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My Hindi Goal. Will it be of use?

My question: If I learn Hindi will someone who speaks Punjabi be able to understand me? I have heard that the languages are very similar and wanted to confirm is this is true from a Native.

My goal would be for me to try to communicate with my Friend and his family at some point but if I won't be understood I think I'll focus my studies back on French. (His Mother speaks both Hindi and Punjabi but his family speaks Punjabi together at home).


July 19, 2018



Its more likely for a Punjabi to understand a Hindi speaker than the other way around. The languages are considerably different but they might understand you a little bit


Yes, definitely you would be able to do that if you master the vocabulary and pronunciation of the words. Those are major roadblocks on the way to learn any language, including Hindi too.


Yeah the script I am finding very difficult to remember. So I've started to make my own notes and will write down what I think the word would be spelled like in English and that has been helping a lot. I'm more so wanting to practice my listening and speaking rather than writing :)


Yes most Punjabi's can understand Hindi and speak Hindi very well.


That's good to know :) Thanks


Colloquial Hindustani, often called Bazaar Hindi if I'm not mistaken, is mutually intelligible with Punjabi. And it's basically the same language as Urdu---so you get three languages for the effort of one!

That said, if they have a thick accent--depending on the region of The Punjab they came from--you might run into a few problems in understanding them. They, on the other hand, will be able to understand you as long as you speak clearly. Happy learning!


So, there are a few levels of answers to these questions, and each kind of depends on you.

If this friend is a big enough presence in your life that you will really want to be talking with their family, and their family doesn't speak English, then the best thing will be to eventually learn Panjabi. If that's a goal, and you aren't able to just move to the Panjab for a year or two, your best bet will probably be to learn Hindi first. South Asian languages are not only closely related, but they also constantly influence each other because of their proximity, so they are even more closely related than European languages in the same family.

If your goal is to listen in on Panjabi conversations at his home, then I'm not sure Hindi will get you there. As I mentioned above, Hindi will definitely help you learn Panjabi, but I think that with merely a Duo-lingo level proficiency in Hindi, being able to converse across languages is probably unlikely.

If your goal is to just learn a bit to be polite, there are some interesting issues there as well. In much of South Asia, I've found that people who aren't Hindu nationalists don't necessarily prioritize Hindi. Often I'm always amused at all the work I do studying South Asian languages only to meet someone who very crisply says "Oh, I'm sorry, that's not my native language, so I would rather just speak in English."

On the other hand, there are lots of cognates, so if you know the Hindi word for something, and you just want to point at something and say the word, you'll get a lot of encouragement, sometimes usually accompanied by a good humored reminder that you're using Hindi, and then they'll tell you their word for the same thing.

On the whole, if you are interested in learning more South Asian languages, and you don't have access to university classes, Duolingo is, in my opinion, a great way to get started. If your goal lies beyond Hindi, it might take a little more time to bear fruit, but the journey is worth it. :)


Also worth noting, a lot of standard guide-book style courtesy phrases aren't actually based on a language, but based on the person's culture.

The people who identify as Panjabi today may come from any number of states that were part of the historic area known as the Panjab, which includes Pakistani Panjab, Indian Panjab, Harayana, and even Himachel Pradesh. Most of the Panjabis in Pakistan are Muslims, so you would greet them with "Salam awalekum" whereas many Panjabis in India are Sikh, so you would greet them with "Satsri akal" - the traditional Hindi greeting "Namaste" or "Namaskar" is actually a Hindu term, and even when speaking Hindi, you wouldn't use it for people who aren't Hindus.

So learning one language or the other is only half the challenge, the real trick, and greatest reward, is learning more about who your friends are through the specific lexical choices that they make, and how that relates to their history and identity.


I must admit, very well explained. That said, it's unlikely you'll find people who identify as Panjabi in the states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. There's a reason the state was broken up, you know. Also, non-Indians tend to really overthink the impact of religion on everyday life in the country. I've also been told to replace my Dhanyavaads with Shukriyas when with Muslims. AFAIK, this is BS. A Muslim in the middle classes may be downright offended if you greet her with a Salam Alaeikum just because they're wearing traditional attire or have a Muslim sounding name.


Oh sure, Haryana and HP were on the fringes, and their inclusion had more to do with Imperial history than cultural identity, but the point being, the actual area of the "Five Rivers" from the Indus to the Sutlej is pretty expansive.

On the point of religion, I think you might have a point in some of the less contentious parts of India, but in my experience it is definitely not BS. I speak Nepali, so when I'm cobbling together makeshift Hindi and Urdu I tend to favor older Sanskrit words like Dhanyabad. Do Muslims in the Terai or Bhojpuri speakers in Bihar care? No. In Kashmir or the Pakistani Panjab do they care? Yes. Absolutely. If you are in Lahore, Rawalpindi or Multan, you say Salam, Shukriya, and Xuda Hafiz. In places like UP, I generally follow a person's lead, and greet them as they greet me, though most of my friends there are secular and use English greetings with me.

With the Sikhs in the Indian Panjab, I have never heard them complain about using Hindu terms, but they tend to be happy when someone shows enough interest to recognize their own greetings.

Is it necessary? Not really. Even if in the absolute worst case scenario you do mangle it, and ruffle some feathers, as an outsider, I have found, people in South Asia are kind and will generally forgive you.

But does paying attention to how someone greets you, and responding in kind pay off? I think so. I'm an anthropologist, and I work on things like food. So many times I'm trying to talk my way into people's kitchens. This can be sensitive depending on different religious positionalities, and generally it is too rude to outright ask people about it, so reading the subtle hints, and responding in kind has really worked out well for me personally.


I have native proficiency in both Hindi and Punjabi, here's my opinion ~

Yes, the languages overlap a bit. However, it is far easier for a Punjabi speaker to understand Hindi completely than the other way round. If you complete the Hindi tree on here and get a good grasp of the structure and grammar then you could DEFINITELY understand a fair amount of Punjabi.

Just ask your friend's family to speak a little bit slower in front of you! it's very hard to impossible for Hindi speakers to understand fast spoken Punjabi


Thanks everyone for your answers!!!


the problem is the script, you can probably tell from my last name I'm Punjabi. I understand the language so the listening part on duolingo is easy, but the script is so so different.

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