Although English is spoken in India it is always a good idea to try to learn the local language. Indians will appreciate if you try talking to them in their own language and you will be able to fully explore the Indian culture. It will also make bargaining at local markets much easier as you won't have to pay “tourist prices.”
Before you decide to learn an Indian language, you should check which language is actually spoken in your Indian region. Many expatriates naturally assume that Hindi will be the language in India. Although Hindi proves useful mostly in the north of India, you will hardly be able communicate in Hindi in the south. Especially if you want start taking language classes already back home, take the great variety of Indian languages into account.
Language courses in India
Many Indian universities and language schools offer language classes. Most of the schools and universities are situated in big cities, so you might have trouble finding one in remote areas. Before you decide on a class you should check the number of hours per week as well as the size of the class. Most courses will run half a year, but there are also crash-courses available if you need to learn the language quickly.
Keep in mind that prices do not necessarily correspond to the quality of a class. Try to get recommendations from Indian friends and co-workers.
Private language classes in India
If you need to be more flexible or don't want to enroll in language classes, you can choose private tuition. Most language schools can arrange private lessons, but it is usually cheaper to contact private teachers yourself. Universities' boards are good places to start your search. Sometimes you may find offers in classifieds sections of local newspapers or expat magazines.
The teaching quality of your teacher highly depends on his degree and teaching experience. Having taught expatriates before is always a plus. When choosing a private tutor, make sure you feel comfortable with him and the way he is teaching. If you feel you are not getting along, don't be afraid to choose another teacher.
Using modern means of communication, language exchanges are very convenient and cheap. You can browse for language partners on-line and try to find native speakers who want to learn your mother tongue. Even though this method requires some basic knowledge of the desired language, it is perfectly suited to improve your fluency. You will also get in contact with dialects and localisms, which make your transition to the new culture easier.
In addition, you already make friends in India. So when you finally come to India, they can help you find your way in your new environment.
Further ways of learning
Beginning to learn a new language is always hard and it takes a while to see results. It is important not to ask too much of yourself because otherwise you could quickly lose interest.
To balance language classes, which may sometimes be very demanding, you can watch your favorite movies in Indian. Bollywood offers a great number of movies with rather simple and easy to follow stories. Adding subtitles in your native language will help you follow the story while, at the same time, you get a feeling of the language. Reading children's books is also useful, since they are easy and can be understood quite early in the learning process.
Getting to know people in India, having chats in local markets and exploring night-life are great ways of improving your language skills beyond what is possible through language classes. Memorizing grammar rules is important, but there are many expatriates who are able to converse in an Indian language without knowing all the grammar. The more you talk, the faster you will learn!