After two years teaching Hindi at Boston University, I enrolled in an M.A. program in Hindi-Urdu Foreign Language Pedagogy at Kean University, and graduated in fall 2018. From 2017-18 I also taught Hindi for the MIT Tata Center. Currently, I offer Hindi classes and private lessons via Zoom.
I offer beginning and intermediate classes, as well as private lessons. Please see below for more information, and feel free to contact me with any questions.
I also manage the Boston Hindi-Urdu Speakers and Learners group of more than 800 members. We arrange social and cultural get-togethers at which we speak Hindi-Urdu, and we occasionally offer lessons as well. All events cost less than $5, which goes to cover some of our organizing costs. Join the group here.
I first got interested in learning Hindi and Urdu during a gap year trip to Pakistan while I was in college, when I went with my best friend to visit her family in Karachi. The most fascinating interactions I had on that trip were the ones with Urdu speakers in which my friend had to translate for me–conversations with the women of a small village, and with the cook who worked in my friend’s grandparent’s house. The people were not what I had expected based on my education to that point. Their generosity and lively curiosity made me want to learn more about them, spend more time with them, and tell people at home what they were like.
When I returned to Brown University, I decided to take Hindi-Urdu and ended up majoring in South Asian Studies. I studied Hindi on a exchange program at Banaras Hindu University, at which time I lived with a Hindi-speaking family, worked at Sarada Ashram, and learned to play shehnai (poorly). Afterward, I did graduate study in the Harvard University Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. I also learned a lot of Hindi working in an Indian restaurant after college. It really came together for me there, as I had long shifts during which I had to speak Hindi and walk simultaneously. I guess that’s evidence that communication-focused language study often works the best. Throughout the years, I’ve continued studying on my own and in reading groups with a Hindi instructor from Johns Hopkins (while I was living in Washington, DC) and Harvard (while living in Cambridge). In fall 2018, I completed an M.A. in Hindi-Urdu Foreign Language Pedagogy from Kean University.
I’ve taught Hindi-Urdu on and off for many years now. In the 90’s, I taught Hindi at the Language Exchange in Boston; and from 2000-2009, I taught on weekends at the India School in Bethesda, Maryland while I working as a Program Specialist at the Smithsonian Institution during the week. In 2010, I moved back to Cambridge, where I’ve been teaching Hindi-Urdu since then. In 2009 and 2011, I organized, along with the generous help and funding of the Director of the India School, a school field trip program for children in an underfunded Hindi-medium school in Pabsara, India (you can see some pictures on the Gallery page). It was the first time the school offered field trips, and the first time most of the children had visited nearby Delhi. The trips have now become a twice-yearly tradition. Before teaching at MIT Tata Center for the last three semesters, I served as Part-Time Lecturer of Hindi-Urdu at Boston University for two years.
I try to gear my classes to the interests of my students, as students have diverse priorities and learning styles. But most beginners are very interested in conversation, so we mostly focus on communicative competence, via use of authentic materials like songs, film clips, news articles, literature, etc. I also try to help students identify opportunities to practice in the community so they can use Hindi outside of class, and introduce them to various recordings, online resources, learning apps, movies, cultural events, and other resources. We also work on gaining a good understanding of grammar, but in the context of communication whenever possible.
Some students prefer the pace and atmosphere of group lessons, in which you can share cultural experiences with your classmates, respond to different types of speakers, and gain insights from different people, with their different learning styles and questions that may be different from yours. However, the scheduling can be a bit more difficult, and it may take some time for me to find other students at your level.
On the other hand, if you are at an intermediate or advanced level, and/or have particular thematic or cultural areas you would like to focus on, then private lessons may be best.
We learn the Hindi (Devanagari) script in the first few weeks of classes, but don’t spend the majority of our time on it. It’s very important to learn the script because it is essential to achieving good pronunciation of sounds that can’t be represented in the script used for English. Furthermore, all the best reference books for Hindi use the Hindi script. It’s a very easy script to learn and after only a few hours, my students can already read and write (slowly) in Hindi script.
As far as materials go, I don’t use textbooks that much, because I do try to use authentic materials when possible, but you’ll need a text to refer to when you have questions, and we do periodically refer to the text during class.
For learning the Hindi script, the book I use is Rupert Snell’s “Learn Hindi Script,” or in the newer edition called “Read and Write Hindi Script” (but they are identical so you can buy whatever is cheaper).
It’s normally quite inexpensive used on Amazon, but try to get one that has a pretty quick delivery (check estimated delivery date before finalizing the order). If you get it from Amazon Marketplace, and not Amazon itself, it could take several weeks to arrive. In the meantime, you can also use the free electronic copy here (see book 00), but it can be a bit hard to navigate electronically.
The general text I refer to for grammar is Snell’s Complete Hindi. It comes with or without CD’s. The CD’s are not interactive at all so I don’t think it’s necessary to get the CD’s, and it’s much cheaper without them. An older version of the text is also available free online here (called “Teach Yourself Hindi”) (see book 03), but it can be a bit hard to navigate online at times. When purchasing the book, try to get the newer version (“Complete Hindi”) because it has a small amount of additional content.
If you’d like a very quick intro to Indian culture, customs, and history, I recommend Culture Shock India. There are some over-generalizations but I think that’s unavoidable in this kind of book. Overall, it’s very interesting and helpful. If you’d like a more scholarly recommendation on a more specific topic related to South Asia, let me know.
I highly recommend Pimsleur Hindi and Pimsleur Urdu audio for fostering confidence in speaking, especially for beginners. Pimsleur is a great resource because it’s very interactive and allows you to converse and keep your language skills active between classes. It doesn’t take much conscious energy, and you can do it while walking, driving, working out, etc. It will give you a lot of confidence in basic conversation, and soon you’ll be able to converse in the three tenses, introduce yourself, do some shopping, and make plans for the day, etc.
You can use my copies of Pimsleur Hindi or Urdu or alternatively, you can get temporary access to Pimsleur on their app, which costs about $15 a month. My copies are older and not quite as clear as the one you’d get directly from the Pimsleur app, so that is an advantage of getting it from them, and as a side benefit, they would presumably know that there is a demand for Hindi and Urdu, and possibly produce more lessons in future.
A lot of my students these days are using the free Duolingo app, which recently developed a Hindi program. They say it is great for script learning especially, and those who use it seem to be very comfortable with reading and writing early on.