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 this course, 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.
The Hindi language actually shares some roots with English, as both are considered descendants of the Indo-European parent language spoken in Central Asia approximately seven thousand years ago. However, while English has its linguistic roots in the West Germanic language family, Hindi is a
descendant of the classical Sanskrit of Central Asia and belongs to the Indo-Iranian family. 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. (The name
“Hindi” is of Persian
origin, and was first used by Persian-speaking Turks who established the “Delhi Sultanate” in the eleventh century A.D.) That said, the marked cultural differences
between India and Pakistan have caused the Hindi and Urdu languages to develop along somewhat different lines, so that they are no longer entirely
mutually comprehensible. 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.