Learning Hindi with Russian Mama

Though it has been more 3 years since I have been living in India, it was not until a year ago, when my baby girl Shannon was born that I felt a strong need to learn Hindi. The realisation hit me that very soon my child will start communicating in the language I don’t even understand. She is an Indian baby growing up in India, so naturally Hindi will become her first and foremost language. While I started making step-by-step progress in my regular Hindi classes, my Hindi alphabet books have quickly become favourites of my 11 month old daughter.

To give her the freedom to choose and decide for herself what she wants to read, I have organised her books on lowest shelves of our television cabinet. While she is not attracted to the TV, about 3-4 times in a day she loves crawling over and pulling out one of the colourful books from the small library I have created for her. Often when Shannon would pull out the Hindi alphabet book because of its big bright images, my  nanny would happily start reciting the alphabet for her: “Ko” “Kho” “Ga” “Gha.” My girl was fascinated with “Ko” for “Kobutar” (pigeon) and “Kho” for “Khargosh” (rabbit). When we started showing her some Kobutars in our community park (unfortunately we do not have any Khargoshs), she was quick to relate to the imagery in the book. Now she is pointing herself to any bird she sees outside and even on her nanny’s t-shirt and uttering her first “Ko..! Ko..!” to show us these amazing creatures.

It was fascinating to observe “the birth of a word” for Shannon, how she moved from watching the bird in the book, to hearing me pronounce its name, to recognizing this bird in real life, and then trying to name it herself. Even though it is just a simple “Ko,” for her this is a huge step-an ability to communicate with us through language. Shannon is still choosing this alphabet book at least once a day to read, but now we are trying to read short stories in Hindi. As I try to read and understand the stories, Shannon listens in and will be trying to speak more soon as we go on this learning journey together.

– Katerina Folkman, mother of a 11 month old girl

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