The Hindi-Urdu Language Program

Language Coordinator: Rakesh Ranjan

Hindi-Urdu is one of the largest spoken languages in the world and it is used as a lingua franca in the multilingual regions of South Asia. The Hindi-Urdu Program at MESAAS is one of the largest and leading programs in the country. The program offers courses at four levels. In addition, it has developed accelerated courses for students of South Asian background who already possess limited speaking and listening skills in Hindi and Urdu. The program has also introduced intensive summer Hindi-Urdu courses.

The program is designed for students to achieve proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in Hindi and Urdu for personal, academic and professional needs. The curriculum integrates Standards for Foreign Language Learning and proficiency guidelines by ACTFL.

Students wishing to study at a level above the introductory level must take a placement test before registration. Those seeking to waive a language requirement must take a proficiency test. The placement test is normally given during the week before classes begin.

Objectives of the Program

Elementary Level: MDES W1610 (Fall) and W1611 (spring)

This is the first year (fall and spring semesters) course. Students begin with an introduction to the Devanagari script in the fall semester and the Nastalique script introduced in the spring semester. It stresses vocabulary enrichment by exposing students to a variety of cultural topics and focus on developing knowledge in Hindi and Urdu.

Students learn to:

• Provide basic information in Hindi-Urdu about themselves, family, interests, likes, dislikes, daily activities.

• Understand and participate in a simple conversation on everyday topics (weather, meeting people, school, shopping, etc.)

• Read edited texts on familiar topics, understand the main ideas and pick out important information from authentic texts (for example, menus, signs, timetables, etc.).

• Fill in forms requesting information, write letters, notes, postcards or messages providing simple information.

• Use and understand a range of essential vocabulary related to everyday life.

• Pronounce Hindi-Urdu well enough and produce it with sufficient grammatical accuracy to be comprehensible to a Hindi-Urdu speaker accustomed to conversing with non-native speakers. This prepares students for the Intermediate Hindi-Urdu Course.

To achieve these goals, students are introduced to a variety of materials, including literature, newspapers, folk tales, jokes, magazine articles, films, songs, commercials, and other kinds of audio-visual materials. These texts are related with language functions in daily personal and social life situations.

Intermediate Level: MDES W1612 (Fall) and W1613 (Spring)

This is the second year (fall and spring semesters) course. Students practice reading and writing in both Devanagari and Nastalique and learn to improve their proficiency in Hindi and Urdu to:

• Successfully handle most uncomplicated communicative tasks and social situations.

• Initiate, sustain and close a general conversation.

• Write letters and short compositions and read consistently with full understanding simple connected texts dealing with personal and social needs.

• Get the main ideas and information from texts featuring description and narration.

To achieve these goals, students are introduced to a variety of materials, including literature, newspapers, folk tales, jokes, magazine articles, films, songs, commercials, and other kinds of audio-visual materials. These texts are related with language functions in daily personal and social life situations.

Advanced Level: MDES I W4624 (Fall) and MDES II W4625 (Spring)

This is the third year (fall and spring semesters) course. Students continue to practice reading and writing in both Devanagari and Nastalique. They continue building upon the existing skills in Hindi and Urdu.

The objective of the course is to read and comprehend authentic materials like literature and newspapers/magazines articles and discuss them in the class. Students will watch movies. TV shows, interviews and debates to gather the main issues/thoughts to discuss in the class. Students should be able to recognize and use formal and informal registers of Hindi and Urdu in appropriate situations. There will be written assignments for all the topics discussed in the class.

Readings in Hindi-Urdu Literature (various course numbers)

The third-year level, for those who have completed Intermediate Hindi-Urdu or Hindi for Heritage Speakers. Reading and discussion of selected literary, social science, historical, and/or journalistic texts. Since the content changes each term, the course may be repeated for credit.

Hindi for Heritage Speakers: MDES 1608 (Fall) and 1609 (Spring)

This is a fast-paced course in which two years worth of Hindi is being compressed into a one year course. This course is for those students of South Asian background who already possess limited speaking and listening skills in Hindi or Urdu. Those non-heritage students who have some exposure of Hindi or Urdu and South Asian cultures may also take this course.

It begins with an introduction to the Devanagari Script which enables students to acquire basic reading and writing skills. They build on their listening and speaking skills. To achieve these goals, students are introduced to a variety of materials, including literature, newspapers, folk tales, jokes, magazine articles, films, songs, commercials, and other kinds of audio-visual materials. These texts are related with language functions in daily personal and social life situations.

It focuses on vocabulary enrichment by exposing students to a variety of cultural topics and focus on developing knowledge of the basic grammar of Hindi. By the end of the semester, students will develop productive skills in reading, writing and speaking and will be able to:

• speak about themselves and their environment, and initiate conversations on topics of general interest.

• understand most of the basic sentence structures of Hindi in formal and informal registers.

• write correspondence related to daily life, letters, short essays and compositions a variety of topics.

• learn some basic vocabulary related to aspects of Indian life, such as family life, social traditions and education.

• initiate and sustain conversations on a range of topics related to different aspects of Indian culture, social and family life.

There will be an interview/placemat test on the first day of classes in order to establish the proficiency level. Please come directly to class. If accepted, you will be registered internally by the department.

Urdu for Heritage Speakers: MDES 1614 (Fall) and 1615 (Spring)

This is a fast-paced course in which two years worth of Urdu is being compressed into a one year course. This course is for those students of South Asian background who already possess limited speaking and listening skills in Urdu or Hindi. Those non-heritage students who have some exposure of Urdu or Hindi and South Asian cultures may also take this course.

It begins with an introduction to the Urdu Script which enables students to acquire basic reading and writing skills. They build on their listening and speaking skills. To achieve these goals, students are introduced to a variety of materials, including literature, newspapers, folk tales, jokes, magazine articles, films, songs, commercials, and other kinds of audio-visual materials. These texts are related with language functions in daily personal and social life situations.

It focuses on vocabulary enrichment by exposing students to a variety of cultural topics and focus on developing knowledge of the basic grammar of Urdu. By the end of first semester, students will develop productive skills in reading, writing and speaking and will be able to:

• speak about themselves and their environment, and initiate conversations on topics of general interest.

• understand most of the basic sentence structures of Urdu in formal and informal registers.

• write correspondence related to daily life, letters, short essays and compositions a variety of topics.

• learn some basic vocabulary related to aspects of South Asian life, such as family life, social traditions and education.

• initiate and sustain conversations on a range of topics related to different aspects of South Asian culture, social and family life.

There will be an interview/placemat test on the first day of classes in order to establish the proficiency level. Please come directly to class. If accepted, you will be registered internally by the department.

Readings in Hindi-Urdu Literature (various course numbers)

This is a third/fourth year course which focuses to strengthen students’ literary skills at the higher level. Writing in the target language is emphasized throughout the semester to enable students to use their diverse vocabulary and grammatical structures. Materials for reading and discussion are selected from literature, magazines, historical documents and/ or journalistic texts. Students who have completed Hindi or Urdu for Heritage Speakers or Advanced Hindi-Urdu may take this course.

Since the content changes each term, the course may be repeated for credit.

Summer Hindi-Urdu Program

Columbia’s is the only Hindi-Urdu summer program in the country to offer training in both Hindi and Urdu scripts. Students can expect to have reading and writing facility in both languages by the end of the elementary course. Intermediate Hindi-Urdu builds upon the skills of elementary Hindi-Urdu and broadens students’ awareness of South Asian culture and society.

Elementary Hindi-Urdu I (MDES S1610D) and II (MDES S1611Q)

This introductory course is designed to develop reading, speaking, listening, writing and cultural skills in Hindi-Urdu. Students learn the Devanagari script, sound system, basic greetings and social phrases. They learn basic grammatical patterns in Hindi-Urdu and develop vocabulary related to aspects of Indian lifestyle, social traditions and education, etc. At the end of the session, students will be able to read, write and understand texts on familiar topics and speak about themselves and their environment. They continue to develop Students develop skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing in the second part of the summer course. This session introduces the Urdu script which further enriches students’ vocabulary and reinforces grammar learning. They learn more patterns of Hindi-Urdu grammar and keep on expanding their vocabulary. Upon successful completion of this course, they are be able to initiate and sustain conversations on a range of topics related to different aspects of Indian culture, social and family life; and carry out written correspondence related to daily life. This will prepare students for the Intermediate Hindi-Urdu Course.

Intermediate Hindi-Urdu I (MDES S1612D) and II (MDES S1613Q)

This course will build upon the skills of elementary Hindi-Urdu learners in the areas of speaking, listening, reading, writing, vocabulary and grammar skills. It will also seek to broaden students’ knowledge base of the South Asian society and culture. To achieve these goals students will be introduced to a variety of materials (in Hindi and Urdu scripts) including literature, newspapers, folk tales, magazine articles, films, songs, commercials, and other kinds of audio-visual materials. These materials will be related with language functions in daily personal and social situations. Upon completion of the course, students should be well-equipped to initiate and sustain general conversations and should be able to write short compositions. The second part continues to emphasize the goals outlined above for the first session of the intermediate course while adding additional complexity to course materials in anticipation of the advanced proficiency level in Hindi-Urdu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the two-year course sequence called "Hindi-Urdu"?

Hindi and "Urdu" share a common grammar, so from a linguistic point of view they are one language. Our program teaches the Hindi (Devanagari) script at the beginning of the elementary class, and the Urdu script in the spring semester of the elementary class, so everybody ends up having two "languages" for almost the price of one. In terms of vocabulary, we try to emphasize common core vocabulary rather than extremely Sanskritized or Persianized words.

What if I am fluent in spoken Hindi or Urdu, but cannot read or write?

You probably belong in the Hindi or Urdu for Heritage Speakers’ class.

What if I am somewhat competent, and somewhat literate, in Hindi or Urdu?

Then you probably belong in either "Readings in Hindi Literature" or "Readings in Urdu Literature." Both are taught every semester, and are repeatable since the content changes every semester. To be eligible for these courses, you must either successfully complete the intermediate class, or obtain the consent of the instructor.

Web Resources for Students of Hindi-Urdu

Of General Relevance

For Elementary Students

For Intermediate Students