Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language

Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language

3.7 4
by Katherine Russell Rich

ISBN-10: 0618155457

ISBN-13: 9780618155453

Pub. Date: 07/07/2009

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

An eye-opening and courageous memoir that explores what learning a new language can teach us about distant worlds and, ultimately, ourselves.

After miraculously surviving a serious illness, Katherine Rich found herself at an impasse in her career as a magazine editor. She spontaneously accepted a freelance writing assignment to go to India, where she

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An eye-opening and courageous memoir that explores what learning a new language can teach us about distant worlds and, ultimately, ourselves.

After miraculously surviving a serious illness, Katherine Rich found herself at an impasse in her career as a magazine editor. She spontaneously accepted a freelance writing assignment to go to India, where she found herself thunderstruck by the place and the language, and before she knew it she was on her way to Udaipur, a city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, in order to learn Hindi. Rich documents her experiences—ranging from the bizarre to the frightening to the unexpectedly exhilarating—using Hindi as the lens through which she is given a new perspective not only on India, but on the radical way the country and the language itself were changing her. Fascinated by the process, she went on to interview linguistics experts around the world, reporting back from the frontlines of the science wars on what happens in the brain when we learn a new language. She brings both of these experiences together seamlessly in Dreaming in Hindi, a remarkably unique and thoughtful account of self-discovery.

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

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Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Ausonius More than 1 year ago
Katherine Russell Rich was born into a Christian Science family. She suffered from chronic otitis, went almost completely deaf. Then her mother broke from their church and took six-year old Kathy to a doctor who soon cured her. But much in her life was already set: she could read lips until high school years. She became at times isolated, at times a long wolf on the periphery of social groups. In her adult years she was twice stricken by cancer. When she went to India in September 2001 to immerse herself for a year in Hindi, Kathy's doctor made her promise to have periodic blood tests. Kathy had made a career in magazines. Fired from her eighth job, unlucky in love, she felt that she was sleep-walking purposelessly through life. She needed a shock, something utterly unlike her life to date. She chose India and a language school in arid Udaipur, Rajasthan, north of Bombay. She hoped to become a full-time writer. Despite frustrations, Ms Rich after two semesters was fluent in speaking, reading and writing Hindi. She had also volunteered every Friday at a school for boys born deaf and raised in isolation until their parents sent them there. A condition of Kathy's being permitted to assist in teaching art was that she learn Hindi sign language. She soon understood that there is no limit to things to be learned about how humans communicate through language. Language can be through gestures, also spoken, written and signed. Suddenly Muslim terrorists attacked the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Hindus all around Kathy gloated that now America would teach Pakistan a lesson. Hindus overwhelmingly longed for a world without Muslims -- excepting, of course, their personal friends. Thousands died to the south in Gujerat in Hindu-Muslim massacres. When her year in India was up 2002, Kathy Rich spent months spread over the next four years reading into neurology and linguistics to make sense of her language-learning experiences, including sign language. She also interviewed leading experts in both fields. Recent discoveries among deaf children in Nicaragua motivated Kathy to return to Udaipur in 2006 and revisit the deaf school where she had taught art. Coached in advance by a distinguished linguist in the States, Ms Rich attempted to prove by scientific experiment that those Indian deaf boys had created an entirely new language on their own. She got her proof but it was merely anecdotal. The boys' teachers did not have a clue what the lads were signing outside the classroom. They had indeed created a new language. Its grammar was utterly unlike that of Hindi, either spoken or signed. This fact supports the views of theoreticians like Noam Chomsky that language learning ability is innate, hard wired. And children, not adults are the creative, driving force in language. Kathy argued that gestures precede mimicry, followed by rule-free pidgin, then more sophisticated creole and finally the rich languages of grammar and tenses. This book abounds in insights into many subjects. Unfortunately its structure or narrative frame, loosely chronological, is too weak to support so many excursions into neurological and linguistic theory. The book would be better if it were divided into three monographs. -OOO-
Yesh_Prabhu More than 1 year ago
"Dreaming in Hindi", Katherine Russel Rich's memoir of her adventure in India, about the year she spent in Udaipur living with a Hindi speaking Indian family, for the purpose learning Hindi, is an intriguing and fascinating book. Learning a new language in middle age, especially a language as alien for her as Hindi is not an easy task. But the author demonstrates that where there is will, there is a way. When she writes about India and describes Indians, her writing is lively and entertaining: "Vanita's (saris) were starched to within an inch of their lives, even the dupatta scarves. Her scarves never lay down on the job, but remained frozen in a fluff, giving the impression that a hooded snake had reared up behind and was about to swallow her." She is a keen observer, and her descriptions of what she has seen in Udaipur are memorable. I was impressed with the marvelous description of the marble driveway of her hosts' immense house: "The driveway, though hazardous to pedestrians when washed, possessed a peculiar grandeur: inlaid circles set against squares, rich browns fitted into mossy greens; a display fit for a museum, a board game leading out to a street of pigs." The author has chosen to write about the science of learning a new language also, and interspersed though out the nineteen chapters of this book are the author's explanations and personal opinions and impressions about the process of learning a language, and how the human brain functions. These passages dealing with the technical aspects of learning a language are sometimes tedious, and in these sections the author's impressive prose loses its charm and elegance. Without these tedious passages, "Dreaming in Hindi" would undoubtedly have been an outstanding memoir. On the whole, this is an impressive book, written with humor and wit, and with an abundance of vivid, sprightly descriptions and memorable passages. Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ
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