“You can speak to people from the second biggest country by population; (and) if you also learn Chinese, you can speak to so many people.” Rachit Jian from Year 10A explains his motivation for sitting the IGCSE Hindi examination in June.
Hindi is the official language of India, also spoken in countries such as Fiji and Mauritius. In fact, some 425 million people speak it worldwide and, if you’re familiar with the words guru, jungle, karma, yoga, bungalow… even avatar… then you know some Hindi as well. These words have all been “borrowed” by the English language.
For Rachit, passing the examination at the end of Year 9 means he already has the qualification necessary to continue his studies in India should he choose to do so after school.
While Rachit has been able to speak Hindi since he was small as it was spoken at home, he only started to learn the language, to read and write its character-based alphabet, four years ago when his family were living in Thailand. He says, “The fact that I’ve been learning it so late; it’s like a second language. I’ve been speaking, reading and writing English since I was little… but I’ve learned Hindi later in life.”
Hindi is an ornate script, and each character of its alphabet represents a sound. With 11 vowels and 33 consonants, plus a long list of additional consonants and special forms, the language is both complex and beautiful. Rachit explains, “It’s more like a phonetic language; different letters for different sounds. You have the base alphabet sounds and then you have modifiers that change the sound.”
Rachit sat the Hindi IGCSE examination at the same time as Year 11 and some Year 10 students were sitting IGCSEs, with the exam facilitated by the school. Head of Languages, Sarah Ford, encourages students to consider how they can further their individual native language learning. She says, “The BISS Pudong Language department positively encourages students to take the IGCSE First Language exams in their native language. Once an entry has been made, our teachers are happy to talk to the students and their parents about possible materials and course-books that could support their studies, and we will provide access to past papers for exam practice. When results come in, we are keen to celebrate success with students and their parents, and to spread the word to other interested families.”
Miss Ford says Rachit is not alone in his drive to achieve in his first language. She continues, “This year we’ll have a Year 12 student taking his First Language Spanish IGCSE alongside his studies in November, and we’ll have another Spanish student sitting the exam in June. In the past, as well as in Spanish we’ve had students sit self-taught exams in Dutch, German, French, Polish, Norwegian and Finnish!”
While Rachit passed the exam, he says the written element in particular was very difficult as the exam tests pure Hindi, not the form of the language that is usually spoken, and requires knowledge of very high level vocabulary.
Known by his teachers as a student who strives for excellence in all that he does, Rachit knows he has time to improve his grade. He concludes, “I’m not happy with the grade, so I’m going to try again!”