bbc-beginner-hindi-urdu-bol-chaalAn independent language course review by Sarah Maddocks

The BBC’s Hindi Urdu Bol Chaal is a beginner’s course in spoken Hindi and Urdu.
The book provides material for approximately 100 hours of study and covers topics including simple greetings, family, jobs, health and education. The book is sold separately but can be accompanied by a set of two cassettes which contain conversations, listening exercises, pronunciation guides and listen and speak practices.

I must admit I was slightly apprehensive about learning Hindi and Urdu, because up until now I have only ever learnt the romance languages such as French and Spanish, whose grammar and vocabulary are kind of similar. To attempt to learn Hindi and Urdu meant that I had to learn a whole new system of language (I suppose that comes with learning a new language and culture though, it’s all about broadening horizons!)
The book has 10 units, each with different sections, including dialogues and notes check up (just to check that you’ve understood the dialogue), keywords (pretty self explanatory I think!), sound systems (pronunciation hints), how the language works (grammar), exercises (a chance to practice what you have learnt), background (history of Hindi and Urdu – I know sounds tedious but is actually very interesting), and review sections. The exercise section is absolutely ace, you can do crosswords using the new vocabulary you have learnt and also fill in speech bubbles (it felt like I was back in school again which without sounding too much like a geek was actually fun).

The exercise section is absolutely ace – you can do crosswords using the new vocabulary you have learnt and also fill in speech bubbles.

When I first played the tapes, I felt like the course was too hard and I would never be able to pronounce the words. But I just rewound again, told myself I could do it and carried on. It did take about three plays of the same conversation before I felt I could say the words correctly. At the end of the day the course is designed to be used however you want it to be used and as long as you are learning, it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the tape.

The tapes are used with the book; you know when to play the tape as there are small tape signs by the text. They are designed to be played with the book, and you will not get any value if you listen to the tapes without the book. You simply learn the words you have looked at in the section and hear them being pronounced. There is a man on the tape who sounds like an English-speaker but has a different accent on some words (perhaps he is bilingual!). Unlike most language tapes where you have to stop the tape, this program allows you to answer in the pauses provided and surprisingly these are long enough to answer (even with added thinking time!)

There are exercises where you have to listen and answer questions. In unit 1, they were short conversations; you have to answer the questions: “Are the greetings Hindu Sikh or Muslim? What are the names of the two people? How are they?” These may look like simple enough questions but they really help you to learn, especially when it is a language completely unknown to you. I liked the fact this tape asked you questions and you had “fun things” to do – it made learning this language a lot easier to do for me. I think even if you had some prior knowledge of the language through family and community ties, you’d still find the course useful and fun.

As mentioned above the tape is meant to be more of listening practise than actually learning new language from the tape. It is the book which provides most of the information to learning this language and the tape is kind of a back up so you can get used to hearing the language being spoken. The idea is to listen to the dialogue to get yourself familiar with the sounds of the dialogue and then to read through the book and look at key words. Then you are meant to return to the tape to listen to it again so this time you can understand what you are listening to. To me this was slightly exhausting, as I prefer to have language courses where you can listen to the tape as the main part of the course and then use the book as a back up. But then again, this was all new to me because I haven’t done a course like this before.

The tape is aimed at beginners, so the level does not change throughout. A good thing I found with this approach was that instead of recapping what you had already learnt with faster dialogues, you actually ended up learning more content. I found this better as I prefer to have more knowledge of lots of subjects rather than have knowledge of one subject but be able to speed through it so fast hardly anyone would be able to understand me anyway.

I even managed to surprise one of my friends by asking her how she was and what jobs she had done.

I really enjoyed doing this course – it really was something new for me. I live in Birmingham in the UK where there is a big Hindi-speaking population, so found this very handy. I even managed to surprise one of my friends by asking her how she was and what jobs she had done. It was only when she replied with a very long answer that I realised maybe I should go and buy an intermediate course so I can have a proper conversation with her in Hindi!

to buy BBC Hindi Urdu Bol Chaal [UK]>>
to buy BBC Hindi Urdu Bol Chaal [USA]>>
to find out more about BBC language courses>>

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