When you’re trying to learn Hindi – or really any language the most effective way to learn is to be immersed in it. And for most that means people are speaking it at home. This post shares 4 ways to incorporate Hindi at home.
Substitute English Words With Their Hindi Equivalent
The first of 4 ways to incorporate Hindi at home is to replace English words with their Hindi equivalent in your everyday conversation. That way it will be more natural and words/phrases that you’re using anyway:
- home = ghar
- let’s go = chalo
- water = paani
- car = gaadi
- food = khaana
- where are you? = kaahan ho?
- how are you? = aap kaise hain?
- what time is it? = samay kyaa hua hain?
At first this may require conscious effort. Our lives are so busy and hectic that it’s common to just default to English. But making a conscious but small concerted effort can have a very big impact.
Children are like sponges – they soak up things – everything – very quickly. I’m often surprised when my students even remember a cultural reference or word I said once.
When they hear these new Hindi words, your kids will ask, “what does that mean?” and if you keep using the Hindi words, they’ll get used to it. And just watch, your kids will probably start asking, “how do I say _______ in Hindi?”
Whether you realize it or not this will start building their Hindi vocabulary which they’ll continue to grow, as long as you keep adding more words.
Gamify Learning Hindi
Get our household vocabulary matching game. These can double as flashcards too! We’ll email it to you.
Many of my friends have asked me, “how did you learn such good Hindi?” The answer is a combo of 3 things:
- My parents spoke it at home
- My innate interest
- My parents took the time to answer my questions
The best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it — and ideally from an early age. The earlier the better.
Hindi literature is rich with children’s stories and fables. There are lots of books – in English – with moral stories that incorporate Hindi words. Just do an Amazon search for Panchatantra and/or Akbar and Birbal and you’ll see loads of options.
A note about these stories. These short moral stories have great messages behind them. However, personally, I find many of these stories gory and unrelatable for kids growing up in the US. I have a lot of students who are up to 10 years old and have never even been to India before. I curate the stories and share only the ones that are fit for my students.
Learn Language + Culture
Anytime you learn a language, culture is inextricably intertwined. Stories such as Ramayan, Krishna, and other mythology, in addition to historical figures such as Gandhi and Tagore can be very powerful in helping children understand their culture and also Hindi.
While learning the culture they hear how words are pronounced, what words mean, and understand cultural norms and customs. Last year at Diwali, I created a kid-friendly version of Ramayan. Kid-friendly means:
I omitted that Dashrath had multiple wives. Since children ranging from 3-10 attended I thought it best to not confuse children with that concept.
I edited the story to Raavan losing his powers instead of being killed.
It was a fairy instead of Raavan’s brother, Vibhishan, that told Ram, Raavan’s secret boon. I didn’t want young children to be traumatized by the idea of being betrayed by their own brother.
Several parents reached out afterwards, sharing the impact it had on their children in terms of sparking their curiosity for the culture and language. I told my 5 year old niece the story, again a few months after she had heard it the first time, and was stunned by her recall of the plot and names. And at the end she exclaimed, “the day Ram and Sita came back home is Biwali!” Biwali = Diwali 🙂
Other ways to immerse in the culture are to watch Indian dance and music videos online, watch cartoons like Chota Bheem and Little Krishna. There are tons of easy-to-access cartoons on Netflix and Hotstar.
What About Bollywood Movies?
Bollywood movies can be VERY effective for learning Hindi BUT (and this is a big but) if you’re proactively engaging with the language and culture. That means, you’re translating it and practicing what was learned.
To make Bollywood movies more effective, focus on a song or a few words to reinforce with your kids.
If you’re watching the movie and then moving on without any concerted engagement, then the learning will be very very slow and even more so if you’re watching with subtitles. Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than nothing, but there are more effective ways to learn Hindi.
I actually learned a lot of my Hindi from Bollywood movies but I was very deliberate about it. I used to watch with my mom and repeatedly paused the movie to ask about words and cultural references that I didn’t understand.
The Child Will Get Confused Argument = Bogus
The child will get confused argument is one where parents think that their child won’t learn English or be left out at school if the parents teach their child their native tongue. So they just speak English. Those parents are doing their child a major disservice by not teaching them another language. This disservice is compounded by not teaching them when they’re very young and learning to talk – those are the BEST years to learn a language in a person’s life. The child is going to learn English no matter what. How could they not? Their entire education and social system will be in English.
Eastern vs. Western Culture
As mentioned above, along with learning a language comes learning a culture. A huge benefit of learning Hindi, is understanding the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. I can’t tell you how many times in my personal and professional life, having an understanding of both has been useful and powerful to make business deals and forge relationships.
Eastern cultures tend to be family and community oriented. They are “we” societies. Western cultures center around the individual, “me”. These differences manifest themselves in everything – how people make decisions, perspectives on problems and solutions, how business and life are conducted.
Hindi is Universal
Another benefit of Hindi is its universality. You can speak to a Maharashtrian, Punjabi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Hyderabadi, Urdu speaker or almost any person from India and they will understand Hindi. But not vice versa.
Summary and Conclusion: 4 Ways to Incorporate Hindi at Home
This article shared 4 ways to incorporate Hindi at home. Like anything it requires some effort, but not much. And a little goes a long way. The 4 Ways are:
- Speak at home as much as possible
- Gamify the learning (email us to get our free matching vocab game)
- Learn via stories
- Immerse in the culture – dance, music, literature
Enroll in our Hindi Classes
Interested in Learning Hindi? Try one of our classes. Visit our website to learn more or simply click the link below based on your child’s age. We offer fun, virtual Hindi classes for children age 3-15. Our classes are unique in that they center around building a lasting interest in the culture. To do that we have a lot of fun.
Samta founded Virtual Preskool in July 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. She recognized the need for fun, virtual Hindi classes that are designed specifically for children growing up in the US and Canada. She was born and raised in the US herself -giving her the unique advantage of relating to her students and vice versa.
Her teaching style revolves around fun and learning via Hindi. What that means is it’s like regular school while building their Hindi and cultural knowledge. They’ll learn how to greet elders, holidays, build vocabulary around food, colors, animals.
For the age 10-15 students they learn verb conjugation, writing skills, developing conversation skills, reading comprehension and more.
But they’ll also learn science, practice reading, writing, math, and more. Each class comes with workbooks and practice materials that are designed to be fun while challenging them for growth.