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From Jacqueline Fernandez to William Dalrymple. An Engineer’s Teaching Hindi to Expats & Bollywood

A B.tech (electronics and communication) student from Delhi, Pallavi Singh realised while studying that engineering is not what she wanted to pursue. Back in 2009, she had no clue what she was going to do in the future. With few options, she continued with her course and took up a French language diploma class in her free time as she loved learning different languages.

While learning French she felt a structural disorganization in the course.

Pallavi Singh

“The way we were taught French was not going to help us if we wished to speak like a native French person. I wished there was a French person whom I could talk to everyday to learn it better,” says Pallavi.

With this thought came another realization: that the expats in India might be feeling the same about Hindi. While looking for an answer, she met an African exchange student in Delhi University who became her first student to learn Hindi.

Soon, Pallavi was known by most of the foreign nationals who studied in Delhi University and she started her formal classes called ‘Hindi Lessons’ in August 2011. Once Pallavi finished her B.Tech degree she wanted to pursue another passion, psychology.


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After running her classes successfully in Delhi for a year, Pallavi moved to Mumbai in 2012 to pursue further studies in psychology. By this time, teaching Hindi had somehow turned into a passion too, so she started looking out for students.

“When I was giving a lesson on colours to my African student in Delhi, he told me that now he understands why other students in his class call him ‘Kalu’, once he knew that black was called ‘kala’ in Hindi. I felt really sad and embarrassed. But that’s when I knew that what I was doing was really required for these students,” says Pallavi.

Pallavi got her first break when she was contacted by the U.S consulate in Mumbai to teach Hindi to some expats. And then, there was no looking back.

So far Pallavi has taught more than 600 expats.

She is currently retained by various diplomatic missions, relocation companies and multinationals as an official Hindi Tutor for their staff and family members.

Pallavi has also been a speaker at TEDx talking about language serving as a social inclusion tool and she is the youngest ever to be interviewed by the Parliament of India on Rajya Sabha TV.

She has also taught Bollywood celebrities and models, official diplomats and foreigners married to Indians.

Pallavi with Jacqueline Fernandez

Her proud celebrity additions to the list are William Dalrymple, Jacqueline Fernandez, Natalie Di Luccio & Lucinda Nicholas.

“Pallavi Singh is a dream Hindi teacher and makes even the dullest chores of language-learning: grammar, verbs, gender – fun”, says acclaimed author and historian William Dalrymple.

While most of the time Pallavi is surrounded by people who make her love her job, there are challenges too. “I had a student who kept bargaining with my fees as she believed that one can bargain for anything in India and get it at cheaper price. It is annoying as well as funny at times but I understand that these stereotypes have to be broken,” says Pallavi.

But then she explains how other little incidents make her feel proud.

“One of my students was travelling in an auto when a biker stood by and asked the auto-rickshaw-driver for a particular address. While the driver was unable to answer, my student explained the address to the biker in Hindi, which was a matter of great surprise for everyone around. Though these might sound very small, it matters a lot to someone who has always been stared at and considered as an outsider in our country. This makes me proud of my work,” Pallavi tells us from Mumbai.

What makes Pallavi’s ‘Hindi Lessons’ different from the classroom teachings?

The first thing that is different in Pallavi’s classes is that she doesn’t have a classroom. She either visits her students, teaches them at their house or her classes are held in cafes, learning along with a cup of coffee.

“Each Hindi Class is a show – A show that has an interactive, humorous and spirited environment, supplemented by various activities, teaching tools and props for a fun, engaging and lively class,” she says.

She has made her own module based on the feedbacks given by her students and claims that one can speak in Hindi after completing 25 classes of 60 minutes each. While she believes that teaching adults is a challenge as everyone is dealing with their life and problems, it is very difficult at this age to concentrate just on something as you may do when you are learning like a child. However, she also maintains that there is no age bar to learn something new and the good thing about teaching adults is that they listen to her carefully and have a longer attention span.

Instead of textbooks, Pallavi has designed various games and interactive sessions to make learning fun.

For example, to teach prepositions she uses the following poem –

Shanivaar ko I went date ko,

Lekin road par the traffic was slow.

Date was cheh baje fancy restaurant mei…. (More at Pallavi’s classes)


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While this is the age of apps and there are many apps that claim to teach languages, Pallavi believes that no app can take the place of a human interaction when it comes to teaching languages. She is thankful to the fact that she is born in an era where India is growing economically and globally.

When asked for a message to the youth, this 26-year-old engineer turned Hindi tutor says, “I had a lot to lose. I could have become that another person who is not doing anything. But I risked for it! I think you should risk for what you love.”

Call Pallavi at +91 9769021595 or e-mail her at pallavi@hindilessons.co.in

See the Facebook page here .

Written by Manabi Katoch

A Mechanical Engineer-turned-writer, Manabi finds solace in writing stories about unsung heroes. Nothing makes her happier than the impact emails from her readers. Other than writing, she loves listening to the stories told by her six year old daughter. Manabi can be reached at manabi@thebetterindia.com. You can also find her tweets @manabi5