Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had famously remarked in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world”.
There are approximately 30,000 expatriates living in India, a country that lives by the maxim “Atithi Devo Bhava” (The Guest is God). And yet, expats coming to India for the first time, find themselves in for a bit of a culture shock. One of the key reasons that outsiders might feel excluded in India is our range of diverse languages that we pride ourselves in. It is not easy for a non-native to navigate the streets of our country without a functional knowledge of Hindi, at the least.
A friend in need: Pallavi Singh
Enter Pallavi Singh, a young, vibrant 25-year-old, who has made it her business to break cultural doors for foreigners in India. Pallavi is a professional Hindi language teacher focussing on cultural and linguistic inclusion of foreigners. The young achiever has already tutored 500+ expats since 2011. She is retained by the American Consulate, Spanish Consulate, Belgian Consulate, Australian Consulate, Canadian Consulate, Singapore Consulate, German & Ascend International Schools in Mumbai as an official Hindi Tutor for their staff and family members.
Pallavi was always a great student at school, and therefore, unsurprisingly landed in Engineering. But, she always felt a pull for the languages.
“I started taking French classes, for fun, while at college. It was then that I realized how many diverse nationals are staying in India for business or leisure”
In her third year in college, Pallavi decided to dabble in the business by approaching Delhi University exchange students. Her first students were an African couple.
“It was an interesting experience and much harder than the amount of effort it takes me now. I had no lesson plan, no materials and no experience. But, I had the openness to understand their struggles – and that was what made it tick, I guess!”
Giving up a relatively settled career in engineering was a tough decision, and Pallavi decided to do it independently. She moved to Mumbai to pursue a degree in psychology, while continuing her teaching gigs. That was possibly the early root of Pallavi’s Hindilessons.co.in.
Pallavi has taught a multitude of foreigners now, notably William Dalrymple, Jaquelin Fernandez, Natalie Di Luccio & Lucinda Nicholas, among others.
She reminisces how a simple birthday wish over social media, with an offer of the gift of Hindi language, sealed the deal for her lessons with William Dalrymple.
Almost all her students rave about two things – how organized she is and how fun she makes learning.
“I have a learning kit that forms the foundation of my course. Of course, each student is different and each lesson is unique”, mentions Pallavi.
Pallavi also believes in one-on-one coaching at the learners’ own environment. “Language is only a tool for social inclusion. My role, I believe, is beyond that of a syntax coach. For my students, I open the gates of cultural understanding of my country and its people. I talk to them about why it is not ok to sunbathe in a bikini in the Juhu beach, or kiss in public!”
Further and Beyond
Pallavi loves Mumbai, in all its dynamism and unpredictability. But, she does crave for a bit more infrastructural support.
“My typical day takes me from appointment to appointment around the city. My students are busy individuals, who are generally sticklers for punctuality, per their western upbringing. So, while I enjoy the endearing chaos of my city, there are times I wish the commute was a little more predictable.”
Pallavi dreams of taking it to the next level, and starting a Culture Cognition institute for foreigners in India, sometime in the future. Until then, she is living the dream, building bridges between the wonderful, diverse cultures around the world and our very own Indian dream, through the bridge of language.
What do you think of Pallavi’s unique journey? Comment below or write to us at email@example.com
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