Listener Comments and questions – learning the Hindi letters & सकता

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Today we go over some comments and questions that people have written in. Also, we look at some of the letters and vowels.

Carolyn emailed me saying:

I just got the package from you with Hindi Gym books. They are beautiful! Thank you so much. I’m sure all your listeners are going to love these. I have approached Hindi by trying to learn it like a child (I figure I’m at a two year old’s level!). These workbooks are perfect to support me in building up my skills. Also, learning the script is such a huge bonus to the experience of Hindi and I’m glad your workbooks and word puzzles encourage people to learn the script. I’ve found that moving away from transliteration has helped me immensely.

I am glad that you liked the package. Just to make sure everyone knows what Carolyn is referring to, we are offering the two alphabet books from along with a book of 25 Word Find Puzzles for only $15 + Shipping and Handling:


If you are a paid subscriber, you can go to the paid subscriber’s area and see a page with line by line audio that we put together for the Hindi Phonics and Vocabulary book. Here is a screenshot to give you an idea of what to expect:


I think learning the Hindi letters is a must for anyone that is seriously studying Hindi. The Hindi letter system looks very strange and difficult at first. But the consistency and the way it is put together makes it fairly straight forward to learn.

Let us look at the first four Hindi consonants:

क ख ग घ

These sounds are made from the back of the throat. The first two make a “k” like sound. The second two make a “g” like sound. The first one in each set is not aspirated. You say it with as little air as possible. The second one in each pair is aspirated.

You will often see this consonants transliterated as follows:

consonant 1: क = k

consonant 2: ख = kh

consonant 3: ग = g

consonant 4: घ =gh

Now let us look at the first 6 vowels

अ आ इ ई उ ऊ

See how similar the first and second symbols are? How about the next two? And the next two? Well the sounds are similar too. The first one in each set make a short sound and the second one in each set makes a longer sound. You can remember the difference because the second one is “longer” in some way.

You will often see these vowels transliterated like the following:

vowel 1: अ = a

vowel 2: आ = aa

vowel 3: इ = i

vowel 4: ई = ii

vowel 5: उ = u

vowel 6: ऊ = uu

The vowels have two versions. One is an “independent form” which you see above. Another is a dependent form which is used together with a consonant. Vowel 1: अ is actually built into each of the consonant automatically. Which is why you will really see the consonants mentioned above with the “a” part of the transliteration

consonant 1 with a: क = ka

consonant 2 with a: ख = kha

consonant 3 with a: ग = ga

consonant 4 with a: घ =gha

When you add vowel 2 (आ aa) to the consonants, you just put a line after it like this:

consonant 1 with aa: का = kaa

consonant 2 with aa: खा = khaa

consonant 3 with aa: गा = gaa

consonant 4 with aa: घा =ghaa

When you add vowel 3 (इ i) to a consonant, just put a line that starts at the top and swoops the left like these examples (the unicode characters below do not show up correctly on all systems. The line should be to the LEFT of the letter):

consonant 1 with i: कि = ki

consonant 2 with i: खि = khi

consonant 3 with i: गि = gi

consonant 4 with i: घि =ghi

When you add vowel 4 (ई ii) to the consonants, you just put a line that starts at the top and swoops the right like this:

consonant 1 with ii: की = kii

consonant 2 with ii: खी = khii

consonant 3 with ii: गी = gii

consonant 4 with ii: घी =ghii

When you add vowel 5 (उ u) to a consonant, just put a loop at the bottom that points to the left:

consonant 1 with u: कु = ku

consonant 2 with u: खु = khu

consonant 3 with u: गु = gu

consonant 4 with u: घु =ghu

When you add vowel 6 (ऊ uu) to the consonants, you just put a loop at the bottom that points to the right like this:

consonant 1 with uu: कू = kuu

consonant 2 with uu: खू = khuu

consonant 3 with uu: गू = guu

consonant 4 with uu: घू =ghuu

Just remember that the short vowel signs point to the left and the long ones point to the right.

You can see how just learning these 4 consonants and 6 vowels gives you the ability to make 24 different sounds in Hindi while only learning 10 characters. And as you learn a few more characters, the number of sounds you are able to write goes up considerably while the number of characters you actually have to know stays fairly small. It is really and wonderful system of writing that is mostly consistent.

Caylen, another one of our listeners wrote in the following question:

i didnt know where else to ask, so i thought i would try here. I couldnt find the answer on your site and it would take me forever to go through all the pod casts, but i was wondering if you could give me the closest meaning in english for SAKTA, when used in a sentence.
Thank you kindly.

सकता (saktaa) is a form of the verb सकना (sakna) which means “can”. For example, “I can speak Hindi.” is मैं हिंदी बोल सकता हूँ। (mein hindi bol saktaa huun) if you are a male. And if you are a female it is मैं हिंदी बोल सकती हूँ। (mein hindi bol saktii huun).

Also, feel free to ask questions any time. You can send your questions to me at and you can also leave it on the website.

Talking about the website, a lot of people have responded positively to the social features that are there now that we have upgraded to BuddyPress. You can see all the activity that is going on here:

Also, there is a forum where you can post questions and comments and meet up with other people learning Hindi:

I thought would be a good place to get ideas for future episodes. Abhi suggested that we create some around the holidays in India. There are a lot of holidays! (

I have created a discussion about each of the central government holidays that are coming up. The next on is Mahavir Jayanti which is on March 28, 2010. If you have some ideas for what we should include in the episode about this holiday, please add it to the discussion. We are looking for anything. Information about how it is celebrated, songs and poems related to the holiday, information about how it is going to be celebrated in your part of the world, etc.

I should also mention that I will be out of town on vacation for the next few days. I’ve told the family it will be a “no computer” vacation. We will have pre-recorded lessons come out during that time, but if I do not respond to email during that time or see me active on the site, then you know why.

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Looking for something more basic? Why not try our "50 Hindi Words to Get You Started" Lesson?
Looking for something else? Check out our Hindi/English Dictionary. Learn Hindi
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Started in June 2007. Continue to work on to learn Hindi myself and to help others want to learn it. Nathan Price is the sole owner of