I have always felt this inexplicable attraction to distant places and foreign cultures. Things I knew nothing about seemed a lot more interesting than things I’ve been familiar with. That is why last year, out of all the undergraduate studies in the world, I chose to focus all my attention on India and Pakistan. First and foremost it implied I would start to learn at least one language related to these countries. With zero background knowledge on South Asia, I went for Hindi, as it was one of the praised language courses available at my university.
It’s great to have a teacher guiding you through all extremities and challenges of learning an entirely new script and language. Unfortunately, in my case it didn’t work out that well, and for this only I am to blame. I have always been more of a self-taught learner and, rather than to stick to the 2 x 90 minutes sessions of intensive grammar course, I became curious to explore alternative learning approaches. On my small trip to learning Hindi I stumbled over lots of interesting online resources and courses, most of them free and available for anyone all across the globe. I made a big list in the hope that it will be useful to any future Hindi speaker.
Introduction & Learning the Devanagari Script
- Linguanaut.com – a list of basic Hindi vocabulary. It’s always good to start a language trip by learning the basics: how to greet someone, how to say your name, how to say goodbye etc.
- University of Pennsylvania Devanagari Video Tutorials – enables you to learn the Devanagari alphabet through video tutorials.
- Hindi Script Tutor
- Learn to read Devanagari with UkIndia.com
- MyLanguages.org – once you figured out the Devanagari script, you can slowly proceed to this website, where you can start working on your basic vocabulary.
- hindilanguage.info – portal with information about the Hindi Language. Good guide for learning the Devanagari Script and excellent articles on Hindi Grammar.
- learning-hindi.com – Hindi lessons from natives, free of charge. Verb tenses are very well explained. This site helped me figure out how to form and differentiate the past tenses.
- ispeakhindi.com – another quite sweet Hindi learning community. Great grammar lessons + audio files (help you get a grip on the pronunciation). The people there are really nice, always open to help you out and answer any of your questions.
- Hindi Speaking Tree
- A Door Into Hindi – this one’s among the sites that I am mostly grateful to. The stories are simply amazing. Bahut Shukriya Prof. Afroz Taj! Also check A Door Into Urdu.
- 1000 Hindi words for beginners
- Youtube Hindi University – I have watched a few of the videos from this channel, they seem nice. Though I’m not sure if they’re useful to learners who are already past A2/B1.
Applying and practising your Hindi knowledge
- Livemocha.com – there’s a full Hindi course available here, though I don’t recommend it for beginners. The vocabulary lessons are filled with mistakes, everywhere different Hindi dialects get mixed up, which might confuse a fresh newbie a bit. What I do recommend is to do the Speaking and the Writing exercises, these are a great opportunities to practice your communication skills. On LiveMocha you can write Hindi sentences or record a sample of your spoken Hindi. Natives will then correct your mistakes and even share a few learning tips with you. The people there are very friendly.
- Coke Studio India & Coke Studio Pakistan – two amazing projects aiming to encourage young artists of India and Pakistan to revive the music scene. The best way of learning a new language is to study the culture behind it. Notice that most songs are in Hindi/Urdu, but some are also in Punjabi, Balochi, Sindhi and other languages.
- italki.com – once you acquired some basic Hindi vocabulary, register at italki.com and start looking for a suitable language partner. Even though you’re miles away from India, through this portal you can practice your conversation skills by connecting on Skype with a native Hindi speaker.
- TryingToLearnHindi – Blog filled with Hindi music and movie recommendations.
- Hindi on Transparent.com – Blog with poems, stories, songs and many more resources in Hindi. Once in a while they also post interesting vocabulary lists and short grammar lessons.
- Digital Library of India
- Housefull – The Learn Hindi From Bollywood Movies Podcast – Arun Krishnan is the guy behind these incredibly entertaining podcasts, he really puts the fun into learning Hindi. In fact, I came to like his Hindi lessons so much, I even bought his book (which is also amazing!).
- BBC News in Hindi
- NCERT Books – download Hindi and Urdu textbooks that are used in Indian public schools.
- NCERT and CBSE books – over here even more Hindi/Urdu textbooks.
- List of Hindi Idioms – so far this is one of the longest lists of Hindi Idioms I was able to find. Unfortunately all idioms are transliterated into Latin script and I can’t quite figure them all out. I’m hoping to update the list into Devangari one day. Also check Prof. Tej K. Bhatia’s Basic Hindi/Urdu lessons published at Syracuse University, NY.
- Watch the first season of Satyamev Jayate with Aamir Khan online. Each episode runs for about one hour and it has English subtitles, allowing any Hindi learner to grasp through most sentences and learn a few new words every day. It also gives you a lot of insight into how natives use Hinglish (the daily spoken language, characterized by spontaneous code switching between Hindi/Urdu and English).
- Watch lots and lots and lots of Bollywood movies. If you can’t buy/rent them, start with some of the movies that are available on Youtube with English subtitles. For example, here’s where you can watch 3 Idiots, a really popular comedy.
- Bollymeaning.com – lots of song lyrics translated into English.
Dictionaries, Translation Tools and Useful Phone Apps
- Google Translate – whole sentence translations are far from accurate. Though, the tool can be quite handy for 1-2 word translations. Especially if you’re too lazy to open other dictionaries.
- Hindi Shabdkosh – bookmark it, if you haven’t already!
- AnkiDroid Flashcards – You can start by practising Hindi words from one of the pre-made decks or create your own set of words from scratch.
- Google Input Tool – use this tool to type Hindi using the Latin script and get it automatically converted into Devanagari. More on how to type Hindi in Devanagari read here.
In the past year it turned out that there are more Hindi learners in the world than I had expected. In fact, there are so many of us that there are already a few quite interesting lists of online resources for learning Hindi. Here’s what I found:
- “Travel is the best form of education” – this page is like a treasure hunt for someone who is studying Hindi. Some great resources, but you’ll have to invest a lot of time into finding them all. Don’t forget to scroll to the right!
- The Hindi Corner
- Hindi Guide on Wikibooks.org
- Hindi Urdu Flagship