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Learning the Devanagari script!

I'm super excited to be learning Hindi, but I'm really struggling to distinguish between similar sounds! Please tell me that my ears will adjust to the nuances between letters? Anyone else struggling with this?

On a side note, I cannot deal with how gorgeous this script is <3

July 19, 2018



Without getting into the finer details of how to pronounce the letters (because there's a whole science and structure behind each letter lol) this is what I can say to make it a bit easier:

"Ja" will have minimal to no air coming out of the mouth compared to "Jha" which will have a good amount of air leaving the mouth. Same with most letters with "h" added to it.

"Ta" - No air coming out; "Tha" - Air leaves the mouth

"Da" - No air coming out; "Dha" - Air leaves the mouth

And likewise

Practice by putting the palm in front of the mouth and practice. It should clear the difference up a little.


Thanks for providing this great tip! This will be very useful. Have some lingots.

Also,I'd like to add to this (I'm just a new learner, no native speaker or expert). The difference between consonants like 'ja' and 'jha', 'ka' and 'kha' and 'ga' and 'gha' is that the latter is aspirated, meaning that there is air coming out of your mouth. 'Jha' is more 'explosive' than 'ja' which is unaspirated and thus: 'softer'. It's in fact very much like how a certain vowel in Spanish differs from a similar vowel in English...

The 'V' in Spanish is pronounced very much like a 'B' in English, however, the 'V' is much 'softer' than the English 'B'. To make the Spanish 'V' sound, you make the English 'B' sound, hold something against your mouth (like a piece of paper or a hand) and try to reduce the amount of air that hits whatever's in front of your mouth. It takes some practice, but at some point your 'B sound' won't 'explode' out of your mouth anymore, but 'leave it in a soft glide'. It might be useful for people who already speak some Spanish in figuring out Hindi.

For learning Hindi the trick seems to be to reverse-engineer this thing. To go from an unaspirated consonant (ga) to an aspirated consonant (gha).

TLDR: The difference betwen consonants like ga and gha lies in the aspiration. The former is unaspirated, so air doesn't leave the mouth. The latter is aspirated meaning that air does leave the mouth.

If anyone's interested, this is my source. I found it to be quite helpful in learning Devanagari. It explains the mechanics very well and has plenty of other materials:


It's easy for Indians to distinguish. I am sure that learners will be able to eventually some day as well. It's an arbitrary collection of Latin letters they've used to represent Indian characters.

Yeah it's a nice looking script, based off of Aramaic. Fun fact; Devanaagarii (the script) and Hiragana have shared ancestry, it was a Japanese scholar who decided to create Hiragana based off of his studies of a predecessor to Devanaagarii called Siddham.


Yeah but no. I think that hiragana was based in Kanji written very quickly and used only for their phonetical value. Here's actually a pretty neat comparison chart between hiragana and the kanji they were based on: https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-d67a95fb4bf223a24e3cd877f276567d


As Haileabeba noted, it isn't the hiragana script itself that's derived from Siddham. Rather, it's the system of organization:

a, i, u, e, o; ka, ki, ku, ke, ko; sa, shi, su, se, so; et c.

This progressive grid, with vowels in a certain order, first alone and then combined with consonant initials, is ultimately derived from Siddham.


Could you give us an example where you found words with similar pronunciation?


Jha, cha, ca, and ja sound very similar to me. Also u and u with the line above it. It's not an audio problem, it's my brain XD


All the vowels with a line above them (it's called a macron) are longer than the corresponding ones without the line (and sometimes the sound also change a little).


I seem to be having the same problem with Letters 2


I can tell you that श and ष sound exactly the same.


I know I have been having trouble with the two i sounds.


Oh I get the same problem than you LaikyReads. It is only because my ear sometimes is not enough open to that kind of shade between two different sounds. I can't say about the prononciation in the Duo course, but I had the same problem when I studied very few Hindi before. Now, some words become easy to understand for me because in the context of a sentence a "similar sound for my ear" becomes different by the meaning.... So I have only one thing to tell you : good luck !


Thank you! I'm sure I'll get used to it, it is only day 1 after all :)


I'm sure for you, just follow the way and go ahead ;-))


I’m struggling to hear the differences in some sounds as well. I’m counting on getting better with practice.


i don't struggle in hindi that much , but i suck at hindi grammar , i don't suck at speaking it and i learnt german so i wanna improve in it and now i'm learning french in my school , even german also i learnt in my school !


Some sounds are very hard to distinguish if you're not introduced to them at an early age. After several years of exposure, while I can feel the difference in the mechanics of pronouncing टा and ता , I can't reliably distinguish the two by ear. Likewise I know native Hindi speakers who struggle to hear a difference between 'west' and 'vest'. So ... in my experience it'll get somewhat easier, but your ears may never adjust entirely! (I still struggle to pronounce aspirated consonants too, at least not without showering the listener in spittle.)


This is something i left on one of the first question discussions in the course. Hope it helps! If you have any questions, please ask, any comments, please comment

I have a few pronounciation tips I'd like to share that i think would be helpful: Hindi uses lots of sounds that are foreign to English. Take the sentence "मैं अच्छा हूँ" or "I am good." The first and last words, phonemically "main" and "hoon", end in nasal sounds. The symbols ँ and ं indicate a nasal sound. Listen closely to the recordings for how to correctly pronounce them! You can also check out the IPA chart link below for more sound bites. Be sure to commit to memory all the diacritical markings in devanagari. They usually change the vowel sound of a character, but not always! For example म (ma) can become मि (mi) or मी (mī) (which is short vowel vs long vowel) but can also become मृ (mr) or र्म (rma, a conjunct consonant) which is र् + म. I highly suggest checking out the link below to omniglot.com, where there is a full quick reference list of these characters that can help with the intricacies of devanagari. Be sure to look closely at the section labeled "common conjunct consonants". These are two characters that are joined together into one.

Whenever you see a word or letters transcripted into our latin alphabet, consonants that have a dot underneath are retroflex. A few hindi characters (devanagari) may sound extremely similar ie त,ट। थ,ठ। द,ड। and ध,ढ (ta, ṭa | tha, ṭha | da, ḍa | dha, ḍha respectively) however, they differ in their place of articulation (be it alveolar ridge or retroflex) and aspiration. While I could dive into an in depth explanation, others already have, so I will share links :)) some of these sites may not write a retroflex as ṭ or ḍ. When not written that way, you will find the IPA symbols ʈ and ɖ. They are the same sounds.

More on retroflex and t vs d: https://www.livinglanguage.com/blog/2014/02/19/pronunciation-tips-for-hindi-t-and-d/

Retroflex specific: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroflex_consonant

Overall good hindi info along with a full chart of all DEVANAGARI CHARACTERS and their phonetic transcriptions: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/hindi.htm

A site where you can listen to every specific sound found in hindi, over and over till you understand it:


In lack of the tips before the course, this may be of help to some degree: https://en.m.wikibooks.org/wiki/Hindi/Introduction

Although I talked only about the t and d sounds, retroflexs occur in other hindi sounds such as ण (na) ष (sa) so keep your eyes peeled! If I made any errors please let me know (cause we're in this together and Im still learning too!) Good luck and have fun!


Your ears will adjust, and it will hardly be any different from adjusting to the unique sounds of French or Japanese or Polish. The distinction which trumps most foreigners is the distinction between the aspirated and non-aspirated variants of the same sound, e.g. ka & kha. If you can get the hang of the difference between them (and other similar pairs), you'd be good to go. A list of all the pairs: ka & kha ga & gha ca & cha ja & jha Ta & Tha Da & Dha ta & tha da & dha pa & pha ba & bha

Another distinction that may be unfamiliar is in the two t-like sounds and two d-like sounds (which I've distinguished above by uppercase and lowercase). You really need to listen and learn to imitate them to get them right.

The last category of challenging sounds are not unique to Hindi. They are mainly found in Perso-Arabic loanwords, which, for historical reasons, number much higher in colloquial Hindi than in formal Hindi: qa, xa & Ga (indicated by dots below the ka, kha & ga respectively). The 'qa' can be hard to explain, but xa is exactly like the Scottish ch in loch and Ga is like the French r.

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