The experiences of Ms. Jie Deng (23, Erasmus Mundus student) -reproduced verbatim.
To explore in a foreign language is to explore in a new universe, whose basic elements are made of sounds and scripts.” When I first read the phrase in a book named “Travelers”, I was 20 years old. At that time, a “foreign” language only meant English—a chaotic universe of piles of grammar books and vocabulary pamphlets. Therefore, scarcely could a university student overwhelmed by heavy school works understand the metaphor hiding behind the phrase.
One year later, I started to learn French; hence to some extent the meaning of “foreign” language was expended. New sounds and scripts flooded into my mind; however, most of them are connected to the language that I had already acquainted. More precisely, the new language extended the existing chaotic universe rather than opening a door to the new universe. Similar situation happened again when I began to learn German. More connections were built between the new language and the former two, as if I was kiting a huge net, constructing a grand maze, or composing an endless puzzle.
Nevertheless, the process of wondering in net, maze or puzzle was stopped by the Hindi course in my life. When repeating the rhythmical sentences again and again after the first class, it occurred to me that the metaphor of “a new universe” is by no means meaningless. For me, The Hindi language splits a road to a mysterious place, a place that most of the people in the world might never have the chance to explore in their whole lives. Not only because the special scripts of this ancient language are totally alien to a learner who has concentrated in Latin-originated languages, but also because the cultures related to the language are full of myths and fancies. Hardly can I use the appropriate words to describe the fillings that I could read Hindi words at the first time: thrill, exciting, or fascinating.
Although the time for learning Hindi is the most limited compared with the time that I had for French and German, it is the most unforgettable. A journey to a new universe, finally I can testify the metaphor in “Travels”. The beginning of the journey was quite a happy set-out—the sentences written in rhyme which almost sound like a song. The study of a new language should begin with tunes and rhymes. For a 2 year old child acquiring mother tongue from parents, a piece of sweet lullaby or kid song might be the most impressive way to get the sense of his or her language. Though a beginner can not be 2 years old again, at least he or she can immerse in an original state full of wonderful sounds and tunes for language learning. Also, the recognition games provided in the textbook are very useful in helping the beginner to get approached to Hindi.
It is also worthy to leave some space for the cultural introduction in the textbook. Personally speaking, the most fascinating aspect of Hindi is the relationship between the language and the Hindu culture. Those beautiful sounds and scripts keep on reminding me of the time when I was indulging myself in Hindu mythology and roaming amongst the graceful sculptures of Hindu Gods in museums. Unfortunately, I have to connect those beautiful images to the language all by myself. Although learning time is very limited, I think it would not do any harm to take ten or fifteen minutes in one class to tell some stories about Hindi language or Hindu cultures.
Never have people witnessed any language totally independent from its cultural background. Languages, the same as fruits, grow from the branches and absorb nutritional ingredients from the roots through a very long process. Therefore, some basic introductions to the culture will help the beginners to comprehend the language in a better way. Even if the students are not really interested in cultures, this part can always be used as an alternative to ease the stress in class. On the other hand, pictures or stories about the cultures will equip the teacher with more advantages in terms of teaching methods. As have stated by some psychologists, visualized forms are easier to seize the attention of learners and help them to understand the contents better.