The Department of South Asia Studies offers instruction in thirteen different South Asian languages to its undergraduate and graduate student population. Teaching South Asian languages has its own set of challenges, and we spoke to Hindi instructor and PhD student, Josh Pien, about his thoughts on language learning.
What are the specific challenges in teaching South Asian languages today? What challenges do you face in the classroom?
One challenge is teaching stylistic variation. Norms for everyday casual language use and academic and formal use differ. Finding a balance and making students aware of the stylistic continuum is an ongoing effort. Additionally, students come from a variety of backgrounds and every level of instruction has students with starkly different backgrounds and learning profiles. Carving out a common path and common set of goals is a process that is unique for each group of students.
What teaching methods do you find most useful in your classes?
I find that students respond well to hands-on use of the language. Providing students with the tools they will need to communicate and then simulating realistic situations for communication is useful. Incorporating culture and authentic sources also keeps class lively and connects classroom learning with the real world.
How can students benefit from learning South Asian languages?
Students who study South Asian languages often realize that the language allows them to explore their interests on their own terms. They have access to a full range of viewpoints and are not limited to those expressed in English. They can communicate with a broader range of people in society. They can be a full participant in all of the multilingual interactions that characterize everyday communication.