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Paperback Dreaming Inhindi:Coming Awake Inanother Language Book

ISBN: 9380283725

ISBN13: 9789380283722

Dreaming Inhindi:Coming Awake Inanother Language

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Book Overview

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... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A hybrid gem

DREAMING IN HINDI is a deft, erudite, and beautifully written hybrid of travel memoir and popular science. Its hybridness--or hybridity--seems to make a lot of readers uncomfortable, possibly those who were hoping to find an all-Indian EAT, PRAY, LOVE. But Kathy Rich isn't interested in peddling uplift, unless it's the uplift we feel when we see a really good writer penetrating a closed world, not just a geographical or cultural world, but a cognitive one. Reading DREAMING won't make you a Hindi speaker, but it will make you experience the stutter-step of learning a new language: the long, despairing impasses and the sudden, blinding insights. It will also make you understand the neurophysiological reasons for both. Reading it is like looking at one of those laminated acetate medical charts on whose succeeding levels one can see skin, organs, and skeleton: The effect is thrilling. Rich's portraits of her instructors, fellow students, hosts, and friends are often funny, occasionally biting, but always humane. Even the characters who are dodgy or demented are engaging. And just as DREAMING captures the experience of learning a new language, it also renders the strangeness, intoxication, loneliness, fear, and disgust of being immersed in a new culture. I can't think of any immigrant or expat--including immigrants to the U.S.-- who hasn't at one point felt revulsion for his new country and its natives. Such feelings are part of any genuine relationship, and the vigor with which Katherine Russell Rich evokes them suggests that her relationship with India was the real thing. This book certainly is.

A terrific mix of science and personal experiences

Katherine Rich's book strikes a fine balance between learning what Second Language Acquisition (SLA) can do to the brain and how the environment and culture of learning influences the process. The book is peppered with the science of language learning- which I believe is the first that takes Hindi into account. Her encounters with her teachers, her host family, her new friends and a multitude of people in India makes the book read like a riveting novel (except it's non-fiction). As an Indian, I found this book incredibly enjoyable and fascinating because I had never thought of SLA in terms of Hindi- even though millions of Indians (such as myself) do in fact learn Hindi as second language. Ms Rich's book also touches on the more serious aspects of women's lives in India, the politics of teaching institutions, various forms of patriarchy that still exist in the country etc. At the same time, the book is filled with memorable accounts of her many deep friendships, her experiences as a foreigner in a small town, and her take of the political turmoil gripping the country in the year she lived there. I do find the comparison of Ms Rich's book with "Eat, Pray, Love" a little strange (even disrespectful), since this book is not about "finding oneself" in the same cliched way that many foreigners have characterised traveling in India and Asia in the past. This book is about looking at India from the linguistic lens, which is rightfully one of the most important features of travel/stay in a foreign country. BUY THIS BOOK!

Great Book for Those Interested in the Mind as well as India

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time, which I enjoyed on lots of different levels. I enjoy leisure reading that takes me to another time or place, and this one does that. And I enjoy reading that expands my knowledge, such as popular science or history books, and this book does that as well. And the writing is well done. This is the author's account of her year in India, focused on learning Hindi. But in the tale we learn about her past (early childhood hearing issues, how she came to be interested in Hindi and got started learning, how she earlier had dodged the bullet of medical mortality, etc.) She also writes about the people she lived with, the friends she made, festivals and travels, Hindi and Muslim interactions in the past and present of India, and the social and political events that were happening in India as well as the US during that time. I now feel I have a better understanding of things that are going on in India at present, as well as an appreciation of the Hindi language. At the same time, this book is a delight for a Cognitive Scientist or anyone interested in the mind, because she intersperses her own experiences of being immersed in a language she only partially knows, with very readable details of work by a number of scientists about various aspects of how language works and how the mind learns a first or a second language. And, unlike too many books today, she has a really good bibliography for tracking down more to read and citations for anyone interested. There were a few things in her account that it would have been nice to learn more about. Her year in India was about 8 years ago, but the book has just come out now. What has she been doing since then, where can I found out more about her, what has she done with Hindi since then (other than surprise taxi cab drivers)? Additionally, part way through the book, she raised a medical alarm that was never followed up on .... how was that handled and how did it turn out?

For those who enjoy surrendering to the journey

I should immediately qualify my five-star rating with this warning: If you are the type of person who, for example, nails down your travel plans before ever packing your suitcase, possesses strong opinions on what "should" and "shouldn't" be included in a tour, a trip, a memoir, or a mind, then skip this trip. It will be too "messy" for you. One reader's mess, however, is another reader's joy and expansion. And I thank Ms. Rich for writing this multi-sensory, multi-level memoir. She's spared me the discomfort of living with strangers amidst heat and dust, not to mention the balking of my aging brain cells in trying to learn an incredibly difficult language, all the while being separated from everything that is familiar and comfortable. Lacking the drive possessed by Ms. Rich to complete this demanding journey ("I wanted that language like I wanted life itself," she writes), I appreciate the vicarious experience. While some readers complained, I enjoy the just-like-in-real-life way her story moves to and from the daily logistics (living situations, classes, social activities with a fascinating range of friends and acquaintances) to complex issues of politics and linguistics. The latter she explains clearly to the lay reader, typically with vivid examples. For example: "The number of emotions a language contains varies widely," she writes. "Feelings that exist in one tongue don't in others." Then this: "Perhaps this explains why, months into learning Hindi, I become sharply aware of a feeling I've never experienced. It comes from outside me, fills me and the room. It's longing, in a shade I've never known before: for something I can't name but that I know viscerally is unbounded, an object or state that's protean, divine." Some passages pulled me in more strongly than others. And yes, I skimmed through a few sections. But I'm glad I kept reading to the end of this memorable journey.


I really enjoyed this book. It is a book that I chose somewhat at random, perhaps because of my own attempts to learn a second language, or perhaps because the author went through cancer and one of my friends is struggling with that now. Regardless of the reasons for choosing the book, I was very happy to have done so. The book takes several parallel tracks: the author's learning of a new language is a central theme, and from that she explores immersion in a different culture, how that reflects back on ones primary culture, the science of how we learn language, as well as a look at the emotions and side effects of 9/11. The book is at times scientific, at times lyrical, and always personal in a very touching way. It also gave a sense of beauty of the surroundings and the ordinary that makes me want to visit India some day. I very much like that the author immerses herself in Indian culture, lives with various families, and truly tries to assimilate, and at the same time, is highly conscious of her feelings and struggles and successes, and shares those with us. I also like that she weaves in language theory, so instead of being a simple travelogue, it is an exploration of learning as well, lending unexpected viewpoints to the experience. The book isn't conventional, nor is its topic, and that is part of what makes it so much fun, along with the author's critical eye of her own experiences. In short, a very pleasant surprise.
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