What are the best resources for learning Hindi?
March 31, 2010 11:31 PM   Subscribe

I'd Like to learn written and spoken Hindi starting form square 1. What are the best resources, particularly Web-based resources for doing that?

I know a lot of people who speak Hindi. I also like movies and I hear they make a few of them in India now and then. I don't know if I'll ever become fluent but I'd like to at least be able to manage a basic conversation and more fully appreciate the movies and music.

So anyway is there an online resource for that that's high quality? Something well designed and professionally implemented? Maybe something with a social aspect where you interact with teachers and other students. Rosetta Stone makes you download and install software. That seems really behind the times. Berlitz has online courses but not for Hindi and it's crazy expensive.

Anything else out there you'd recommend?

Even recommendations for a really good book or school program in the San Francisco Bay Area would be helpful. I'll take what I can get.
posted by eeby to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
While I can't speak specifically to the Hindi course, I've played around a bit with Livemocha in German and found it useful. What I've seen is similar to Rosetta Stone, matching pictures to written & spoken words. There is also a social aspect that I haven't really used, but you could probably find a Hindi speaker who wants to learn English to trade practice time with.
posted by pmann at 12:33 AM on April 1, 2010


Learn to read. I've seen Hindi learning resources which try to get around the hurdle of literacy by transliterating everything into Roman script. It's a false shortcut, because Hindi has a lot of sounds which don't exist in English, and you really do need to know the script to tell them apart.

Avashy.com's Devanagari tutor is a great resource, not just for learning to read and write, but also for learning to distinguish between consonants which may initially sound identical. There are at least five sounds in Hindi that sound a bit like an English 'D', for example, and it takes repeated listening to learn to 'hear' them properly.

Rosetta Stone may help you to pick up an intuitive 'feel' for the structure and grammar of the language, but it doesn't teach the cultural aspects, nor does it offer much in the way of usable vocabulary. The word lists seem to be the same for all languages, which meant I found myself learning the Hindi words for baguette and mitten and mini-skirt and autumn, instead of words that would actually be useful in India. I recommend it only as a supplement to a structured course or book which actually teaches the nuts and bolts of the language.

I recommend these books: Teach Yourself Beginners Hindi Script and Teach Yourself Hindi, both by Rupert Snell. He's also put out a small learner's dictionary, which is particularly useful, because Hindi has an astonishing vocabulary of archaic and poetic words, and choosing at random from a regular dictionary can make you sound pretty silly.
posted by embrangled at 12:33 AM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Agreed completely with embrangled. Picking up devanagari (the script for Hindi) is not hard, and you will make your life much more difficult if you start to learn in transliteration.

There is really not much (at least in my repeated searching) in the way of Hindi resources for learners online. There is a user-friendlyish but sparse dictionary at Shabdkosh.com and a quite comprehensive but horribly-interfaced dictionary here. If you start really getting into reading Hindi, I can't recommend more highly McGregor's Oxford Hindi-English dictionary. Seriously, this thing is attractive, informative, current, amazingly comprehensive, and just completely raises the bar for foreign-language dictionaries, at least from the others I've seen.

Good luck! Hindi is really not an objectively hard language for English-speakers to learn, so don't be daunted. Underneath the mysterious-looking cloak of devanagari and some unfamiliar syntactical strategies, it's got a good old Indo-European skeleton that will not give you much grief.

Feel free to MeMail me if you want a Hindi practice buddy or anything. I used to be pretty decent, but have gotten incredibly rusty and am looking to get back in the swing of things.
posted by threeants at 3:56 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, how could I forget? A Door into Hindi, by Afroz Taj. Last time I used it, there were a few broken links, but it really is a great resource. Twenty-four video lessons, filmed in India, with real-life situations and scripts.
posted by embrangled at 4:46 AM on April 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and yes, the Oxford Hindi-English and English-Hindi dictionaries are incredible. I just found them a bit overwhelming as a beginner - it was sometimes hard to pick the one word that regular Hindi speakers use from the seventeen synonyms that are spoken only by poets and professors. I ended up sticking to the learner's dictionary for absorbing new vocab, and kept the Oxfords for reference once I started to struggle through news articles. Speaking of which, बी.बी.सी. हिन्दी is good reading practice.
posted by embrangled at 5:06 AM on April 1, 2010


If you are interested in learning Hindi, go to www.inditoy.com and check out the website. The Hindi toy will be available later this month. Right now, Marathi is available.
Good Luck!
posted by sabnis1121 at 8:34 AM on April 1, 2010


Seconding the Teach Yourself Hindi book by Snell. That's actually the textbook that was used in my freshman Hindi course, and I highly recommend it for its logical approach to the grammar.

Don't fall for textbooks that use the Roman script for the entirety of the book. Devanagari is a fantastically straightforward phonetic alphabet, and there's no reason you shouldn't be reading Hindi out loud (even if with zero comprehension) by the end of week one or two.

After over a decade of studying the language and even assistant teaching it, I've also found that the best way to learn to understand Hindi is to embrace Hindi popular cinema -- listen to the film music as you work out; watch the films to unwind. Really immerse yourself in the pop culture scene, and your accent and your comprehension skills will improve at a much faster pace than that of any kid who's just studying the language in the classroom.

It's a beautiful language and being able to speak it opens so many doors in north India. You're in for an awesome time!
posted by artemisia at 10:15 AM on April 1, 2010


Why is everyone here asking you to learn to read/write hindi when you want to talk and understand it? That's just going to make your life hard.

I suggest CDs you can listen to in your car...its not online, but will help you become more fluent.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:19 PM on April 1, 2010


Pimsleur is excellent for listening and speaking. It won't give you any writing skills, but I do think you should start with Pimsleur. (Disclaimer: I don't speak Hindi and have never tried to learn, but I do have quite a few other languages)
posted by tel3path at 1:58 PM on April 1, 2010


Why is everyone here asking you to learn to read/write hindi when you want to talk and understand it? That's just going to make your life hard.

hal_c_on, I won't pretend not to project here, since I've never been a language learner other than myself, but at least for me, it's exceedingly difficult to learn anything complex in a language only through aural resources. Also, written text materials can be absorbed much more quickly than audio references. I think you can pick up advanced grammatical concepts by ear if you are surrounded by native speakers all the time-- of course this is the sole way by which billions of illiterate people learn their languages-- but probably not from a Pimsleur CD. And the fact is, dialogue in films is not "Hello. My name is Akash. How are you? I am also doing fine. I would like to buy these red shoes. How much does one pair of shoes cost? Thank you!" but rather tends towards the complex end of things.
posted by threeants at 3:14 PM on April 1, 2010


Why is everyone here asking you to learn to read/write hindi when you want to talk and understand it? That's just going to make your life hard.

hal_c_on, have you actually tried to learn Hindi? Because there are plenty of reasons why people are recommending this approach, and some of them are specific to this language:

- A new Hindi speaker needs to get their mouth and ears around a whole new gamut of sounds. If they don't learn to tell them apart, they will make embarrassing mistakes. (Think Japanese speakers who mix up 'r' and 'l', times a thousand).

- The Roman script is not equipped to adequately represent these sounds. You have to use dots and dashes to supplement the letters, and you end up using the letter 'd' to represent four or five different sounds, which only encourages confusion. It's actually easier to spend a couple of weeks learning a new script.

- The Devanagari script is perfectly suited to representing Hindi. It's very logical. With few exceptions, it is phonetic, so if you can read a word, you can pronounce it correctly. Conversely, if you can pronounce a word, you can generally spell it correctly.

- A lot of Hindi movies employ same language subtitling. It's there to help fluent Hindi speakers become literate, but it's also useful for helping literate Hindi learners to follow the plot and increase their vocabulary.

- You will find new joy in reading white hippies' 'spiritual' Hindi or Sanskrit tattoos. Usually, they say amusingly silly things.

Basically, if you want to learn Hindi beyond the level of "Hello, I am Sally. What is your name?", learning to read will save you time and effort. That's not immediately obvious to a new learner, which is why people are suggesting it.
posted by embrangled at 6:18 PM on April 1, 2010


Thanks a lot for the help everyone. I'll try the recommended books. Yeah, I agree with the concept of learning to write at the same time. That makes sense.
posted by eeby at 9:59 PM on April 1, 2010


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