Our guide for translating Hindi

India has been well-known for the development in technology, now it is climbing fast to the top three strongest economies of the world. Hindi is the world’s third most spoken language after Mandarin and English, with around 500-600 million speakers. A professional translating partner will pave the wave for international businesses to interact with large and robust communities in India.

I. The importance of Hindi translation

Hindi is one of two official languages of the Republic of India, along with English. Beside over 400 million native speakers in India, Hindi can be found in immigrant and expat communities in Canada, Singapore. An interesting fact is that the US is the third-ranked nation with the most Hindi users.

Hindi is also one of the official languages of Fiji with 48% of the population speaking it as their mother tongue. In addition, Nepal has chosen Hindi as one of its official languages.

II. 4 problems when translating Hindi

1. Reading between the lines

As a cultural traits, Indian people are not familiar with direct expression. One typical example is how they say “no”. A straight “no” might be considered rude. In the mindset of Indian, refusal may lead to disputes, which should be avoided. Instead, they’ll say something like “I’ll try”, “I’ll do my best”. Prepare yourself that you may never see it happen.

“It might be possible later” – in Indian culture means that the person is just buying time for both of you before you actually see that the thing in question is not going to come about.

“I understand”. This doesn’t mean anything else but that the listener understands. It is neither refusal nor an agreement. So don’t get your hopes up.

2. The rise of Hinglish

As mentioned above, English is also an official language in India. With a great population speaking both of the languages, it’s easy to understand why Hinglish, a hybridized “child”, was born and has become more and more popular.

A couple of studies asked Hinglish speakers to speak a short conversation only in Hindi. The results show that most of them weren’t able to speak pure Hindi to fully express themselves. Another proof that Hinglish is gathering its strength is in advertising. There was one Pepsi’s slogan that used Hinglish: ‘Yeh Dil Maange More!’ (The heart wants more!). Another example is  a shampoo ad starring world-class actress Priyanka Chopra, she said “Come on girls, waqt hai shine karne ka!” (Come on girls, it’s time to shine!)

With the rising of this phenomenon, the translation business has taken on a new adventure. Many international brands, especially ones that target the young generation, prefer using Hinglish for their advertisements to keep the message resonate and on trend.

3. Body language of the head

It is an interesting characteristic of Indian people that is barely found anywhere else. Foreigners may notice the way Indians use their head in various ways to express their opinion. From tilting to the side or shaking head to both sides to indicate agreement and understanding or nodding to show their attention to the discussion and many other ways.

This doesn’t affect your translation process if you only have written materials. However, it is worth-noticing for your advertisement, TVC or any kind of visual work.

4. The rich culture

Indian culture is no doubt one of the richest, oldest of the whole world. Its legacy shines through every form of art, literature included. 

Indian literature was filled with poetic imagery, metaphors and philosophy. Unfortunately, English didn’t have enough vocabulary or phrases to capture those nuances. All those cultural moorings make translating a laborious and strenuous process that requires experts years of diving into the beautiful culture and language of India.

If you need to translate into Hindi, give us a call today!

Facts about the Hindi language

  • If you know Hindi, you’ll be able to communicate in Urdu also.
  • The alphabetical table of Hindi is called ‘Varnmala’ meaning ‘Garland of letters’
  • None of the alphabets of Hindi give an illusion even if they are written upside down or show any mirror image
  • There are no silent letters that exist in Hindi