Namaste, kaise ho aap... US students in city to learn Hindi & culture

The next time they meet an Indian, these American students could start off with a "namaste", or perhaps even add a "kaise ho aap". As part of the US government's National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), seven American students have reached the city to learn Hindi under a six-week exchange programme at City Pride School, Nigdi.

Some American students had gone to Delhi for the purpose last year, but it's the turn of Pune to host these students this year. "Foreign language learning is an integral part of the US mission in India, where linguistic skills have helped in promoting the US-India strategic relationship," said Christine Dal Bello, US Consulate Information Officer, who inaugurated the programme at the school on Wednesday.

The NSLI-Y is part of a multi-agency initiative launched in January 2006 to improve Americans' ability to engage with people from around the world who speak Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian and Turkish. The US Department of State, in cooperation with the American Councils, AFS-USA, iEARN-USA and Concordia Language Villages, awards merit scholarships to high school students for participation in summer, semester and academic-year language programmes in countries where these languages are spoken.

In Pune, the programme is being executed by iEARN India ó a network of schools and partners spread in 18 states in the country, which is working towards quality improvement programmes in school education. "All these high school students will learn the basics of Hindi. The idea is that they should at least learn to communicate in Hindi ," Dal Bello said. "The students will stay with families. They should also get a taste of Indian culture. Learning Hindi will be their firm entry point in India."

Suneeta Bhagwat, iEARN India coordinator, said the students would also be trained in basic writing skills in Hindi. "There are seven teachers from Pune and Mumbai schools who will be teaching these students. These teachers have done a basic orientation programme in New Jersey about teaching Hindi to Americans... The students will also be taken outside to become conversant with the Indian culture."

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