Convenor: Professor Imre Bangha
India is the home to hundreds of languages, including Hindi, the most widely known tongue of South Asia. A command of a South Asian language enables you to have direct contact with those who are not strongly influenced by English education and connect more deeply with more local people. You will be able to reach out to people at a more grassroots level, to read documents of local interest and to access fascinating literature and cultural discourse, of which only a small part is available in English translation. A sound command of local languages is imperative for the proper understanding of modern media, especially cinema and television.
The advanced language options are designed for students who already have at least intermediate command of a north Indian language and either want to deepen their knowledge by reading literary texts (Advanced Hindi, Urdu), to learn another language (Hindi, Persian, Bengali, Gujarati and Marathi) or, to explore the pre-colonial layers of learning (Brajbhasha and Old Hindi, Persian). There are options designed for students with a command of Hindi to learn Urdu (Urdu) and for students with a command of Urdu to learn Hindi (Advanced Hindi).
Hindi (that is, elementary Hindi) runs for the first two terms of the year with five contact hours each week and covers the entire grammar and basic vocabulary through Snell and Weightman's Teach Yourself Complete Hindi. Most other courses operate through reading, discussing and writing about a select range of literary texts. These classes are held twice a week for three terms and consist of translating into English and interpreting the texts. Along with a close reading and translation of the texts, their socio-cultural context is also presented and sessions normally include a discussion of some earlier passage in the target language. Students will normally be given a vocabulary and should prepare their texts with the help of dictionaries in advance. They will sometimes have to present short essays about various topics related to the texts. The course normally presents a 5-10 hour weekly workload.
The texts read vary each term but they include short stories for the modern options and poetry for the Old Hindi option from both classic and lesser known authors. More accessible texts are read in Michaelmas term and more specialised classes are held later.
Students wishing to learn Urdu from scratch should take the Hindi language option, in which they will be examined, and will learn the Urdu script in the first three weeks of Trinity term. Those interested in learning only the Devanagari or the Urdu script can attend the relevant classes at the beginning of Michaelmas term as a non-examined element of their course.
For more information, visit
Take a look at...
Francesca Orsini, ed. 2010. Before the Divide: Hindi and Urdu Literary Culture. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.
Shams Rahman Faruqi. 2001. Early Urdu Literary Culture and History. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Frances W. Pritchett. 1994. Nets of Awareness: Urdu Poetry and Its Critics. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Christopher King. 1994. One Language Two Scripts: The Hindi Movement in Nineteenth Century North India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Laura R. Brueck. 2014. Writing Resistance. The Rhetorical Imagination of Hindi Dalit Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.
Francesca Orsini, ed. 2004. The Oxford India Premchand. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Sa'adat Hasan Manto. 2009. Black Margins: A Collection of Manto Short Stories. New Delhi: Katha.
The image above shows graffiti protesting against dowry, Allahabad Fort, c. 2003.