Transliterated Hindi vs. Devanagari
In the 'Hindi Tips & Notes' discussion there was a bit of a debate after some people suggested there should be the option to avoid Devanagari when learning Hindi. I weighed in there, but I thought I'd post here as well.
Although in general I'm all for learning the script to a language, in Hindi I can see why people might not want to bother.
The sad reality for Hindi is that more and more people are using the Latin alphabet. With the advent of social media it's become the norm to transliterate as opposed to taking the time to learn the Devanagari keyboard (in my experience, as opposed to Arabic/Russian/Japanese, etc. transliteration is much more common for Hindi on Youtube, Facebook, etc.). A real shame, both for the loss of the script, and also the fact that the 45 or so Hindi characters really don't map very naturally to the 26 english letters. But it may explain the logic of learning Hindi/Urdu through the Latin alphabet. To be honest I wish I knew transliterated Hindi better. I find it much easier to read Devanagari, and therefore can't understand a lot of what my Hindi friends write in their facebook posts ('th' = तह, टह, थ, or ठ?).
That being said, there are some positives. This way Urdu speakers and Hindi speakers can understand each other online.
So to end this thought, if you want to show your respect to the culture and read everything Hindi, definitely learn Devanagari (which is also heaps of fun), but if you really want to immerse yourself in contemporary India, and chat with Indians online, the truth is that transliterated Hindi is much more useful. (Though one can hope Devanagari makes a comeback, and this changes!)
I would definitely encourage the learning of Devanagari...it is so beautiful. It is a joyful activity to write my hindi lessons in this script and has added much depth to my learning of the language.
However I am not sure Duolingo is the right place to learn Devanagari. Plain memorization without many examples or theory is not an easy way to learn it. Although that is where Duolingo falls short in general....no lessons, just tests? Maybe I am missing something.
For learning Devanagari, this book is wonderful, I learned in only 6 weeks of studying hard: https://www.amazon.com/write-Hindi-script-Teach-Yourself/dp/1444103911
Not only Urdu-literate people, but also Punjabi speakers in Pakistan and India and Gujaratis can gain some access to Hindi through Latin script. Devanagari makes it seem like Hindi is so much different than these other languages whereas the speakers would actually understand much of each others' languages if they access to a common writing system.
It's ridiculous how many different scripts are used in India. Just look at the currency notes!
Despite what I've JUST written, I tend to be in favor of learning Devanagari because of its accuracy, which I think is important. Latin alphabet CAN be accurate, but currently only academic types really know how to render the language in Latin as accurately as is done in Devanagari. But IF we had some power to change the world in the future, I think it could be an idea to promote Latin alphabet for Indian languages. Hey, China created pinyin!
Absolutely right. A standard 'devanagari to latin alphabet' transliteration scheme would be amazing, and a few have already been suggested (usually with capitals representing the retroflexives, or something of the sort). The problem is that for native hindi/urdu speakers the meaning is clear without such visual hints (as a very basic example 'me teek hu' and 'main theek hoon' are obviously the same for them, but for others it's not as easy). Because of this, hindi/urder speakers have really nothing to gain from standardizing the transliteration, so I don't expect it would change. It would be ideal if Devanagari typing was taught in schools, as it's really not especially difficult.
The problem is that multiple 'standard' forms already exist. (Personally, I'm in favor of IAST/ISO15919 which this course also uses). But as it usually happens when n options exist, anyone who wants to replace them by a single standard usually ends up creating an (n+1)th option.