Foreigners learn Hindi to connect with India

Updated: Jan 14, 2011, 18:45 PM IST

New Delhi: Hindi, one of the official languages of India may soon give popular languages of the world such as Mandarin and Spanish a run for their money.

The emergence of India as a hub for global companies seems to be attracting more and more foreigners into learning the language.

"Foreigners who wish to relocate to India or want to set up their business here feel the need to learn Hindi for more upfront results. Though English is still the business language in India, knowledge of Hindi helps to understand the cultural nuances," says Chandra Bhushan Pandey, who runs a coaching institute that teaches foreigners Hindi.

Pandey, who teaches Hindi to around 40 foreigners in a month points out, "The demand to speak Hindi has grown by 50 per cent in last eight years. The ability to speak and understand Hindi increases the opportunity of enjoying Indian culture and history."

Multinational companies have been opening their offices in India and they encourage their officials to learn Hindi for better business results and connection with their Indian clients.

"Foreign professionals who can bond with their Indian counterparts are very successful here. I teach them words like `namaskar`, `shukriya` and `dhanyawaad` to use in their presentations for good results," says Neeraj Mehra, a Hindi language expert based in Gurgaon.

Mehra also imparts cultural training to them which enables them to strike an instant chord with the Indian clients.

"A foreigner who greets you with `namaste` with folded hands is more appealing than somebody who just greets you with a `hello` and shakes hand with you," he says.

A number of foreign research scholars and people working with NGOs and UN agencies in India also learn Hindi as their field work requires them to interact with locals.

"I thought English would take me through but I realised during my fieldwork that its a must to know Hindi," says Juliet from Switerzland who works with an NGO in Delhi.

Cecelia, a French student studying in India says she is learning Hindi as she wants to show locals that she is interested in integrating in their country and culture.

The huge popularity of Hindi films abroad is also promoting the Hindi language.

Abuzar, a student from Tajikistan says,"Hindi films are very popular in our country. Thousands watch them everyday and that prompted me to learn this language."

Tourism industry is fast growing in India, with 5.58 million foreigners visiting the country in 2010 and many of them are trying to learn Hindi to make their local experience interesting.

The Indian government is also promoting Hindi and Indian culture abroad.

The Ministry of External Affairs celebrates World Hindi Day on January 10 every year for promoting Hindi language and Indian culture abroad. All the Indian missions abroad celebrate this day and encourage residents of their respective countries to learn Hindi and Indian culture.

"World Hindi Day is celebrated for worldwide promotion of Hindi language. Foreign countries are understanding the importance of Hindi because India is fast emerging as one of key economies in the world," said Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao at the World Hindi Day function this year.

However, there can be some unpleasant experiences that can prompt a foreigner to learn Hindi in India.

"It can be tough dealing with day to day activities in Indian cities. Some people like vegetable vendors, rickshaw pullers and autorickshaw drivers do try to take advantage of your language gap and charge more from you," says Sharell an Australian living in Delhi.

"That`s why, I decided to learn Hindi," she adds.