Do you remember how you were taught Hindi at school? You were probably taught all the vyanjans (consonants), followed by the swars (vowels), barakhadi. This was probably followed up with stringing together meaningless sentences like “Ram aam khata hai” and “Kamal ghar aa.” Not exactly a fun way to learn a language, was it? We agree.
A language is not merely to be understood, copied, or even mastered. Its purpose is communication. Language comes alive for the learner only through active engagement with the culture and patterns of thinking and speech. There should be joy in learning and expressing ideas and thoughts in the language. The role of the teacher is to facilitate this immersive experience.
In the words of Sylvia Aston Warner, “…learning should be real. It must start from the children’s own experiences and relate to their world. Children should have an emotional connect with the language they are learning.” At B.D. Somani, the role connection and relevance play in a child’s learning is given prime importance. Keeping this in mind, along with the disinterest and disconnect children displayed while learning Hindi, we decided to revamp our Hindi curriculum three years ago.
Fortunately, we came across an excellent program, developed by Ms Chandrika Mathur and her team at Rishi Valley School, for teaching Hindi to non-native speakers of the language. Her Hindi ki Duniya coursebooks and workbooks are used to teach Hindi to non-Hindi-speaking children between the ages of 5 and 10 in a fun, playful way. Lessons revolve around a child’s daily life. For example, the first letter they learn is nuh, which is used to spell Nana and Nani, possibly the most important people in any child’s life. Children can easily relate to these and other words chosen because they are part of their daily lives.
Our language (English) program is based on a holistic or whole language philosophy so it was a natural progression for us to adopt a similar program for teaching Hindi at B.D. Somani.
The Hindi lesson plan at B.D. Somani is child-centric and develops spoken as well as written Hindi for non-Hindi-speaking learners. It provides grammatical explanation and encourages spontaneity of response. It develops comprehension skills as well as expression through activities that are enjoyable yet purposeful. It includes games as well as structured written exercises. It provides rich exposure to the language while systematically building age-appropriate language skills.
In the early years, our students learn some Hindi through storytelling and songs. They start learning Hindi formally from Grade 1 when they simultaneously learn the language first by listening, speaking, writing and then reading.
For the younger ones, we tell stories in rhyme. But for older students, we introduce different genres, fiction and non-fiction including autobiographies, narratives, reports, diary writing. Children also write their own stories. We have picture talks and practical work. We solve math problems and puzzles in Hindi. There are games, discussions and a lot of role play which the children love.
We also encourage group work in class which helps develop collaboration, cooperation and teamwork.
We begin Hindi class with a game, discussion or joke. Sometimes students share a memorable experience they had over the weekend in Hindi.
In Grade 1, when students were learning the letter ch, they made clay figurines with ch letter words like chooha, chakli, cheenti, Chachi, chakoo.
In Grade 2, when students were learning the letter fuh, we included a number of activities that expanded their experience and made it immersive. They learnt phalon ke naam (names of fruits). We made a fruit salad. They wrote out the recipe and specified the number and pieces of fruit in the recipe.
In Grade 1 and 2 we play with tongue twisters like:
Jojo ko khojo
khojo Jojo ko
Jojo na khojo
to kho jaaye Jojo
When our Grade 5 students saw students from Grade 1 and 2 practising tongue twisters in Hindi and challenging others to repeat them, they came up with original and creative tongue twisters of their own for them to try out! Here’s one for you to try:
Dhobhi ki Dhobin ne dhobhi ghat par Dhobhi ki dhulee hui dhoti dhoyi.
We take children on trips around the school and encourage them to record their observations of everyday school life in their notebooks. Using their notes and sentences, children are introduced to grammar concepts such as noun (sangya) and verb (kriya). Grade 4 students’ autumn break assignment was to design board games, based on their noun and verb lessons, that they could bring back to school after the break and play with their classmates.
We also link concepts they are learning in the other classes with their Hindi lessons. For example, Grade 2 students are learning about plants so, in Hindi, they learn the parts of plants, as well as the names of fruits and vegetables. Hindi is, thus, integrated in a meaningful way with the daily life of the students.
Our younger students pick up Hindi very quickly and become more confident in the language as they grow older. Grade 1 students can explain their block building structures fluently in Hindi. In Grade 2, students go from being diffident about writing to confidently creating their own short stories – a conversation between a clock and a house, a table and a chair. In Grade 3, they make up math problems in Hindi and exchange them with their friends to solve.
At the end of Grade 5, B.D. Somani students have a strong foundation in Hindi that meets all the objectives laid out for learning Hindi as a second language. They are confident in their learning of the language and are also able to converse fluently with their native Hindi speaking friends.
Since we introduced this method of learning Hindi, we have seen a huge difference in the way students relate to the language. For us, the most telling difference is when they view Hindi as a language spoken by people of all strata of society and not just by their staff at home. They feel pride when we show them videos of our honourable Prime Minister speaking Hindi at global forums within India and overseas. They also develop a deeper appreciation for their mother tongue and often go home to ask parents to teach it to them.
And here are some tips to help you add to your child’s immersive learning experience in Hindi. Read to your young children from Hindi story books and from magazines and newspapers as they grow older. Speak Hindi consciously at home as much as possible. Sadly, many students tell us they only use Hindi with their staff and not with their parents. No school can develop children’s fluency in a language in only a few periods a week at school – meaningful practice at home is absolutely essential.
आपके बच्चे रुचि के साथ स्कूल में हिंदी का उपयोग करते हैं, कृपया आप घर पर उनके साथ हिंदी में संवाद करें ।