When you’re learning the Hindi language, you absolutely need to learn to read and write with the Hindi alphabet. Or perhaps I should say – you’d be better off if you did.
Learning to read and write in Hindi permits you to use millions of native Hindi texts in your language studies. It helps you with pronunciation, because the script is designed specifically for the language, and you won’t have to settle for approximations with English transliterations.
The Hindi alphabet, also known as the Devanagari script is the script used for writing namely Hindi. But a number of other Indian languages is also written with this script. It’s probably one of the most widely spread writing systems in the world!
The Devanagari script consists of 36 consonants and 12 vowels. Vowels are mainly added to a consonant letter as a diacritic mark (like an accent), unless it’s the first letter of a word. In this case, a standalone letter symbol is used.
Is it hard to learn the Hindi script?
Many people stay away from learning languages simply for the reason of it having a different alphabet or script than the Latin script, we’re used to for reading English.
This is such a shame, because learning a foreign alphabet is one of the easiest parts of taking on a foreign language.
Think of it this way: Learning the Devanagari script involves matching some 48 little symbols to 48 sounds and learning them by heart.
While this might seem like a lot, think about how many letter combinations you need to remember by heart to learn a language! How many words do you know in English? Chances are that it’s 10-20.000.
To gain fluency in Hindi, you’ll need to know a couple of thousand words as well. So don’t be frightened by 48 little squiggly symbols. This’ll be easy!
How to practice the Hindi alphabet?
To get the letters under your skin, I recommend that you sit down and do daily writing exercises.
There’s nothing better than writing the letters out by hand. This will reinforce your memory much better than just seeing them on a computer screen.
This is how I suggest that you do it:
- Get a lined piece of paper. Write the first letter three times, neatly and slowly. Pronounce it out loud as you do. (See these writing sheets for inspiration)
- Then write a short word using the letter, pronounce the word out loud.
- Do this with the first 5 letters in one sitting.
- Then take a pause. But come back and do the exercise later in the day, preferably more than one time. But next time, add 5 more letters.
- When you’ve been through the exercise 5 times, you’ll have already reviewed the firs 5 letters 5 times. Keep doing daily exercises, but try writing longer words instead of only doing individual letters.
With this approach, you’ll gradually get used to all the different letters in the Hindi alphabet. You’ll need to know how each consonant reacts with each vowel diacritic, but this won’t be that difficult, because the vowel shapes are mostly repetitive.
To see how each letter is written, see this video: (Vowels are called “svar” and consonants “vyanjan”)
Why should I write the Hindi alphabet when learning it?
I do think however, that it’s important to do these exercises by hand. Manually drawing each letter by hand does a much better job for helping you memorize the word or letter. Writing by hand will help you remember the letters by muscle memory in stead of only seeing them visually. This will help you learn the letters faster and better.
Handwriting is also a must if you ever want to use the Hindi language in a natural context. Whenever you get serious with a language, you just can’t get around having to take notes or write small messages by hand.
I recommend that you keep doing daily handwriting exercises even when you feel you’ve learned the alphabet completely. Write the words you learn every day, and try writing your notes in Hindi. You’ll notice that handwriting in Hindi will quickly become part of your daily study routine.
It’s really not too difficult learning a foreign alphabet like Devanagari, and you’ll be glad you did!