Someone had said that today’s India is the new tower of Babel. Consider: there are 15 national languages recognized by the constitution and spoken in over 1,600 dialects by over 900 million people. Learning Hindi, one of India’s official languages (the other is English), would seem like a daunting task.
For many educated Indians, especially those living in modern urban areas, English is virtually their first language. For the rest of the population who are multi-lingual, it is a second language. Their first might be one of the 16 other major languages in India.
To learn Hindi is like learning any other language for that matter. Depending on where you came from, there might be some difficulties but there might be some ease, too. Let us look at them.
Without going into the details of pronunciation, you might very well guess that there might be difficulties in the language starting with the alphabet. Hindi has a total of 10 vowels and 40 consonants.
Compared with the 21 consonants and 6 vowels in English, the students will be in for a long haul in their language lessons.
For the native speaker, the Devanagari script represents the exact sounds of how Hindi should be spoken. A native speaker who knows the Devanagari script can exactly sound out the Hindi text even without knowing the meaning.
For a very rich language descended from one of the oldest languages in the world, Hindi carries with it a corresponding rich consonant system, about 40 of them.
There are more than the official list, considering the many other regions of India, each with distinct variation of the language.
Inherited from Sanskrit, the traditional core of the consonant system comprises 25 occlusives and 8 sonorants and fricatives. It also has 6 sounds borrowed from the Persians (Iranian) and the Arabs, but are now considered Hindi sounds.
Teachers found out that aspirated and unaspirated Hindi consonants are difficult for English speakers. Also, they will need to carefully distinguish four different D sounds and four different T sounds.
In English, the unstressed vowels have a « schwa » sound, making the pronunciation have an UH sound. This is called reducing. In the word UNIFY, the second syllable becomes an UH instead of an EE. The second syllable of PERSON is pronounced with an UH rather than OH.
In Hindi, care must be taken not to reduce these vowels. For example, VO BOLTA HAI means « he talks » and VO BOLTI HAI is « she talks ». Typically, an English speaker would say the first sentence (VO BOLTA HAI) as VO BOLTUH HAI, which comes out as « she talks » to the native Hindi ears.
The first two examples we have are still in the area of alphabets. Hindi grammar is another hurdle, though not that hard once you get the hang of it. (English is one of the most difficult languages to learn considering the many rules and the accompanying exceptions to these rules – in grammar, pronunciation, and function.)
Hindi is getting to be an international language, thanks to the growing popularity of Bollywood movies. Learning Hindi through these songs is not such a bad idea. Songs are never difficult to learn.