This podcast makes learning Hindi not a hassle but khoobsarat (beautiful). It’s a great example of a creative way to teach a second language.

Learn Hindi through Bollywood Movies

The instructor plucks the most juicy and melodramatic lines from Bollywood movies. Then he explains these lines in an absurdly deadpan way. You can use the dialogue to better negotiate with your boss or doctor: “The pain is my destiny and I cannot avoid it!” Or you can explain the true nature of Santa Claus: “Like he is not a human being, but rather an omnipresent spirit.”

The point of the podcast is comedy. But it works. You will want to keep listening, even if you can’t fit “I swear on your blood” into polite conversation. (Main bhi tere khoon ki kasam khake kehta hoon.)

The one quibble is that you must take pains to make out the words clearly. I want to write things down, but not surprisingly, my Hindi spelling is atrocious. Lately, the instructor has added transcripts, which really helps.


I can’t resist. Here are lessons from my English SAT tutoring gig in college. The PC has signed me up as an English Teacher Trainer, so I’d like to share and review past English lessons that worked.

My tutee started with me after she finished a Princeton Review course. With the Princeton Review, my tutee’s Verbal score was 610. After we worked together, her score popped up to 730.

SAT prep classes tell students to read extensively. That way, students can absorb vocabulary. They can also practice using context to interpret words. But what book should a student read?

You could try made-for SAT books like The Dropanchor Chronicle, by Stephen Ring, with stolid prose like this:

I will be the most uxorious husband ever, polishing the little holograms on her credit cards.

But may I recommend H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. The story is laden with vocab the way a fruitcake is packed with candies. It only runs about 100 pages.

You’ll find tempting suffixed and prefixed Latinate words here: attenuated, luminous, recondite, palpitation. Also, you’ll encounter workhorse Germanic words — such as germ, plain, sound — in counterintuitive contexts.

Here are Vocabulary Guides for each chapter. I’ve chosen key words, and written out definitions for some of them. Some possible activities:

  • Context Practice: When I’ve listed several definitions for one word, the student should circle the definition that best matches the word’s meaning in the story.
  • Definitions: The student should write down definitions for a dozen words that she does not recognize. Choose from the Key Words list.
  • Quizzes and Flashcards: Use flashcards and quizzes based on these words to practice.






Next: Fun with word roots.

Some Peace Corps volunteers would caution me not to name my blog after the Silk Road. The PC sends you wherever they can fit you. I might end up in Africa on a salt road, or on a starry Pacific island.

But I requested the Central Asian “stans,” the Caucasus, or Mongolia. And my recruiter says that the PC just might send me to the stans, because no one else wants to go there.

So why do I want to go there? I blame it on the maps.

At age ten, I found a map of the former Soviet Union, nestled in the pages of my National Geographic. This map looked more peculiar than anything I’d seen before. Russia and fourteen other countries formed a crescent around the North Pole. The map was densely dotted with the names of a thousand cities, like ants scurrying across broken pavement.

Instantly I tacked the map next to my desk. Every night, I would trace the strange and sonorous names of the “stans.” I daydreamed about visiting Central Asia: Aral’skoye More, Kirgizskiy Khrebet. The Pamirs and the Tien Shan. Almaty, Andijan, Issyk-Kul.

What happened here, I asked. What upheaval created this mysterious jumble of names, rivers, and pastel-colored borders? Why did the cities of Stalinabad and Frunze turn into Dushanbe and Bishkek? Who set the lines — who decreed that a certain spot of land would be a territory instead of an autonomous republic? A region instead of a titular nationality? I scoured the history of the former Soviet empire to answer these questions. I even tried to teach myself Russian.

Take a Soviet obsession, an interest in Islam, a taste for urban decay, and add heaps of idealism. This recipe made me very happy during my college years. Let’s see what happens in the real world.

I feel a bit afraid of how naive I actually am.