Karl Rock, an expat from New Zealand currently living in Delhi has won many Indian hearts with his fluent Hindi generally and with his video ‘Foreigner Surprising Indians with Hindi’ specifically.
On his website ‘India Survival Guide’ Karl identifies as someone who is “…experienced and passionate about Indian life and culture and has travelled extensively throughout India and surrounding countries.”
India Survival Guide grew out of Karl’s passion to ensure sceptical foreigners had a good time and a safe stay in India. Today, it has expanded into a book, a website and Youtube channel with close to twelve thousand subscribers.
From tips on ‘How to avoid scams in India’ to a look inside Indian weddings and kitchens, Karl has covered much ground. However, Karl and his channel came under the limelight most significantly after he released a video -- where like the name suggests -- he walks around Indian streets (mostly in Gurgaon and Haryana) interacting with locals in Hindi and Haryanvi and surprising them.
Karl’s hold over Hindi and Haryanvi is almost as perfect as the smiles on the faces of the locals he speaks with.
We had a chat with Karl about his love for India, Hindi and travelling.
Why did you choose to learn Hindi? There are so many other languages?
Karl: I choose to learn Hindi for a couple of reasons. Firstly I was dating an NRI at the time, and I just wanted to know what she was saying when she spoke in Hindi. Then I realised that Hindi was a language I could use and practice in the West because the Indian diaspora is so spread out. Now that I'm in India travelling to all 36 states and union territories, and India before partition, its become invaluable.
European languages like French and German are useless in New Zealand because there are so few speakers. Mandarin or Hindi speakers are much easier to find every day in New Zealand.
Who did you learn it from?
Karl: I did an introductory Hindi course at the University of Auckland and continued with a tutor from there. I learn a great deal from my girlfriend, friends, and YouTube too.
Tell us if learning the language has changed anything in you.
Karl: Its made me more of a social person because every day I'm attempting to practice Hindi with strangers I meet. I've made many new friends too with my interest in Hindi.
How do Indian people react when they hear you speak Hindi?
Karl: They're usually amazed and intrigued. They're all busy learning English, and here I am learning Hindi. It's the last thing they expect! Which is why I made the video I did. I wanted to show the world the beauty of language connecting people who usually cannot communicate.
What do you wish to do by knowing the language?
Karl: Because I spend so much time in India my use of Hindi today is to connect with locals and to integrate the best I can into life in India. I want to be able to do everything myself in India in Hindi and not have to rely on friends to translate when I don't understand. Assimilating into a foreign country you're living in is very important to me.
Do you feel more welcomed and safe because Hindi helps you communicate with locals?
Karl: I've always felt welcomed and safe in India whether I speak Hindi or not. Indian hospitality is the best and locals will go out of their way to help guests here whether they speak a common language or not.
What do your friends back in New Zealand have to say about this and your Youtube channel?
Karl: My friends back home are all surprised by the attention I'm getting, most of them didn't realise I had YouTube channel. New Zealanders who are posting comments on my channel have been extremely proud that I'm representing New Zealand so well by speaking Hindi in India.
Are you planning to teach Hindi to your friends travelling to India?
Karl: I'll be making a video teaching travellers the most useful travel phrases. Learning just a few sentences will enhance their experience here when meeting locals.
What do you enjoy speaking more Hindi or Haryanvi?
Karl: I only know a tiny bit of Haryanvi, but from what I know it's not a language I can use outside of Haryana because Hindi speakers find it rude. So I prefer Hindi because I can use it all over North India.
Are you planning to learn any more Indian languages?
Karl: I'll continue to learn little bits of Haryanvi and Punjabi as they're the useful languages in North India.