative to a small article, why not read books to learn new Hindi words and practise reading Hindi letters? The wonderful thing about books is that there is always something up to your level - whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced.
- Toddler books with their simple phrases are perfect for beginners who have just started to learn Hindi.
- Children’s books and Young Adult books are wonderful for intermediate level learners
- Literary books and poetry are for advanced students of Hindi.
Trying to read a narrative forces you to attempt to understand words in context instead of running to your Hindi dictionary every few minutes.
Readers who are strapped for time can read short stories, instead.
Fun Games to Learn Hindi
When you learn Spanish or French, you will find a huge selection of online games to make learning fun. However, when learning Hindi, you are a little bit more restricted in your choice of learning games. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any out there!
Apps for learning Hindi
A lot of language apps have quizzes to help you achieve proficiency in Hindi phrases and pronunciation.
- RBhasha Hindi teaches the Hindi alphabet to kids in a fun way
- Kids Hindi Nursery Rhymes is exactly what the title says - a way to learn easy words and phrases with the simple sentences of nursery rhymes.
- Learn Hindi Lite is a combination of textbook exercises and simple visual games. Good for your very first foray into the Hindi language
- Gus on the Go is a cute app that teaches kids languages with bright, clear pictures and interactive games in key vocabulary categories.
- Play and Learn Hindi has a lot of games for learning the Hindi language.
Live-action games to learn Hindi
There are no board games for learning Hindi (as of 2018, the two existing games were out of stock). However, you can make your own with printables and a little bit of imagination. Find out more about fun Hindi games!
Must-Know Words in the Hindi Language
There is a little core of Hindi phrases that you absolutely have to know to get anywhere in India:
- Namaste, a greeting.
- When someone says aaiye or padhariye, they are welcoming you!
- My name is… is important for making new friends: Meraa naam (insert name here) hain.
- Kripaya, please
- Help! Is madad or sahayta. An important word if something is wrong with you.
- Do you speak English? In Hindi, you can say: Kya ap angrezi (bolte or bolti= M/F) hai? And people will assume you speak Hindi perfectly.
- On the other end of the stick, you have to listen to everybody’s opinion spoken at 300 miles an hour. For those circumstances, try: Mai samjha/samhi nahi (I don’t understand).
Whether in Mumbai or Jhodpur, your best chance at being understood in northern India is to learn to speak Hindi! Don’t forget, though: these tips and tricks don’t replace the feedback of a Hindi tutor near you!