Hindi is a really fun and fascinating language. Although India is home to 22 languages, and most travelers can get by with only speaking English, learning Hindi can help you explore a whole new depth of Indian culture. Whether I'm buying clothes at a market or talking to an Uber driver, watching their face light up when they realize I can speak their native language never fails to make me smile. Trying to learn the main language of a place you are traveling to can let others know how appreciative and understanding you are of a new culture, and of course, it's a very easy way to make new friends.
Learning a new language, especially one written in a different alphabet, can be a daunting task that many people would not willingly sign up for. However, I encourage students who are thinking of participating in CIEE Hyderabad to take advantage of their wonderful language classes, both in Hindi and in other Indian languages. It is so much easier to learn a language when there are hundreds of people speaking it around you, so if you have ever wanted to learn a new language, this is the perfect time! By learning Hindi, you'll be able to better understand Bollywood films, sing Hindi songs, impress people that you meet on campus, and even show off to your friends at home!
However, if you are impatient to come to Hyderabad and start learning a new language, or if you just want to mooch off of my three years of experience, here are some Hindi tips, tricks, and translations that can help you on your trip to Hyderabad.
While Hindi is India's national language, the most common language spoken in Hyderabad is actually Telugu, and so most street signs and local conversation will be in this language. However, most of your peers and professors, as well as people you meet outside the city, will know some Hindi. Many people, in fact, never learn how to write the Hindi script, and instead just speak Hindi or write out the words in English letters. So, lucky for you, you don't necessarily have to learn the Hindi alphabet in order to speak Hindi! Here are some important words and phrases to look and listen for when you are traveling around India:
Namaste - Nuh-muh-stay - नमस्ते
This is probably the easiest word to learn; it means hello!
Teek-he - Teek-hay - ठीक है
This phrase means okay, so use it whenever you want to agree with someone or show that you understand them (though make sure you do actually understand them).
Han - Hanh - हां
This word means yes.
Nhi - Nuh-heen - नहीं
This word means no.
Nhi Chahiyae - Nuh-heen Chah-hee-yay - नहीं चाहिये
This phrase is harder to translate, but it means "I don't need." It is a polite way to tell someone that you don't want something, and it is especially useful for when you're being crowded by sellers at a market or followed by auto drivers while you're walking. Say this phrase succinctly and politely, and they will not only know to move on to the next person, but they will also be impressed with your Hindi skills.
Ho Gya - Hoe Gie-yah - हो गया
Another useful phrase; this means "I am done." Use it when you are at a restaurant and the waiters are asking you if they can take away your dishes.
Dhanyavad - Dhan-yah-vad - धन्यावाद
This word means thank you.
Makhani - Mah-Khan-ee - मखानी
Another note about restaurants; if you're desperately looking for some delicious butter chicken on the menu but can't find any, look for Murgh Makhani, which means Butter Chicken. It will be as good, if not better, than anything you can get at an Indian restaurant in America. Don't get it confused with Dal Makhani, which is a vegetarian dish made of lentils, but if you do, it is just as good!
Angrezee me boliyae. - Ahn-grae-zee meh bowl-ee-yae. - अंग्रेज़ी में बोलिये.
This phrase means "please speak in English," in case someone doesn't immediately realize that you're a foreigner. Know that some people in India cannot speak English, however, and that you will experience plenty of places that haven't conformed to Western expectations.
Bathroom kha he? - Bat-room kuh-hanh hay? - बाथरूम कहां है?
This means "Where is the bathroom?" It's a very important phrase to know in any language.
Kitne Pese? - Kit-nae peh-sae? - कितने पैसे?
This means "How much money?" or "What does it cost?" It is a useful phrase for when you're bargaining at bazaars.
And finally, if you ever want to have a small conversation with someone in Hindi, here is all that you need to know.
Aap Kese He? - Aap kae-sae heh? - आप कैसे है?
How are you?
Me teek hoon. Or aap? - Mehn teek hoon. Or aap? - मैं ठीक हूं. और आप?
I am good. And you?
Now get ready to go out there and practice your new Hindi skills!