Hindi Lessons/Lesson 1

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Lesson 1: About Hindi. Linguistic Information.

The Republic of India has 18 official or national languages: Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English. Not all of these languages are from the same group, so an Indian speaker of Hindi would understand a Tamil speaker as well as for example an Englishman would understand a Chinese speaker! As one of the official languages of India (Bhaarat), Hindi has more than 180,000,000 speakers. It is an Indo-European language, descended from Sanskrit, and is written using the Devanagari script. Another name for the Hindi language is "khadi boli" (khari boli), which is actually the name of a dialect, originally spoken in Delhi, and from which Hindi developed. Surprisingly, Hindi isn't spoken only in India and in parts of the surrounding countries, but also in... Africa! Yes, it's true - there are over 2,000,000 Hindi speakers in Africa. About the half of them live in South Africa (~800,000) and Uganda (~150,000).

Urdu, the national language of Pakistan is considered by many to be the same language as Hindi. Historically, India was a much bigger country, including the territories of today's Pakistan and Bangladesh, and the language spoken in the country was called Hindustani. The Hindi-Urdu language is often spoken about but, as languages spoken in different countries, Hindi and Urdu are also different in many ways - mostly in vocabulary. Since Urdu is spoken in an Islamic country, it had borrowed many words from Arabic and Persian and therefore has an Arabic hue, whereas Hindi uses more Sanskrit words. Another difference is the writing system: Hindi uses the Devanagari script, but Urdu uses a modified version of the Arabic script (or rather the Persian script).

Most of the other official languages of India have their own script. However, some of them, such as Marathi, use the Devanagari script too. Gujarati has its own script. Some Punjabi speakers use the Devanagari script, but others (Sikhs) use a special script called "Gurumukhi". It's very similar to Hindi though... It's regarded as the script of the gurus (teachers), and that is how it got its name - guru = teacher, mukh = mouth. On the other hand, "Devanagari" means "the heavenly script", or the script used in the city of gods (deva = god, nagari = city, town).

To get a simple idea of how written Hindi looks, see the text below:

हिन्दुस्तान में बहुत सारी भाषाएँ बोली जाती हैं और इस से पता चलता है कि भारत दुनिया का सब से बड़ा प्रजातान्त्रिक देश है।।

So, that was the very first lesson. It's short, but I think it's important to understand the linguistic background of the language you are learning. I hope you agree.

You're now ready to continue to Lesson 2, where you can discover and learn your first words in the fascinating Hindi language!