The place of the Hindi language and associated cultures in Australia and the world
Hindi is an official language of India and Fiji. It is the most widely spoken language of the Indian subcontinent and is also widely spoken throughout the world in countries that include the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mauritius, the Gulf countries and Australia. The language and associated cultures have evolved over time due to processes such as colonialism, globalisation and technological change, and to India’s geopolitical and historical position in the world.
The languages of India belong to several language families. Modern Hindi evolved into a distinct language in the New Indo-Aryan Period (from the 11th–12th century). Current understandings of the language are based on the idea of there being a Modern Standard Hindi (मानक हिंदी), based on the Khari Boli dialect spoken in the Delhi area and written in Devanagari script. More broadly, the notion of Hindi also includes a variety of dialect forms that are not covered by this curriculum, such as Braj Bhasa (ब्रज भाषा) and Avadhi (अवधी), which have their own distinctive grammatical standards. Following independence in 1947, the Indian Government instituted a standardisation of grammar, using the Devanagari script to standardise orthography and bring about uniformity in writing. The Constituent Assembly adopted Hindi as the Official Language of the Union on 14 September 1949, now celebrated each year as Hindi Day.
Hindi follows a consistent set of grammatical standards that derive from the same roots as classical Sanskrit. Its vocabulary includes elements not only from Sanskrit but also from Persian, Arabic, Dravidian, other Indian languages and from world languages such as Turkish, Portuguese and English. The lexicon comprises of words taken directly (तत्सम words) and derived from Sanskrit (तद्भव words), as well as other languages. Like all languages, Hindi has multiple registers and freely uses loan words in different registers of speech and writing. Popular everyday registers incorporate many words derived from Persian and Arabic and increasingly incorporate English loan words and expressions.
Hindi is the first language of a large proportion of the population of India and is spoken by more than half the overall population. It is an official language in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. By virtue of its role as a lingua franca, Hindi has also developed regional dialects, such as Bambaiya Hindi in Mumbai, Dakhini in parts of Telangana and Bangalori Urdu in Bangalore, Karnataka. Hindi’s role as a lingua franca is evidenced in many forms of popular culture, such as music and film.
Hindi has been an important element of Indian educational systems, both as a first and second language and as a language of instruction. In non-Hindi states, Hindi may be learnt as the third language.
Significant Indian migration to Australia began in the 1980s and continued through the 1990s. The majority of migrants come to Australia through family connections, and the number of skilled migrants continue to grow. According to the Australian Census, in 2011 there were 111,352 Hindi speakers in Australia. Most Indians are multilingual and Hindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in the Australian Indian community.
The place of the Hindi language in Australian education
The community’s commitment to maintain and to express Hindi identity through language, culture and religion is reflected in the strength of Hindi language use in home and community contexts and in well-established after-hours Hindi school programs. Since 2007, there has been an increase in numbers of students learning Hindi, primarily in community language schools and weekend language schools in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Some programs are now offered in mainstream schools, including programs that cater for second language learners. Total student numbers are relatively low, but increasing enrolments reflect the growing Indian community in Australia and the Australian Government’s commitment to support linguistic diversity in the community and to develop capabilities in the languages of the region, including Hindi (Australia in the Asian Century white paper 2012).
The nature of Hindi language learning
Hindi language learning in the context of this curriculum reflects the profile of the cohort of learners for whom it is designed. They are background language learners, with different levels of familiarity with the language and associated cultures. For many, this existing capability is more oral than literacy-based, and initial challenges associated with learning relate primarily to literacy development. Modern Standard Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, which is also used for Sanskrit, Marathi and Nepali. It is a phonetic script, which accurately represents the sounds and syllabic structure of Hindi. Study of the script involves learning the 13 sounds classified as vowels in their long and short forms and the 33 consonant sounds, distinguished between unaspirated and aspirated consonants and of retroflex and dental ‘ta’ and ‘da’ sounds. There are five Persian and Arabic consonant sounds used in Hindi and represented in script, as well as two ‘flapped’ forms of retroflex ‘r’ sounds. The syllabic structure of Hindi is represented in Devanagari by a system where vowels following consonants are represented by symbols called matra, and two or more consonants can be combined in a syllable without intervening vowels by conjunct forms of consonants.
Learning the Hindi grammatical system is supported by the regularity of key elements. These include a normative subject-object-verb sentence structure and the use of postpositions that impact on agreements with nouns, pronouns and adjectives. Sociolinguistic aspects of Hindi-speaking communities are reflected in aspects of the grammar, such as the system of three levels of pronouns for ‘you’ and linguistic variations that indicate levels of respect. Hindi is a highly inflected language. All nouns are grammatically masculine or feminine, so adjectives agree with nouns, and verbs show agreement for both number and gender. Actions are distinguished not only by time and manner of performance but also through a distinction between habitual actions and actions completed at a particular time. Learning Hindi involves some complexities at higher levels of study, as learners need to understand complex combinations of verbs and the use of causative verb forms, and to recognise ways in which Hindi draws on Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic in the formation of complex compound words in higher registers of speech.
The Hindi language used in the Australian Curriculum reflects the use of Hindi in contemporary times, engaging learners in the full range of contexts in which the language is presently used in India and Australia.
The diversity of learners of Hindi
The Australian Curriculum: Languages – Hindi is pitched to background language learners, the dominant cohort of learners in the Australian context. Students vary significantly in terms of language and cultural experience, variability being defined in part by home language environments, generational language shifts and parental cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Learners may be first-, second- or third-generation Australians. Some may have established literacy skills in Hindi; others will use Hindi in the home or community alongside other languages; others will extend their use of it to social or friendship groups. Others may have learnt the language in large part from forms of mass media, such as Bollywood productions, music and popular fiction. Some have more receptive than productive language capabilities.
The Australian Curriculum: Languages – Hindi has been developed according to two learning sequences: Foundation – Year 10, and Years 7–10 (Year 7 entry). Teachers will use the curriculum to cater for learners of different backgrounds by making appropriate adjustments to differentiate learning experiences for these students.
The intercultural language learning orientation of the curriculum explores the cultural dimension that shapes and is shaped by languages. Background learners of Hindi already have lived experience of this relationship, ‘living between’ Hindi and English in the Australian context. The curriculum provides opportunities for analysis, explicit focus and reflection on this lived experience and further opportunities for students to participate in intercultural experiences, to extend their ways of perceiving and being in the world, and to understand themselves and others as culturally, bi-culturally and inter-culturally situated.