Notes from the field in Jaipur

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The days are warm and short, but the experiences I am having will remain with me for the rest of my life. My days are spent learning, both within and without the classroom—Yoga and Meditation in the morning, Hindi language at mid-day, and the Pink City’s history in the evenings. The American Institute of Indian Studies (A.I.I.S.), where I am currently studying Hindi, has so far been an incredible support system, a demanding classroom, and a site of warm friendships.

Despite the high degree of intensity of the program, I am excited and encouraged to learn as much as possible during these 8 weeks, which are filled with lessons on vocabulary, pronunciation, listening and speaking skills, writing skills, and even presentational skills. A.I.I.S.’s curriculum features multiple levels of Hindi, including Intermediate and Advanced. Having placed into the Advanced course level, the coursework is more rigorous and larger in magnitude, as to be expected. Many of my courses are discussion-based, meaning that readings are given prior to class with students expected to read, analyze, and prepare for the discussions with grammatical, semantic, and content-based questions. These classes include a magazine discussion course and a literature course, along with a film discussion. Every week the Institute plays a Hindi film of our choosing, and we are requested to prepare a 2-page review of the film for the next day’s discussion course. This is in addition to a weekly 5-page journal submission, where we have the liberty to discuss what we wish. These writings are submitted then returned to students for corrections and their own improvement. Furthermore, these are coupled with courses that reinforce speaking and listening skills. There is a weekly 5-minute oral presentation along with a course on day-to-day interactions via role-play simulation. Our listening skills are strengthened in our radio course, where we listen to taped recordings and test our understanding of the tape’s content. Finally, A.I.I.S. also offers a course strictly on vocabulary and Hindi word etymology and formation, which is a personal favorite of mine.

My experience’s strongest influence and most memorable moments, however, have taken place outside of the air-conditioned rooms of the Institute, and in the sizzling alleys thoroughfares of the Pink City. Being immersed in a language environment has benefits that no classroom could encompass—you begin to learn out of necessity, which is an exciting experience. When I’m lost in the middle of the city in an autorickshaw, working with the driver to locate an obscure temple, I begin picking up the vocabulary necessary for daily life—words such as “turn,” “slow down,” or even “left,” and “sorry.” Being able to take what I learn during the day and immediately practice it upon stepping out the door makes all the difference in language acquisition. Every day presents a new challenge, a novel situation in which to take a leap of faith with my current knowledge to learn a new word, or even try out a new phrase I heard in a movie. Of course, the people and culture have had an immense impact of my learning and experience. Most people I have met so far have been excited to converse with me in Hindi, and have been patient in teaching me new words. My host family is no exception to this, and our dinner conversations feature discussions on current events and culture, all in Hindi! The warm reception is highly encouraging as a language learner. I have even had several interesting conversations with rickshaw drivers about their daily lives, life in Jaipur, and their favorite songs! My experience in Jaipur so far has been an opportunity to grow as a Hindi-speaker, a global citizen, as well as an independent individual. It is an experience that I will cherish forever, and that I hope to continue experiencing throughout my career as a student and adult.

Written by Daniel Bacheschi, YC 2021.