Why am I learning Hindi? I don’t really know! I just love it. And that’s reason enough for me.
I know that Hindi is not the language of Hinduism (Sanskrit is) and I know that most Hindi speakers I encounter will also know English. But I’ve always wanted to be bilingual and this is a great language for me to learn since I have a passion for the culture it comes from. (I have, for the record, tried to learn Sanskrit and I made the decision that I wanted to learn a language that is more commonly spoken!)
So in case anyone else wants to be able to understand Bollywood movies without subtitles and to say hello at the Indian grocery store, here is everything I know about learning Hindi…
General Language Learning Tips
My language learning philosophy is explained really well at these two websites. I believe in immersing yourself as much as possible in your home environment and to pick up language in a natural way rather than memorizing rules and grammar. I’ve tried both and I really can’t learn language in a class where we recite verb conjunctions. I’ve found that once I have a feel for the language and what sounds right then I can learn the grammar behind it, which is exactly how I learned about grammar in English!
Benny is a wacky guy from Ireland who has started making himself a polyglot (one who speaks many languages). He uses a system of intense immersion and speaking from day one to become fluent in languages in a ridiculously short time. He believes in learning from your mistakes in a natural environment, so start trying out your language on native speakers immediately. It takes guts. He’s incredibly optimistic and has a way of making you really feel like you can do it! The only thing that bothers me with him is he is not so much a fan of Rosetta Stone and I very much am (see below!)
Ajat (All Japanese All the Time)
It’s not Hindi, but this guy’s devotion to creating an immersive environment at home is stunning. He has a lot of interesting posts about how to soak language in. He believes you don’t learn a language, you live it.
Basics (Books and Programs)
I will never try to learn a language without Rosetta Stone again. I adore them. I got their program back when it was brand new and it had some issues, but the versions they have now have more than solved all those problems! It is learning without translation and they do it brilliantly. You associate words with pictures so you’re not putting them into English first. It is all in devanagari script, as it should be! You practice with reading, listening, speaking, and writing (there are issues with the writing portion, though. I’ve found it to be too challening). You may think that it would be too simplistic to learn be associating words and pictures, how can you get beyond single words? Let me tell you, you can. When you understand a section that’s three sentences long you feel amazing!
Here’s an example of the kind of sentences you’ll be comprehending:
Rosetta Stone has a way of getting a language deep, deep into your brain. I find that the words and phrases get stuck in my head in the best possible way. I see an object and the Hindi word for it just naturally comes to mind. I’ve been through the entire program for Hindi and it is the reason that I’m able to use Hindi at all. Everything else I’ve done has been to build on and support the foundation that Rosetta Stone gave me.
I’ve paid more than $1,000 for a university language course and I didn’t learn even a quarter of what I did with Rosetta Stone. Right now three levels costs around $300. So worth it! There are imitators but none are as good as this. I’ve been very disappointed in the programs that try to do the picture and word association thing because they just are not as well thought-out and guided as Rosetta Stone.
One issue is that it uses Hindi from one particular area and so sometimes there are words that are just English-ized words that are commonly used in that region. But once you get comfortable and familiar it’s easy to swap in Hindi words. For example, Rosetta Stone uses “kar” for “car” rather than the Hindi word “gari.” So remember as you’re going through it that a lot of those English sounding words can be replaced with actual Hindi words.
A fantastic flash-card based system. I just discovered this one and I LOVE it. It is free and it’s a good way to build vocabulary. It is based on translation into English, but once you have a strong foundation from Rosetta Stone, it will be easy for you to use this program to add words to your vocab.
The best Hindi program there is +1000 Hindi Words for Beginners and it is based on vocabulary from the next thing on this recommendation list.
Memrise uses research on human memory to refresh your knowledge of your words at exactly the right times. If you have trouble remembering a word, you can add a “meme” to it. There are some other people have generated and it’s easy to create your own. So for example, I’m having trouble remembering the word kursi for chair and another user has a picture of a girl sitting in a chair and text that says “she tried to curtsy but fell into the chair.” So my brain associates curtsy with chair and makes it a lot easier to remember kursi.
Memrise is also great for learning to spell. It has a slight issue that there isn’t any way to create a mark called a chandra bindu (moon and dot), so the words that use it can’t be spelled. Luckily that’s only a few. It’s writing portion is better than Rosetta Stone’s (at least for the +1000 words list since it is one or two words at a time). My spelling has been improving rapidly since I started using this program.
This book is a classic in terms of Hindi textbooks. It has a lot of grammar notes and lessons and those I’ve found to only be comprehensible once I’ve experienced those aspects of the language. So for me this book has been great as a tool after Rosetta Stone. There are short dialogues at the beginning of every chapter and through them a little story emerges. It’s packed with good information. Like I said above, I enjoy learning grammar to understand the things I’m already doing, like with English. I don’t find it possible for me personally to understand grammar when I don’t have the context of hearing and knowing the language already.
The very best flash cards. These are all in Hindi script (devanagari) and they have complete example sentences with each one. Once I have some free time, I think I will input these words into Memrise.com!
This is a fantastic little series designed for a college class, as far as I can tell. There are videos that start out really easy and get progressively more challenging with support for learning the vocab and grammar of each video.
I have found that materials meant for children are a great way to start language learning. It’s immersion-lite.
Amu the Aam was my very first book in Hindi. This site has a few early readers. I wish they wouldn’t put the English in too (I find it distracting), but I scribbled the English out with a marker on my books!
Galli Galli Sim Sim: Sesame Street in Hindi. I haven’t been able to get DVDs of the program, but their site has lots of videos!
Appu Videos This company has videos you can buy and a lot of them free on YouTube also. I have a stack of educational DVDs in Hindi from them.
Amra Chitra Comics This company is famous for its books and comics. There are lots that are based on Hindu mythology (familiar stories means picking up the Hindi easier!)
Panchatantra Tales. Look these up on YouTube. They are famous little stories like the Aesop’s Fables of India.
Matrubhasha has a CD you can buy of simple children’s games in Hindi.
Kidsone has tons of vocab animations in a wide variety of topics
Nikki at DollsofIndia.com is a sweetheart and she has actually scouted and found materials for me that she doesn’t actually sell in her shop usually. She’s found American movies dubbed in Hindi for me!
Hindi Matki (Google chrome app game) This is Boggle in Hindi!
Aksharit looks like Hindi scrabble. I don’t know if there’s any way for me to get it in the U.S., but it looks great!
Cram.com This site has flashcard sets (and there’s already a BUNCH of Hindi ones set up). They also have games you can play with the flashcards, like a bejeweled-style game.
Blogs with Grammar
The Department of Defense has language learning materials available. I’ve found that they have only pretty advanced things! It’s worth checking out.
UPenn has some Hindi learning videos.
I Speak Hindi (an audio podcast AND a blog)
Learning Hindi (Detailed and helpful grammatical articles)
Transparent Language: Hindi (Cultural info and grammatical info)
Hindi for Christmas (Follow along as a native English speaker attempts to learn Hindi)
Simple Folk Tales (written)
AJAT suggests trying to buy materials from Amazon in India: http://www.amazon.in/
By the way, this tool: Word Champ, will help you read those fully Hindi webpages! Enter the web address and it will give you that website with the ability to click on the words and get definitions.
Buy American movies dubbed into Hindi at Online Indian Mart (they ship to the U.S. I paid as much in shipping as I did for the movies, but it was still very affordable).
Oxford Dictionary. This one is huge and detailed!
Visual Dictionary. I like this one because it connects words with pictures. Grouped by subject. Fun to just flip through.
Hindi Dictionary and Phrase Book. I use this one mostly from the phrase book part.
Someone on Twitter just recommended Hindi Learner tutorials to me
Lang-8 is a site where you can write things in your target language and get corrections as well as correct people trying to learn your native language. I’ve had trouble with the corrections here because I don’t always know why things are being suggested or changed. I prefer to practice by writing in Hindi on Twitter and getting feedback there!
My Language Exchange lets you find penpals and chat partners who are trying to learn your native language while you try to learn theirs.