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Hindi/Urdu Profile

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 Message 1 of 15
11 March 2005 at 7:41am | IP Logged 
Here is an empty template for the future profile of Hindi and Urdu on this website. Anybody whith a knowledge about this language, who speaks this language or is learning it is welcome to help!

The scope of each heading can be seen in the
French or Italian language profiles. Please use the scope of the existing headings ('Usefulness', 'Economic importance', etc...) for your input as I can't add new headings.

Try to write concise, informative, easy-to-read and if possible entertaining paragraphs.

You are welcome to post proposed changes to each paragraph or to write a new paragraph yourself. If you wish to insert comments, please use Italics. If you have studied the language and used it for some time, your input will be immensely valuable to prospective learners.


INTRODUCTION
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USEFULNESS
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CHIC FACTOR     
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ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE
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TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
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COUNTRIES
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SPEAKERS
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VARIATIONS
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CULTURE
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DIFFICULTIES
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GRAMMAR
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PRONUNCIATION
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VOCABULARY
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TRANSPARENCY
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SPELLING
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TIME NEEDED
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BOOKS
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SCHOOLS
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LINKS
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NascentOne
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 Message 2 of 15
13 September 2006 at 2:41pm | IP Logged 
INTRODUCTION
Hindi/Urdu or Hindustani is the most widely spoken language on the Indian subcontinent, and India's official language alongside English. It is an Indo-European language, being a distant relative of common European tongues such as English, French, Russian etc. Hindi and Urdu can be considered as two complementary sister languages, where Hindi in its higher registers is deliberately Sanskritized, while Urdu prefers to use words borrowed from Arabic and Persian, giving it a more "Muslim" flavor. Hindus will often say they speak Hindi, while Muslims will often say they speak Urdu, though what constitutes what is an endless debate. However, as spoken on the street, Hindi and Urdu have a high degree of mutual intelligibility and people learning Hindi will often be asked of native Urdu speakers how they learnt Urdu - or vice versa!

USEFULNESS
Somewhat debated. Hindi is definitely the gateway language to other north Indian languages and also the most useful language in India besides English. There are more books published in Hindi than the other Indian languages, and Bollywood gives you access to vast amounts of Hindi movies. Also very helpful when travelling in rural parts of India and Pakistan. Most Indians and Pakistanis will invariably be more comfortable with Hindi/Urdu compared to English, even though English has higher esteem. The exception is in southern India, where Hindi is not that firmly entrenched and understood and you might even encounter hostility when using this "northern tongue" imposed by the government. However, English will take you farther in many respects in India, as most menus at upper-class restaurants and hotels and forms at government agencies tend to be in English only. In major cities too, a prospective learner might be frustrated at the fact that despite trying to practice your Hindi on locals, they will constantly answer in English.

CHIC FACTOR      
So-so. Hindi/Urdu certainly does not have the same prestige as knowing Chinese or Italian. Nonetheless, some people might get impressed, but I have personally not heard anyone bragging about knowing it. Even in India, as a foreigner who actually learns one of the indigenous languages, you might receive puzzled looks as they wonder why you would want to do such a thing when English will more than suffice for life in India.

ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE
India's economy is growing at a breakneck speed, and will surely be only of more importance in the future. However if you are interested in doing business in India, English is the preferred language. All major Indian corporations maintain websites in English, and often only in that, again emphasizing the fact that the true business language is English. At the moment many pundits in India are promoting usage of Hindi in business too, and the language is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. Many expect the importance of the language to increase in the coming years.

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
India (not extreme south), Pakistan and Nepal. India is huge country, and there are so many historical sights and an enourmous diversity of nature that one can spend a lifetime roaming the country. Hindi/Urdu will help quite a bit in the rural areas, where English tends to be rudimentary at the best. Many people also understand Hindi in Nepal (because of Nepali's similarity to Hindi and because of Bollywood movies), a glorious country with the majestic Himalayas. Pakistan will also be opened up, as Urdu is spoken nearly everywhere.

COUNTRIES
India, Pakistan, Nepal, and there are various scattered communities in east African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and of course in South Africa. Guyana in South America also has a large Indian population, likewise with Fiji and Trinidad and Tobago.

SPEAKERS
Primarily in India and Pakistan. Estimates vary wildly, ranging from 400-700 million. However it is safe to assume that there are enough speakers to rank it amongst the top five spoken languages in the world.

VARIATIONS
Hindi/Urdu has a large number of dialects, but they tend to be mutually intelligible. In fact, since Hindi is often taught in a standardized way in schools troughout India, pronunciation is often quite uniform. The only noticeable differences might be in vocabulary, where people in Varanasi use more Sanskrit-derived terms, while city dwellers in Delhi and Mumbai use many words from Punjabi and Marathi, respectively. All in all, not an insurmountable problem for learners.

CULTURE
Indian culture is so diverse that I cannot in any way give an overview of it here. Suffice to say that whether your interests are in architecture, literature, music, movies, fashion, food, religion and so on, there is abundant material available from India to cover them. Indian culture is very exuberant, colorful and so different to its Western counterpart, making it that much more interesting. Hinduism and Buddhism both have their origins on the Indian subcontinent, and religious and scholarly texts pertaining to them are widely available in India. Hindi can also be considered a stepping stone towards learning Sanskrit, as there are numerous Hindi-Sanskrit dictionaries and bilingual books available in India. All the major Hindu epics, the Rig-Veda, Mahabharata, Ramayana and others are all published in India as bilingual books with Sanskrit on one side and Hindi on the facing pages. In other words, students of Hinduism can greatly benefit from learning Hindi.

DIFFICULTIES
Moderate for being an Asian language. The alphabet of Hindi (Devanagari) is ingenious, being almost fully phonetic and quite easy to learn. However the alphabet of Urdu (which is derived from the Arabic alphabet and is known as Nastaliq) is substantially more difficult, as it usually doesn't mark the vowels and has all the intricacies inherent with the Arabic alphabet. The sound system of Hindi/Urdu is also very challening for non-natives, as one has to learn to distinguish between so-called dental and retroflex consonants, and aspirates and non-aspirates. The consonants are especially tricky for non-natives, as many are often not able to produce and/or hear the difference between the dental and retroflex consonants. Hindi/Urdu also displays a system of honorifics, denoting levels of respects, which must be taken into account if one wishes to speak correctly.

GRAMMAR
Has Subject-Object-Verb as its standard syntax. Verbs are congujated for sex and number, but some of the constructions can be quite complicated, where in some cases the past participle agrees with the object of the sentence and not the subject. There are only two genders for nouns, masculine and feminine. Hindi/Urdu has two cases, nominative and oblique. The oblique case is the case used to denote all the other cases besides the nominative. Also has a vocative case used for addressing people. The rules for usages and declensions of cases are easy to learn. All in all the grammar is not to complicated. I have heard people in India compare the verbal system to that of German, with Hindi/Urdu sometimes heaping a bunch of verbs at the end of a sentence.

PRONUNCIATION
Hindi's Devanagari alphabet is very easy to learn, and is in fact very logical. All the sounds are systematized according to the place in the mouth they are articulated and whether or not one expels breath when pronouncing them. Compare this to the random jumble that the Latin alphabet is. Urdu's alphabet (Nastaliq) is quite difficult though. It contains many redundant letters and more often than not, does not display the vowels in a word. Therefore one has to have heard the word at least once for one to be able to pronounce it accurately.

VOCABULARY
Everyday spoken Hindi/Urdu (or Hindustani as it is also called) derives most of its words from a mixture of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. That rends the everyday spoken language intelligible to people on both sides of the Indian-Pakistani border. However when spoken in purer and higher registers (for e.g. in newscasts), Hindi borrows many words from Sanskrit (mostly unintelligible to Pakistanis), while Urdu borrows words Persian and Arabic (mostly unintelligible to Hindi-speaking Indians). Both languages have absorbed many, many words from English, such as rediyo (radio), aspataal (hospital) and so forth.

TRANSPARENCY
Learning Hindi/Urdu will give one a headstart in learning other north Indian languages. Punjabi is the closest to Hindi/Urdu, but Gujarati, Nepali and Bengali are also reasonably close. Marathi, Oriya and Assamese are farther away, but one can still sense many similarities in vocabulary and grammar. All the languages mentioned here are official state languages in India, and are related to each other in the way that Romance languages are.

A special mention must also be made for those aspiring to learn Persian or Arabic. Hindi/Urdu has borrowed so many words from those languages through many centuries, that if you were to embark on them later you could transfer an enormous amount of vocabulary and thereby save a lot of work. To illustrate this, all kinds of common daily words such as "zindagi"(life), "ghusal-khana"(bathroom), "safar"(journey), "sabzi"(vegetable) and countless other words, originate from either Persian or Arabic.

SPELLING
In Devanagari it is easy as there are few redundant letters and one can make a reasonably good stab at guessing the spelling of unknown words. Devanagari is strictly speaking not an alphabet, but a syllabary where each symbol represents a syllable (ka, kha, ga, gha etc.). This is well suited to the phonology of Hindi and enables people to spell out words which they have never even encountered before. Nastaliq is a different story. Here there are many redundant letters from Arabic, and most texts never mark the vowels so one unfortunately has to have seen and heard the word earlier before one may pronounce and write it.

TIME NEEDED
At least 1-2 years of dedicated study. It is still much easier than anything east Asian, with Hindi/Urdu at least having alphabets which do not require memorizing thousands of characters, and their grammars are vaguely similar to European grammars; some people have compared their grammars to being distant second cousins of their European counterparts.

BOOKS
The Oxford Hindi-English dictionary by R.S.McGregor is excellent, as it also gives the etymology on every word:
Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary

Assimil has also published "Le Hindi sans peine":
Assimil "Le Hindi Sans Peine"
(Link to book without cassettes/CDs)

Teach Yourself has published many books about Hindi, and I have used the following two with great success:
Teach Yourself Beginner's Hindi Script
Teach Yourself Hindi Complete Course

Since Urdu has virtually the same grammar as Hindi, one can use learning tools for Hindi to learn Urdu. I do not know of many books which teach Urdu, but I have used these two, which are quite decent:
Teach Yourself Beginner's Urdu Script
Teach Yourself Urdu Complete Course

Edited by NascentOne on 13 September 2006 at 6:25pm

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gerstejr
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 Message 3 of 15
09 May 2010 at 10:50pm | IP Logged 
Now all it needs is to be added to the list!
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Fasulye
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 Message 4 of 15
06 July 2010 at 4:16pm | IP Logged 
This is a complete and an excellently written language profile, my applause to the author of it. Without having any previous background knowledge about Hindi and Urdu this language profile gives me a comprehensive introduction without being too overwhelming.

I will send this Hindi/Urdu profile written by NascentOne to the Administrator for publication on his website. I have checked that for these two languages there isn't any profile published so far.

Fasulye

Edited by Fasulye on 06 July 2010 at 4:30pm

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aru-aru
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 Message 5 of 15
30 March 2011 at 4:10pm | IP Logged 
I'm not so happy with the book list; it'd make sense to include at least one free resource. That would make Hindi more accessible for someone just mildly curious, it's unpopular enough to begin with. (And you've gone as far as write that its usefulness is "Somewhat debated") :)

A Door Into Hindi is a good one, with built in audio and video. By I don't remember which university.

First-year Hindi Course is a free textbook.

For more books that people recommend, see these two threads:

Nr. 1
Nr. 2

Some other comments:

In major cities too, a prospective learner might be frustrated at the fact that despite trying to practice your Hindi on locals, they will constantly answer in English.

Skip the "constantly", in my experience it is not so. "Often" or "mostly" at the most. Probably depends on whom you speak to.

ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE

I know a few people who are doing some research in India, and all of them claim that they feel the need to know Hindi. It probably depends on what exactly one plans to do in the field of Indian economy. Educated people, of course, all know English, but once you talk to actual laborers, situation is different.

VOCABULARY

I would add that modern Hindi in big cities uses close to 10% of English in everyday speech, not only localized things like "aspataal" but also words like "interview denaa", "phone karnaa", "late honaa" etc, even when there is an available Hindi word there. Plus, some fully English phrases randomly thrown in here and there. This makes watching recent Bollywood films significantly easier for beginners.

It is still much easier than anything east Asian, with Hindi/Urdu at least having alphabets which do not require memorizing thousands of characters, and their grammars are vaguely similar to European grammars; some people have compared their grammars to being distant second cousins of their European counterparts.

About Hindi, it's correct, but other east Asian languages - I don't know. Korean uses sort of an alphabet for most purposes, Mongolian uses Cyrillic script, Tibetan also has a sort of an alphabet, probably based on some Indian script. There are some (south?) Asian languages, that are said to be easy, like Indonesian.

Hindi grammar, apart from word order and even idea order in sentence, is quite accessible to an English speaker, it has basic tenses, that are remarkably similar to English ones. Based on the fact, that it still sounds authentic, if you've put one or two English words in your short sentence, it makes it easy for a language student to start speaking a sort of Hindi before acquiring a reasonably sufficient vocabulary. Similary, as mentioned before, Bollywood movies can be used as a learning aid even without subtitles from very early on, because of large amounts of English spoken in them and simplistic, easy to guess plots.

Anyway, see if any of these points can be useful. I didn't mean to criticize or anything, just to share my opinion. I think the language profile should sound bit more, you know, inviting. Hindi is already a seriously understudied language, and natives with their firm beliefs of supremacy of English aren't helping.
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LatinoBoy84
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 Message 6 of 15
10 April 2011 at 3:41am | IP Logged 
I would love to see this added to the main page.
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Saim
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 Message 7 of 15
04 July 2011 at 4:22am | IP Logged 
Good post, but I disagree in terms of usefulness and chic factor. Also, not all variants of Hindi are mutually intelligible.


USEFULNESS
Useful if you want to have a more than superficial understanding of Indian and Pakistani culture. Although English knowledge is widespread throughout India, this is concentrated in the upper-classes and so will not get you by 100% in these two countries. For this reason, if you're considering moving to India or Pakistan for any great length of time it's probably advisable that you learn Hindi-Urdu, and/or another local language.

CHIC FACTOR
Hindi-Urdu has huge chic factor. It has the second-largest film output in the world, and its films and music are widely watched and listened to throughout India and neighbouring countries. For this reason, there are hundreds of millions of second-language Hindi-speakers and it is the most widely understood language of South Asia.

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
You can get by through most of North India and Pakistan. There are also millions who understand Hindi-Urdu in the South, however English is probably more useful as a lingua franca there (especially in Tamil Nadu). Many Nepalese also understand Hindi, although it's not promoted by the government like in India and Pakistan.

COUNTRIES
In Pakistan, it is spoken natively mainly in Karachi, and by ethnic Mohajirs (Muslims who immigrated to Pakistan from India after partition) throughout the country. However, most people can understand at least some Urdu; it is widely spoken even in non-native-Urdu-speaking cities like Islamabad due to the large presence of migrants , and the need for a common language. It is also a major language of education and broadcasting.

In India, the main concentration of Urdu-speakers are in Hyderebad, Andhra Pradesh, where there is a Telugu-speaking majority. Urdu-speakers can be found in all Muslim communities in South Asia, even if many Muslims do speak a different language like Gujarati natively. Hindi is historically just the language of Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh, but the language is understood at varying degrees by most Indians. Hindi is official in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat (this last one is not normally considered part of the "Hindi belt"). Most people of these areas have native populations that speak Hindi "dialect/bholi", even if many of the urban areas are shifting to Hindi.

In Bangladesh, there is an Urdu-speaking minority but they are widely stigmatized and discriminated against. However, as with Nepal, many urban people can understand the language due to Bollywood.

SPEAKERS
There are over 200 million native speakers including all the mutually intelligible varieties. If one includes the unintelligible varieties that are sociolinguistically Hindi-Urdu, then the figure jumps to over 400 million. Furthermore, 100s of millions more understand it as well, so here the figure becomes something more like 900 million.

VARIATIONS
Hindi and Urdu are entirely intelligible at the basic level. However, there is serious difficulty in communication when it comes to the higher registers of the language. Formal language and educated concepts in Urdu come from Arabic and Persian, whereas in Hindi the formal register is highly Sanskritized. However, Bollywood movies and Hindi music are practically 100% intelligible to Urdu speakers. Furthermore, many Indians themselves have trouble understanding heavily Sanskritized Hindi, preferring to use English words to communicate higher-order concepts.

There are also some "dialects" of Hindi, as with Italian and Chinese, that are not fully intelligible with the standard form. Standard Hindi and Urdu are both based on the Kharibholi dialect of Delhi and north-west Uttar Praesh. Other dialects include Bhojpuri and Rajasthani. All these groups have movements to officialize and develop their languages, albeit with varying levels of success. However, the vast majority of these "dialect" speakers can understand and often use the Khariboli (Standard Hindi) dialect. Migrants from this "Hindi belt" often use Hindi in their daily lives in non-Hindi-speaking places like Maharashtra and West Bengal, even if Hindi isn't their native language. Mumbai for instance has a huge Hindi-speaking population, and many native Marathi-speakers resent this.

When it comes to Urdu, there are dialectal differences between the Urdu spoken natively in Pakistan and North India and that spoken natively in the city Hyderebad, in South India. However, this is mostly an issue of accent and there is easy intelligibility between the two groups.

TRANSPARENCY
(You're correct on Indo-Aryan languages, as well as Arabic and Persian, however I'd also like to add that:)

Speakers of Dravidian languages like Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada (but not Tamil) find it easy to understand and learn higher-order Sanskritized Hindi, as the formal registers of these languages are also heavily Sanskritized.

Edited by Saim on 11 July 2011 at 6:52am

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Deji
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 Message 8 of 15
02 January 2012 at 5:39pm | IP Logged 
PRONUNCIATION

I would like to add this to the excellent posts so far

PRONUNCIATION
Pronunciation may be difficult for non-Asian English-speakers. While Hindi writing and pronunciation is very
clear and systematic, with a neat pattern of unaspirated/asperated; voiced/unvoiced for nearly every consonant
and good vowel consistency, English has no such system and aspiration and palatal consonants are poorly
understood by native English-speakers. Few of us are aware that k's, hard c's, ch's, t's, and p's are aspirated in
English. Nor is there any understanding that while Hindi has palatal and dental d's and t's, the English d's and t's
are midway between the palatal and dental. As a result, our pronunciation of the k's, for example, tend to be not
unasperated and asperated, but asperated and hyperasperated. In the same manner, we pronounce dental t's and
d's as palatal, and palatal as exaageratedly hyperpalatal. Many English-speakers find dh and bh difficult to
pronounce as well.


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