I've noticed that when Hindi is I guess transliterated phonetically transcribed to the English Alphabet many of the letters are doubled to represent the correct sound that one would make if you were speaking it. Some words to demonstrate this:

shaadi for शादी (Wedding/marriage)
aapke or आपके (Your). 

Is this true for all the short vowel sounds? I'm trying to learn Hindi currently from someone and they told me to not worry about learning the script, Devanagari currently and to just transliterate transcribe words for my benefit.

Is there a common way to phonetically transcribe Hindi?

  • 4
    There is a difference between transcriptions and transliteration. Transliteration is {usually one-to-one} reproducing of characters between writing systems. Transcription reproduces pronunciation. Therefore, transliterated long and vowels usually look the same. For example, the word "devanagari" is transliteration; syllables na and ri contain long vowels while the others are short. For a student, it is better to use a certain phonetic transcription system. Oct 10, 2012 at 22:52
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    I agree. As long as you understand the actual vowel sounds (like /a/ being [ə], while /aa/ is [a:]), transcription is better. Given the number of Sanskrit words in Hindi that represent quite different sounds, it's much better to deal with the living pronunciation. You can get devanagari later. Oct 11, 2012 at 8:10
  • I wasn't aware of the differences in transliteration and transcription, thank you for the information! I've edited the comment to better reflect this.
    – Patrick G
    Oct 11, 2012 at 14:51
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    Off-topic, but I think your friend's advice is wrong; learning a language without its writing system is only going to get you so far: you won't be able to use standard dictionaries, can't read any books or newspapers or the menu in the restaurant, etc.
    – Fryie
    Oct 11, 2012 at 21:43
  • Devanagari is a pretty easy writing system to learn, especially if you're only learning one variant. (It has many variants for different languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, Nepali.) One hard thing to learn though is all the conjunct consonants. There are many varying wildly as to how common they are. Many are optional so if you're studying by computer many fonts won't support many conjuncts. If you just want to read modern stuff you don't have to learn as many. Oct 14, 2012 at 15:58

1 Answer 1


Code switching is common in India. So, even when writing to each other in English on facebook or IM, many Indians tend to insert phrases from one or more Indian languages. When people do that, they do not use one of the standard transliteration schemes. Most Sanskrit books, when printed for an English-speaking audience, use IAST. However, that's difficult to type on a computer. I prefer ITRANS, and that's what I'd recommend for you.

"Is there a common way to phonetically transcribe Hindi?"

In the "common way", people don't aim to be accurate; they just aim to be understood by a fluent speaker of Hindi. Since you're not a fluent speaker of Hindi, I advise against the common way.

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