Zabaan: A School of Many Languages

Learning a new language takes patience. It takes commitment and perseverance. Most importantly, it takes courage to let our guard down and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Of course, vulnerability is what we experience when the words we see and the sounds we hear seem completely foreign to us. It’s like going back to elementary school and starting from the very beginning. Still, we choose to move forward, and slowly but surely, these same words start to become a part of our new vocabulary. And the day arrives when we can almost read an entire page from a book in French, Italian, Hindi or Urdu (whatever our chosen language may be), and this simple act allows us to experience pure joy.


We all have our own reasons to sign up for a language course. Some of us pine to read our favorite books in a language that they were originally written in. Imagine, if the translation is so powerful, how incredible would the original text be? Then, there are others, who have fallen in love with the language and even though they don’t know what the words mean, to them, it sounds like music (yeah, we’re talking about Italian).


Avantika Sukhia, a fiction writer and a student at Zabaan, chose to study Homeric Greek, “Because it’s an incredible language, and because studying another language – any one – makes you think in ways you haven’t imagined.” Plus, she wanted to read the Odyssey in its original form. Silvio, her teacher at Zabaan, deconstructed the language for her at every step, to make sure that she’d understand how alphabets/roots/sounds evolved and interacted with each other over time, which helped her internalize the language better as opposed to rote learning.

Something Rahul Mukim, another student at Zabaan, and an admirer of the lives and writings of Manto, Ghalib and Faiz, agrees with, “These lessons are very methodical. We started with learning the script in a simpler form, which helped in understanding the framework and basic characteristics of Urdu, without being overawed by the unnecessary complexities. The lessons then moved to the more difficult Nastaliq form of the script, which was easier to understand given the strong groundwork on the basics.”


The teachers at Zabaan realize that learning a language involves going through multiple phases, covering all the aspects of language including script, grammar, vocabulary, idioms, proverbs, and literature, explains Neha Tiwari, Director, Zabaan, “A lot of time and effort is saved by a clear and concise explanation of what is actually a complicated concept in grammar. What this translates to is the student being able to reach a level of language proficiency much sooner than they had expected.”

This very methodical way of teaching at Zabaan is the reason why, “Most of our beginner-level classes are intentionally taught by non-native speakers because we believe they are better equipped to help other non-natives understand the nuances of the language. Even the founders of Zabaan were non-native speakers themselves and the reason why they have been successful in teaching Hindi is because they went through the learning process themselves and hence they are intimately aware of the needs of students learning a foreign language,” shares Ali Taqi, Director, Zabaan.


If you decide to sign up for a course at Zabaan, please expect to be assigned homework, although, “There are no exams at the end of courses unless students expressly request such an assessment. Rather, teachers conduct informal evaluations to chart student progress along the way,” says Neha, who speaks English, Hindi and Urdu, and also knows Sanskrit and Farsi.

You may either sign up for their regular classes at their school in Kailash Colony, Delhi, which Avantika describes as, “A lovely place to study. It’s quiet, clean, and reminds me of university, with a helpful, friendly vibe.” Or you could even learn remotely via Skype, something Rahul is currently doing. There are group classes and individual classes, depending on what you’re looking for and are comfortable with.

At Zabaan, the many languages you can choose from include Hindi, Urdu, English, French, Italian, German, Persian, Tamil, Punjabi, Pashto and Sanskrit. To learn more, visit Follow them on Facebook and Twitter

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