Yes, it kinda is. Sorry, but just keeping it real. Why is it hard to learn Hindi? There are 3 qualities about Hindi that make it a challenging language to learn, regardless of your native tongue.
Sounds in Hindi Not Found Elsewhere
The first thing that makes it challenging to learn Hindi is that there are several sounds in Hindi that don’t exist in other languages.
Subtle Pronunciation in Hindi
The second reason why Hindi can be challenging to learn, derives directly from the first reason, which is the subtlety in pronunciation. In many Hindi words there’s so much subtlety in the pronunciation of words that it can be difficult to hear the difference. But that subtlety is crucial to meaning.
Channel Your Inner Yoda in Hindi
The third thing that makes Hindi challenging – and this applies to people for whom English is their first-language, is that Hindi is a Subject-Object-Verb language whereas English is a Subject-Verb-Object language.
For example, “what is your name?
Hindi: Aapka naam kyaa hain? directly translates to “Your name what is?”
Aapke = Your
Naam = name
kyaa = what
hain = is
In my virtual, conversational Hindi classes, all of my students have learned English as their first language. When I show my older students (9+) word-for-word Hindi to English translations, it trips them out because the sentence structure is ‘flipped’.
That’s why I tell my students to channel their inner Yoda.
How Can You Learn Hindi?
First, for most, I recommend focusing on speaking Hindi first and tackle reading and writing later. Each person’s use case will vary, but for most people, learning to understand and speak is a higher priority compared to reading and writing.
The other reason I recommend to put off learning reading and writing until later is because it’s MUCH easier to learn the script after you’ve learned to speak. The Hindi script, called Devanagari, is actually pretty scientific and straightforward…once you understand all the different consonants and vowel sounds.
Learning to write the letters, is a whole different ball game and basically comes down to memorization and practice.
Second, start with practical words – things that you can incorporate naturally into your daily vocabulary and life, such as food, drink, household items, clothes, and phrases such as “good morning” and “good night”.
I teach my students to say, “may I please have a sabe?” Sabe = apple. By replacing the English word with the Hindi word, you get practice and build your mind memory without being overwhelmed. It’s a great way to build your Hindi vocabulary naturally. And each new word will feel like a victory and motivate you to add more words to your lexicon.
I advise parents to do the same. At home, replace the English word with the Hindi word. “Do you want paani or juice?” Paani = water.
And trying to go all in and crush that entire question all at one time: Mujhe ek sabe mil sakta, hain?” is too overwhelming. So practice in bite-sized pieces.
Third is practice. Overcoming inertia is hard. Everyone is busy and we all default…to our defaults. It takes a conscious effort (like any language….no actually, like learning anything in life). Unfortunately there’s really no shortcut around this.
Free Resources: Our YouTube Channel
But we can make it a little easier for you. Refer to Virtual PreSkool’s YouTube channel. We continuously post short (easily consumable) videos with Hindi vocabulary and pronunciation.
Duolingo and Babbel are popular apps too.
Fourth, take a class. Taking a class will really help you learn Hindi and it might be more fun to learn with others.
The Benefits of Hindi are Tangible
I can share from my own personal experience that the benefits of learning Hindi have been tangible. I have my own, individual relationships with my relatives because I speak Hindi. And I’m not talking about surface level, “Hi, how are you?” relationships. I mean we can actually converse and talk about stuff, which is how one forges deeper and more meaningful connections to others.
When you’re a kid, your parents liaise all of the familial relationships. But as I got older, I realized it was up to me to forge and maintain my relationships. Even before there was WhatsApp and Facetime, I was establishing my own relationships with my Hindi speaking relatives.
In college, I would call my aunts and uncles on holidays such as Diwali and Holi. They were absolutely delighted because, at first, my calls were totally unexpected. It’s those seemingly small gestures that blossom into something bigger.
And if you’re into Bollywood movies, then learning Hindi will definitely be beneficial to you! Bollywood is Hindi language movies. There are actually over 20 languages spoken in India and each has their own associated film industry. Bollywood is the most famous amongst them.
Summary and Takeaways
Is it hard to learn Hindi? Yep. Can you learn Hindi? Of course! My recommendation is to take it in bite sized pieces. Start with speaking Hindi and save learning to read and write for later. Replace English words for Hindi words and start building your vocabulary.
Instead of my favorite color is red — my favorite color is laal.
Refer to our YouTube channel for short videos on how to pronounce everyday-use words.