Here at Zabaan we encourage our students to study the Devanagari script for Hindi and the Nastaliq script for Urdu, here’s why:
In order to really be able to pronounce new words correctly and become fully conversational nothing can replace the script. Roman/latin transliteration can only take you so far. We understand very well that a new script can be intimidating in the beginning. We know that new scripts look alien and impossible but in the larger scheme of things they aren’t as tough as they look. Learning a new script usually takes a few lessons and then every time you walk down the road in India you’ll be doing your homework reading street signs like an enthusiastic six year old. It’s a great feeling and it changes the way you experience public spaces in India. The experience of seeing foreign and strange signs transform into words that one recognises is deeply satisfying.
In the long run learning the script is one of the easier parts of studying a language. The first few classes are tough but once you pass the critical stage its pretty much smooth sailing from there on. Apart from giving you a basic tool for studying it also awakens areas in the brain that have been dormant since childhood. Spending just half an hour a day reading and practicing will remind you how flexible the brain is. Its great exercise for the brain, in fact, the brain grows hungry for reading and soon you’ll be stopping and deciphering signs wherever you go.
Writing is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, why limit yourself to just one alphabet? Why not get to know some characters in different languages and see what they have to tell you? Each alphabet encapsulates so much information about its language and the governing ideas behind it.
Studying both Devanagari and Nastaliq open up many more languages than Hindi and Urdu. Once you’ve mastered the script then you can use your skills for Sanskrit and many north Indian languages in the case of Devanagari, and Persian, Pashto and Arabic in the case of Nastaliq.
Finally, remember that even though a new script is one of the most threatening things to study, its much easier than it looks at first!