India has 22 official languages, with Hindi as one of the most widely spoken. It’s a standardized register of Hindustani. It’s written in Devanagari script and an official language in India together with English.
Hindi is the fifth most spoken language in the world according to the 21st edition of Ethnologue. It’s spoken primarily in four countries, with 260 million first language (L1) speakers. According to the 2001 census, the number of first language speakers of Hindi in India alone is 258 million. Total L1 and L2 speakers in all countries where Indian diasporas exist are 534 million.
The language is part of the Indo-Aryan group of the Indo-Iranian branch that belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. It is the preferred language by the majority in India, Speakers of Hindi could be found in Uganda, Yemen, Bangladesh, Mauritius and South Africa.
Varieties of Hindi
The written form of Hindi literature uses the Devanagari script. The strongest influence of the language is Sanskrit. The standard form of literary Hindi is based on the dialect used in areas east and north of Delhi called Khali Boli. Other dialects of Hindi include Marwari, Haryanawi, Kanauji, Garhwali, Magahi, Awadhi, Kumayuni, Bagheli, Bhojpuri, Bundeli, and Chhattisgarhi. The speakers of these Hindi dialects are mostly found in what is called the Hindi belt, which is approximately the northern Indian region.
In this particular Hindi zone, the level of similarity of the dialects with the standard Hindi varies greatly. Some of them, like Maithili is more similar to Bengali. Rajasthani has more similarities with Gujarati. Even with the slight differences, the speakers of these dialects consider that they are speaking a dialect of Hindi, which they base from the former grouping done by the British in order to classify the numerous languages.
Under British rule, the medium of instruction in elementary school was Hindi, and the educated villagers and members of the middle class in the urban areas within the zone declare that they are Hindi speakers. They would not allow themselves to be heard speaking regional dialects in public for fear of being labeled as inadequately educated.
In a country where the division of classes in society is very pronounced, especially during colonial times, speaking the standard form of Hindi language back then gave them a higher status in their region. It could be compared to the English speakers in the southern part of India. These two languages were considered signs of upward social mobility in the continent. Therefore, in those days, people who were searching for marriage and jobs must speak standard Hindi.
Most of these dialects are almost forgotten by today’s younger generation. The increase in literacy led to more people speaking standard Hindi natively.
The Hindi language
The precursors of Hindi are Prakrit and Sanskrit as well as the Apabhramsha languages. However, Hindi is influenced greatly by Persian so the characteristics of the root languages are not that pronounced in Hindi.
The modern standard Hindi developed from the interaction of Khari Boli speakers with the Muslim invaders from Central Asia, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and other areas. The languages of the invaders were eventually lost although they greatly improved the Khari Boli language.
Hindi’s assimilated Persian words are mainly about administration and they are no longer considered as loanwords. Hindi also has a number of Persian words pertaining to bedding and dress items, cuisine, cosmetics, furniture and construction. Hindi also borrowed from Arabic, including phonemes. Moreover, the language was enriched through contact with the English language and eventually assimilated many words.
Advantages of speaking Hindi
India is growing quickly as a global economy and its culture and language are very important to improve the conduct of business in the country. It’s the second rapidly growing economy after China.
For a long time India has been striving to have its people read and speak English fluently, initially as a status symbol but now an essential factor to boost an individual’s career opportunities and conversely push the country’s economy.
In as much as they want to be better English speakers, they have great pride in their country’s rich heritage and they enthusiastically welcome people who try to learn or speak one of their languages.
Those seeking work in international companies may do well in India, which is an investor-friendly country. Some of the huge international corporations engaged in agriculture, beverage and food, finance, retail and technology are in India.
Speaking Hindi is a vital part in conducting business in the country. Liaison work, advertising and management of local teams require knowledge of the language.
If an individual were interested in tourism, speaking Hindi would be favorable since India is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. It has magnificent architectural marvels, centers of natural medicine, yoga and meditation retreats and more.
Like Urdu, learning Hindi opens the door to other languages spoken in India and other parts of Asia. You’ll be able to learn Sanskrit, which is the oldest language in the world (and about to go extinct) and read some of its wonderful writings. Nepali is another language that knowledge of Hindi can help you learn. About 30% of Nepali’s grammar and vocabulary are similar to Hindi.
Gujarati is written in Devanagari script that is also used by Hindi. The state of Gujarat is famous for its cuisine and business minds.
If you know Hindi, you’ll be able to understand Bhojpuri and Bengali, as well as Avadhi. Plus, if you speak Hindi, you’ll be able to understand Urdu, as the two languages are quite similar and mutually intelligible.
Good exercise for the brain
More parts of the brain are exercised when you learn Hindi instead of English. The way the Devanagari script is written, from its left to right direction with the vowel signs positioned on top, below or on both sided of consonants, both the left and right hemispheres of the brain are equally used when reading the syllabic script.
When reading English text, which is alphabetic, only the left hemisphere is activated.
In India, schoolchildren are taught to read both English and Hindi texts, making their brain more active than children from other parts of the world that only use alphabetic script.
Access to a variety of materials
When you know Hindi, it is easy for you to access a variety of materials. India has the largest film industry in the world. Knowing Hindi allows you to understand thousands of films in different genres. The music industry is also rich in materials from ballad to pop to rock to adult contemporary. Although some of the films Bollywood churns out are very commercial productions with very little meaningful content, there are classic films, period films, social dramas and art house productions that will help you understand India’s rich history and culture. Cable TV providers in the U.S. offer Hindi programs, which can help you practice your Hindi speaking skills. Even if you cannot travel to India, you’ll find Hindi diasporas in major cities.
From the reasons given above, you can realize how learning Hindi could be beneficial for a person’s career advancement or become the start of the brilliant career in the intriguing and fascinating land of India.
With the close association between Hindi and English caused by the British rule of India for 200 years, it is inevitable that some Hindi words would find their way into the English dictionary. Here are some of the most popular ones.
- Verandah. It came from the Hindi word baramdaa, which could have originated from the Portuguese language.
- Jungle. It is derived from jangal, a Hindi word that translates to ”wild wasteland.”
- Bandana. The Hindi words, badhnu (tie-dyeing large handkerchiefs) and bandhana (tie up something) are the sources of the English word, bandana.
- Dinghy. The term for a small rowing boat came from the Hindi word dingiya or dingi, it is used for fishing and transporting passengers.
- Chit. This is the term used to mean a stub, although nowadays, it is the common term for a restaurant bill (tab) or a check. It came from the Hindi word chitthi that means post or letter.
- Pyjama. A pair of lightweight, loose and comfortable drawstring trousers often worn in bed, it came for the word payajama, which is a compound word – pay for leg and jama for clothing.
- Juggernaut – from the term Jagannath yatra to describe a religious procession with a huge carriage bearing Lord Jagannath’s image.
- Cashmere. This is the old spelling of the state of Kashmir. It lent its name to the fabric made from the fine wool sheared from cashmere goats that were abundant in the area.
- Thug. It came from the Hindi word thag that means swindler or thief.
- Chutney. It originated from the word chattni that means, ”to lick.”
- Bangles. It came from the term bangri that means the colored glass ornaments worn by Indian women on their wrists.
- Shampoo. It came from the word champo. The Hindi word means to massage, knead or squeeze.
- Punch. Itcame from paanch or five (the number of ingredients used in the drink).
- Cot. From the Hindi word khatwa or khat, it is a wood and jute bed placed in the open.
- Loot. From the word lut it translates to ”steal” or ”plunder”
- Bungalow. It came from the word bangla that describes the houses built in the Bengal style.
- Cushy. It originated from the word kushi that is equivalent to ”happiness” in Hindi.
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