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As one of the “big five” languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic, Hindi (मानक हिन्दी) is the fourth most-spoken language in the world and one of the official languages of India alongside English. Just like the colorful celebrations that are a cornerstone of Hindi culture, India is a diverse place that incorporates a tapestry of 22 different languages, each with their own dialects and regional influences. However, Hindi is the most popular language in India and is commonly spoken by nearly half a billion people. About half of the population of native speakers are located across a large swathe of northern and central India. Hindi is also widely-spoken in Nepal, South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Suriname, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Hindi language is spoken as a lingua franca across much of the Indian subcontinent and has roots in Sanskrit. It is closely related to other Indo-Aryan languages, especially Urdu. Urdu, the main language of Pakistan, uses an Arabic script and has more Persian vocabulary than Hindi, but the two are often considered different registers of the same language. Hindi can also be a bit easier for English speakers to learn because the language adopted many English words as part of Hindi vocabulary after nearly two centuries of British rule.
Rosetta understands how to help beginners learn the Hindi language by leveraging what you already know. Hindi is taught as part of bite-sized, contextualized lessons that teach words alongside audio and visual cues. This immersive method scales naturally to allow learners to get a feel for the Hindi language and pronunciation, focusing on using common phrases in context rather than memorizing static vocabulary lists. Learning Hindi isn’t just about learning the words—it’s about learning the language and the vibrant culture it represents.
Learning the Hindi Alphabet
As with most languages, one of the first things you’ll tackle as you learn Hindi is the Hindi alphabet. Hindi is written from left to right in a script called Devanagari,and the alphabet consists of 13 vowels and 36 consonants. While Devanagari can be a bit more difficult than other alphabets like Latin, once you’ve gotten the hang of it you should be able to decipher some Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a written language that, like Greek and Latin, is considered historically important because many ancient literary works were written using the script.
While you don’t need an advanced understanding of Devanagari to learn how to speak Hindi, it will definitely help to learn the basics of the Hindi alphabet. Once you’ve done that, you can circle back later in your language learning journey to develop a more sophisticated understanding so you can both read and write in Hindi.
One advantage of the Hindi alphabet is that it’s relatively simple and logical. It divides consonants, vyanjans, into categories based on the order in which they appear in Hindi words. Hindi vowels include अ, आ, इ, ई, उ, ऊ, ए, ऐ, ओ, औ, अं, अः and pitch is usually used in Hindi to convey contrast and emphasis but not to delineate differences in meaning.
Rosetta Stone believes one of the best ways to learn Hindi is to surround yourself with the language. Our Dynamic Immersion® method does just that, sidestepping vocabulary and translations to focus on seeing, hearing, and speaking the language in the context of real-world situations. This immersive learning environment is part of every Hindi lesson, getting beyond memorization to help learners adapt to conversations that don’t follow a script.
The Best Way to Learn Hindi Words
Like any language, once you learn the alphabet and basic sounds, you can begin to acquire Hindi words. One of the best ways to learn Hindi vocabulary is not to relentlessly drill yourself on flashcards but to learn Hindi words in context. When you use words in context in a learning environment rich with audio and visual cues, it enables your brain to connect those words to the deeper learning that encourages better recall.
While acquiring vast amounts of Hindi vocabulary may seem daunting at first, there are actually a few things that make Hindi words more accessible. Hindi words are divided into five categories. Tatsam (तत्सम "same as that") are words that are spelled the same in Sanskrit. Ardhatatsam, or अर्धतत्सम ("semi-tatsama"), are Hindi words borrowed from Sanskrit whose pronunciations have been altered. Tadbhav (तद्भव "born of that") are words derived from Sanskrit that are spelled differently while Deshaj (देशज) are Hindi words that were borrowed from local non-Indo-Aryan languages. And finally, Videshī (विदेशी "foreign") are words that are borrowed from non-local languages such as English, Persian, Arabic, and Portuguese. Because of the geography and history of the Indian subcontinent. Hindi shares a fair amount of cognates with both Persian, English, and Arabic. Another quirk of Hindi is that the language is free from the usage of articles, so there’s no need for Hindi equivalents for ‘a,’ ‘an,’ and ‘the.’
Here are a few of the most common words in Hindi:
नमस्कार (namaskāra) - Hello
स्वागत (svāgata) - Welcome
नमस्ते (Namaste) - Goodbye
आप (āpa) - You (formal/polite)
हाँ (hān) - Yes
नहीं (nahīṃ) - No
माफ कीजिए (māpha kījie) - Sorry
At Rosetta Stone, we understand it’s not enough to learn the words. You must feel confident in speaking the language to thrive in real-world conversations. That’s why every Hindi lesson embeds our patented speech recognition engine, TruAccent®. This feature allows language learners to practice pronunciation of Hindi words and get feedback in real time on how your accent compares to that of a native speaker. TruAccent helps you get comfortable speaking out and saying it like a local.
Learn Hindi Common Conversational Phrases
Once you’ve learned the Hindi alphabet and a few common Hindi words, it’s time to take the next step and begin to acquire the building blocks of conversation. Common phrases like good morning, सुप्रभात (suprabhāta), will make up the backbone of your interactions with native Hindi speakers. Here’s how to jumpstart learning these common conversational phrases.
Learn Hindi phrases in context
Because Hindi has many words borrowed from other languages, it can also have some confusing synonyms. For instance, the word love in Hindi has several different expressions depending on the situation: प्यार (pyar), मोहब्बत (mohabbat), प्रेम (prem) and इश्क़ (ishq). Learning common words and phrases in the context in which they are used will help you to feel confident you’re using the appropriate word or phrase for the setting.
Don't get hung up the script
The Hindi writing script Devanagari can be particularly troublesome for language learners, but you only need to study the basics to begin to speak and understand Hindi. Focus on learning common words and phrases in context and practice pronunciation instead of vocabulary acquisition. It’s also tempting to get mired down in grammar rules, but beyond learning gendered nouns, Hindi pronouns, and verb conjugations, you shouldn’t spend much time as a beginner struggling with Hindi grammar.
Immerse yourself in Hindi
Thanks to the popularity of glamorous Bollywood movies and the spicy curries of Indian cuisine, it’s easier than ever to immerse yourself in the Hindi language. Streaming movies in Hindi, practicing Hindi on restaurant menus, or reading books written in Hindi for advanced learners can dramatically accelerate your ability to understand and be understood in Hindi.
Practice speaking Hindi daily
What’s the point of learning a language if you’re unable to speak it when it matters? The most significant factor in whether language learners feel confident speaking Hindi is practice, practice, practice. Find as many opportunities as possible to speak Hindi out loud in unscripted conversations, either via Rosetta Stone live tutoring or through interactions with other Hindi language learners in Rosetta Stone’s online community.
Learn Hindi Pronunciation
Hindi pronunciation may seem unfamiliar at first, but if you follow a few rules, you can quickly get the hang of it. Hindi is a phonetic language, meaning the writing system directly relates to the sounds the language makes, so once you’ve learned to make the basic sounds of Hindi, understanding the spoken word should quickly follow.
Focus first on the unfamiliar sounds
There are a few sounds in Hindi that won’t be familiar to English speakers, but don’t get overwhelmed just yet. Most of those sounds are similar to sounds you’ll find in English with an h added. For instance, a “da” sound might become “dha” in Hindi, or a “ka” sound could become “kha.” Practice these first to get the hang of how to form the sounds with your mouth and then begin adding words made with these sounds into your Hindi vocabulary.
Be patient with your pronunciation
Practice makes perfect and getting there with Hindi pronunciation is going to take you some time. Be persistent and continue to get feedback until you’ve coached your tongue and mouth into the flexibility it takes to pronounce Hindi words. It’s much more important that you feel confident speaking essential phrases in Hindi than it is to know every obscure Hindi word or grammatical rule.
Distinguish between different types of consonant sounds
Hindi has some pronunciation rules, and once you learn them, you’ll find it’s much easier to pronounce some of the sounds consonants make. For example, Hindi has voiced versus unvoiced consonants where the principal difference in sounds is whether or not you vibrate your vocal cords. There are also aspirated and unaspirated consonants. Aspirated is when you release a puff of breath through your mouth along with the sound. You may have to listen to spoken Hindi a few times using Rosetta Stone features like Stories to hear the difference.
How Reasons to Learn the Hindi Language
There are many personal and professional reasons to invest the time in learning a language. Why should you hoose Hindi? In addition to being one of the big five world languages and spoken by half a billion people across the Indian subcontinent, Hindi can also open the window to a vibrant and diverse culture that you can experience both in your travels and at home.
Still not convinced Hindi is for you? Here are a few other reasons to learn one of the national languages of India.
Learning Hindi is good for business
India’s has one of the fastest growing economies in the world which makes learning Hindi an excellent addition to your resume. The US State Department provides scholarships for learning Hindi because it’s considered a critical language that is in high demand.
Speaking the Hindi language can help you travel with confidence
The Taj Mahal, a UNESCO world heritage site, is also one of the world most visited tourist sites in the world. To get there, it helps to speak the language since only about 10% of the local population in India speaks English.
Learning Hindi makes it easier to learn Urdu
Because Hindi and Urdu have so many similarities, learning Hindi will enable you to pick up speaking Urdu a little more quickly. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan, where about 8% of the population speaks it.
Hindi can help you experience Bollywood
The Hindi cinema, otherwise known as Bollywood, is based in Mumbai and is the world’s largest film industry in terms of production. Being able to speak and understand Hindi will open the door to enjoying decades of Hindi cinema and Bollywood classics without the need for subtitles.