August 5, 2010 | Hindi

Some Critical Hindi Vocabulary

In which basic words and phrases make me giggle.

I got quite a bit of studying done today, so I am feeling good. Plenty of Pimsleur, and plenty of reading, too.

The first thing you learn in Pimsleur’s Hindi lessons is a phrase that sounds like soon yeh. It is the equivalent of “please listen,” and I am being taught to use it in places where you would in English say “excuse me.” For example: “Please listen. Where is Penn Station?”

I Practice My Hindi Writing Skills (Such As They Are)

I Practice My Hindi Writing Skills (Such As They Are)

Pimsleur informed me that this phrase was a polite way to get someone’s attention, but it sounds so funny in English. I would definitely not recommend tapping a random guy on the shoulder in Times Square and saying, “Please listen.”

The sounds of Hindi are taking some getting used to. “Yes” in Hindi is pronounced JEE-ha. It sounds like you’re saying “Gee, ha!”

Jee-nuh-HEE is “no.” It sounds like something you’d say at a rodeo. Or right before the word “cricket.”

I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realize the word namaste, uttered at the end of yoga classes, was Hindi. It can be used for “hello” and “good-bye” both. I have always felt as though that kind of dual use, which I have encountered in other languages as well, would create confusion, particularly with people whose tone and body language are hard to read. How often does it happen that someone who is saying hello is mistaken for someone trying to get the hell out of a situation? Or vice versa?

Word order, I can see, will be challenging. To say, “I don’t understand Hindi,” you essentially say something like, “I Hindi not understand am.” Plus the second-to-last word changes based on the gender of the speaker. That is quite different from English, and therefore difficult for English speakers. Namely, me.

The Art of Hindi Writing

The Art of Hindi Writing

Today, although I spent a lot of time on Hindi, actually turned out to be quite a multilingual day. For example, I went to a new pedicure place where I got to speak Spanish the whole time, plus I spoke Spanish with two tourists from Spain who were lost in the New York subway system, plus I exchanged pleasantries with one of my neighbors who is a native Spanish speaker.

In the evening I went to a German beer garden in Brooklyn for a running team social gathering (though I said only two sentences’ worth of German while there). Plus later I wrote an e-mail in Italian.

I love New York.

By the way: en route to the German beer garden, I stopped at a deli to buy water. I desperately wanted to try out my few words of Hindi on the guy at the cash register, as I thought he probably spoke Urdu or Hindi. But I was afraid I was wrong and that I would offend him. So I chickened out.

I have to stop doing that.

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