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Conversational Hindi: Common Questions and Answers (Part 2) Posted by on May 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

This blog is the second part to my first blog on this topic. As a student of Hindi myself, I would sometimes become frustrated with the sheer volume of “formal Hindi” I was being taught. Of course, this Hindi was overly formal and outdated, but I wasn’t being told that––instead, this Hindi was described as “standard.” While it’s important to learn standard Hindi (meaning the most easily understood form of the language to the greatest variety of people) and formal Hindi (that is, Sanskrit-influenced forms of the language), more colloquial forms are also important too. Additionally, formal language is only appropriate in certain spaces and amongst certain people and is a far cry from the colloquial language of everyday conversation. So, in this blog, I will share with you a continuation of the colloquial questions and answers I tackled last time.


Image by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

सबसे पहले “धन्यवाद/शुक्रिया” के बारे में एक टिप्पणी

First, a comment about the phrase “Thank You”

Recently, a reader asked how to say “thank you” in Hindi, which is a very interesting question indeed. As English speakers, we may take the words “thank you” for granted as an accepted (and some would say required) mode of politeness, even in a casual setting. Yet, a language like Hindi is different enough from English that is has an entirely different set of cultural norms and, thus, codes of politeness. Thus, a phrase or even word in English can’t always be translated into Hindi and still make sense culturally and/or socially or even mean the same thing.

In the English-speaking world (and in much of the Western world, including in other Germanic and Romance languages) saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome” are de rigueur but, in Hindi, this is not usually the case. The Hindi language has its own codes of politeness, but saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome” aren’t considered requisite in casual conversation or, for example, while dining in a restaurant. On the opposite end of this argument, cracking one’s knuckles to ward off the evil eye and being careful to use one’s right hand (and not left hand) for eating and most transactions are not considered common codes of politeness in the English-speaking world, yet they are common usages in a Hindi-speaking environment.

Although things are quickly changing with educated urbanites becoming more and more exposed to Western culture and adopting the “थैंक यू” code, in general it’s not considered necessary to say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” as often as we do in the West. In fact, it may make some people uncomfortable and might even seem a bit awkward. If you really want to say “thank you” in the sense that we use this phrase in the English-speaking world, saying the English phrase with Indian pronunciation is probably your best bet. Other than that, there are some Hindi options that do not exactly approximate the English phrase, but they come fairly close to some usages:

  • धन्यवाद/dhanyavaad, a word from Sanskrit, is a VERY formal way of saying “thank you.” As such, it is only really appropriate in highly formal settings and not when a waiter brings a tray of food to your table or a friend pays you back for the rental car you covered. Fun fact: this word is actually made up of two words––”धन्य/dhanya” (Sanskrit, masc. noun and adjective)=auspicious, virtuous, gratitude, bringing wealth + “वाद/vaad” (masc. noun)=speaking, speech.

 

  • शुक्रिया/shukriyaa, a word from Arabic, is a more casual way to say “thank you” but is still not casual enough to justify regular use in every day conversations (the way we use “thank you” in American English, for instance). A related word, also from Arabic is “शुक्र/shukra,” which means gratitude. शुक्रिया itself sounds similar to the Arabic “شكرا” (shukraan) and the Persian “متشکرم” (motshakeram) for a reason. Although Arabic and Persian are not part of the same language family, they are connected through the religion of Islam; so oftentimes words from Arabic make their way into Persian with modifications and then those modified Persian words make their way into Hindi and Urdu.

 

  • कोई बात नहीं/koi baat nahin, means something like “it’s no big deal” or “don’t mention it” and is an appropriately casual way of saying “you’re welcome.”

Dogs and cats are usually the best at relaxing; image by Alessandro Giangiulio on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Now, let’s move on to our questions and answers:

  • What do you do in your free time (as a hobby, etc.)?

  • आप अपने ख़ाली समय में क्या करती/करते हैं? / तुम अपने ख़ाली समय में क्या करती/करते हो?
  • आप के/तुम्हारे शौक क्या क्या है?
  • Aap apne khaali samay me kyaa karti/karte hain? / Tum apni khaali samay me kyaa karti/karte ho? (What do you do in your free time)?
  • Aap ke/tumhaare shauk kyaa kyaa hai? (What are your hobbies)?

*The main decision you have to make here is between the Sanskrit word for time “समय/samay” (masc. noun) and the Arabic-descended word for time, which is “वक्त/vakt” (masc. noun); both are fairly common. The word for “empty” or “free” is ख़ाली or खाली/khaali (most people do not pronounce the ख़ as anything but an aspirated क) and it is an invariable adjective, meaning it never changes form.

Responses / जवाब

  1. मेरे पास ख़ाली समय/वक्त नहीं है / Mere paas khaali samay/vakt nahin hai (I don’t have any free time).
  2. मैं अपने दोस्तों के साथ समय बिताती/बिताता हूँ / Main apne doston ke saath samay bitaati/bitaataa huun (I spend time with my friends).
  3. मैं दौड़ती/दौड़ता हूँ अक्सर / Main daurti/daurtaa huun aksar (I often go running) or मैं रोज़/हर दिन कसरत करती/करता हूँ or मैं रोज़ जिम जाती/जाता हूँ / Main roz/har din kasrat karti/kartaa huun (I exercise every day) / Main roz gym jaati/jaataa huun (I go to the gym every day).
  4. मैं volunteer का काम करती/करता हूँ / Main volunteer kaa kaam karti/kartaa huun (I work as a volunteer). The actual Hindi word for volunteer is स्वयंसेवक/svayamsevak, but is a bit uncommon.
  5. मुझे घर पे पढ़ना/टी.वी. देखना और आराम करना बहुत अच्छा लगता है / Mujhe ghar pe parhnaa/T.V. dekhnaa aur aaraam karnaa bahut acchaa lagtaa hai (I really like to read/watch T.V. and relax at home).

A storm about to blow in on Chennai’s Marina Beach; image by Vinoth Chandar on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

  • What’s the weather like here/there?

  • मौसम कैसा है यहाँ/वहाँ?
  • Mausam kaisaa hai yahaan/vahaan?

Responses / जवाब

  1. बहुत गर्मी और हवा सीलन भरी है / Bahut garmi aur havaa seelan bhari hai / It’s very hot and the air is humid. *नम/nam is another word for humid.
  2. बहुत बारिश हो रही है ––छाता/छतरी लेना/लेनी चाहिए / Bahut baarish ho rahi hai ––chaataa/chatri lenaa/leni chaahiye.
  3. थोड़ा ठंडा है, कोट ले लो/ले लें / Thora thandaa hai, coat le lo/le len / It’s a bit cold, (maybe) you should take a coat (first conjugation is for “tum,” the second is for “aap”).
  4. अरे, आज मौसम बहुत सुन्दर है, एकदम बढ़िया सावन का दिन / Are, aaj mausam bahut sundar hai, ekdam barhiyaa saavan kaa din / Wow, today the weather is very beautiful; it’s an absolutely amazing Monsoon day (most people would exclaim at the beauty of a “saavan” or Monsoon day because the rains relieve the stifling heat of summer).
  5. बहुत ही ठंडा है, शॉल में अपने आप को लपेट लो/लीजिये/ओढ़ लो/लीजिये / Bahut hi thandaa hai, shawl me apne aap ko lapet lo/lijiye/ordh lo/lijiye / It’s very cold, wrap yourself in a shawl (लपेटना/lapetnaa and ओढ़ना/ordhnaa are just two verbs for “wrap.” The first conjugation is for “tum,” the second is for “aap).

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About the Author:Rachael

नमस्ते, मेरा नाम रेचल है/آلسلام الیکوم، میرا نام ریچل ہے۔ Hello, my name is Rachael, but I also on occasion go by Richa––an interesting story for another time :) My two great loves are Hindi and Urdu. I first traveled to India (Jaipur, Rajasthan) in college on a Hindi study abroad program. A little over a year later, I returned to the same city to study Hindi in a yearlong program. I've also spent a summer in Kolkata, West Bengal learning Bengali, and I studied Urdu at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a graduate student in South Asian Studies. I hope to share with you the fascinating world of Hindi and Urdu literature, society, culture and film through my blogs!


Comments:

  1. K~:

    Have you heard people use “daudna” for running? I was just thinking this morning about how “running” doesn’t seem to really have a word in Hindi. I’ve used “jogging karna” which my neighbours generally understood, but does daudna work? It’s never seemed quite right to me!

    • Rachael:

      @K~ Hi!
      Thanks for reading. Yes, you’re right that दौड़ना may seem odd as a way to say that you are running for exercise and not for any other reason (like fleeing from a stray dog, for example). I mentioned it because it is the major Hindi word for “running” and would make sense in the context of someone asking you “what do you do in your free time / as a hobby”? But, amongst Hindi speakers who are educated in English, it would make sense to just say something like जोगिंग करना, for sure. Not everyone would understand जोगिंग करना though, especially those who live in small towns or villages and/or don’t have a lot of exposure to English. Basically, the take-away is—feel out your audience, if the people you’re speaking to are educated and/or aware of English, jogging karna makes sense, but to those who would not necessarily understand this phrase, दौड़ना may be more accessible. I hope that helps!

      • K~:

        @Rachael Yah, that’s usually what I do. I find that the idea of running in general is pretty odd, particularly to village people and the lower middle class, so even if I say “mai daudti hu” it can cause some confusion! Then again, there are English speakers who think running is crazy, so… 😀


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