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Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language

3.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  958 Ratings  ·  207 Reviews
An eye-opening and courageous memoir that explores what learning a new language can teach us about distant worlds and, ultimately, ourselves.

After miraculously surviving a serious illness, Katherine Rich found herself at an impasse in her career as a magazine editor. She spontaneously accepted a freelance writing assignment to go to India, where she found herself thunderst
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Will Byrnes
Mar 09, 2016 Will Byrnes rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Rich has written a fascinating book about language. Sure, the presenting activity has to do with the author heading to India to learn the language, maybe as a part of her cancer recovery process. And there is plenty of Katherine Rich’s personal story here, at least the part that occurs in India. We get a close view of what it is like to live with a host family while trying to lean a foreign tongue in an immersion process. We get to meet the many people with whom she interacted during her stay. B ...more
Kelli Marko
Feb 22, 2010 Kelli Marko rated it liked it
I had such high hopes for this book - a memoir of learning another culture via language immersion combined with information about second language acquisition and the brain. This is my kind of story. But, as one of the other reviewers so deftly put it, "I wanted to like this book, but it is fighting me all the way..."

There is plenty of fascinating information woven into the story about how we learn languages and I loved these parts. And it's been at times, painful, at times, boring, and at times
Sep 21, 2009 Marie rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who are REALLY interested in what it's like to learn Hindi
I SO wanted to like this book!!

After surviving cancer, Katherine Russell Rich decides she would like to learn Hindi. Eventually, she takes off for India to study Hindi there. She lands in Udaipur in the far northwest of India, very close to the border with Pakistan. (Very few people I know have been to Udaipur (or Rajastan), and the place is close to my heart because it's where my husband proposed.)

The week she arrives is September 11, 2001. Over the next several months, sectarian
Apr 15, 2011 Virginia rated it it was amazing
I got this book from the library after I saw it in the goodreads genres list. I had no idea what to expect - the reviews that I glanced at were not that great.

However - I LOVED this book. I REALLY enjoyed reading it. It is as though I and the negative reviewers were reading two different books.

I can see how folks would be disappointed if they were expecting a travel memoir about personal revelations along the lines of Eat, Pray, Love, because this book is MUCH more like something by Mary Roach.
Jul 18, 2015 Kathryn rated it did not like it
I so wanted to love this book, but sadly I found it disjointed, weirdly and obtusely written and just...lacking. As other reviewers have noted, the academic asides on language acquisition hang together oddly with Rich's memoir of her year studying Hindi in India, and the narrative never flows. I never warmed to her as a narrator and Udaipur and its inhabitants never came to life for me at all. I found most of the stories she told neither interesting nor insightful, there was far much about Rich' ...more
The Tick
Sep 04, 2009 The Tick rated it it was ok
Shelves: india, memoir
I really wanted to like this book, but it had some major problems. It wasn't always well-organized; there was a lot of topic-switching within the middle of a chapter without any warning at all. She also introduced so many other people and then never really gave the reader a chance to get to know them, so when they showed up again I often didn't remember the first introduction these people may have gotten. I also had an issue with how negative her attitude seemed to be at times. Memoirs usually s ...more
Jun 04, 2009 Satia rated it really liked it
A surprisingly informative memoir. Not very intimate. For a full review:
Apr 12, 2016 Gabby rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
While this book could have been enjoyable, it was lacking in many respects.

The author sometimes delved too deep into other published studies about language, and while some were interesting (like how humans are pre-programmed for language, but writing and reading are something that have to be learned), other times it was either not interesting, or she continued explaining past the point of interest.

Then, at other times, she would mention interesting things about the culture or people, just to mer
Jun 23, 2010 Susan rated it it was ok
There are two broad motivations for people to learn languages: make a living or slip into another community. When Katherine Rich is diagnosed with cancer, she travels to India to rediscover herself and escape to another culture. Along the way,she is enthralled with the idea of learning an entirely different language: Hindi.

The book is an engaging, at times frustrating, account of her enrollment in a Hindi language school in Udaipur, Rajasthan and her experience with the Indian culture, customs a
May 20, 2012 Ria rated it it was ok
Dreaming in Hindi was the first book selected for my newly formed book group and I wanted to love it. The book boasted an interesting premise, was well outside my reading comfort zone and the timing of our selection was all the more poignant with the recent passing of Katherine Russell Rich, so my expectations were quite high as I started.

Sadly, I did not love the book and I'm struggling to fully articulate why. The book roughly covers the space of a year in which Ms. Rich was in India, with sto
Jon Stout
Nov 15, 2009 Jon Stout rated it liked it
Shelves: anglo-indian
Dreaming in Hindi recounts the author’s experience of living for a year in Udaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, in India, in order to learn Hindi. Interspersed with her day-to-day adventures are reflections on the process of learning a second language, which are partly the product of research after she returned to the states. Her interactions with her language informants, friends and fellow students are entertainingly erratic, and give unguarded glimpses both of her own foibles and also of an unf ...more
Sarah Sammis
Both of my children are in a dual immersion Mandarin program at their school. I'm not sure if that is what inspired me to read Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich but I will forever link the two as I read most of the book while waiting to pick up my youngest from school.

The author decided to take a year to learn Hindi as an adult exchange student. She had lost her job and had been diagnosed with cancer. So she thought a complete change is what she needed.

The book covers her time in India
Aug 22, 2010 Nicole rated it liked it
I loved the parts of this book that dealt specifically with language, both Rich's descriptions of how her perceptions changed as she learned and used Hindi and her more academic reporting on neurolinguistics and second language acquisition. Several of the books in her bibliography look like they might be worth reading.

Unfortunately, I was less impressed with other aspects of this book. Memoirs are often self-centred, but this one seemed especially so and it was hard to see the humour Rich seeme
Katie Rich went to India and fell in love with the country. When she returned to the states, she began studying Hindi. And then she got terribly ill with a bone cancer. During her illness, she applied to a Hindi-learning program in India and her acceptance into the program coincided with the unexpected remission of her cancer. She had her health all of a sudden and a chance to follow her dream. Her experiences in India, and in learning this new language changed her profoundly – Hindi began to sh ...more
Jun 13, 2013 Clare rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything about this book should appeal to me. Exploring bilingualism and second language acquisition in adults is a topic close to my heart. Add to that the element of a travel memoir and you've got the base ingredients for a feast.
Unfortunately the final product didn't put the strands to the best use. It was, to my mind, like reading something in draft form. The various strands of the novel weren't pulled together in a coherent fashion and at times I found the writing style distracted from t
Jan 12, 2016 Priya rated it really liked it
As the book progressed, Katherine made it exceedingly hard for me to like her. One star off for that. Otherwise, just the nicest read for anyone interested in India, its language, or wanting to know what linguistics is all about.
Jul 20, 2011 Kathy rated it did not like it
I don't know if I can say I truly read this book. I started skipping parts of chapters and then I ended up skipping entire chapters just to get to the epilogue. I wanted to like this book. I was looking for the humbling experience of immersing oneself in another language and culture mixed with humour and revelations. Instead I felt the author was whining most of the time. At times I even felt she was looking down on the people of Udaipur. I didn't like the writing style. In every chapter, Ms. Ri ...more
Rachel Brown
Aug 24, 2012 Rachel Brown rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, india
Rich spent a year in Rajasthan studying Hindi; the book combines anecdotes from her stay with tons of information on the science of learning a second language.

It starts out strong, but the parts become increasingly less integrated and the memoir sections become increasingly disorganized. There were a number of points where she referenced something as if she'd already told that story, only to explain it 50 pages later. The information was good and her prose, as in individual sentences, was good,
Jan 08, 2011 Danna rated it liked it
I loved the idea of this book, but in actuality, it was quite difficult to read. Rich fails on organization. The flip-flop between her time in India and the research she did is confusing. I was very excited by the prologue, couldn't wait to curl up with the book, but ended up giving up a little more than halfway through. I definitely think anyone who has immersed herself in a culture in attempt to learn another language can relate and enjoy. I just think someone should have gotten her to get the ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Alison rated it liked it
This book was especially poignant given Rich's death in April. Even though the book appeared to be about her experiences in India while learning Hindi, I found myself wanting to know more about HER and her struggles with her health and how she internalized the bizarre relationships she was forming. I loved the references to linguistics - which were frequent (warning to any non-linguistics-lovers). Rich struck me as a complex and brilliant woman who could have shared a lot more than she did...may ...more
Jan 12, 2016 Karen rated it it was ok
Sometimes you get a tip from a friend, a news story, a blog, and you find a book that you're really glad to have read. This wasn't one of those times.

I wanted to like "Dreaming in Hindi," I really did. I'm studying several languages; this should have been a great read, and it could have been, if not for the atrocious writing. Where was the editor?

Rich interrupts her story repeatedly with interviews and notes from her study on learning languages. These digressions would be interesting, but they
Jan 10, 2015 Ilantha rated it really liked it
I found the story line very engaging--I didn't want to put this book down! I loved the frequent examinations of studies and theories about Second Language Acquisition. As a bilingual person, and a language tutor, I was fascinated, and learned a lot about myself, too. For example, a bilingual person speaks even their native language differently than a monolingual person does. (I have noticed how my own English has changed after becoming fluent in Spanish.) However, I found myself wondering if tha ...more
Justin McCarthy
After being made redundant from her job as a magazine writer, Rich made the spontaneous decision to live in India for a year in order to learn Hindi and figure out her life. She enrolled in a language program in Udaipur and began the long process (she only knew a little Hindi beforehand) of learning a new language. She details her adventures in India, describing the family she was staying with, what her classmates got up to, her visits to a school for deaf children, and a lot of interesting and ...more
Nov 28, 2015 Georg'ann rated it really liked it
Shifting back and forth between her experiences studying Hindi and what she learned about neurolinguistics, Rich is keeping me engaged and amused. I've had enough experiences with trying to learn languages and living in other countries to appreciate her writing. And there are some wonderful passages. I am surprised by the book as well - I knew little about it when I picked it up, and I've been delighted with it.
Jun 06, 2014 Haley rated it it was ok
Like so many other reviewers on this site, I really wanted to love this book. I studied Linguistics and Hindi in college. It seemed like 'Dreaming in Hindi' was practically written for me, and so it pains me to type what comes next:

This book is not well written. It's not interesting. It just isn't ... good.

This book spans a year that Rich, a middle-aged American woman, spent in Udaipur, India, with the express intention to learn Hindi.

This would all be fine, but she decided to cross-reference
Marcia Hartsock
May 20, 2015 Marcia Hartsock rated it it was amazing
This book may not be everyone's favorite, but then "Eat Pray Love" seemed to be everyone elses favorite and left me totally unimpressed.
The book covers the year the author spent in Rajasthan, India, a place I know something about, trying to learn Hindi, a language I also know something about. The timing is after her own diagnosis with Stage IV breast cancer, specifically in the months following the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Her experiences, her growth, her challenges, are all in
Jun 07, 2014 Shameem rated it really liked it
I'm not sure why this book got so many bad reviews. It may not be perfect, sophisticated literature, but anyone who got so hung up on that really missed the point. This book is about cultural transformation, about the kinds of feelings and experiences that impact a person so deeply... The kinds of things that are next to impossible to put into words. The author tried, and in my opinion she succeeded. I was much too absorbed by her incredible journey, personal interactions, struggles, and victori ...more
Russell Sanders
Jun 10, 2014 Russell Sanders rated it liked it
Katherine Russell Rich's Dreaming in Hindi is a rich book, one that is filled with Indian lore, history, and the Hindi language. This memoir tells of Rich's year long trip to India to master Hindi, of her ups and downs as she does so, and of all the interesting and amusing people she met along the way. I was fascinated by all that. A devotee of Bollywood movies, I long to be able to speak Hindi so that I am not dependent on subtitles. Alas, I don't think that will ever happen, especially after r ...more
Sep 24, 2010 Tracey rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Adult nonfiction/memoir. This book got decent reviews and sounds promising, but when I tried to read it the author's poor writing style/grammar/punctuation got in the way. The prose doesn't flow at all, and having to stop and re-read sentences or paragraphs on every page was ridiculous. I have trouble believing she is in fact a real writer, it's that bad.
Jun 28, 2009 Charlene rated it did not like it
Can I get the time back that was spent on this book? After two chapters I took it back to the store (and yes, those were two chapters too many). When the clerk asked "was anything wrong with the book?" I wanted to say "Plenty!" but refrained. Tediously written and super self-involved...are these prerequsites for publishing these days?
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Katherine Russell Rich is an American autobiographical writer from New York City. Her first book, The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer, and Back, told of a clash of cultures occurring when the author's breast cancer treatment caused her to lose her hair just when both romantic and professional difficulties came to a head.

Her latest book, Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language, details a
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