HIN101 Hindi/Urdu conversation lessons on the Web at Syracuse University
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Hindi is a modern Indo-Aryan language spoken in South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Nepal) and also in other countries outside Asia (Mauritius, Trinidad, Fiji, Surinam, Guyana, South Africa and other countries). Approximately six hundred million people speak Hindi, as either a first or second language. It is ranked among the five most widely spoken languages of the world. Along with English, it is the official language of India. In addition, it is the state language of Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

Hindi, which is a descendant of the Sanskrit language, is not strictly the name of any chief dialect of the area but is an adjective, Persian in origin, meaning Indian. Historically, it was synonymous with Hindui, Hindawi, Rexta, and Rexti. The terms Urdu and Hindustani are also employed to refer to this language. However, these labels denote a mixed speech spoken around the area of Delhi, North India, which gained currency during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as a contact language between the Arabs, Afghans, Persian and Turks, and native residents.

Hindi is written in the Devanagari script which is ranked as the most scientific writing system among the existing writing systems of the world. The Devanagari script is written from left to right and is a descendant of the Brahmi script which was well established in India before 500 B.C. The script is phonetic in nature and there is a fairly regular correspondence between the letters and their pronunciation.

The literary history of Hindi goes back to the twelfth century. Some notable literary figures of Hindi are Kabir, Surdas, and Tulsidas. It also has an approximately three-century old, well-attested and rich grammatical tradition of its own.

Hindi language lessons that follow in these pages are meant to supplement classroom instruction. Although each page is designed to stand independently and can be used so, there is a certain sequence to follow in learning the language, beginning from the correct perception and practice of the various sounds to writing and making conversation, to building vocabulary.

To use these pages for learning Hindi language you must have a working knowledge of the basics of Devanagari script. Only then will it be possible to recognize the various characters used in the conversation lessons. Once you have chosen the conversation that you want to learn, read the sentence and play the sound file associated with it as many times as needed, to familiarize yourself with the way various words sound in Hindi. It is for that purpose that sound files are presented here at two different speeds. The normal speed sound file presents speech as it would sound to a native speaker conversing with another native speaker. The slow speed sound file slows down the tempo of the normal sentence so you can pay more attention to the sound of each individual character as it becomes incorporated in the sentence. In learning a language, practice is imperative. So play the sound files and read the words and sentences as many times as you need to become comfortable with them.

© 2005 Jishnu Shankar, South Asia Center, Syracuse University.