Pallavi Singh has been teaching Hindi to foreigners over the years. Not only she is a trained popular teacher, but also she has won accolades for her dedication and commitment. She has taught Jacqueline Fernandez, Natalie Di Luccio, Lisa Ray among there. We spoke to Pallavi Singh, an individual who has been building a nationwide awareness on learning Hindi, the official language of India. Excerpts:
- Language teaching is a skilful job. How did you come upon with such a career in life?
Yes, Language teaching is a skilful job because not only it requires command over and understanding of the functionalities of the Language, one should also be able to articulate the concepts well for the listener to comprehend them. And that’s only the basic qualifying criteria. The Instructor’s salary/payment is directly dependent on a potent mix of factors like – experience, reputation, punctuality, clarity in pedagogy, professional conduct, and an amiable personality.
A chef prepares food, an architect builds and a Director makes a film.. all of which (products) can be eaten/used/seen but for a teacher; where the transfer of knowledge is a fairly subjective experience; it is hard to quantify and know fairly how much of it has happened. This aspect of my job is another challenge as I cannot “show” what I do.
There are also a few defining salient features to what I do – Administrative, Expectations & Ego Management. And a lot of stuff!
- How is speaking Hindi as a language is different from others?
It’s complicated! Every little thing we say or grammar we use is highly interwoven and utilizes a lot of different linguistic nuances. I’ll give you one basic example. A lot of English speakers say “Nice to meet you” which translates into “Aapse milkar khushi hui”. What it literally translates to (word by word) is “You from, after meeting, happiness happened”. You see what I was saying before? Right in the beginning, you see a “you from” than just “you”. Similarly, “I know how to cook” is “Mujhko khana banana aata hai” which really is “To me to cook comes”.. Go Figure!
My job is not only to decode these little webs of semantics but also try to explain why is it “you from” “to me” and not just “you”. And that is a big part of what I do.
And then, of course, proceeding this “mental gymnastics’, I need to inform my students why is this not a colloquial expression in India and the reason why we seldom use it! 🙂
- How do you proceed in teaching Hindi to foreigners?
We start from the very basic – Days of the week, Colours, Numbers, Counting, Timings and then slowly try to tread onto the sentence construction.
A (allegedly) simple sentence “The Cup is on the table” is in Hindi written as “Cup table on is” (Pyaala Mez Par Hai). So structure and knowledge of where things/words are placed is key to speaking/making sensible sentences. After the placement and word order is clear, I introduce verbs and so on.
- You are already a popular face in Bollywood for teaching Hindi to stars like Jacqueline Fernandez, Lisa Ray. What is your take on your students?
I wouldn’t say I’m a “popular” face. I’d just say my phone number is easily accessible. 🙂
I think personally for me it was really interesting too, first of all, know how hard it is to crack the language (being a native speaker, I take my Hindi fluency for granted sometimes) seeing how these celebrities are from the “Hindi Movie Industry” and one would assume they speak fluently already. My take is that I think I’m extremely fortunate to have met these amazing personalities through my work. I would have never gotten calls from them otherwise. I’m extremely grateful and honoured!!
- What is your advice to young men and women who are keen to have careers in language teaching?
Just first ask yourself “why” you wish to pursue this. If you find this your calling, then please do it. It’s not easy and it’s a lot of work but if you enjoy it – you’ll stick to it and eventually find a way.
- Do you think language has a role to play in tourism?
Yes and No. It depends on your “touristic” angle. Is one here for an immersive experience or visiting sites? Is the duration long or short? There are so many types of tourism and hence various standpoints at/to it.
- What is your future plan with regard to teaching?
Is a consultant/bank manager/techie asked that question as well? Ever? I doubt. My future plan is the same as theirs – keep on teaching further and be better at it with experience. And of course, keep on earning my livelihood from it.