Why Study Hindi-Urdu?

    • Hindi is the official language of the Republic of India (projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030) and the most widely spoken language in South Asia. It is also the language of a long literary tradition, both in modern prose and poetry, as well as pre-modern secular and devotional poetry. In more recent times Hindi has become a dominant language of modern media, such as cinema in India and much of the content on television.
    • Urdu is the national language of Pakistan (as well as being one of the official languages of India) and the language of a rich literary tradition, both in the form of poetry stretching back to the 17th century and prose from the 19th century. It is also a tremendously important language strategically in South Asia.
    • In their basic form Hindi and Urdu are generally considered to be the same language written in two different scripts. They share a common vocabulary and grammar, so that with little effort you will learn both forms very easily.
    • Hindi and India are rapidly growing in importance in our contemporary world with more and more content on the web, and with a growing consumer market in South Asia.
    • The grammar of Hindi-Urdu is very easy and similar to English grammar. There are virtually no grammatical concepts that do not exist in English, and students have no difficulty in learning the same concepts in Hindi-Urdu.
    • The first-year program teaches all of the basic grammatical structures that you will need to know in order to use Hindi and Urdu in many varied and interesting contexts. After one year of instruction, you could go to India or Pakistan and talk about yourself, where you were born, where you grew up, what you do, your interests and your attraction to South Asia and South Asian languages. You will also be able to start reading newspapers, short stories and watching television or Bollywood films.
    • We use the latest textbook for Hindi-Urdu, Elementary Hindi (Tuttle, 2009), which was developed over many years and has a proven methodical approach to the integration of the script, the grammar, and vocabulary words. Each lesson builds on previous lessons in a systematic way to allow the absorption of vocabulary words in an organic manner, while reinforcing grammatical structures. The text is accompanied by a CD as well, and a supplementary text introduces Urdu script quickly and painlessly. Films are also shown occasionally in class to reinforce the structures and idiomatic expressions that are being taught. The first-year program is a comprehensive introduction to the language and focuses equally on the four essential skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening).
    • The two scripts you learn in Hindi-Urdu courses will enable you to go on and learn other related languages as well.
      • The Devanagari script of Hindi is employed to write several other languages in South Asia, including Nepali, Marathi, and Sanskrit. It is also very closely related to the scripts employed to write Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Oriya among others.
      • The Nastaliq script of Urdu is a modified form of the Persian script, which in turn is a modified form of the Arabic script. It is also used to write Kashmiri, Punjabi (in Pakistan), occasionally Persian,  and Pashto, among other languages.

So learning these scripts gives you access to many more languages than simply Hindi and Urdu. The script of Hindi has only 46 characters, while the script of Urdu has even fewer, with 35. This makes learning to read both languages a simple exercise in memorization.

  • The classes also teach you about the complex social and cultural worlds in which these languages are used, particularly in regard to social relations and how to address people who occupy different social positions. At higher levels, students are able to read compelling literary works in Hindi-Urdu as well as develop more sophisticated conversational skills. We read poetry and prose, watch Bollywood films and engage in a lively manner with South Asian cultural traditions through our study of Hindi-Urdu.