August 2, 2010 | Hindi

My First Hours with Hindi

In which I am told how easy it will be to learn this language.

Today was the beginning of August and of Hindi. Pictured here are some of the materials I will be using over the next two months: Rosetta Stone, as well as several books.

Hindi Supplies

Hindi Supplies

As it happens, the four books in this picture are all published by McGraw-Hill. I am sad that McGraw-Hill is not sending me review copies; I’m not sure why my requests have been ignored. They used to send me books when I was writing book reviews, even for obscure publications.

I didn’t start either Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone today. Instead I focused on reading my various (non-review-copy) books.

One thing that I didn’t know until I began this project a year ago, and which I think is worth mentioning here, is that Hindi and Urdu are virtually identical in spoken form. So, learn Hindi and you will be able to talk to both Hindi- and Urdu-speaking people. Or learn Urdu instead; for spoken communication, it doesn’t matter too much which you pick.

The main difference between the two languages is the way they are written. They look radically different. Urdu is written in Perso-Arabic script, moving from right to left, while Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, left to right. (Don’t think I could have told you this stuff without a cheat sheet; I am currently copying this information straight out of a book.) Devanagari is also the main script for Sanskrit, the classical language of India.

In the book Your First 100 Words in Hindi (the titles in this particular language series always make me feel about five years old, which is kind of fun), I was happy to read that there are no capital letters, but a bit skeptical about the reassurance I was given that the script is “quite easy to learn.” I was informed that it is a “logical and consistent system of writing” in which “most words are spelt as they sound.” (Isn’t “spelt” a cute spelling, by the way? That’s UK style.)

In the same book, I read that Hindi has 38 traditional symbols as well as four more recently added ones. According to my calculations, that adds up to 42, which is a hell of a lot more than 26. Almost 62% more, in fact.

I felt that was more than enough letters to disqualify Hindi as a “quite easy to learn” script.

Although I also looked at the book Teach Yourself Hindi (which told me Hindi was “not a particularly difficult language to learn”), I spent the most time today on McGraw-Hill’s Beginner’s Hindi Script. In it I read:

Sanskrit is an Indo-Aryan language—that is to say, it belongs to the “Aryan” (or “Indian”) part of the Indo-European language family, and shares a common ultimate origin with Greek and Latin. Thus Hindi, which derives from Sanskrit, is a direct, if distant, relative of European languages, as is apparent in many close similarities between words…When you learn Hindi through English, you are not as far from home as you may have thought.

More reassurances. Everyone was offering me reassurances. Why?

I grow suspicious…

Comments (5)

Marcin KryƄski • Posted on Fri, August 06, 2010 - 8:24 am EST

Your Hindi materials are little expensive :D

Rosetta TOTALe is not a cheap one :)

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, August 06, 2010 - 8:47 am EST

Marcin - I know. You are absolutely right. I will probably try out a few other things this month that are less expensive, and I expect to write about them, too. Rosetta Stone will not be affordable for many people, and unfortunately, it is not available through public libraries (unlike Pimsleur’s audio lessons, which are cheaper anyway). Though I see plenty of people spending way, way, way more money than the cost of a TOTALe subscription on things that do NOT happen to give them broader insights into another mode of communication, another culture, the nature of human civilization, etc. So they could consider it. :)

Katherine • Posted on Mon, August 16, 2010 - 11:36 am EST

My husband’s cousin studied Hindi, she recommended a book called “a door into Hindi”

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Mon, August 16, 2010 - 11:47 am EST

Thank you, Katherine. I just looked for it. I didn’t see a book, but I do see a website, at Do yo.u think it’s possible that’s what she was referring to?

Katherine • Posted on Wed, August 18, 2010 - 12:50 pm EST

Yes, you are right.  I just checked with her and it is that online site.  She said it contains all their quizes and homework.

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