THE Department of East Asian Studies (EAS) will be offering classes in the Hindi language starting this fall. This is the first time Hindi has been offered for credit at the University of Alberta, and according to Chair Ryan Dunch, it is part of an overall strategy.
“The Faculty of Arts recognizes the importance of building an area holistically, across different departments, different disciplines,” says Dunch. “How do we build up the study of India at the University of Alberta, and what’s the best way to configure that and capture student interest? When you’re learning about a particular culture in society, it helps to have language study as part of the post-secondary curriculum.”
The university’s efforts to establish a strong Indian studies program was given a boost with the recent hire of Dominik Wujastyk, a well-respected academic from the University of Vienna who specializes in the study of ancient India, as the new Saroj and Prem Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Polity and Society. Sharmila Mathur, director of the Indian Music Ensemble in the Department of Music, has been selected to teach the language classes, which will also introduce elements of Hindi culture. “I am very excited to teach Hindi language to university students,” says Mathur. “This will open windows for them to understand the rich and diverse culture of India, and to communicate in a language which is the fourth most spoken language in the world.”
While the class is officially hosted by Modern Languages & Cultural Studies, it was agreed that EAS would offer it as a special session class in the evening, with HINDI 111 (Beginner’s Hindi I) in the fall, followed by HINDI 112 (Beginner’s Hindi II) in the winter term.
As the new kid on the block, the expectations for enrollment are modest, but Dunch is optimistic. “We’re hoping for 15 to 20 students this fall. The thing with language learning is that you have to go through it in stages,” says Dunch. “We restored Korean to the curriculum in 2007 with a single evening class, and I’m happy to say we now offer all four years of Korean.”
Dunch believes that, given the large South Asian population in Edmonton and Alberta, it makes sense for the U of A to offer courses in the Hindi language. “The study of Asian languages deepens our access and understanding of Asian societies,” he says. “In a globalized world, and in particular for Alberta in the 21st century, competency in Asian languages is important, not only for our cultural enrichment but for our economic engagement with the world.”
(Courtesy: University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts)