Learning Hindi

Keys to Learning Hindi: 1. Learn to Read First!

This was the biggest mistake I made in my Hindi learning journey:

I took advice from “experts” who said, “Always learn to speak first, then write.”

This advice is fine for most languages, but most languages don’t have an alphabet where 8 letters sound incredibly similar to each other!

The letters ड (Da) ढ (Dha) द (da) ध (dha) ट (Ta) ठ (Tha) त (ta) and थ (tha) all sound exactly the same to a new Hindi learner.

So, what happened is I just defaulted to using त for the T sounds and द for the D sounds and was mispronouncing a ton of words!

The only way to know precisely what letter to pronounce is by learning the Hindi script, Devanagari, first. Then when you’re learning a new word, you can write it down and learn the correct pronunciation.

When I learn a new word with one of these tricky letters, I always ask, “Which D (or T) letter is used in this word?” and make a note.

Hindi is a language that is pronounced exactly as it’s written. There are very few trick words like “gym” (pronounced “jim”) which English is littered with. This is a big plus for you as a learner because it means that reading and writing in Hindi can be learnt very quickly.

Resources I recommend for learning to read Hindi

To learn reading and writing, I recommend Teach Yourself Beginner’s Hindi Script by Rupert Snell. It’s a short read and allowed me to learn Hindi script within a month.

Teach Yourself Beginner’s Hindi Script by Rupert Snell

Alongside that book, I also printed an A4 poster of the Hindi alphabet which I stuck on my home office wall so I was facing it all day.

Hindi alphabet chart

While learning to read, every morning I spent 20 minutes going through an alphabet pronunciation drill and an alphabet plus vowels drill with a delightful woman addressing me as a child.

Use this Hindi Alphabet drill video.

I’ve also shared a post on how to study online efficiently.

Karl Rock's Urdu classrom
This is what my study space looked like while I was learning Urdu. You should set up something similar with all wall charts and notes near you. I’ve now moved this all into my bedroom, as at this time my room was being renovated.

Important: I recommend you learn the basics of Hindi script with a book and the pronunciation drills before continuing to the Overcoming the 5 Challenges of Hindi posts. I’ve purposefully used the Hindi script in that section because you must learn to read it.

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.

15 replies on “Keys to Learning Hindi: 1. Learn to Read First!”

HI Karl. I have seen some of your videos and just checked out your blog. You are inspiring. I’m eager to learn this beautiful language. Beautiful journey.
Kind regards from Colombia, South America.

I fully agree. I taught myself Bengali using a book and the first thing it does it teach you how to read/write. It taught me the entire alphabet and how to read conversations before it taught me to say “how are you?” Learning to read is fundamental and a great idea. And yes, it takes months of hard work but it is 100% worth it.

I have been looking all over youtube for helpful videos to learn Hindi but most only have common asked questions. I wanted the alphabet and pronunciation guide. So this will be so helpful. Thank you

Hello Rock. I started the Duolingo course on Hindi and it starts out with….the Devanagari script! Not an easy way to start an online class, if you ask me, where all one does is [at least at this point] to look and make choices on a multiple-choice test. I realized that I needed to write the letters for me to memorize what they sounded like. So when I searched for “learning how to write the Devanagari script,” your blog came up. And you reinforced my insight! Unfortunately, Snell’s little book costs a fortune on Amazon (for me anyway), which would also require a hefty shipping fee as I live in the Philippines. Fortunately, I found a Youtube channel that teaches how to write and pronounce the Devanagari letters. The channel is actually for learning Sanskrit, but I suppose that won’t lead me astray, would it? Perhaps you’d say “au contraire”…? Anyway, here is the link to the video, just in case:

Thanks Rock!

Thanks so much for this 1st step suggestion! I’ve always had a deep admiration for Indian culture and Hinduism. I just began learning an Indian classical dance (Odissi) at the beginning of this year so I’m inspired to start learning Hindi and then eventually Sanskrit. I hope to visit India one day – so much I want to experience there.
Anyway, thank you again for all you do!

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