“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
It’s true that many Indians speak English and that its relatively easy getting around Delhi and India with English. The problem with speaking only English is that it limits your ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds and expand your experience beyond those who speak English.
A good way to start learning about the culture and trying to understand the world around us is by getting to know the language – being able to understand some of the dialogue in Bollywood movies, being able to converse with people one meets on the street and being able to express oneself to people who don’t know English.
Most people you meet will be touched by the fact that you speak Hindi and will be very patient and helpful. Learning the basic greetings and how to get around will change the way you experience staying in India or Delhi. One thing that our students keep reporting back to us is how the conversations change once the language has changed as well. If the conversation is in English then it usually covers familiar ground but once you can hold a conversation in Hindi the barriers are broken and the discussions can take many surprising turns.
There is no better way to start unravelling the complicated knot that most people seem to experience in their initial steps in India than to learn one of the local languages. Whatever you are doing here in India, whether it’s business, pleasure, academia or travel, learning even the basics of the language will make the experience more connected to your surroundings.
Our recommendation is start learning as early as you can – don’t postpone the classes till you’re half-way through your stay in India! With the basics comes an appetite to learn more and expand your abilities. Whatever time and energy you spend on studying will be rewarded with a deeper and more refined understanding of the world around you.
And finally we can solemnly promise that if your mother tongue is English or a different European language that you will be surprised by how many words have travelled from India into Europe in the last few hundred years. We aren’t as extreme as Goethe who claims: ”Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own,” but his statement does have an element of truth in that your understanding of your own language will necessarily be deepened.