While in India, SAI Executive Director, Meena Sonea Hewett, had the opportunity to visit Landour Language School in Mussoorie, where two Harvard students are currently studying Hindi. To reach the school, one must take an overnight train from Delhi to Dehradun, and an hour car ride to reach Landour.
Alicia Harley, PhD Candidate at Harvard Kennedy School, came to Landour to bolster her field research skills as part of her dissertation on innovation and technology adoption among small holder farmers. “Even though I generally have a translator accompanying me, a basic understanding of Hindi will allow me to know if the translator is off track or if there are nuances to the discussion I want to explore based on the emphasis the farmers put on different answers,” Alicia remarked.
Rebecca Zaman, Harvard Law School 2013 grad, is studying Hindi to better communicate with the South Asian side of her family. Her grandfather is an Urdu speaker from Hyderabad. Alicia and Rebecca noted that studying in the mountains at Landour was a great experience, with classes for four hours each day, and the rest of the time open to writing, reading, and hanging out with other students who come from all over the word. Meena also met with the principal of the school who has been running the program for the past thirty years and five other students from Brown University, one from Johns Hopkins and another from Wesleyan who are all in India for a study abroad program. Read the full interview with Rebecca and Alicia below.
Q: What brings you to Landour?
A: (Alicia) I am conducting field research in Bihar, India, for my dissertation on innovation and technology adoption among small holder farmers. I am specifically interested in technologies that promote livelihood security for poor and marginal farmers. I will spend a lot of time speaking with the farmers while conducting the research for this project. Even though I generally have a translator accompanying me, a basic understanding of Hindi will allow me to know if the translator is off track or if there are nuances to the discussion I want to explore based on the emphasis the farmers put on different answers etc.
(Rebecca) My grandfather is an Urdu speaker from Hyderabad and I am here to learn Hindustani so I can better communicate with the South Asian part of my family. A friend at Harvard recommended the Landour Language School. Landour is a great place to begin your time in India. The pace of life here eases you into India as opposed to going straight into travelling or doing fieldwork.
(Both): Landour was one of the better language schools in India, and is in a beautiful setting that is calm and safe. You receive one-one instructions by instructors who are patient and funny.
We have four hours of classes each day so the rest of the time is available for writing, reading, hiking, and hanging out with other students who are here from other parts of the world to study language.
Q: What would you say to other students interested in coming to India?
A: If you want to be in India for any length of time, taking a short course in the language makes it easy to get around and you are more confident traveling and meeting people. The language program can be any length of time but [we recommend] a minimum is two weeks to get some benefit from it. What you learn in four weeks is sufficient to make you be understood when communicating with people and to get around.
Once you have the basic grammar, it is easy to pick up the language and the classes serve as a building block for developing the language further. The languages offered are Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Garhwali.
Q: What would you say to students interested in coming to Landour, Mussoorie?
- Bring your hiking clothes.
- Landour language school is a bubble but it is an experience of India.
- The school is friendly and incredibly nice. Teachers are responsive to how you want to learn. The school unfortunately does not have much information on the web.
- The student body is diverse and they are all there to learn the language.
- It is easy to make friends and you do not get lonely.
- It is important to keep a weekly journal otherwise you could forget the subtle experiences of everyday living in the mountains.
- If it is your first time in India it is an easy place as it is safe, and not too crowded.
Meena also met with the principal of the school who has been running the program for the past thirty years and five other students from Brown University, one from Johns Hopkins and another from Wesleyan who are all in India for a study abroad program.