Hindi is sometimes considered a linguistic newcomer - though some scholars trace the Hindi literary tradition as far back as the 5 century AD, most agree that the modern language only truly gained a foothold in the 17th century. However, this late start hasn’t held the language back! Nearly 425 million people speak Hindi as a first language, making it approximately the sixth most spoken language in the world, and another 120 million speak Hindi as a second. While Hindi is the official language of India (along with English), Hindi is also spoken in Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Nepal. Not to shabby, Hindi!
Hindi is well known as a direct descendent of the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, the holy language of several South Asian religious traditions. It is also twin sibling of Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. Over the centuries, one culture after another swept through India, leaving bits and pieces of their language in their wake. Hindi, therefore, was influenced and enriched by Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Portuguese, English as well as many South Indian Dravidian languages. Truly international as well as fascinatingly diverse, Hindi is a worth challenge for any adventurous language student!
Choosing a Program
We all have our own unique learning style (not to mention our own schedule, budget and favorite ice cream flavor). Want a lot of personal attention and a hard-core academic feel? Consider a program with a ton of in-classroom hours and personal tutoring for an extra boost. Feeling more lackadaisical? Find a program that combines a few hours of school alongside cultural enrichment or other activities. Want really shake things up? Spend your mornings studying Hindi, and your afternoon volunteering to make the world a better place.
Also keep in mind that India is a huge nation, so it’s good to focus your search on just a few cities and regions that strike your fancy. While big cities offer the most resources for tourists, almost everyone there will speak a smattering of English and you may find fewer opportunities to practice your new language skills. Smaller cities and rural areas can be scarier to navigate, but they are definitely worth the effort! Here is some information to help you choose a Hindi language program in India:
- Delhi, India: India's capital, Delhi certainly lives up to India’s famous vibrant culture. There, shopping malls rub shoulders with historic sites and bars are juxtaposed with temples. The Red Fort is a major tourist attraction and the number of visitors can be overwhelming, but its intricate stonework and sweeping size makes it worth exploring, even with the crowds. After a long day immersed Delhi’s history in the Old City, head across town to explore the swanky bars and restaurants in the New City. Hindi learners seeking a cosmopolitan experience won’t be disappointed by Delhi’s whirlwind feel. And as the capital of India and the hub of the Hindi language, there is no lack of language programs to choose from.
- Mumbai, India: For many Indians, Mumbai is the city of dreams - and not without reason. As home of Bollywood, Mumbai is one of the most happening cities in India, with numerous eateries (restaurants and street food alike!), clubs and a very active theatre circuit. While the city has less historic feel than Delhi or Jaipur, it doesn’t lack attractions. Take a tour of the many Bollywood film lots and get a glimpse of the world behind the silver screen or even try your hand at being a movie extra! Mumbai is the perfect place for students interested in arts and entertainment, or simply those seeking a colorful cultural experience.
- Jaipur, India: Built in 1727, Jaipur is the largest city in Rajasthan and very India's first planned city. It is known as the “Pink City” or the “City of Victory” and is home to a fascinating number of temples, palaces, forts and other architectural treasures. While some folks are dismayed by the number of tourists, the city is certainly worth the hype. It’s one of the fastest growing cities in India and the most prosperous city in the region. Students who come to learn Hindi in India will love the bustling vibe of Jaipur and it’s balance of historic architecture and glistening high rises.
- Group courses: Group courses are an excellent way to ensure small class sizes and scheduling flexibility without the big price tag of private classes. Most courses are offered for 2, 4 or 6 week sessions, although some span an entire semester. Learning Hindi in a group is an excellent way to actively practice your newfound language abilities!
- University courses: University classes are generally the most structured way to learn a language. They are usually the best choice for language learners who are currently enrolled in a College or University because the course credit will transfer smoothly to their home institution. Pre- or Post- college learners may find it difficult to enroll in an Indian university, although nothing is impossible!
- Private tutoring: Private tutoring offers the most flexibility for students. You can set your own schedule, outline your goals and really focus on areas that might need a little extra help. However, one-on-one learning can get expensive. If you are trying to stick to a budget, but still want the personal touch, consider enhancing group or university classes with a few hours of tutoring each week.
- Language Study Combination Programs: Many schools offer a variety of cultural activities to supplement their classes, such as courses in traditional art, history, and Indian cooking (just to name a few). These programs are an excellent way to take your language skills out for a test drive, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of the culture context of a Hindi. You can also spend your free time giving back- many language programs work with NGOs or volunteer groups to help the community in which they are based.
Planning Your Trip
Once you’ve chosen a program, there are still decisions to be made! You’ll mostly likely have questions about the academic and financial requirements needed to study Hindi in India. AND once you’ve figured all that out, you may be worried about how to really make the most out of your time abroad! Don’t worry; We’ve got your back. Here are the answers to all your questions on learning Hindi abroad:
Most Hindi programs don’t require any previous knowledge of the language; so all you beginners out there, you’re in luck! However if you’re looking to enroll in an advanced course, you many need to take a simple proficiency exam to determine your language level. And while the vast majority of programs to India are geared towards university-age students, older and younger learners shouldn’t be deterred. Plenty of programs, particularly those with a volunteering portion, accept high school students as well as folks who are a few (or more) years out of college.
Cultural Immersion/Extracurricular Activities
Many programs in India offer Homestays, where students can integrate into the daily life of a local family. For students who are hesitant about living strange family, consider the incredible benefits of immersion. Although homestays can mean living outside of your comfort zone, remember that these welcoming families will do practically anything to help you feel at home (programs carefully screen their hosts, and select families that are keen on cultural exchange). Moreover, the extra hour or three that you spend chatting with your Hindi host family brings you that much closer to fluency! So take advantage of the opportunity to talk with your family—help cook a meal or play a game. You’ll find that you not only improve your language skills, but you also come away with Grandma’s delicious recipe for vegetable pakoras!
Costs & Funding
India is an excellent destinations for the budget-conscious. A cheap lunch will only set you back about $1-2 USD. However, getting to and from a far-off place can get expensive. Book your flight in advance to lock in a low fare, or search for the many deals available for students and even for teachers!
There are many scholarships available from both private and public sponsors to help you learn Hindi. Check out these scholarships and look over your program website to see what they offer as well!
- The National Security Language Initiative funds High School students interested in less commonly taught languages abroad.
- The Boren Awards offer scholarships to graduate and undergraduate students learning language deemed critical to US interests (like Hindi!)
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships