Learning Hindi

Hindi Challenges 2: Pronunciation of Aspirated Letters

A number of the consonants in Hindi have unaspirated and aspirated forms. Aspirated means you pronounce the same sound but with slightly more force.

When pronouncing aspirated sounds, you’re forcing a little bit more air out of your mouth, and it makes the sound of the letter more “breathy” or “hard.”

There’s no equivalent of this in English, but we do have some breathy sounds like P as in the word “pop.”

At the very beginning it’s going to be hard to distinguish the difference in these sounds, but please persevere. It just takes practice over a prolonged amount of time.

One way you can check the difference between unaspirated and aspirated is by putting your hand one inch from your mouth as you pronounce the letters.

When pronouncing the unaspirated sound, you should feel very little air hitting your hand from your mouth. With the aspirated sound, you should feel a puff of air. That’s the difference right there.

It’s quite hard to hear in recordings, but Manisha does pronounce unaspirated and aspirated sounds and wordpairs in this video.

To master this, we must use word pairs and our Hindu guru again. An audio recording or video cannot give you the feedback you need.

UnaspiratedPractice WordAspiratedPractice Word
Wordlist for practising unaspirated and aspirated Hindi words.

Hindi words that sound similar

Here are a few examples of common words that sound very similar!

Tricky words that sound very similar.

If my content has helped you, please leave a comment.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

2 replies on “Hindi Challenges 2: Pronunciation of Aspirated Letters”

This as well as your post on retroflex and dental letters are well written. I had been hoping to find tongue diagrams on the nasal consonants though…any chance you’ll be writing a post on those? (ङ ञ ण )

Hey Celeste, just watch a Hindi alphabet video and you’ll get the pronunciation of those letters – they’re barely used in Hindi. They’re not difficult for English speakers, unlike Retroflex and Dental. Best of luck.

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