About Learning Hindi with Berlitz
Hindi is the most widely spoken language of India, centered principally in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in the north-central part of the country. Its 400 million speakers rank it as one of the leading languages of the world, though it is understood by less than half the country’s population.
Speakers of Hindi are also to be found in such far-flung places as Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, and Fiji, in the Pacific, where in each case they constitute about one-third of the population. There are also many speakers in South Africa, Kenya, Trinidad, Guyana, and Suriname. All this was the result of large-scale Indian immigration into these countries: farm workers in the 19th century, shopkeepers and small business owners in the 20th.
Like most of the languages of northern India, Hindi is descended from Sanskrit and thus belongs to the Indic group of the Indo-European family of languages. Hindi and Urdu, the official language of Pakistan and spoken largely by Moslems, are virtually the same language, though the former is written in the Devanagari alphabet and the latter in the Perso-Arabic script. Pure Hindi derives most of its vocabulary from Sanskrit, while Urdu contains many words from Persian and Arabic.
Prior to independence in 1947, Hindi and Urdu, taken together, were referred to as Hindustani, which served as the lingua franca of much of India for more than four centuries. Its development into a national language had its beginnings in the colonial period, when the British began to cultivate it as a standard among government officials. At independence, which created the state of Pakistan for most of the country’s Moslems, Hindi was chosen as India’s national language. However, its failure to win acceptance among speakers of other languages has forced it to share the title of official language with English. Conversations between people from different parts of the country, especially between those of the north and south, are most often conducted in English.
English words of Hindi origin include cot, loot, thug, chintz, bandanna, dungaree, rajah, pundit, coolie, chutney, tom-tom, and juggernaut.