Learn Hindi in One Week – The Challenge


Learn Hindi in One Week – Possible?

The idea to learn Hindi in a week is by no means something that I would’ve chosen, but it seems to be the way that it turned out, so I figured that I’ll document my progress and let you guys know just how realistic it is to try to learn a language in such a short period of time.

The Reason

So why give myself only one week to learn Hindi?

I found my Hindi teacher in Varanasi, on the 13th of January, with my Visa set to expire on the 22nd. Giving myself one day of lee-way in case the train gets stuck or something (in India anything possible), I figure I should be on the train to Nepal on the 20th… so it’s a total of one week. No idea if I can grasp the language in that period of time, but we shall see.

The Background

Well, I’ve sought some classes throughout India, but didn’t manage to find a decent teacher. I know what you’re thinking, that I’m too picky. But honestly, it wasn’t that! With my friend Amie (interviewed here), we tried out a few different Hindi teachers in Jaisalmer. The reality was that they weren’t Hindi teachers by any stretch. In fact the best teacher we found wasn’t either a great speaker of Hindi himself nor a teacher… but we continued to try. His teaching method involved no structure or grammar at all and just a monkey hear, monkey repeat… it was quite frustrating to say the least, and we really didn’t understand the language at all.

However, I can not say that I have NO Hindi entering these lessons with Raju. I have very basic street language. I can say the following entering the lessons:

How are you?
Good day today?
Good weather today
My friend, my  brother
What is?
I don’t know
I don’t understand
I speak little Hindi
See you tomorrow

…I think that’s about it.

So, Why Bother?

This is a question I’ve grappled with answering. I think it comes down to some of my philosophy in life. In my struggles in Pushkar, Rajasthan, I decided that learning Hindi would be very important to creating a different relationship with Indians. A little later in Jaisalmer, I got to see how the faces of my friends lit up when I would use one of sentences. In many ways, it comes down to a matter of respect. I think it shows the people that although you don’t have to learn the language (you can get by in India in English), you are still willing to make the effort.

Ya, But…

Of course, the problem with using this philosophy as my argument is that even if things go really well, I will only begin to speak Hindi as I leave India. So really, why else do I want to learn Hindi in one week?

While I am convinced that it will give me a different connection with the locals (albeit for a short period of time), there’s also a selfish side to this challenge. Practical reasons for learning Hindi include the fact that it’s one of the most spoken languages in the world, as well as the fact that it shares a base (Sanskrit) with many other languages and honestly I’m quite curious if I can do it.

Furthermore, at the end of the day, I believe that languages are incredibly important. Both in the manner of improving yourself (makes your brain work in a different way) as well as promoting understanding, peace and acceptance in the ever increasing globalization of our current world. So whether I come back to India or not, I believe that the ability to speak Hindi (or at least understand it) will make me a better person, and in a abstract way, it will make the world a tiny bit better as well… Maybe that’s just a bit too hippie for ya?!

The Layout

Okay, Raju has agreed to do two hours with me in the morning tomorrow and discuss doing another hour later in the day. He’s quite convinced that his way of teaching is too difficult and intensive to do for much longer… I’m not, we shall see.

Apart from that, I hope to use whatever I learn in the street. Unfortunately, this is a touristy town where everyone speaks English, so it will be difficult to push the Hindi in the conversations… again we shall see. I also hope to study in between but honestly take a very relaxed attitude to study and thus can’t even pretend that I will be pushing my Hindi all day, everyday.

At the end of the day

Now we know what it’s gonna look like… keep checking in to see how my great success, bitter failure or something in between comes along.

I’m super curious and using myself as the Guinea Pig, hoping you’re curious as well, so check out:

Day 1 – The Battles Begin
Day 2 – Building Momentum
Day 3 – Feeling the Effects
Day 4 – Hump Day
Day 5 – Pushing All-In
Day 6 – Fires Are Burning
Day 7 – The Finale

At the end I’ll be sure to write the results of the challenge to learn Hindi in one week.

Jonny Jenkins

Jonny Jenkins

My name is Jonny, my friends call me Stef. I'm Canadian born, but don't find my identity based upon some borders that man drew hundreds of years ago. I have begun to make my way through the world, travelling and living in many different countries and cultures. I believe whole heartedly in staying longer and going deeper to get the best understanding possible of many different perspectives of life. In order to do so, you have to speak the language. I am no polyglot, but have started to put more emphasis on learning languages in the last few years. I have learned Spanish, relearned French, and started in on Portuguese, German, Indonesian and Malagasy. When it comes to the third world, I am willing to help where they (and not I) decide they need it... in the first world, I am hoping to inspire and motivate people to live more engaging lives.

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