Learning a new language is never easy. It’s one thing to study in Hindi language courses and learn the vocabulary your teacher sets, but if you really want to improve you will need to immerse yourself in the language.
This is not something you can do in a classroom. Mastering a foreign language on your own is hard, but once you learn to incorporate some simple tricks for practising into your daily routine, nothing will stand in your way.
So here are some tips on how to learn Hindi in your spare time and acquire fluency.
There are several ways you can learn Hindi vocabulary words and phrases in your spare time.
Flashcards are very simple to make. Just take some small index cards (A5 or A6) and write the Hindi word on one side and the English word on the other. Don’t forget to write the article and plural form!
Then put a pack of cards somewhere you are sure to spend some time each day – the breakfast table, the toilet or in your work bag for your morning commute. Whenever you are there, pick up a few of the cards and try and remember the translation of the word you see on the side facing you, then turn them around to see if you were correct. Don’t forget to mix them up regularly, and don’t always do it one way! You’ll want to alternate finding the Hindi words based on the English, and trying to remember the English translation from Hindi.
A variation for visual learners is to print pictures and glue them to the cards instead of an English translation.
When you learn new words, simply make new flashcards and mix them in!
If you are more of a smartphone type, there are several flashcard apps out there:
A fun way to learn basic Hindi vocabulary is to put post-its with the Hindi words for those objects on various things around the house. You needn’t stick to nouns, either – you can put one post-it on your freezer for “freezer” and another for the adjectives “cold” and “freezing”, just like your soap dispenser can hold “soap” and the verbs “to clean” or “to scrub”.
Knowing Hindi words and vocabulary is one thing, but while learning a second language, you also need to practice grammar and learn to understand whole sentences and hone your language skills in understanding words in context.
You will also need to practice reading and writing the Hindi alphabet. And the best way to do that is to read.
One difficulty in trying to learn Hindi is getting used to the alphabet. That, in addition, to understanding grammar rules, means that your reading level is not going to be very high at first. A simple sentence structure with basic expressions is excellent to help you learn beginner Hindi.
Children learn their native language by reading books with their parents. The same way, you can learn a foreign language with children’s books. The wonderful thing is, you will always find books at your level:
You can look for “The Gruffalo” and Harry Potter in Hindi – it’s always useful if you already know the plot – but why not try out some Hindi children’s books such as:
The website Learning Hindi has PDF versions of Hindi children’s books available for download.
If stories are not for you, you can still practice your Hindi by reading up on the news or reading articles about your favourites hobbies.
A good way to learn Hindi is to read the newspaper – just make sure it’s in the right language! Photo credit: counterclockwise on Visual Hunt
While the language in articles is more elegant than beginner children’s books, article writers strive for clarity, so their prose won’t be as florid as in an adult novel. News stories can be a good way to learn Hindi online: beginners can read the news item synopsis and eventually graduate to the full articles.
Make sure your English-Hindi dictionaries on at hand, though – news stories are an amazing way to build vocabulary!
If the news is too much for you or you resent the loss of your limited free time, look for Hindi blogs and magazines that talk about your favourite hobby.
Reading is wonderful for building up your understanding and your passive vocabulary. But you will want to work on your active vocabulary as well, and you will need to practice the Devanagari script – or Arabic script if you are learning Urdu (the language of Pakistan).
A language journal is a great way to do that. Set aside a certain time of day (at breakfast or just before going to bed) to write a few words about what you are planning or how your day went.
In the beginning, you can do it bullet-point style: a simple sentence for each activity. Then, as you progress, you can write more complicated sentences. Your goal is eventually to write a fluent paragraph detailing your day.
It’s a simple way to learn how to write Hindi.
Writing the Hindi language is not easy – a language journal can help! Photo credit: Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs on VisualHunt
Seeing a word written on a page is not the same as hearing someone speak in a foreign language. The accent, the rhythm of the language, is often slightly different than what you hear in your head when learning Hindi. To be able to understand a native speaker, listening to the Hindi language being spoken is the best way.
You can learn Hindi online! Find a YouTube channel with podcasts in Hindi. Look for those that teach the Hindi language and culture, or else look for vloggers reporting on your interests. Some of them might be captioned in English, but most won’t, so you’ll really need to work on your listening skills!
Some Hindi TV channels are available via satellite, such as DD International, the worldwide version of DD India (which also has programmes in other languages of India such as Punjabi and Tamil). You can watch Hindi news and series in the original language and learn vocabulary through Hindi dialogue spoken by actors with Hindi as a first language.
Watching movies is a wonderful way to learn a new language. You can first watch it in English, then in the original language, or put on English or Hindi subtitles depending on your fluency. It’s a good way to learn words in context and hear proper pronunciation.
Bollywood movies are a great way to learn Hindi. Photo credit: classic_film on VisualHunt
Be careful, though: not all Bollywood films are in Hindi! Some are in other Indian languages such as Marathi, Bengali or Kannada.
Once you can reliably understand the Hindi tongue, you will need to practice your spoken Hindi. Not just your pronunciation, but your conversation skills. There are several ways you can gain proficiency in Hindi phrases and common words and pronunciation.
A wonderful way to practice speaking Hindi is to find a language partner – someone for whom Hindi is a mother tongue, with whom you can regularly have a conversation in Hindi.
Language partners often operate on the mutual help principle – you will help them learn English while they improve your conversational Hindi. There are a number of websites and apps that can help you find one – such as my language exchange, italki or conversation exchange.
When you think of private tutors, you mostly think of a teacher at home who makes you recite the declension of verbs and has you writing out sentence structure exercises.
But a private tutor can also help you with your conversational Hindi. Instead of teaching grammatical rules, a Hindi language coach can talk with you in Hindi about current events, or you could discuss a book you just read. Unlike language partners, private tutors are paid a set rate.
Language immersion is the best way to learn a language, and nothing is more immersive than living in the country where it is spoken. There, you will be forced to read and communicate in the language, will hear it constantly and learn ten times faster than when pouring over books.
Going to India is the best way to learn Hindi. Photo on VisualHunt.com
But careful when booking your trip to India: make sure you are staying in an area that speaks primarily Hindi, or you might come home speaking Gujarati instead!