We all know that learning any language has pros and cons for students. It takes time and effort to memorise enough verbs, adjectives and phrases to hold a good conversation and enough grammar to structure your sentences properly.

Becoming proficient in a new language like Hindi isn't so much about being smart or dumb, but being willing to practice day in day out, over not a period of weeks or months, but years. We know that this might seem overwhelming at first, but when you think about the pros of your study, all that time is well worth it!

Once you've learned a good amount in your Hindi classes, you'll be able to travel more easily throughout India, speak with people in both your local community and overseas and access a whole new culture from ancient Vedas to Bollywood films. You're also sure to impress friends.

You may be under the impression that certain language classes are more difficult to study than others, but it all depends on who you are and the native language you speak. For English speakers, Romance (French, Italian etc.) or Germanic (German, Dutch etc) languages are "easier".

This is because they have basic root languages in common (Latin, Greek, Proto-Germanic etc.), a very similar alphabet and also borrow many words from each other. 'Touché', 'spaghetti' and 'kindergarten' are all loanwords from these languages.

So what does all of this mean? Well, unfortunately, Hindi doesn't resemble English much, so it is more difficult to study than the languages we mentioned above. Learning things like the Devanagari script will take time and effort, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring!

 

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Some Background to Hindi

There are differences between Sanskrit and Hindi
Many people think that Hindi and Sanskrit are the same. The difference between them is just one thing you can learn in a Hindi class. | Image: Unsplash- Swati H. Das

The best first step is to learn a little bit about Hindi:

Time for a little helpful history class! Hindi is the official language of India and is spoken in regions all over the country. It emerged in different stages, with the modern Devanagari script being seen for the first time around the 11th century.

The Devanagari script, basically the Hindi alphabet, is made up of 14 vowels and 33 consonants and is actually used for different languages like Marathi, Sanskrit, Nepali and more. It's actually the fourth most widely adopted writing system in the world!

There are many regional languages and dialects across India, but the Central Hindi Directorate is trying to create a standard version of the language, moving closer to Sanskrit. This aims to make it more comprehensible for non-Hindi speakers- good news for new students!

OK- history lesson over. Our next step is to look check out ways that Hindi is similar to and different from English...

Similarities

Unsurprisingly, Hindi has some similarities to other Asian languages like Urdu, Nepalese, Gujarati and more, meaning native speakers of these may find it easier to learn the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of this Indian language.

But really, the best place to start is with English. You read and write Hindi from left to right, which is a similarity that makes Hindi much easier for students than, say, Arabic or Hebrew. Good start, right?

Students will also be surprised to find that the modern version of English actually has quite a few loanwords from Hindi like guru, jungle, cheetah, karma and many more. Hindi also uses some loanwords from English, like hospital, doctor, station and more. How helpful!

Unfortunately, that's more or less where the similarities between the two languages end. Let's have a look at some of the major differences you'll learn about in classes...

Differences

Hindi might be a difficult language to learn
Don't let the differences between Hindi and English scare you. Take the first step and you'll be able to read Devanagari in no time! | Image: Unsplash-
Tim Gouw

One thing that you'll learn in Hindi lessons is that, while the two languages are quite different, those differences don't necessarily make Hindi more difficult to pick up.

Let's start with one of the biggest and best differences. If you've spoken to any English student, whether they're learning through an app or program like Rosetta Stone or in a private course, they all have one common complaint: pronunciation.

English isn't phonetic, meaning letters in the alphabet can have many sounds. This makes spelling any word or phrase a little bit more difficult. Hindi is phonetic, meaning all vowels and consonants have different sounds.

This means that if you practice the basic sound of all consonants and vowels enough in class, you'll be able to read a Hindi word without help (although you might not understand what it means!). Better than French, right?

Another key difference that can help make Hindi courses easier for people than a Spanish or French course is that articles ('the' and 'a') aren't part of the vocabulary or grammar of Hindi. These tiny words are often difficult for people to learn, especially in gendered languages.

If you were taking Spanish courses, you would need the skills to use el, la, los, and las in the right places in all phrases. In this Indian language, you don't need to think about this type of word at all!

Unfortunately, it can't all be good news and there are some differences that are definitely going to make your Hindi courses nice and challenging and be a test of your study skills.

The first lesson is about gender. Similar to Romance languages like Italian and French, every noun in Hindi is masculine, feminine, common or neuter and adjectives and verbs in phrases change depending on the gender of an object.

When you make notes of a new word in your vocabulary, always note down its gender and try writing an example sentence. This will be helpful in order to memorise each word and practice how it should be used with verbs.

These are the basic differences between English and the majority language spoken in India, some of which are pros and some cons. As you learn through your course and using other materials, it will become easier to understand and practice these differences.

Fun Ways To Start Learning to Speak Hindi

You can learn languages in different ways
One way to make learning Hindi fun is by studying with Indian native speakers using an app like Tandem. | Image: Unsplash- Ashwini Chaudhary

As we said before, there are so many different ways people can learn all the skills needed to speak a new language, from spoken skills like the pronunciation of different consonants and vowels or how to write the alphabet, or in the case of Hindi, the Devanagari script.

Before you start an online Rosetta Stone course or take lessons at a local language school, check out some of these free and fun ways that can help you improve your Hindi skills.

Memrise

This app can really help as a study buddy used concurrently with traditional courses or lessons. There's a range of cool materials you can use like video examples of everyday spoken Hindi, courses to teach common phrases designed by native speakers and more!

Of course, there are pros and cons to this version of online studying. Memrise is great for beginners because they have heaps of flashcards, high-quality video content and fun quizzes that will make you feel like you're improving day by day.

However, you don't have the support of a tutor, so if something doesn't make sense, there's not really any way to check within the app itself.

But the good news is that it's a free app, so you don't have to worry about subscription fees. You can start learning the alphabet and common phrases, and begin lessons with a tutor when you're ready to get serious about improving your level of Hindi!

Tandem Language Exchange

Another fun and free app, Tandem aims to teach language in a very different way to courses like Rosetta Stone or traditional lessons. This app is mostly for those who'd like to concentrate on speaking and conversation, and some basic knowledge of Hindi is recommended.

Basically, Tandem is an online platform where you can look for a native speaker of your target language who is looking to learn English. For example, you might be an English speaker wanting to learn Arabic, so you need to find an Arabic speaker wanting to learn English.

After finding the perfect match online, you can start chatting, using a messaging tool that includes voice notes, audio and video calls as well as correction and translation tools. So, instead of traditional lessons, you learn by doing!

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Giulietta

Giulietta is an English-language teacher currently working in Italy who loves fashion, history and finding the best restaurants in whichever city she finds herself in!