Most people don’t like to hear this, but consistent hard work is one of the biggest factors in your language learning success. The course or method you choose makes a difference too, but at the end of the day you ride or die by the work you put in.
However the quantity of time spent studying Hindi, doesn’t necessarily determine the quality of your of study. Spending three hours a day watching bollywood movies doesn’t help you learn much if you’re not actively engaging with the language.
In this article we’ll talk about how to actively engage your mind while studying Hindi.
1. Think of your brain as a muscle
You’re probably familiar with the phrase “feel the burn”, or maybe “no pain no gain”. If you’ve been to your local gym recently, there’s a chance you might have heard one of these phrases, or seen them plastered on a wall.
There’s an idea in the world of sports and workouts, that the discomfort you feel when running, pumping iron, or doing some other physical activity, is what brings results. I remember taking a college health and fitness class, where we discussed how during a healthy workout the muscles of the body are affected at a microscopic level. The discomfort you feel is your muscles being pushed to their limit. It’s the limit pushing that strengthens your muscles so that over time your performance increases.
In the context of language learning it’s helpful to think of your brain as a muscle (though in actuality it isn’t one). Just as we need to push against our physical limits when exercising, we also need to push our mental ones when learning a foreign language.
Have you ever studied or practiced your Hindi in a way that left you tired or even exhausted? If so, you’ve experienced what it’s like to push your brain out of its linguistic comfort zone.
2. Practice active listening
One of the easiest ways to push your Hindi skills is to practice active listening. Active listening is when you listen to spoken Hindi and do your best to understand what you hear. The best way to accomplish this is by using audio that your can’t completely understand on the first listen. Preferably you want to use audio that has subtitles or transcripts in Hindi for you to double check your understanding after you listen to it.
You can use movies, youtube clips, or HindiPod101 (which by the way has very useful transcripts for each lesson). During this exercise I like to imagine I’m listening in on a phone call with bad reception, and I’m only able to pickout a few words here and there (the ones I can easily understand).
During a practice session you should listen to the audio several times. The first time around it’s okay if little to no words stick out to you. Simply make a mental note of any words or sounds you recognize. The second time you listen you’re likely to recognize a little more than you did the previous time. Expect similar results with your third or even fourth time listening.
After you’ve hit the ceiling of words you can decipher, go ahead and look at the Hindi subtitles or transcripts. Listen to the audio again will reading along with the text. Odds are that you will see words in the text you know but didn’t hear correctly. You’re also likely to encounter words that are new to you completely. As you play back the audio and read along, try to guess what these words mean from the context of the words around them.
After you’ve read along a couple times feel free to look up the unfamiliar words in a dictionary or translator app.
This active listening exercise routine is a great way to increase your listening and comprehension skills, while picking up some new vocabulary along the way. It also allows you to learn new words in context, which itself is a powerful way to help you retain what you study.
3) Practicing with native speakers
Practicing Hindi with native speakers is the epitome of pushing your language skills. Using what Hindi you know to communicate in real time is where the rubber really meets the road. Try to connect with a native speaker on a weekly basis. Regularity is what makes the difference when you’re learning a foreign language.
If you live in a large metropolitan area, then there’s a significant chance that there are some local Hindi speakers nearby. Try hitting up a local language exchange or meetup group to make the necessary connections.
If you’re unable to find a practice partner locally then you can take your search to the world wide web. There are a number of sites out there that help you find and connect with other language learners from around the world. If you’re a native English speaking learning Hindi it may be difficult to find a native Hindi speaker who is learning English (many Hindi speakers also have a high level of English).
If you know a second language like French or Spanish, you may be able to find someone who knows Hindi and would like help practicing one of these languages. If you don’t already speak another language besides English or Hindi, don’t worry. There are tons of language learners around the world who have learned or are learning Hindi as a second language. You’re likely to find someone who knows Hindi and is looking to improve his or her English (though they might not be a native speaker).
Learning Hindi isn’t always easy, but it’s the discomfort that comes with pushing your ability in the language that produces results in your studies. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your Hindi comfort zone. The further away you get from your native language, the closer you’ll be to attaining fluency.
Also remember that language learning is in every way, a lot like an adventure. There will be fun times, and times when it feels like you’re swimming up the proverbial stream. It’s by keeping your head up long enough through these ups and downs, that you will experience the priceless satisfaction that comes with learning a foreign language. Keep on trucking!
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