Fortunately for foreigners in India, English is spoken widely in the country. Where it isn’t spoken, it’s almost always understood. However, here are some essential phrases in Hindi that will help you charm locals, get better deals while shopping and generally have a smoother, more comfortable India tour!
From hello to thank you, the following five expressions will make you sound more cultured in front of locals.
Chances are that you already know this popular greeting. Namaste is a very respectful way of saying ‘hello.’ Pair it with a folded hand gesture and a gentle bow of your head and neck, and locals will be quite pleased with your manners. Namaskar (nah-mas-kar) and pranam (prah-naam) are also popular greetings which mean the same and can be interchangeably used with namaste.
While ‘please’ works in most parts of the country, and is more naturally used than its Hindi counterpart – kripaya (kruh-pah-yaa) – it is still an important word to know, especially if you are traveling deep within rural India. Add it to the beginning or end of your sentences to sound polite and respectful.
Quite similar to the use of ‘please,’ ‘thank you’ is also commonly used around the country – particularly in the south where Hindi isn’t spoken as much. However, dhanyavad (dhuhn-yuh-vaadh) which means ‘thanks’ is a good word to know. Just as with the use of other common English words, you may be considered more respectful if you use the Hindi equivalent. The Urdu word (though interchangeably used with Hindi) shukriya is also an alternative to ‘thank you’ that you can use around the country.
If you find yourself wanting to chat more with the locals, the Hindi equivalent of ‘How are you?’ – ‘Aap (you) kaise (how) hain (are)?‘ – is a good way to go. If you are asked the same question, you can respond with ‘Main theek hun’ which translates to ‘I am fine.’
The Hindi equivalent of ‘Nice to meet you’ – ‘Aap (you) se milkar (meet) khushi (happiness) huin’ – is an excellent way to end appropriate conversations. If you have met someone who has truly been helpful and you want to stress how happy you are that you’ve met them, add the hindi equivalent of very – bahuth – to the sentence thus making it ‘Aap se milkar bahuth khushi huin.’
The following expressions will be handy if you’re asking for directions, seeking water, a bathroom or even an English speaker.
‘Kya (what) aap (you) English bolte (speak) hain?’ translates to ‘Do you speak English?’ This expression or question will almost always prompt locals to connect you with the nearest English speaker if they cannot assist you themselves.
‘Kya (will) aap (you) meri (me) madad (help) karenge (do)?’ translates to ‘Will you help me?’ You can add kripaya (please) to make your request for help sound even more polite, urgent and inescapable – thus making the expression ‘Kya aap kripaya meri madad karenge?’
Kidhar translates to ‘where.’ ‘Bathroom kidhar hai?’ is therefore, ‘Where is the bathroom?’ You can replace ‘bathroom’ with other words to get directions to wherever it is that you wish to go. For example, if you’re looking to find the railway station you can ask, ‘Railway station kidhar hai?’
Paani means ‘water.’ If you’re traveling around the country in the summer, this is the single most important word to know! ‘Mujhe paani chahiye’ means ‘I need water.’ ‘Paani kidhar hai?’ (meaning ‘Where is water?’) should also do the trick.
Shopping is almost always a priority on the lists of tourists visiting India. ‘Yeh (this) kitne (how) ka hai?’ means ‘How much does this cost?’ While just ‘How much?’ will do in most of urban India, the Hindi version is likely to get you a lower price quote. Bring it down even further by saying ‘Bahut (very) zyaada (high), Kum (less) karo (do/make)‘ which translates to ‘very high, lower it!’