The University of Pennsylvania is the first institution in the United States to offer language instruction in Hindi and other South Asian languages after World War II. The program has grown over the years and currently offers Hindi at several levels: Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, and Accelerated. The Accelerated course is especially designed to meet the needs of the so called 'semi-native speakers' who have skewed proficiency in the target language due to their exposure in limited domains. Such students are usually Intermediate or Advanced in their oral-aural skills and Novice in their literacy skills. The Penn was the first to recognize the special instructional needs of the 'semi-native learners' and start a separate track for such learners.
There is a reading course in Hindi and an independent study for those graduate students who demonstrate a keen interest in the language and do not fit into the available courses. The advanced and reading courses are designed to meet the specialized needs of the area social scientists. The reading texts are selected based on a learner's needs and interests. At Penn, we continue to make a special effort to create a dialogue between language faculty and social scientists to discuss the needs of the social sciences, in order to enhance teh use of South Asian languages in their research. In addition to courses for language development, the Department also offers courses in Hindi literature.
The Hindi program at Penn is proficiency-oriented. The language requirement is set in terms of proficiency level, and not semesters or years. At Penn, Hindi instruction is viewed as a course in communication which focuses on verbal as well as non-verbal communication. Grammar is not the pivot of communicative instruction, but it is certainly emphasized right from the beginning. The program tries to create a community feeling among its learners by organizing social activities through the Hindi Club. Every semester, students meet for an evening filled with fun and learning; they eat together and present Hindi skits, thus putting their language into actual use.
The Penn program is prepared the first and still widely used Hindi proficiency tests for listening, speaking and reading skills. The faculty members have developed communicative materials for speaking, reading and listening skills, and this includes two video series, one for the Beginning and the Intermediate levels, the other for Advanced and beyond. Recently, two projects, one for reading and the other for listening, both from Novice to Advanced levels, were completed for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Currently, there are two projects in progress for computer-assisted instruction. Several quality audio-video materials have been produced for all levels of instruction. The two-year Beginning and Intermediate Hindi video course developed in 1988 is being used by almost all the Hindi programs in the country. The program has been able to motivate many students to go to India for advanced study-abroad language courses. The Department of South Asia Regional Studies offers FLAS fellowships to graduate students for language study.
The Hindi faculty consists of Dr. Franklin C. Southworth, Dr. Vijay Gambhir, Dr. Surendra K. Gambhir, and Dr. Peter Gaeffke. Dr. Rosane Rocher, who is primarily a Sanskritist, has also been closely associated with a number of Hindi projects. These faculty members are very active in national and international activities in the area of Hindi pedagogy and Hindi linguistics.