In Defense of “Half-Assing” It — Teach Messily and Get REAL Results

Kids playing and learning Hindi

10 Steps to Actually Teach Your Child Your Native Language

A by-product of our diverse world, is that parents have to actively teach their child to be bilingual. People live far away from family, and language is the only connection to home.

Sadly so many people start the process, feeling like they have already failed. Teaching a new language can be overwhelming. Especially when your kids use another language to play and learn with everyday.

Teaching Hindi to your child, is hard. It can feel like a constant, uphill battle.

There are multiple hurdles slowing parents down, confusing them and delaying results. Sometimes it’s fear of not being perfect enough, other’s criticism, lack of support and many more things.

Below are 10 solid tactics to help you breathe, take some pressure off yourself and focus on getting results for the long term.

  1. You don’t have to be great at Hindi  — just good enough

So many parents I have worked with say, “I would speak Hindi at home, but I am so bad at it,” or, “I would…but I always confuse my grammar.”

If you can speak the Hindi at all (even if it is broken and grammatically incorrect) — then I say go ahead and start using it with your kid.

Why not? Your child can learn the broken language now and then polish it later. It is better than nothing.

The Key: You can give your kids a solid foundation of the Hindi now. Once they learn the basics, they can build upon it as they get older. This is much better than starting from scratch later in life.

  1. Stop listening to your non-supportive, critical relatives

Sometimes usually supportive family members can be overly critical when they think your child is “losing their roots.” I’ve heard lots of parents being shamed — “How can they speak to us when they come visit?” or “What! They only speak English?”

This can make you feel guilty and demotivated. Letting them affect you will slow down your progress.

Ignore them and do what is best for you. If that means exposing your child to your language, then focus your energy there.

The Key:

Zero-in on the positive. Find some family who is excited to be a part of your child’s learning process without being judgmental. Maybe they can Skype chat with your child once a month?

  1. Be your own benchmark. Don’t compare your progress to other people’s.

Focus on where you have started and how far you have come. It could be simple. For example, if your child knows 10 more words at the end of the month, that’s a win.

Other people have a multitude of factors that lead to their success. You can’t recreate their exact situation, but maybe you can get some tips and use it to help you.

The Key: Just do you. Be good to yourself and focus in on your own journey with your kid.

  1. Do what you think is best

A cousin of mine, who had a full time job, decided to teach her daughter Hindi by showing her Indian movies her entire childhood.

While it didn’t teach her how to speak very well (she can speak in broken sentences), it did help her daughter understand the language perfectly.

The Key: My cousin ignored the experts who said that she had to speak to her child ONLY in Hindi for it to work. She ignored all those parents who said the subliminal messages in Hindi films were problematic.

She did her own thing. And it gave her real results.

  1. Don’t judge too soon

If you just started introducing the language to your child — and feel like you haven’t gotten the right response from your kid. Maybe you can step back and try something new. If your child isn’t getting it, they will.

It is possible, and you will eventually get results.

The Key: Don’t lose hope. Judging too soon might make you give up entirely — and miss out on huge successes that are just around the corner. Give it a real shot.

  1. Enjoy the journey

It doesn’t have to be a boring task to reinforce the language at home. Make it enjoyable for both you and your child. If you don’t know some words — take the opportunity to learn it together.

Don’t get hyper focused on goals like “my son should be able to talk to my grandparents in a 2 months.”

The Key: Go with the flow and have fun with it. The learning will come.

  1. Find other people in your community to help

Take some pressure off of yourself and have your child talk to someone else in the community once a week in the new language. Maybe get a babysitter who speaks the language.

The Key: You don’t have to do everything yourself.

  1. Make it less of a big deal

Chill out. Don’t over analyze when, how, what you will focus on to incorporate the language. Just include it in any way you can.

Maybe in your daily tasks. Play a game in the language. Watch more songs/movies/TV in the target language.

The Key: Don’t make the language a chore for either you or your child.

  1. Break it down: exposing to a language & speaking

Make it easier on yourself and focus on either 1. Exposing to the language or 2. Having your child speak the language.

Don’t think you have to do it all. Do one or the other. Let someone else pick up the rest of the slack.

The Key: Break down the daunting task of learning a whole language. Pick the parts you want to teach and get help for the other parts.

  1. Try not to feel guilty.

Parents I work with often feel an overwhelming sense of guilt during the language learning process. They feel like it is their fault, if their child isn’t “perfect” or they aren’t seeing tangible results.

The Key:

  • Something is better than nothing. If you focus on the positive progress and reward yourself and your child whenever you can — teaching your language can be fun.

So, start messily, teach messily and ask others for help.

Either way, your child doesn’t know the difference and the benefit of starting NOW rather than later, will be huge.

Good luck! You got this.

Teaching Your Child Hindi? Do Yourself a Favor — Ditch the Hindi Script (for now)

Parent Teaching Hindi To Child

Why the script-first approach makes the bilingual process harder on you and your child.

Most people who start teaching their child Hindi, teach script first and the actual language second. This is a BIG mistake which can lead to a million different issues down the line. For one, Devanagari is extremely different from the English script. It can be confusing and intimidating for your child (this is especially the case if they don’t know how to speak or understand it yet). This confusion can lead to embarrassment, and general disliking of Hindi, which makes them want to use it less.

Just to illustrate the point, read the below poem.

Regardez les branches

Comme elles sont blanches,

Il neige des fleurs.

Riant de la pluie

Le soleil essuie

les saules en pleurs.

Unless you speak French, the poem extract means nothing to you. You could probably sound out the letters and read it out loud – but in reality, it is just jibberish.

This is what it is like if your kids do not understand or speak Hindi, but are taught the alphabet first. They can read the alphabet. Use the matras. But it means nothing if they cannot answer “aapka naam kya hai.”

As an Indian who grew up in the US, my siblings and I started learning Hindi through conversation. We would talk to my grandmother in Hindi, watch movies, and learn new words by asking questions and actively using them. I only learnt the alphabet when I was older, when I understood a good chunk of what I was reading and writing.

So many apps and Hindi materials out there start by showing your child the alphabet. They want them to remember the letters, trace them and learn 3-4 words that start with that letter. Does this help your child learn Hindi now? Does it get them closer to speaking with their family in Hindi? Sadly, no.

When I started teaching – with other Hindi teaching schools – they believed the alphabet was king. I would say “Ka” and the class would drolly repeat after me and I would provide some associated words like “kabutar” and “kachua.”

Within a few months, about 60% of those students either 1) lost interest in learning the language or 2) continued to learn, but hated it. Essentially, they had given up — and they hadn’t even learnt anything of value yet.

If you want to teach your kid Hindi – your success rate will be guaranteed to go up if you teach Devanagari LAST. Why?

1. It’s the least important aspect of learning the language – While learning Hindi script is important, it is actually just a tool to express a language you already know. That’s why your child needs to actually learn that language first, then focus on reading and writing.

2. Wastes Time – If you are like most parents, you don’t have much time in your day that isn’t filled with driving your kids around, doing homework, and eating. If you are going to commit yourself to teaching and encouraging your child in Hindi – go straight for the meat and get them to start USING the language ASAP.

You don’t know how long Hindi will keep your kid’s interest, so you might as well get the real Hindi (conversation, words, sentence structure, answers, etc.) out of the way first.

3. Kids lose interestTracing a letter over and over is probably the least engaging activity a child can do. It is especially boring if they have no idea how the letter is used every day. Once your child finds soccer, dance or any other more engaging activity, Hindi will happily fall to the bottom or even fall off their list of to-dos completely.

4. Little to no real world rewards – Living outside India, kids rarely see Hindi script written on signs or on posters. And without being able to see Hindi script in real life, they won’t be able to see their efforts pay off. Unlike kids in India, kids living overseas can’t look at the writing on a truck and say “hey! I know that word – it says “Laloo ki gaddi!” Without this luxury, the barriers between them and Devanagari , and therefore Hindi, just increases.

5. They can’t show off – Unless you carry around a chalkboard, your child cannot show off their Devanagari at the next family wedding. Sadly, your child will miss out on some very valuable positive reinforcement that would otherwise fuel them to keep learning.

Instead, imagine your kid spent all that “alphabet-memorizing-time” on learning words and phrases and conversation. They could talk to relatives, get positive reinforcement and keep learning by talking. 

6. Letters don’t extend the learning Once you learn the alphabet, that’s it, you’re done. You could learn a few vocab words like “khargosh” or “kitaab” but it would stop there.

On the other hand, a child can learn a phrase —  and actually use it at a party or at a Indian restaurant. With each phrase, they would get two totally different answers that will teach them even more of the language

WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?

Forget the tools/ the alphabet (for now) – go straight to the core!

We need kids to believe that Hindi is a real language that can be used in everyday situations. It can’t just be hard letters. It needs to come alive on TV, on the radio, through music, through dance and most important of all through conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, Devanagari is important to learn…LAST. Let your kids know what they are saying before they know how to read and write it.

WHAT SHOULD REPLACE DEVANAGARI?

  1.     Teach your child how to introduce themselves
  2.     Teach them 5 nouns that you think are important – maybe kitaab, gaadi, joota, darvaza, kapRe.
  3.     Go to my section on Actions and teach them useful verbs
  4.     Watch Hindi movies or TV shows and explain some key words
  5.     Find language worksheets and materials that work for you (I have a Free Resources tab you can use too).

10 Kid-Friendly Hindi Songs & 1 Quick Tip That Will Make Them Stick

Don’t let other language schools and teachers fool you – learning a language is not about learning in any one specific way.

It is about learning in multiple different ways at once – attack from all sides!

Yes, that means books, and homework but it also means immersion through, games, chatting, movies…and songs!

Songs are great because they’re short and catchy and non-Hindi speakers can just repeat the sounds and look legitimate – Gangnam Style anyone??!

Also as a super Bollywood, all-things-desi nerd, I love this part. In fact, a lot of my advanced Hindi/Urdu comes from listening to so many songs with my dadi growing up.

Finding What Is Kid Appropriate

This is the hard part, because no one writes about it!

We can’t go with all the kid-songs traditionally learnt in India (because tbh “Nani teri morni ko kale chor le gaye” is pretty offensive) and we can’t trust Bollywood to talk about much more than “pyaar” and dying for each other.

That’s why I’m going old-school, to a cleaner time.  Here’s a list of 10 appropriate, proven-fun songs for kids that are always a hit!

How To Teach It

  1. Only introduce the first few lines of the song and its chorus (avoid showing videos if you don’t have to!)
  2. Explain the meaning behind the key words
    1. E.g. “Mera Joota Hai Japani” – explain that “mera joota” means “my shoe,” and that “Japani” is “Japanese”

TIP: Add some snazzy actions to each word – and watch as they get sucked into the beautiful vortex of Indian music (no joke, actions seriously work because it gets them to remember the words better).

THE LIST

  1. Dadi Amma Dadi Amma 

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-8-18-43-pm

  2. Mannu Bhai Motor Chali 

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-8-43-35-pm

  3. Aaj Main Upar Aasmaan Hai Neeche

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-8-49-56-pm

  4. Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-8-46-03-pm

  5. Mera Joota Hai Japani

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-9-10-32-pm

  6. Mere Saamne Vaali KhiRki

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-8-44-52-pm

  7. Phoolon Ka Taaron Ka

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-9-04-35-pm

  8. Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-9-01-03-pm

  9. Koi LaRki Hai, Jab Voh Gaati Hai

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-8-55-21-pm

  10. Yeh Dosti 

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-8-51-33-pm

How to make Hindi not so BLAH! Get kids to like and LOVE Hindi

This is it — you’re jazzed to start teaching your kid Hindi.

You think of all the possibilities and are SO excited just at the thought of them being able to talk to your family or visit India.

Great! Ok now, let me give you two scenarios.

Scenario 1

You are pumped to get your child to speak Hindi. You get materials, ideas etc. (though you are slightly overwhelmed by the colossal task of teaching a whole new language) sit down at the dining table after 9 hours at work …and your child is mopey, refuses to learn and dreads Hindi time. IS class done yet?

Scenario 2

You are pumped to get your child to speak Hindi, and your kids are excited too! It takes you 10 minutes to prep and you have material to work with. In fact you actually have fun doing it — in fact, your kid even asks to do it.  They think its funny, silly, special and engaging.

I’m assuming you want S2. I want that for you too!

P.S. I actually know so many families that have tried and tried to teach their child Hindi. They have materials (often made up, because there is so little material out there), some vocab and an alphabet book. But the moment it’s time to actually do the work, their child bursts into tears, makes up excuses and throws a tantrum.

What’s the problem here?

First impressions stick. If kids get it stuck in their heads early on that Hindi is boring, dull, for old people, or will make them stand out in a bad way – then it will be an uphill battle from here on out.

You can try and try but it will take so much effort to just sit down, that actually teaching is just exhausting. You’re human and you are busy and this turns into a constant struggle you don’t need.

I don’t want that to happen to you. No joke, I’m really, really personally passionate about this NOT happening to you.

So here’s what you should do.

1. First thing – Make Hindi Fun. You know, play games, sing songs, get creative.

Do what INTERESTS them in Hindi. If your child likes art, teach them origami in Hindi. Look at my post HERE, where I describe how “Actions” can be a great Hindi ice-breaker.

Remember, if you are getting bored, they definitely are getting bored.

In my course, I have classes based on likes and dislikes, games, songs and more to make Hindi fun. I teach it so you don’t have to.

Don’t get me wrong — there will always be boring aspects of teaching a language – i.e. vocabulary words, sentence structure to say the least. But always know that the actual teaching part is short, and the reinforcing part can always be fun.

Example:

Vocab: kutta, bulli, aadmi, aurat

Activity: tell a story about the Kutta billi, aadmi aurat.

2. Be happy and positive about Hindi yourself. Watch what you say about Hindi, Indian accents, Hindi movies, etc. and make sure they actually believe that you like the language.

Make Hindi cool (if your child is 8 or 9, “cool” means a lot). And if you can’t do that yourself, find older, “cool” kids who speak Hindi in your community.

Be positive and the kids will follow suit. In my classes people always say “you’re so upbeat” “You must love teaching, you’re so happy all the time.” Yes I do love teaching, but I’m not a crazy person constantly excited. I do that because kids respond to upbeat, happy, creativity and plain fun.

Ready to get started? Go to the free resources section and check out some fun activities you can do with your kids.

One Fool-Proof Trick to Introduce Your Child to Hindi (and Have Them Enjoy it Too!)

In every class I teach there is always one activity kids just can’t get enough of.

And after 5+ years of teaching — I have realized that no matter which child you are teaching, it is MOST important for them to enjoy themselves while learning.

So with years of trial and error under my belt, I finally figured out how to get kids to start actually liking/adoring/(dare I say loving?) Hindi in 10 minutes or less.

If you want your child to eventually learn Hindi — so they can chat with relatives, be included when they visit India or just to learn another language — it is key for them to WANT to learn it on their own. That’s why they must like it — trust me, this is half the battle!

What Other People Do Wrong 

There are traps everyone falls into — I did at first too — and one of the main ones is teaching kids words to memorize. This makes children want to scream and bolt in the other direction. It makes them think the language is dull, arduous and boring (which, if you are teaching to memorize, it is). So here is how I get children to start liking Hindi; to smile when they “practice” it and to nag you for more.

PLEASE NOTE: This is not time consuming 10+ step process to language instruction. It takes 10 minutes or less and then the learning takes off WITHOUT you.

So how do you get your child involved, interested and ready to jump head-first into learning Hindi?

Simple! Use “Action Words.”

Words that make them move, jump, sweat, laugh. Do it all!

So this makes sense right? But honestly, it is unconventional – especially since the number one tactic people use to kickstart Hindi in their homes is nouns. Static, lifeless nouns. Perhaps they label items in the home with Hindi words, or simply teach them names of animals. It may work, but it’s definitely not engaging or interesting.

The key here is that their first introduction to Hindi, the groundwork, the foundation into the language needs to be big- jump-up-and-down, go-crazy kind of exciting.

Plus we’re talking about kids here! They probably already go to school AND do after school activities AND play a sport. They just want to kick back and have fun. And they should!

So Hindi is playtime. Repeat that to yourself until its true.

And, here’s what you should do.

  1. PICK: the Action Words you want to teach.

Start with 5-6 words. Usually I go straight for the most fun words, like “nacho” (to make them dance) or “gaao” (sing) and mix in some easy things like “aao” (come) “jaao” (go), “baitho” (sit) and “utho” (get up).


  1. SHOW: them how to do it. If it’s “koodo,” jump. If its “so jao,” then act out sleeping

You can use whatever your child responds to best. Maybe hand actions (might resemble sign language) or maybe you just get up and do it yourself. If you know your kid likes to clap or play soccer, do that!


  1. PLAY: have them stand up and do the actions as you call them out. Go fast, go slow, add words, and try to confuse them.

This is the best part. It might take a few minutes at first, but as they get good it takes less and less time…and it’s more and more fun.

Once they become experts at the first few words you teach — go on and teach them more action-words.

Takeaways

  1.   (biggest of all) Get your kids to LIKE Hindi
  2.   Focusing on actions, will get your kids begging you for more Hindi because it is fun

In my course, I teach the specific step-by-step activities and games you can play with your kids to optimize Hindi learning. For ages 3-9 at all levels. I will teach your kids myself, and I will give them (fun) homework, worksheets all the materials needed for forward moving learning. You’ll get the ACTUAL lessons, words, material that I have been using in all my years of teaching – with PROVEN results.