About the Hindi Langauge
Hindi is one of 23 official languages of India, and is reported to be the second most commonly spoken language in the world. Only Mandarin Chinese has a greater number of speakers. Approximately 500 million people around the world speak a dialect of Hindi, and an even greater number have at least some familiarity with it. (India’s popular “Bollywood” films have served to expose viewers in many parts of the world to the sounds of Hindi.) However, included in those 500 million are speakers of the many regional dialects of the language, which are often quite different. “Hindustani” is the term used to describe this closely related series of languages or dialects, including Hindi and Urdu.
In the Pimsleur program, we teach Standard Hindi as spoken in New Delhi. While elsewhere in India other dialects are more prevalent, the New Delhi dialect will be understood by most people you will meet. And while there are 23 official languages, only Hindi and English are official government languages of communication. Today, most Indians are multi-lingual, speaking Hindi, English (one of the main dialects of English, called “Indian English”), and one or more regional dialects.
Hindi is a close relative of the Urdu language spoken in Pakistan, and speakers of the two languages can often understand one another, at least to some extent. Both languages are descendants of the colloquial Hindustani spoken in northern India in the ninth and tenth centuries. Though extremely similar, the two are now considered separate languages. Urdu is written in a Persian-Arabic script, while Hindi is written in the Devanagari script. The written system of Hindi, Devanagari, dates back to approximately the 11th century A.D. A noticeable feature of Devanagari is the top horizontal line which is formed when letters are combined. Hindi is read from left to right and written with spaces between words. However, the letters which make up a word often combine and when the letters join together they sometimes change form. In Hindi there is a definite correspondence between spelling and pronunciation.