Cultivating Cultural Connection via the Hindi Language: Our Conversations with the Delhi Young Artists Forum

DYAF Workshop
Delhi Young Artists Forum (DYAF) Workshop

Whether it be attending yoga and Indian cooking classes, singing Hindi songs, or watching Hindi films, Kusumji’s Hindi 101 class is filled with numerous opportunities for us to immerse in Indian culture while applying our Hindi language skills. A major part of this immersive cultural experience is the service-learning component of the course—our virtual meeting with the Delhi Young Artists Forum (DYAF). The DYAF is an NGO that empowers young women in Delhi through art and education. The DYAF members who we met were primarily teenage and young adult girls.

We began our meeting with the DYAF by sharing our names, hometowns, and hobbies. Through these brief introductions, we applied recent Hindi vocabulary and grammar concepts and became acquainted with the DYAF girls. Afterwards, despite the delayed internet connection, our Hindi 101 class had fun singing the main verses of “Mera Joota Hai Japani,” “Teri Meri Prem Kahani,” and “Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar”—three Hindi songs which we learned this semester. A few DYAF members even sang their favorite Hindi songs; they had such beautiful voices! The DYAF members also told us about their celebrations for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. The DYAF celebrated with their community by preparing traditional foods, hosting dance events, and making rangolis—patterns created with colorful powder or flower petals near the entrances of homes.

During the second part of our meeting, we split into breakout rooms. Each student from our Hindi 101 class was partnered with one to two DYAF members, with whom we conversed in Hindi. My partner and I enjoyed getting to know one another as we talked about our lifestyles, families, and passions, as well as our favorite colors, fruits, holidays, and subjects in school. We even bonded over our love for dance and music! This was my first time talking with a native Hindi speaker, and it felt incredibly special to connect with someone across the world using the language skills we learned in class. I also learned a lot from my partner—when I was doubtful of a question she asked me, she would often explain it to me in English, and she kindly helped correct my Hindi. After we finished conversing in Hindi with our partners, students in our Hindi 101 class presented a lesson on English introductions. For example, we taught our partners how to greet someone, how to introduce their own names and where they are from, and how to talk about things they like in English.

Students in our Hindi 101 class greatly enjoyed this experience—a rewarding, albeit challenging, real-world application of the skills we learned in class. Here are a few students’ comments:

Meghan: “My expectations were definitely met and exceeded; it was such a memorable experience. It was so nice to be able to use what we have learned in Hindi to speak to teenagers in India … My pronunciation was definitely not very good, but the DYAF girl was able to understand me, so I’m happy that we were able to form a connection through Hindi. I really loved it when we sang at the beginning and then some of the girls volunteered to sing as well.”

Zubin: “It was my first time using Hindi in conversation with someone not in my family. I enjoyed getting to know my partner’s hobbies and interests, which were really similar to my own. We talked about topics beyond course material, such as cooking biryani and politics. In the process, I learned some words that I had forgotten about in the past, such as ‘behes’ - to argue. Some vocabulary went beyond my scope - that was definitely a challenge but it helped me expand my own vocabulary.”

Meera: “I really enjoyed the NGO meeting! At first I was really nervous, because my speaking level of Hindi is so elementary, but my partner was really kind and was patient with me as I tried to speak and understand. She told me a lot about her life and her story, and I even got to meet her daughter!”

Shiv: “I enjoyed getting to know the kids in my breakout room and learning what their daily lives were like. We also talked a lot about music and movies, with many of our favorite Bollywood songs overlapping. The NGO members are very smart and very fast learners, and they ask great questions. They did an excellent job when learning English … There are few opportunities where Hindi 101 students will have full conversations in Hindi outside of scenarios like these where we have to speak in Hindi to be understood. It’s arguably the single fastest learning process for a new language.”

Amalie: “I really appreciated the opportunity we had to speak with teenage girls from the NGO. Going in, I was excited but nervous to speak with someone in their native tongue when I am so elementary. I think my main struggles came about when we deviated from the script. However, the NGO members were very kind and encouraging, even when I fell short … Both girls were lovely but my favorite encounter was with my first one-on-one. She was so helpful, and I had a lot of fun hearing about her role model, Salman Khan. This encounter really made me want to better understand Hindi, so in the future, I could understand more of what was being said.”

Amrit: “The one-on-one discussion I had … was fun and I got to learn a lot about her life at home and at school … I learned that she is 20 years old and in her last year of schooling. Afterwards she is on the track to become a dance teacher. She told me that since 8th grade she had known what her career would be. I found it interesting how … for them, [y]our career is based on your test scores in various subjects and somewhat chosen for you. This experience was a great cultural immersion that I am excited to do again in Hindi 102.”


This workshop was supported and funded by Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Duke Service Learning.