When I first started learning Hindi, much like a small child learning to speak, I would use the Hindi at every chance. I would say नमस्ते Namaste (a deeply spiritual greeting also used as a respectful ‘hello’) to my friends at the beginning of our conversation.
Though it was pure Hindi (Hindi with Sanskrit origin), I would say शुभ रात्रि Shubh Ratri (meaning goodnight) at the end of the night, and सुप्रभात Suprabhat (meaning good morning) at the beginning of each morning.
Actually, to be fair, I never used actual Hindi at that time – I only knew how to type or write Hindi in it’s transliteration form.
I would, as embarrassing as it is to admit now, call all of my friends Yaar (meaning buddy or friend) – an Urdu word with Persian origin, that is also used in the Hindi language. It’s not necessarily bad, but let’s just say I neglected all sense of respect by using it constantly. I even mistakenly called my Hindi teacher “Yaar” once – publicly. He laughed it off, humbly diffusing the awkward situation.
I was passionate about learning phrases, and every phrase I learned, I spoke it (poorly) or sent it in a message to my Indian friends. I even spoke the Hindi I was learning among my family and friends. No one had any idea what I was talking about, but I had a sense of joy in their confusion and a secret feeling of pride that I knew how to say these words and phrases.
I look back on my first experience with Hindi, and I guess I really admire my first go at Hindi… because after life had changed in so many ways, when I started learning Hindi again, the way I was learning Hindi was much different.
Then I was carefree and if I said a word wrong or if someone laughed at my attempts of learning Hindi, I would brush it off and speak or write Hindi anyway.
Now I learn words and phrases faster than ever, I’m just too shy to speak most of what I learn. It’s a problem I’m actively trying to change. I began to teach myself to read Hindi, just before coming to India, but with the help of DN this summer, I am now able read most Hindi words.
Now I’m shy and reserved. When speaking Hindi, there’s a 90% chance I’ll say it wrong, especially the first time. People will laugh, tease me, and ultimately shut down my desire to try again – but I shouldn’t let that discourage me.
“Sounds like a personal problem,” my youngest brother Christopher would say – and he’s right. It’s definitely a personal problem and it’s all about mindset.
I struggle with pronouncing “bh” words, such as भाभी bhabhi (meaning sister-in-law), भैया bhaiya (a respectful term, meaning brother), or भी bhi (meaning also or too).
I have always wanted to be able to confidently say bhai or bhaiya, as I can use these words every day, practically. I can call DN’s friends “bhaiya”, and it can be used practically in a handful of other ways.
I asked DN to speak “bhaiya” again and again, as I repeated him, until I could say it right. So now I feel I could say it right, but I’m a bit nervous to use this word practically for the first time.
I know I have to have the courage to speak Hindi anyway, and the more I do the easier it will get. I’m getting better at it all the time.
I’ll update with my progress in learning, soon.