Do you want to investigate the who, what, when, where, and why of the ancient Hindi language system you are learning today? Verbal aptitude can take you far in a Hindi conversation, but understanding Hindi history, customs, and trends will put you at even greater ease in conversations influenced by the nuances of local culture. Empower yourself to become a more informed Hindi speaker by taking the Hindi quiz below to determine which statements are Hindi facts, and which are Hindi fiction!
Hindi is spoken by everyone in India.
The Constitution of India deems Hindi the official language of the nation. However, the constitution also prescribes that state legislatures can choose to adopt either a state language or Hindi as the language to be used for official state business, and many states chose the former option. Today, the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution acknowledges 22 scheduled languages in India. The term "scheduled" simply reflected those Indian languages that the government suggested may be drawn upon to further revitalize and elevate the Hindi language they viewed to be at the heart of Indian culture. Since the drafting of the constitution, state languages have become even more ingrained into the fabric of societies in India, so the primary language you will encounter in India will depend upon which region you are in. Hindi is spoken widely in the states of Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. You will find Hindi speakers in many other states, including southern states, although it may not be their preferred language.
According to the 2001 Census of India, Hindi was spoken by 41% of the population at a whopping 422 million recorded speakers across the Hindi dialectical spectrum! This is a percentage not surpassed by any other language spoken in India. Bengali, Telugu, and Marathi were next in line behind Hindi among scheduled languages. It remains prudent for travelers to acknowledge the preferred language(s) of a state rather than to assume Hindi is known intimately by all.
You cannot converse with locals in India if you cannot speak the Indian language of that state.
If you are learning Hindi and don't yet feel confident enough to carry out a dialogue in Hindi or another regional language, don't worry! In addition to Hindi, the Constitution of India prescribes English as the other official language of India, even though it is not one of the 22 scheduled native languages because it is a foreign language. The constitution when drafted stated that English was intended to be phased out of use in India for official purposes after a period of fifteen years, but this order would have greatly burdened states whose languages differed too vastly from Hindi. Herein came into being the Official Languages Act of 1963, which enabled the continuation of English as an official language in India even after the year in which it was to be ceased in usage. The continued use of the common language of English has significantly helped to bridge the language divide between Hindi and non-Hindi speaking states in India.
2001 figures estimated English was spoken by an estimated 10% of the Indian population, or 125,000,000 speakers. This makes English the second most-spoken language in India. India is widely regarded as the nation with the second largest number of English speakers after only the United States. English often serves as a language of economy, business, and administrative affairs in India. In an increasingly globalized workforce, English will only broaden its reach. It is this wide use of English in India that makes it an appealing and adaptable travel destination for Westerners and indeed for English speakers across the globe.
Sanskrit provides the foundation for the Hindi language.
As with other Indo-Aryan languages, Hindi draws largely upon Sanskrit for its vocabulary and grammatical foundation. The Devanagari alphabet at the heart of Sanskrit is shared by Hindi. The Constitution of India even expressly conveys that Sanskrit is to be the preferred language of influence upon the future development of Hindi. While the Hindustani (Hindu-Urdu) variety of Hindi reflects evident Persian and Arabic influences, Modern Standard Hindi minimized and replaced these borrowed influences so exists as a more Sanskritized variety of Hindi than Hindustani. Although the Persian and Arabic constructs were largely removed from Modern Standard Hindi, the Persian influence continues to be reflected deeply in the language of Urdu.
The earliest forms of Hindi can be attributed to ancient spoken languages, called Prakrit.
In scholar Clarence Maloney's work Language and Civilization Change in South Asia, the Hindi language developmental timeline is identified as follows:
Indo-European → Ancient Indo-Aryan → Vedic Sanskrit (1500-500 B.C.) → Classical Sanskrit → Prakrit (Pali) (500-0 B.C.) → Prakrit (0-500 A.D.) → Apabrahmsas (500-1000 A.D.) → Medieval and Modern Indo-Aryan languages.
As Prakrit extended to various regions of India, the regional languages or Apabrahmsas appeared, such as the Sauraseni Apabrahmsa from which Hindi was born. This cruder Apabrahmsa was eventually standardized into the Hindi spoken today.
Hindi speakers can easily speak Sanskrit as the languages share in common the Devanagari alphabet.
It would be nice if this were true! However, Hindi and Sanskrit remain two distinct languages despite sharing the same alphabet. Why is this? When you examine Hindi and Sanskrit grammar more deeply, you'll notice at least a few major differences. While in Hindi there is a singular and plural tense, in Sanskrit there is an additional "dual" tense to represent two of an entity. Additionally, in Hindi there is a masculine and feminine gender for nouns, while in Sanskrit there is a third "neuter" gender. The language of Marathi also shares the Devanagari alphabet, however as in the case of Hindi and Sanskrit, a speaker of Marathi cannot necessarily speak Hindi or Sanskrit just by virtue of knowing the alphabet.
Sanskrit is considered a classical language in India and is largely inactive in the day to day lives of most Indians, with its usage seen in traditionally philosophical and religious contexts as opposed to the widespread, active usage of Hindi.
Gandhi was a proponent of the use of English as an official language in India.
Gandhi was a proponent of the adoption of Hindi as the common language of India, but more specifically, he favored Hindustani, as he believed this Hindu-Urdu variant would bridge the growing division between Hindi-speaking Hindus and Urdu-speaking Muslims in India. As a staunch advocate for the unification of Indians across religious lines, Gandhi was disheartened to see Hindu Indians and Muslim Indians put at odds culturally due to a division of language. He believed a common Indian language could and should supplant English, a foreign tongue that he did not have ill will towards but in his view did not meet the criteria to be considered as an official language. Gandhi said, "I have come to the deliberate-conclusion, that no language except Hindustani - a resultant of Hindi and Urdu - can possibly become a national medium for exchange of ideas or for the conduct of national proceedings." Although Hindu and Urdu ultimately did diverge, Gandhi was undoubtedly instrumental in facilitating discourse about Indian national identity and provided significant thought leadership for the Indian government in the commissioning of language.
Hindi, like Urdu, should be read from right to left.
Devanagari should be read from left to right just like English. This distinguishes Hindi from Arabic and derivatives like Persian and Urdu script, which are read from right to left.
Hindi is a phonetic language.
A phonetic language is one where there is a direct correlation between the spelling of a word and the pronunciation of the word. For example, English is not a phonetic language because there are variations between the spelling and the spoken sound of words and letters in numerous contexts. For example, the letter "g" in the English word "gnat" is silent. Without possessing awareness of these nuances, a new English speaker would not instinctively be able to predict that the "g" is silent. Hindi on the other hand is spoken as it is written. Each letter of the Devanagari alphabet has a corresponding distinct phoneme or sound unit, making it intuitive for Hindi learners to pronounce written words after learning the alphabet.
Hindi Diwas (Hindi Day) is commemorated annually in India on September 14th.
September 14, 1949 was a momentous day in India's history as it marked the day on which Hindi in Devanagari script was adopted as the official language of the nation. September 14th continues to be commemorated annually due to its importance in Indian history. Each year on Hindi Diwas at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi, the president himself presents awards to individuals excelling in Hindi-related endeavors. Businesses and schools honor the day by conducting a unique program of events such as poetry recitations.
Hindi can be employed in web URLs.
Hindi is one of a small set of languages including English, Russian, and Arabic that can be employed in web URLs (Uniform Resource Locator). This means that you can type a full web address written in Hindi, which is particularly useful for non-English speaking Indians who prefer to type in their regional language. Other Indian languages accorded this status by the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) include Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. The introduction of non-Latin characters into domain names is a mark of both technological and cultural progression as it will introduce many more new users to the World Wide Web in nations such as India with its rich tapestry of languages.