It seems like the desi population in Silicon Valley has reached some sort of critical mass, if one can go by the explosion in Hindi classes in the area. Once the domain of religious groups, who combined language lessons with cultural and spiritual offerings, teaching Hindi has become the basis for at least two professional organizations that I know of in the area.
Then there are those who just want to disseminate the language for the love of it. The daycare provider at my daughter’s public school offers free classes to any child who is interested, and she has quickly built up a sizable student body (Free + Hindi? What’s not to like!).
Another such altruist is Aarti Chandnani, who is the founder of Hindi Gym, a website providing largely free resources for Hindi teachers.
“I began with wanting to teach my own kids Hindi,” say Aarti, who is a computer engineer by profession. “I began scouting for language materials in India, but found that they were quite outdated and my kids could not relate to it.” The India Community Center found out about her interest in the language and asked her to start classes in San Francisco, another reason for her to look for appropriate teaching materials.
So Aarti began designing Hindi worksheets on her own. “I tried to make them appealing to kids growing up here.” She created a monkey character called Lala who anchors the material.
The response to the worksheets was outstanding and Aarti was inspired to come up with an entire workbook. She contacted publishers in India but found there was little interest in publishing exclusively for the U.S. market. She found an illustrator in Chennai and a printer in Hong Kong and ended up self-publishing the books.
Amazingly, Aarti has managed to price her workbooks extremely reasonably, at 7.99 for an 80 page illustrated soft cover. “My idea was that parents shouldn’t have to think twice before picking up the book.” The workbooks have been picked up both by organizations and home teachers.
However, the worksheets are still free and there are plenty of them on the website for teachers and parents who just want a resource for their lessons. There are also wall posters and board games that can be printed out. Aarti constantly updates the material and adds new worksheets. A new addition is the free e-books that parents can download for use at home.
“The idea is not to make a ton of money,” insists Aarti. “It is about spreading the language. Mandarin and Spanish have become so mainstream, why not Hindi?” She adds, “I want Hindi Gym to be the one-stop shop for people wanting Hindi language resources. Parents wanting to teach their kids Hindi can just pick up stuff for free.”
Aarti also collaborates with ispeakhindi, a website which offers podcasts for conversational Hindi lessons. The podcasts reference Aarti’s worksheets and vice versa. In the works are also plans for new products like a Hindi mobile app and added sections on Hindi grammar and reading comprehension.
“I am not an educator,” says Aarti. “I was just inspired by my kids to start this. Now I find that it is something I am passionate about.” She invites members of the community to contribute their own ideas for teaching Hindi here.
Check out Hindi Gym. As a parent of child learning Hindi, I found the worksheets charming and accessible. The quality is as good, if not better, than some of the similar English language workbooks in the market, and Lala is just irresistible.