LANGUAGE 101 – MODERN HINDI FOR FOREIGNERS


I’m sure a lot of people (except the 1.2 billion in India) wonder about the mysterious yet magical land of India, where cows are worshiped and cricket is considered the 2nd religion. If you don’t know what cricket it is, let’s just say it’s basically an advanced version of baseball. A quick YouTube search about it will give you a gist of what the sport is all about. Officially, 22 languages are spoken in India. This article is going to be about the native language of India – Hindi. We call it our mother tongue.
Even though Google translate does a fantastic job of translating text and at times even speaking the translated text, it can give you traditional results at times. This article, however, gives you a brief insight into modern Hindi language.

Firstly, this is not going to be an article about the Hindi grammar. This is a crash course for learning Hindi, sans grammar knowledge. The approach that I’ll be following is pretty simple. Instead of letters, I’ll start with words. After all, that’s what you’re going to use in sentences. I’ll just go through the basic words which foreigners coming to India would like to learn initially.

Since Hindi uses a completely different script for writing, for the sake of understanding, I’ll be writing the words in English alphabets followed by their meaning in English, and then their pronunciation. One last thing before we get started - like any other foreign language, even Hindi will be difficult to learn in the beginning; but, if you keep practicing the pronunciation of the words, you’ll master it in no time. So without further ado, let’s get started with language 101!
WORD IN HINDI
MEANING IN ENGLISH
PRONUNCIATION
Namaste
Welcome/Hello
Num-us-they
Haan
Yes
Ha(Hanger)-ny (ny as in the ñ)
Nahi

No
nə(aa)-he
Shukriya
Thank You
Shoe-cree(as in creed)-ya
Main
Me
May-ny(ny as in the ñ)
Tum
You
Too-m
Subeh
Morning
Soo(as in oops)-Bayh
Shaam
Evening
Sh(as in ship)-ə(aa)-m
Kitne (usually asked as a question)
How much?
Kee-tn-ain
Chaloge
Will you go?
Cha(as in charcoal)-log-æ(as in Encyclopædia)
Sikka
Coin
Seek-ə(aa)
Paise
Money
Pie-say
Kab?
When?
Cub
Mera Naam
My name
May-ra Nə(aa)-m
Kripya
Please
Crip-ya

Please keep in mind that when I say ‘words’ in Hindi, I mean the ones used by the majority of Indians and that’s what modern Hindi language is all about. Just like in English, there are synonyms for Hindi words too. One such example that comes to my mind right now is the word morning. As mentioned in the table, the Hindi for morning is subeh and its synonym, prabhath. The latter, however, is rarely spoken in the metropolitan parts of India. I doubt that many Indian readers know what the Hindi translation for computer is. While having a conversation, we do refer to a computer as a computer. For the curious minds, a computer is called, “Sanganak (संगणक)”. Notice how different the script for Hindi really is.

These are just the basic words that you’ll use on a daily basis. Modern Hindi has evolved, as more and more English words creep into sentences used for conversing every day. As mentioned earlier, you’ll rarely find someone saying suprabhath (good morning) these days. Friends, colleagues and families wish each other in English.

Contrary to the belief that communication is a big problem in India, most of the people do understand English, even if they don’t speak English fluently. I hope this article gave you a head start if you’re planning to visit this country any time soon. Don’t be too skeptical about language problems. You’ll be fine. We are much more than what meets the eye. I’d be more than willing to meet you if you plan on coming to my part of the country. Drop me a mail or leave a comment down below if you want to make any plans or want me to translate any particular word for you in Hindi*.

AMAN (Peace in Hindi)!

OK, I agree, that’s a bad one..

*Due to privacy concerns, audio format cannot be uploaded on the blog. If you want to listen to the pronunciation of the words mentioned in the table or any specific, please comment or send me a mail.

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