Learning a few lines of Hindi will go a long way in Mother India. You build cultural connections with the country you happen to be a guest in. They will no doubt respect you more for it. And even find it charming. You experience a deeper layer of the culture as you are able to join in some friendly and inquisitive chitchat with the locals, and also tune into the conversations happening around you as you flow through the profusion of endless colours, sights, smells and sounds of this spirited nation. It’s also a good way to get better deals when shopping in the markets, and the locals are generally more receptive to you overall. Actually it brings them joy and delight when you greet them in their language. And how sweet it is — such an eloquent language.
Besides English, Hindi is the other official language of India. An Indo-European language, Hindi’s roots are from Sanskrit, and it is written in the same Devangari script as Sanskrit. About 60% of the Indian population can speak and/or understand Hindi. It is spoken in most states, but not all. The good news is that English is widely understood in the non-English speaking states like Tamil Nadu and Kerela, for instance. Non-Hindi speaking states, along with other rural regions, will commonly know broken English or an English/Hindi mix sometimes referred to as “Hinglish.”
There are over 180 million native speakers of the language worldwide, which makes it the sixth most widely spoken dialect on the planet. Other partly Hindi-speaking countries include Nepal, Bangladesh, Singapore, Fiji, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and Mauritius.
Indian head wobble
Before we get started, let’s talk about the infamous Indian head wobble. It refers to moving your neck in a circular motion from right to left. It relays: yes/hello/goodbye. It is a simpler cultural mannerism to greet passer-bys on the road where there is little time and/or space for a conversation. It is also effective in any instance of negotiation when you are agreeable with the product and/or price. (Re: shopping in the markets, booking a room, riding in an auto-rickshaw, asking for directions, etc.)
Respect & Politeness
Hindi is a language in which politeness and respect are conveyed in the way you speak to someone. For instance, how a verb is ended will show just how respectful you are being with a person. For example, adding “ji” at the end of your sentences communicates great respect.
Hindi can be a little complex for most because of its many cases, and its two genders can surely cause you to stumble a bit. Yet fear not, because below is a simple guide to get you through your time in India as simply as possible when it comes to chatting in the national language. All Hindi words and phrases below are written in English as they sound, to maximize ease.
How to Address Locals in India
Sir: To address a male person.
Madam: To address a female person.
Uncle: To address an older, slightly familiar male.
Aunty: To address an older, slightly familiar female.
Brother: Bhaiya To address a boy close in your age.
Sister: Behen To address a woman/girl close in your age.
You can refer to a boy or girl younger than you by their name.
Hello/Goodbye – Namaste (Preferably with palms together at the heart centre for more respect or in a formal situation.) When greeted with Namaste, you should respond with it. It is considered rude, and an insult, not to. And be sure to greet those you are asking help for with it. It is a sign of respect and politeness. If you show respect, people are more likely/will go out of their way, to help you out.
How are you? Aap kahseh ho?
What is your name? Aap ka naam kyah hah?
My name is… Merah naam…hah.
Where are you from? Aap kaha say hah?
I am from (Canada). Meh Canada say who.
Where are you going? Aap kaha ja reh ho?
I am going to… Meh…jah reh who.
Happy journey! Shubh yaattra!
How is your family? Aap kuh parivaar kahseh hah?
Say hello to your family. Aapne parivaar ko namaste kahenah.
Nice to meet you. Aap say milakar achchha laga.
Go peacefully – Shaanti say jaoh.
Yes – Huh (informal)/ Ji (very respectful/formal)
No – Nayhe
Ok/It’s ok – Teekh hai/Achchha
Thank you Dhanyavadh
No problem Koiy baath nayhee
Wow – Waah
Where is the bathroom? Baatharoom kaha hah?
I don’t understand. Moojeh samjh nayhee aa raha hah.
Can you help me? Kyah aap meri madaath kar sakhateh hah?
Where is…? …kaha hah?
I don’t know. Moojeh naheey patah.
I don’t know the way. Moojeh raasta naheey patah hah?
What is the time? Sum-eh kyah hah?
How much is it? Yeh kithnah ka hah?
What’s this? Yeh kya hah?
It’s too expensive. Yeh bahooth mehngah hah.
Please lower the price. Krpaya keemath kaam karojeeyeh.
I don’t want it. Moojeh nayhee chaiyeh.
Where is the train station? Relaaveh steshan kaha hah?
Where is the bus stand? Bus addha kaha hah?
What time does the bus depart? Bus kyah sum-eh jaatee hah?
What time does the train depart? Tren kis sum-eh jaatee hai?
How long is this journey? Yaatra kitanee lambee hah?
Where is the taxi stand? Taiksee staind kahuh hah?
Where can I get a rickshaw? Riksha kuhuh say mil sakata hah?
Can I get a menu? Kyah moojeh ek menoo mil sakata hah?
Can I order? Kyah meh bhojanh kuh aadesh dey sakatah who?
I need a cup of Tea. Kyah moojeh ek kap chai milh sakatah hah?
I want water. Mujheh paanee chaiheeyeh.
Do you have a room? Kyah aapakeh paas ek kamarah hah?
Can I see the room? Kyah meh kamarah dekh sakatah who?
How much is the room? Kamarah kitanah hah?
Can I book the room? Kyah meh kamarah bookh kar sakatah who?
My health is not good. Merah svaasthy kharaab hai.
Where is the hospital? Aspataal kaha hah?
Where is the pharmacy? Dava kee dukaan kaha hai?
What inspires you? Aapakoh kyah prabhaavit karata hah?
What are your dreams? Aapakeh saapaneh kyah hah?
What is in your heart? Aapakeh dilh mayh kyah hah?
What do you think is the true meaning of life? Aapakoh kyah lagatah hah jeevan kuh sayhee arth hah?
1 – ek
2 – doh
3 – teen
4 – char
5 – paanch
6 – chay
7 – saath
8 – aath
9 – nau
10 – dus
100 – ek sau
1000 – ek hazaar