Hindi. Varanasi. Norwegians. What’s the sambandh?

Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) : India’s role in the world is growing again. And so is the international interest in learning the world’s third largest language – Hindi. Norway is no exception to the trend. But what is the Norway-Hindi sambandh all about?

For a start, the Hindi word sambandh – connection – is a true connector between the two languages. In Norwegian, a closely related term is samband. Although Hindi is quite a tongue twister for Norwegians, there are some words in both the languages with a striking similarity. In fact, both languages are of Indo-European origin – a relation that is faintly reflected in grammar and vocabulary. To be frank, in language terms, the “sambandh” stops there.

There are, however, other connections. One of them is the Centre for the Study of Indian Languages and Society (INLANSO) in Varanasi. There can be no more fitting place than Varanasi for those who seek to deepen their knowledge of North Indian language and culture. The temple city on the banks of the Ganges is also an ancient seat of learning, previously known as Kashi – the city of light.

Every year, Norwegian students from the University of Oslo attend advanced Hindi training at INLANSO. Under the practical and academic guidance of Dr. Miriya Malik and Prof. Dipak Malik, more than 40 Norwegian Hindi students have enhanced their language and cultural skills through a hands-on training programme at the centre. The programme does not only offer the students a practical and literary glimpse into the vast world of Hindi, but also stresses the significance of cultural and societal awareness as key components of effective communication.

The University of Oslo has a proud history of more than a century of Indian studies, including among others the world-renowned linguist Georg Valentin von Munthe af Morgenstierne. Even today both Sanskrit and Hindi are regularly taught at the university, and occasionally also Pali and Urdu.

Why Hindi? Norwegian Hindi speakers are often faced with reactions of (generally delighted) surprise at their acquaintance of the language. But given that Hindi is estimated to be anywhere between the world’s second and fourth largest language, one could in fact be surprised at the surprise. Knowledge of Hindi gives access to a vastly larger portion of the Indian subcontinent than any other language – according to some estimates around a 1000 million people. With its cousin Urdu – sometimes referred together as Hindustani – Hindi is generally considered to be the lingua franca of South Asia and even some of the Gulf states.

With India’s growing global clout and importance as a major emerging market, the importance of language and cultural skills seem set to grow further. As a highly trade-dependent seafaring nation, Norway is no exception. INLANSO caters to that trend – and in the process play an important role in enhancing the sambandh between young Norwegians and India. (ANI)