Spending five years in Banaras on a shoestring budget is a price few British nationals would like to pay to learn about India. But Peter Friedlander, a senior lecturer in Hindi at La Trobe University, Melbourne, was different. As a 20-year-old young man when he visited India in 1977 for the first time, he was intrigued and awe-inspired at the same time by Indian heritage and its diverse culture. “In my quest to learn about Indian history whenever I tried speaking with the local people around, I got disappointed because of my lack of knowledge of Hindi. That was the time when I decided to learn this language,” said Friedlander in fluent Hindi.
On asking why should one learn about India, its culture, history and languages, he replied: “I learnt it only because I was curious. Those who want to learn it will study it even today, irrespective of the (limited) career
opportunities it offers.”
Dr Kumud Sharma, associate professor of Hindi in Delhi University, however, doesn’t agree with him. She says: “Earlier foreign nationals used to learn Hindi only because they wanted to learn about our culture and history. With India joining the race of globalisation, it has seen a paradigm shift. I have seen international students learning Hindi from private tutors only for their career enrichment.”
University of Delhi runs diploma and certificate courses in Hindi which draws students from around the world. Indian students learn the language too. “Indian students prefer to study degree programmes unlike diploma/ certificate programmes attended by the foreign nationals. They find several career options after this (BA/ MA in Hindi) such as in media, translation, interpretation and teaching,” says Prof Gopeshwar Singh, head of Hindi department, Delhi University.