For a language that had descended from one of the oldest in the world, Hindi has also other credentials to make it to the top. It is spoken by more than half a billion people in the world (and growing). It is the dominant language used in dialogues and songs in Bollywood movies. Why then is learning Hindi not that popular?
Lack of resources
The world’s major publishers of language tutorial programs (Assimil, Pimsleur, Linguaphone) have managed to produce only the first level of Hindi language programs.
So far, there are only few universities in the U.S. offering Hindi language classes.
Some people feel this is caused by a lack of either resources or interest from the point of view of economic benefit. Even as India’s economy is picking up today, there seems to be no rush in learning Hindi, except for the normal steady growth of the number of students at language centers.
One pertinent reason given is that since English is the second official language in India, and that many Indians speak fluent English, there is no need for English speakers (including those from other countries) to learn Hindi.
Lack of incentives
When China’s economy grew, so did the influx of people from other countries wanting to learn Mandarin and do business in China. This is not replicated in India when the economy perked up.
Aside from the fact that not every Indian speaks Hindi (and many Indians having no desire whatsoever to learn Hindi), the country gets by with English, the second official language sanctioned by the Indian constitution.
In India, serious business is usually done in English. However, Hindi is the official language of the most backward of Indian states (Bihar, Rajastran, MP) where there is a large number of illiterates.
In the more advanced states of Gujarat,. Maharasthra, Karnataka and Tamilnadu, Hindi is not spoken. In Maharasthra, which is the center of Bollywood movies, Hindi is more associated with the movies and with vendors and street people.
Lack of interest
As of last count, there are at least 30 Pimsleur lessons for Vietnamese and only 10 for Hindi. Some pundits feel that the lack of interest in Hindi is not much on the economic factor but leans more onto the cultural aspect as well.
Current attitude also plays a good part in this apathy for Hindi. There had been anecdotes of Indian fathers discouraging their children to focus on Hindi as a language to learn.
Another consideration is that Hindi speakers are not so keen on defining their language and their culture through Hindi. Unlike most nations and other ethnic groups, Hindi speakers would rather revert to English if all else fails in their business negotiations, in the clarity of their speech and in other related communication processes.
Lastly, Hindi is alive and well yet it is not seen as the kind of key to India and its people like Mandarin to the Chinese or English to Americans and French to France.
Perhaps, there should be a review on why this cultural aspect of the language has been stagnant, even among its very people. As in any other language, to learn Hindi is to know the soul of India and its people.