Title: Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language
Author: Katherine Russell Rich
Release Date: July 7, 2009
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
At the age of 45, Katherine Russell Rich took a chance on something – while on a writing assignment in India, she decided to move to the northern city of Udaipur and study Hindi while living with an Indian host family. This memoir presents the sum of her experiences, as well as her reflections on living in India and research into learning other languages.
Dreaming in Hindi was an interesting look at the process of learning another language, as well as life in India during a charged period of sectarian violence. I first picked this book up because, though I don’t speak Hindi (I speak our local Southern language, Telugu), I’ve always thought about trying to learn it. I was eager to learn something from this memoir, and I definitely did.
There are a lot of different parts to this book. Rich discusses what scientists and doctors have learned about the process of learning another language – how it’s done, what diseases might affect it, and so on. I found these parts of the book to be incredibly interesting. Rich does a wonderful job making her learning relevant and applying it to language studies in general.
Rich was in India during 9/11, and as a result of that and other religious terrorism in India (it’s a part of everyday life there, unfortunately), there is a bit of a charged atmosphere to this book. Rich relates these events to the reader and describes how they affect the area she’s living in. It was very interesting, if sad, to see the tensions between Hindus and Muslims.
The personal part of this memoir is where it didn’t work for me. While Rich’s experiences were very interesting, I didn’t love the way they were communicated to the reader. This memoir is large and fluid, jumping from one area to another. As a result, it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on. I had a very difficult time figuring out who people were and keeping them straight. While I did enjoy reading the book as a whole, I found it to be slow and sometimes difficult to get through because of these frustrations.
I’d recommend Dreaming in Hindi to those interested in the process of learning a language and the science behind it. It’s also a good memoir of India, though as I mentioned, the style can be difficult at times.