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Tips for teaching Hindi letter sounds to children


For things all around, for things of daily life, just pop in the question sometimes, what do you think is the beginning sound of this? Suppose, it is /b/ - and then you can explore that it can spell a ball, a bat and a batakh (बतख, a duck in Hindi ) or even a बातु or బాతు (batu, a duck in Telugu) and so on.

In the Indian schooling system, children usually learn the state language, and one or two more languages, often English and/or Hindi. The Devanagari alphabet used to write Hindi is also used for some other Indian languages, and is similar in the basic construction to many other alphabet systems of India. In continuing with my insights for teaching Hindi letters to kids of families who are not Hindi speakers, today I want to discuss how letter learning can be more flexible and fun.


Every Child Learns at a Different Pace

The development of each child is unique, and not all children are able to read, write or speak at the same exact age. It is useless to fret over this, just like it is useless to fret over a kid who starts walking at 15 months by comparing her to a kid who walked at 11 months. The Indian preschool system makes parents feel otherwise, and create a pressure on them and the children.

Many developed countries of the world officially teach children to read and write after the age of 6. And since, by then almost all the children have developed the necessary cognitive, motor and speech skills by them, they learn fast and successfully follow curricula that involve far more oral discussions and creative writing than is normally required in India in primary school.

We, on the other hand, choose to spend a lot of time, money and effort in teaching reading and writing to a lot of small children, without taking into account individual level of mental, speech and motor development. Children need exposure to all sorts of reading, writing, creativity, artistic and play activities, but it is simply unrealistic to expect every 4 year old to fare equally well in learning to read and write according to unwritten "prescribed" standards.


How long should a child take to learn the FULL HINDI ALPHABET?

It is alright to teach kids all the consonants and vowels in the preschool years - if you take things slow, teach them without pressure and let them have fun with the letters and words. Similarly, pressuring children of non Hindi speaking societies or families to suddenly learn the long and complex alphabet by the time they are 3 or 4 is not logical. Some can do it, some will take a bit more time. Patience, persistence and playfulness are key ingredients to teaching your child without pressure.


Phonics is in-built in Hindi Alphabet!

Hindi letters are arranged phonetically in the Devanagari Alphabet. Read more here. When teaching letters to kids, it is important to understand the sounds of the letters. In English, many preschools teach phonics. But for Hindi as well, focus on the sound of the letters. You can use the words of English and also words from your own mother tongue to show the child that those words can be written using Hindi letters as well.

For example, Peppa Pig = पेपा पिग

Similarly, let ब be not just a letter from a strange language (for a non Hindi speaking child) that is used to write strange words like बगुला or बढ़ई which they have never heard before. Let ब be the symbol that is used to depict the starting sound of Ball, Bat, Baba, Bobby, Bus, Baby, etc. 


Be Silly and Have Fun

Most of us would be upset if we were accused of being "silly." But the word "silly" comes from the old English word "selig," and its literal definition is "to be blessed, happy, healthy and prosperous." - Zig Ziglar

If you let your child have fun with letters, and construct silly words also with the letters (like using flash cards, puzzles and blocks), they will learn the letters soon. Learning the Hindi letters will automatically mean learning a lot of new Hindi words, which entails double pressure (learn new letters and words). If you teach them the SOUNDS of the Hindi letters by writing words they already know from their native language in Hindi Script, then they will learn the full range of vowels and consonants quickly.

You can teach Hindi with ease using our FREE Hindi Letters Flashcard Printables! Also, check out our post for inventive ideas to make language learning a fun and engaging experience using flashcards.

So after teaching the traditional "ग से गमला, ग से गधा, ग से गला" to your child, if you write their names, or the names of people and things they already know starting with "ga" sound on the whiteboard or notebook, you will find them more excited.

For things all around, for things of daily life, just pop in the question sometimes, what do you think is the beginning sound of this? Suppose, it is /b/ - and then you can explore that it can spell a ball, a bat and a batakh (बतख, a duck in Hindi ) or even a बातु or బాతు (batu, a duck in Telugu) and so on.

Of course, to expand a child's vocabulary, you need to teach them hundreds of new words, but when you are teaching them the alphabet and sounds, perhaps it is practical to focus on showing how these letters depict sounds, than teach them too many new unusual and unfamiliar words in the same lesson.  Similarly, you can teach Hindi numerals to your child at the outset simply by writing the date in Hindi numerals each time you teach them Hindi. By the time they start Grade 1, they will already have a strong foundation of Hindi. 

For UKG or grade 1 children, to teach new conjuncts, (say, ग्र) and unusual vowels (say, ऑ), it is far useful to write ग्रीन ग्रासहॉपर, हॉप हॉप हॉप (green grasshopper, hop hop hop), on the board than to teach them ग्र, and exposing them to new words they do not know like, say, ग्राम and ग्रीष्म a bit later after they learn the conjunct consonant. 

Sounds are all around us, and if we can be playful about the sounds and letters, learning alphabet will be less burdensome for our children.


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