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Hindi - Phonetic Alphabet

Just a suggestion, hopefully not an unpopular one - learning Hindi in the phonetic alphabet (a-z) is much more practical (and useful) to the average English Speaker. The written language is beautiful but when trying to learn grammar and grasp the pronounciation, I think it would be more effective if Duolingo incorporated the phonetic words.

July 19, 2018



I fully agree and would love if there was an option to switch to the phonetic alphabet.


I agree. I think that learning a new alphabet and developing an ear for the language have different variables, and that if a phonetic alphabet were employed it would be very helpful to new learners.


I would say: give the user the choice. I personally want as much Devanagari and audio as possible since I learn scripts by matching the sounds I hear with the letters I see.


I would appreciate some more information on the Hindi keyboard, too. From what I can see, like Russian, it's not mapped phonetically, which makes matters more complicated. It would just be helpful if we had an explanation somewhere about how to use a Hindi keyboard and what the rules are.


I've started to create for Hindi a very very rough draft of the keyboard layout by using a spreadsheet : https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1hnxAmGKLI_qrTIm-YeNR8yPnJaPJlQrRgFFNsv4v6c0/edit?usp=sharing

Please also comment if you see things wrong in the keyboard spreadsheet, or can assist in filling in the blanks.

To load keyboards, check out:


Always full of resources Lindakanga. Bravo!


I understand you clrnlsn, if you are in hurry to speak some Hindi.

For my part, I'm very glad to learn the Hindi way of writing. (In fact I learned it a bit before, but I usely read it (badly) letter by letter, and I hope my way of reading will be better soon with Duo). For me a language is all that makes its specificity, and the writing is an important one. It's also an aesthetic question for me ;-) Chinese, Japanese or Hindi... in phonetic occidental alphabet are gloomy ! I do not look for efficiency in learning a language, just travel a little in the new images it creates for me.. Another window to feel the world.


For English speakers conversational Hindi is better taught using phonetics. My husband is Indian and agrees that this method of learning the script is quite useless if you want to learn conversational Hindi and speak with a native. Unless you are planning on moving to India, and even then, most Indians actually write and type out online using the Roman alpnabet phonetically to communicate in Hindi. I ask that the developer and Duolingo work on this and give us an option. I’ve stopped with the Hindi course as I just have no intention on memorizing and learning the script. Even if you look at good Hindi language books, they offer script and phonetics in one for easier and faster learning.


yes I agree and would love to have it with the phonetic alphabet. I will use this app to learn to speak and understand but will not need to write. I think the option for both would be a good compromise depending on what the user wishes to learn


I saw this quite a bit over on the Chinese module, with people wanting to learn in just Pinyin, without Characters. Ultimately, if you want to learn Hindi first and figure Devanagari out later, that's up to you, but I would ask: is this really the language you want to be learning?

Every time I've seen a person in Chinese, or Japanese, or Nepali, who said they wanted to learn the language, but they didn't want to deal with the writing system, they eventually gave up without getting very far. They weren't in 100%. They didn't emerse themselves in the language.

The people I see saying "oooh, i'm so excited just to be learning devanagari!" and "oh i love how beautiful it looks" might seem superficial to some, but it is a good indicator of the kind of enthusiasm it takes to really absorb yourself in a language. So though it is just pretty, and you may not need it, I would encourage you to think carefully about how commited you are to the language. I've been there before. I spent about a year trying to learn Greek my freshman year in college before figuring out that my heart just wasn't in it. When I switched to learning Chinese, it was like a light went on in my life, and suddenly I was eating Chinese food, drinking Chinese tea, reading Chinese books, and idly drawing Chinese characters on all my notes.

This isn't meant as discouragment, but instead, I mean to encourage you to find a language that gets you irrationally excited, where you are so interested in the culture behind the language, you don't want to neglect any part of it.

That said, there is a strong pedagogical reason to start by learning Devanagari. The phonetic system of Indic languages doesn't really match English well. For example, the differences between long and short a are like the diference between a in "all" and a in "father." There's no real way to illustrate this with Romanization, and even IPA struggles to identify the key differences between many phonetic forms.

However, if you really sit down an learn Devanagari, you will see it contains its own logic, by which Indic pronunciation makes much more sense. If you want to get a better understanding of how Devanagari can help you grasp the important concepts in the language, look at the alphabet layed out as it was intended, in a grid. The groups of letters illustrates ways that they start with one sound, and then modify it through things like aspiration or retroflexion. Here's a good outline of the logic behind Devanagari https://www.omniglot.com/writing/devanagari.htm

This is also useful if you want to understand the rationale behind some of the ways that different words are used together, and it helps you understand the key differences between similar seeming words, and the ways that words are inflected for number, gender, etc.


While this is a nice sentiment, I am going to play devil's advocate and state that for most people duolingo is a way to learn a conversation level of a language and honestly is not a very good method of learning the culture or writing style anyway. Most conversation style Hindi will be written in a phonetic alphabet and most people have an easier time picking up pronunciation (especially on an online platform) with this alphabet.


In pinyin's case, isn't that how a lot of people type hanzi characters? Spell the pinyin out on the keyboard, see the hanzi appear on the screen...


Devanagari itself is phonetic - the different symbols represent different sounds. :)

It's the same way the Latin alphabet, the hiragana and katakana syllabaries, etc. are phonetic. :)


Who is teaching people that the only phonetic alphabet is the Roman one?


Totally agree - speaking as a Non-Resident Indian, it is much more practical to have the romanized letters as this is how Indians generally write in informal situations anyway.

Unless you're planning to live/work in India, it is largely a waste of time to learn the script. I was hoping just to brush up on vocabulary and the masculine/feminine, but the script is totally throwing me off, and I'm not really interested in continuing if it means I have to learn the script first.

I really hope Duolingo reconsiders having the Hindi course phonetically spelled or romanized!

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