Monday, May 24, 2010

Indian Languages

With Aim Abroad, we have been offering some of our language and culture classes to a pair of volunteers. The volunteers have been observing the cooking classes, visiting local temples, have been going to the local markets with Aim Abroad's assistance to learn the tricks of the trade, and have been learning about Hindi and Indian culture. I figured this would be a good moment to comment on Indian languages and give some information about them. 

Here in Delhi NCR, my husband and I speak Hindi, our mother tongues. This is our primary language, and our children also speak the language. In Delhi, the main spoken language is also Hindi, and with knowledge of Hindi, there is rarely a language barrier between people from India. English is also a common language, but not everyone will understand the language itself: Most people understand something we like to call Hinglish, a mixture of English and Hindi. Basically, with Hinglish, the primary language is Hindi, but some words are replaced with English words. For example, in Hindi, to say "Please wait," we would say "intezaar karo" or "prateeksha karo;" but in Hinglish we say "wait karo!" Even though there are two words in Hindi for the word, you will more often hear people say "Wait karo," rather than a pure Hindi sentence!Surprisingly, even those with the least knowledge of English would probably still speak some variation of Hinglish, rather than pure Hindi. 

Hindi also is a very extensive language, while it is not exactly uniform depending on the location where it is spoken. For example, there is what we call "Shuddh Hindi," or pure Hindi, and there is "Khariboli," or standing speech, the form of Hindi that we speak in Delhi. Shuddh Hindi is a much more Sanskritized language, favoring Sanskrit loan words rather than Urdu, or Persian equivalent loan words. In the example I mentioned above, "intezaar karo" and "prateeksha karo," the word "prateeksha" is a Shuddh Hindi word, because the word comes from a Sanskrit root. The other word, "intezaar," is coming from an Urdu lexicon, and is favored in Khariboli speech. Although Khariboli is not always favoring these Urdu loan words, it tends to favor them. One major difference between Shuddh Hindi and Khariboli, apart from vocabulary, is the grammar arrangement. In Shuddh Hindi, to ask "What is his name?" we say "uska naam kya hai?", but in Khariboli, we say "kya naam uska." The words are the same, with the exception of a missing word in Khariboli, but the arrangement is clearly very different. In our newspapers and textbooks, the favored speech is always Shuddh Hindi, unless there are quotes from people speaking in Khariboli. Understanding one of the major forms of Hindi, you will be able to understand another form, but it is interesting to see that the spoken language in Delhi, Khariboli, differs greatly in word arrangement from Shuddh Hindi.

Although Hindi is a fairly extensive indian language, it is not the only language spoken in Delhi NCR, or especially in all of India. In our part of Delhi NCR, we are living in the state of Haryana. Like most Indian states, Haryana has a state-language, called Haryanvi. Haryanvi is very similar to Hindi, with the same grammar features and similar vocabulary, but the accent is much harsher than the Hindi accent. Growing up in Haryana, my parents would speak in Hindi, but there was a distinct Haryanvi accent tinged into their speech. My husband, children, and I understand Haryanvi, but it is rarely spoken by us (although occasionally with family we hear the language spoken). Other well known state-languages are Punjabi, spoken in Punjab, Gujarati, spoken in Gujarat, and Bengali, spoken in West Bengal. The north Indian state-languages tend to be very related to one another, all of which are somewhat related to Hindi; yet, the south Indian languages are very very different from Hindi. As such, it is rare for people in south India to speak in Hindi, but their own state-language and English are much more popular in these south Indian states. Though south Indian people usually learn Hindi in school, and pick up the language by watching Bollywood movies, there is much less promotion for speaking Hindi in these areas. 

One final note to make is that Hindi and English are still the major national languages of India. With one of these languages, a traveler will have a less difficult time journeying through this beautiful and stimulating nation. With both of the languages, people rarely encounter a language barrier in the metropolitan areas, where at least one of the two languages is highly favored over a regional language. Even with just the one week of language and culture classes we offer, volunteers have an advantage when they venture out into India after their program with Aim Abroad ends. I hope this information was interesting, and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment, and I'll help in any way I can!

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