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Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language

3.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,057 Ratings  ·  218 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 thunders
Paperback, 360 pages
Published June 10th 2010 by Mariner Books (first published July 7th 2009)
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Will Byrnes
Jul 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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
May 13, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Feb 20, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A surprisingly informative memoir. Not very intimate. For a full review:
Donna Craig
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Whew! This book is difficult to review, because it took me three months to read. I thought I would never get through it! I had to keep putting it aside to read my book club books. On the other hand, the book was very interesting. I loved the way the author would interrupt her narrative to insert a brief section on linguistics theory, and it’s history. It was such nerdy fun! Her story of acquiring a second language did interest me all the way through. However, this book was one of those books whe ...more
Jon Stout
Nov 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 12, 2013 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
Rachel Brown
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, memoir
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,
Jul 04, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 28, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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?
Jan 08, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Louise Chambers
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Skillfully weaving her personal memoir with the facts and theories of Second Language Aquistion science, Rich takes us on her journey deep into both a language and a culture, along with her journey into the depths of brain science on the search for where languages are born, live, sometimes meet, and sometimes die.
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Was very excited to start the book, but had a rough patch going through the middle of the book ... after doing some skipping/jumping, I finished it, but it was definitely a struggle. The scientific aspect of learning a language was all but lost on me, while others might find that fascinating.
May 31, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Something about her writing style bothered me a bit at times but for all the research on neuro-linguistics she did, it's fascinating overall. Very relatable for anyone who's into languages and has had cross cultural experiences.
I struggled with this book. Every time I decided to leave it unfinished, I would stumble across a shared experience in learning another language. ""With each new language you acquire a new soul." "The delight of defamiliarization is one of the genuine pleasures of language games. Finding names for everything, requires you to look at everything fresh." I too can relate to speaking a second language "with one active verb tense" and that "listening without speaking is important" as it allows acquis ...more
Benno Lang
I heard about this book through "The World in Words" podcast, and it seemed like quite an interesting concept, so I decided to give it a shot. Personally, I've kind of got the idea that I should get the basics of the world's major languages, so I've been thinking about doing some introductory Hindi study at some point in time (along with Spanish, Mandarin, Russian and others). But it seems like some of the best insights into the language and culture that this book provides were already given awa ...more
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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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