Is it your first time traveling to India and are you having difficulty finding sources to learn the fundamentals of Hindi?
Learning a new language can provide you with a greater understanding of the culture and the history of a country. Learning the regional language would also enable you to communicate with more people. This guide covers some of the basic greetings, phrases, and words that are colloquially used in day-to-day conversations and are super helpful during your travel to India.
We highly recommend you learn these phrases now! Ensure you have a hassle-free trip.
Basic Hindi For Travelers
Table Of Contents
- Why Hindi?
- Places Where Hindi Is Spoken In India & Outside India
- Things To Know Before You Start To Learn Hindi
- Most Used Words And Phrases
- Other Common Words That You Hear Often And Their Meanings
- Question Words
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Additional Resources To Learn Hindi
India is the seventh-largest country in the world, and it is home to a total of 1600 recognized languages including 121 more common languages and 270 mother tongues. In fact, the states are divided on the basis of language. People of Tamil Nadu speak Tamil, Gujarat speaks Gujarathi, and Orissa speaks Oriya to name a few. Given the amount of diversity present in India, while English is considered to be the common language, India does not have an official language. Yet, in the northern part of India, Hindi is prevalent due to the similarity in the regional dialect.
Note: Hindi is spoken by approximately 200 million people in the country.
Places Where Hindi Is Spoken In India & Outside India
Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh are just some of the states where Hindi is considered the mother tongue and as such is spoken fluently by the people.
Now outside of India, more than 25% of the people of Suriname, South Africa, Fiji Island, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan & Bangladesh comprehend and speak Hindi. Indians have migrated, and settled across various countries over the years thereby spreading the language.
Things To Know Before You Start To Learn Hindi
Inquisitive to know more?
Language is key to helping you get a more authentic exchange with the locals. If you are curious to know about Indian culture, learning its more common region language will greatly aid you. We recommend that you should know the following basic things before you even start learning Hindi.
Hindi is a phonetic language, which means that the words are spoken exactly in the same way they are written. Unlike English, Hindi has no capital and small letters and you can see over-line(s) on all the letters. Also, Hindi has 137 total letters including conjuncts (letters that join together to make a new letter).
It is important to understand how to combine words to frame a sentence. Unlike English which follows Subject+Verb+Object, Hindi follows Subject+Object+Verb for framing the sentences. For example, in English, we say “I went to Goa” whereas, in Hindi, it is “Main Goa gaya tha” (I Goa went). The action verb is placed at the end of the sentence after the object. This becomes challenging for complex long sentences.
Many phonetically identical sounds chime similar to a foreigner’s ears but are different to the native speakers. For example, the ‘ta’ and the ‘tha,’ the ‘da’ and the ‘dha,’ the ‘pa’ and the ‘pha,’ and so on. Say these words more vocally and you will notice the difference. Mispronouncing the sounds in a sentence might change the meaning of the word you are intending to say. So first, learn the vowels, consonants, and their sounds to ensure you pronounce the words correctly.
- बाग़ – Baag – Garden
- बाघ – Baagh – Tiger
- भाग – Bhaag – Part
When a verb ends with the ‘aa’ sound, it refers to the masculine gender. It can be changed to feminine gender by replacing ‘aa’ with ‘ee’. Feminine plurals are often made by adding the ‘yaan’ to a singular word. For example, ‘Churi’, bangle becomes ‘churiyaan’ (churiyaan). Masculine plurals emphasize the ‘o’ sound. Thus ‘mard’, man becomes ‘mardon’, men.
These are the most common challenges faced by English speakers or Europeans while learning Hindi. But when you have mastered phonics and grammar, you can learn the language at a more comfortable pace.
Most Used Words And Phrases During Travels
We highly recommend listening to the audio while going through the list. This will greatly aid you in getting a hang of how to pronounce the words and phrases correctly. We will detail each useful phrase and when to use them. All you need to do is speak the translated version verbatim.
- Hello – नमस्ते – Namaste
Namaste is best used when formally meeting/greeting someone. It is also used in situations to mean ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’. Namaste is often said by joining both hands together and bowing your head with respect.
- Good Morning – शुभ प्रभात – shubh prabhaat
Shubh prabhaat is said when wishing someone a good morning/good day.
- Bye – अलविदा – Alvida
Bye is most common. Whereas Alvida is not used by most Hindi-speaking people. Bye is said while leaving when you know you might not see that person for a while.
- Please – कृपया – Krpaya
Krpaya is used when you are asking/requesting someone or a group of people for something.
- Thank you – शुक्रिया /धन्यवाद – Shukriya/ Dhanyavaad
Both the words Shukriya or Dhanyavaad mean Thank You. It is used to express gratitude when someone does something nice for you or when you receive a compliment, or more often when someone does a favor for you.
- You’re welcome – आपका स्वागत है – Aapka svaagat hai
‘Svaagat hai’ means ‘Welcome’. People stick to saying Welcome rather than uttering the whole sentence. It is usually said as a formal reply to thank you.
Tip: Aap, Tum, Tu (आप, तुम, तू) are other variations of telling ‘you’ where Aap is the polite and it is an honorific.
- How are you? – आप कैसे हैं? (formal) / तुम कैसे हो? (informal) – Aap kaise hai? (formal) /Tum kaise ho? (informal)
Often spoken when meeting a person. It is a customary greeting to inquire about someone’s emotional/physical well-being.
- I’m fine/ok – मैं ठीक हूँ – Main teek hoon
A reply when asked, ‘how are you?’ It is a generally positive way of saying, nothing’s wrong and that you are doing good.
- Excuse me – मुझे माफ़ कीजिए – Mujhe maaf keejie
Sorry – माफ़ करना – Maaf karana
Used as an apology or more ideally when you do something you don’t intend to.
- Wait – रुको – Ruko
Spoken when you want someone to stop or hold on for a certain period. While traveling, this is used in situations when you want to ask a bus to stop that has just started moving or when you are in a taxi and you wish to stall.
- My name is ….. – मेरा नाम <your name> है – Mera naam <your name> hai
I’m …. – मैं <your name> हूँ – Main <your name> hoon
Insert your name in the sentence. For instance, “I’m Atchaya” is said as “Main Atchaya hoon”. Useful when introducing yourself to someone you’ve just met or when checking in to your hotel or accommodation.
- Yes – हां – Haan, No – नहीं – Nahi
- Ji – जी – Ji
Ji is an honorific, added as a prefix or suffix in any sentence and for titles. For instance, while speaking with elders, ‘haan ji’ is said instead of ‘haan’ for yes, and ‘ji nahi’ instead of ‘nahi’ for no. Individual’s names are also appended with ji as honorific respect, similar to Mr/ Miss/ etc. in English. Mummy as Mummy ji, and so on.
- No, Thanks – जी नहीं, धन्यवाद – Jee Nahi, Dhanyavaad
It is the politer form of denying a request without sounding disrespectful. A very useful word to remember while street shopping in India.
- How much is this? – ये कितना है? – Ye kitana hai?
To find the cost of something. If you don’t understand when they respond, ask them to write it down or show signs with their hands.
- What is this? – यह क्या है? – Yah kya hai?
Extremely useful when you don’t know something. You can point to something in a particular object or food and ask what is this? to know more about them.
- Do you accept credit cards? – क्या आप क्रेडिट कार्ड से भुगतान लेते हैं? – kya aap kredit kaard se bhugataan lete hain?
Digital payment systems are becoming more popular in India (Indian bank account needed). However, if you want to make payments using cards, this phrase will be quite useful and save you from withdrawing cash all the time.
- Where is …? – <place> कहाँ है? – <place> kahaan hai?
If you want to go to a particular place, add that place in the sentence. To illustrate, if nature calls, ask “toilet kahaan hai?”
- Do you speak English? – क्या आप अंग्रेज़ी बोलते हैं – Kya aap Angrezee/ English bolate hain?
The most helpful sentence that you might need in your travels is to ask someone if they are familiar with the language that you know. In most cities and tourist spots, people can understand and converse in English.
- I don’t understand – मुझे समझ नहीं आ रहा है – Mujhe samajh nahin aa raha hai
If someone talks in Hindi and you don’t know what they mean, this phrase comes in handy. You can also do some hand gestures to make them understand.
- Help – मदद – Madad
If you require assistance or in case of emergency, this is the word to use.
- Menu card and water, please – मेनू कार्ड और पानी, कृपया – Menoo kaard aur paanee, krpaya
In restaurants, before starting a meal, to look at the menu available and have some water (paanee), use this phrase.
- Take me to this address, please? – कृपया मुझे इस पते पर ले चलिए – Krpaya mujhe is pate par le chaliae
This phrase can be used when you have hired a cab/rental and inform the driver of the destination.
- Can you take a photo of me? क्या आप मेरी फोटो खींच सकते हैं? – kya aap mere photo kheench sakate hain?
There might be circumstances where you might want to ask locals to click a picture of you during your travels.
- Hey – अरे – are (pronounced as ‘array’)
An impolite way to call someone for the purpose of holding their attention. The politer way would be by adding ‘ji’ or ‘aap’ after are
- Are yaar – अरे यार – hey dude/ oh, dude
- Are bhai – अरे भाई – hey brother
- Are aap – अरे आप – hey you
- Are ji – अरे जी – hey (with respect)
Other Common Words That You Hear Often And Their Meanings
Wala/ Wallah – The one with …/ The one who is…/ The one from … – For example, Dhoodh(milk) wala is the one with milk, Chotta wala – the short one, Delhi wala – the one from Delhi.
- What – क्या – kya (used for objects/things where there are many)
- Which – कौन – kaun (used for a object/thing)
- Where – कहां – kahaan (used for a place)
- Why – क्यों – kyon (used for a reason)
- Who – कौन – kaun (used for a person)
- How – कैसे – kaise (used for a method)
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to learn Hindi by watching Hindi movies and TV shows?
Yes, you can. It is recommended if you are already familiar with the basics of the language. However, it is not that easy and takes time. It can increase your fluency in words that you have already picked up. But merely watching Hindi films and TV shows with subtitles is not a proper learning medium.
How long does it take to learn Hindi?
It really depends on the time you spend learning the language. The commitment and practice you put in every day, and prioritizing your learning will make you learn faster. Like learning any new skill, curiosity, and interest plays a crucial role as those qualities make language learning more fun and enjoyable.
Do you have to learn Hindi to live in India?
It depends on the region where you decide to stay. If you are prepared to stay longer, comprehending the regional language can help you in several ways. But, you can manage with basic Hindi if you are planning to stay in the Northern states of India. People from the south speak their own native languages.
How to travel in India without knowing the native language of the state?
Many foreigners come to India and to everyone’s surprise, they travel better than Indians without knowing the regional language. Language should not be a barrier to visiting any country. Many South Indians don’t speak Hindi yet travel to different corners of the north. There won’t be any language problems in tourist places but you might face difficulties in remote and offbeat places. For traversing the hidden gems, or the more remote corners of the country contact local tour operators, who are usually very comfortable with English. You can also opt for group treks in the region. When it comes to the worst of situations, there is always Google Translate.
Is it difficult to travel to India without knowing Hindi?
Hindi is not essential but is the more widely spoken language. Not all, but the most important signboards are written in both English, the regional language, and Hindi. Most employed staff in Hotels, restaurants, shops, guides, taxi drivers, etc. speak English and regional language fluently. Most people are educated in the English medium and hence can comfortably converse in English.
How many languages do Indians usually speak?
An average Indian speaks 2 – 4. Knowing a minimum of two languages – their native language and English as it is the medium of instruction or their second language at schools.
How do Indians learn to speak multiple languages so easily?
Indians watch movies and hear songs of the neighbouring states as some of them are phonetically identical. People who migrate to neighbouring states for jobs, higher education, or holidays tend to learn the regional language as it will definitely help them for a long comfortable stay. Indians also have mixed neighbourhoods that speak a different language as they have the liberty to settle in any state.
Is Hindi the national language of India?
There is no national language in the multilingual country of India. English is considered to be the official language.
Do I need to go to Hindi school? What are the best Hindi schools in India?
If you want to be an expert in the language or take Hindi speaking skills to the next level, you can learn it full-time or part-time from professionals in a well-structured manner. However, the same can be done by attending with the help of online tutors as well. Refer to this blog by Karl rock to know more about the best Hindi schools in India.
Additional Resources To Learn Hindi
- Lonely Planet Hindi phrasebook and dictionary
- Berlitz Hindi phrasebook and dictionary
- YT channels like Hindi University
- Mobile applications such as Drops (Android, iOS), Duolingo (Android, iOS), etc.
- Google translate
- Online tutor – Preply, Urban Pro
Language is no barrier in India. In most urban places the majority of the populace can converse in English, and if you do not speak English, it’s best to start miming. From personal experience, we can state with a certain degree of certainty that the people in India are generally patient and hospitable to tourists. We hope you have a wonderful time in India. For information on the many secret places that India houses, do refer to our other blogs.
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