Translation 38. Hindi Learning Shortcuts. Introduction to a New Series
Preliminary Note: This is the full Introduction to the series as it appears on my language website India page.
All subsequent articles in this series for English-speaking learners of Hindi will be briefly announced on this blog with a link to the full versions available only on that language website page.
Introduction to a series of Hindi Learning Hints
After spending most of my life learning, studying. using, teaching or writing about European languages, and after several visits to India, I decided four years ago that it was time to try to learn Hindi. My aim was not to be able to order a succulent curry or even to talk to Hindi-speaking Indians (who know infinitely more English than I will ever know Hindi) but to be able to follow what the Indian media and Indian citizens talk and write about. So the main criterion in selecting materials for this series was (and is) the achievement of greater comprehension of that language.
Four years older and wiser, I remain engaged in a time- and energy-sapping struggle with this fascinating but quite difficult language. Some of my previous language-learning strategies have proved very useful in keeping me on a slow learning curve but the real foreignness of Hindi vocabulary, morphology and grammar has presented a formidable linguistic Himalayan range to conquer. With Hindi there are none of the usual convenient and comforting ‘toeholds’ or mnemonics for “us”: all those familiar COGNATE European (latinate, and even germanic) words, prefixes and suffixes which are quickly recognisable to the English learner in a flow of Romance writing and speech (or even, to a much lesser extent, in German and Dutch).
One slight but interesting advantage has been the vast – and constantly growing – number of English loanwords used in educated and media Hindi. That will be the subject of a later Hindi Hints chapter. Another early chapter will deal with Hindi acronyms (with both local and international references) which, mainly because of a historical accident, are phonetically based on English. Hooray!
The planned series of hints and shortcuts for greater or speedier comprehension of Hindi by Anglo and other foreign learners has (at least) three motives:
1. To share some of my very hard-earned knowledge with other Anglo learners.
2. To encourage Hindi speakers and fellow Anglo learners of Hindi to point out my misunderstandings and to correct my errors.
3. To force myself to study and observe Hindi more carefully.
The Reference lists posted in each article will also point to those books or websites that I have found useful in learning Hindi, in particular in relation to transliteration of the difficult (but nowhere near the difficulty of Chinese script) Hindi Devanagari script, for quicker (romanised) deciphering.
I wish to express my special gratitude to my patient tutor, Indramohan Singh, who for the past three years has also acted as my translator, transliterator, interpreter and scientific advisor and has also supplemented my bilingual (romanised) dictionaries on the many occasions when they failed to enlighten me (or, perhaps, when I failed to locate the information in the exhausting labyrinth of the anti-firangi Devanagari alphabetical order). To give credit where credit is due, these life-saving lexicographical works were:
Allied’s Hindi-English Dictionary, Father Camille Bulcke’s posthumous Hindi-English Dictionary and, much more recently, the late Dr Hardev Bahri’s first-class 2-volume Advanced Learner’s Hindi-English Dictionary) and, at the eleventh hour, Arvind Kumar’s HEROIC opus and life’s work, the Hindi AND English Thesaurus.
Nevertheless, the errors in this series of articles are entirely of my own making and I look forward to benefitting from readers’ corrections (and, perhaps, additions), which would be most welcome by me – and excellent karma for such benefactors.
Notes for the Series
1. My simplified Hindi transliteration system should not be too difficult to understand. One of its advantages is that it stands a reasonable chance of being recognised by transliteration systems like those of Google (for conversion into Devanagari script, where necessary). (Thank God for transliteration as a partial antidote to the Devanagari script, however artistic the latter may be!)
2. In most articles, an English alphabetical order for Hindi words (a further utilitarian desecration!) is deliberately used since it allows Anglos to make quick searches for words and also allows the speedy extraction of useful materials using the “Sort” and “Find” features of Microsoft WORD and other word processors. Without this subterfuge, I would not have been able to accumulate (and benefit from) my private 14,000 word romanised Hindi Glossary! Although totally artificial, this unorthodox Hindi word order thus speeds up reference work enormously for foreign learners.1