Learning from Native Language Speakers

Hindi Class Workshop: Fictional Story Illustration
Hindi Class Workshop: Fictional Story Illustration

This year was the second time I got to experience a Hindi class meeting with the Delhi Young Artists Forum. I find this event to be oddly nerve-wracking. There is something especially frightening about having my fledgling Hindi exposed to native speakers. Coupled with this nervousness, there is also a level of excitement because I know it is the best way to improve my Hindi. Unfortunately, this year I missed the first half hour of our NGO meeting, but I was interested to hear that the members of DYAF were shocked, and a bit weirded out by the story we wrote in Hindi and shared with them. In our story, as a class, we wrote that one of our classmates died on a trip to India. The shock of the DYAF students was borne of an Indian superstition of sorts that one should not speak into existence the death of a living person. This is a superstition that my mom holds strongly, and she has passed it on to me. It was interesting to see that it still holds strong in India to this day. I was able to be in the meeting for the portion where we spoke with the students at DYAF. The student I was paired with was named Tayyaba. She has a young daughter and is married. It was really interesting to get the chance to talk to her. At first, when we started talking it was a bit difficult. When I get nervous, my Hindi gets significantly worse, but we warmed up to each other as time passed. Once she started asking me follow-up questions, the conversation started to flow. Speaking with her was a good opportunity for me to practice my Hindi. I really enjoyed it when she asked me questions because it gave me an opportunity to speak off the cuff since the questions, I was asking her were already written down. The last part of the meeting was playing games with the students at DYAF. I think this was the most successful part of our meeting. The girls at DYAF seemed to really like the games. We played an emoji game with compound words, and they loved it. I was really glad to see that the games were easy to understand over Zoom since there are normally some communication issues over the internet. The games also require explaining rules, which can be difficult. It was really gratifying to both see them enjoy the games that we made and that they could understand how we explained it in Hindi.


An Artistic Addition to Intermediate Hindi

In preparation for our meeting with the students at DYAF, our Hindi class made drawings to go along with the story we wrote. Other than pictures just being an engaging addition to our story, I figure they might also have helped with making it more understandable. Our story was a bit odd and out there, so I’m guessing the visual aids probably helped make it a little more palatable. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about my time in Hindi classes with Kusumji is the importance that she puts on making sure that the class is full of a variety of diverse experiences. This feels especially important when we meet as often as we do. Between trips to the library, Bollywood songs walks in the gardens, yoga, cooking, and more, Kusumji always tries to take our class beyond the constraints of ordinary lectures. This drawing component was much the same. It was a great break from the traditional class style. It gave us a chance to still engage with Hindi as we interpreted the story that we created. It was fun to see our story come to life through our drawings. Kusumji’s emphasis on multimedia engagement allows for our learning of Hindi to feel lively and entertaining. Too often language learning becomes dull and lifeless, when the cultures that languages come from are far from it.


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