Beyond Namaste

I am trying my best at Hindi, and it’s not easy.

Let’s start with the flashcards I found online:



Oh, I have seen that before.  I think it’s a, hmmm, let me think, oh, it’s fresh tamarind.  I got it, tamarind.  A as in “apple”.  T as in “tamarind”.  Right? Wrong.  It’s called इमली.  Yep.  It’s pronounced IMALI.  इ is for I as in “idiot”!  That’s good to know because it’s a staple of Indian cooking, but in terms or learning the language, it’s not very helpful.

Let’s move on:

Snow plough

Really?  A snow plow?  In India?  They use people to sweep the streets in Bangalore but have snowplows? Ok.  They may have them in the Northern states, in the Himalayas up there.  But I am back to square one, with the same problem I had with my imali.

We buy Rosetta Stone for Hindi.  I will skip the details (email me if you want my opinion) but it was a bust.

We buy the Pimsleur method.  It’s great, but I am a visual learner.  And I have developed a sort of attention deficit disorder when it comes to studying: 30 minutes of uninterrupted work and concentration, I can’t do that anymore!  And it doesn’t teach you how to read.

There is still the option of taking real classes.  Close to a half billion people speak the language, and in Silicon Valley, it shouldn’t be hard to find a teacher.  Once again, wrong!  Even the university where I taught doesn’t offer Hindi courses.  But I found a small for profit language school and registered.

Oh boy…  Let me introduce you to some of the finesse of Hindi.

They write with the Devanagari script, not our Latin alphabet with only 26 letters.  I already knew that.

They have different sounds than us.  They have four different pronunciations for our letter “D”,  and none of them are the exact equivalent of our “D”.  You have to curl your tongue, move it closer to your teeth, or near your soft palate… They have 3 variations of “G”, 2 for “K”, etc…  Retroflex, dental, aspirated, unaspirated, it’s a workout for your mouth.

They have gendered nouns, like in French.  Fine, I can learn.

They have gendered conjugations.  “I live in Bangalore” is different if “I” is a boy or a girl.  “My cat is black” is different if the owner of the said cat is boy or girl.  However, there are no distinctions between “he”, “she” and “it”, or between “him” and “her”; the verb will indicate gender.  Ok, so I will only learn how to speak like a girl, that will make it easier!

It gets better.  “Tomorrow” and “yesterday” are the same word.  What?  Yes, the end of the verb in the sentence will determine the tense.

Even the numbers are different.  They don’t always use arab numerals.  The “1” looks like a 9, “4” looks like an 8, “7” looks like a drunk 9.  And they use one special word for each number between 0 and 100.  Yippee!

I am only on page 9 of the book.  And you know what the main spoken language in Bangalore is?  Not Hindi!

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4 Responses to Beyond Namaste

  1. Great post! Like your writing style and think I will enjoy your future posts!!
    I am now thinking I need to get some sort of a second language under my belt too and am amused by all that you have written!!
    I also find it amusing that when Indians I know read out phone numbers – for example 78653321 they wouldn’t say each individual number and rather say seven hundred eighty six, fifty three, three hundred twenty one… Seems like a lot more effort to me, but probably easier to remember that way!!
    Luckily in Bangalore there are lots of expats and people speaking english!!

    • We found a lot of people in Bangalore who don’t speak English, even in large stores like Big Bazaar. And using my one word of Hindi brought amazed faces with huge smiles! That alone is worth it!!!

      • Of course, a country with low literacy rates can hardly boast a huge English speaking community among the working class however among the higher classes it will be common and with the large number of foreigners also in the city there will be plenty of people to converse in English with as compared to a third tier city like Amritsar. 🙂

      • When we go visit the Golden Temple, I will let you know and we can speak English all night long!

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