ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Learning Nepali - The Alphabet

Updated on April 18, 2014

First time learning a language?

Relax. Nepali can seem a little daunting at first, but cracking the code to a language like this will open the door to learn even more. For example, Nepali is closely related to Hindi and shares the same alphabet and many of the same words. Knowing one makes learning the other that much easier!

Before I began learning Nepali, I had been studying Japanese for months. The two languages share a lot in common - non-Roman writing systems, similar word order, etc. Beginning with Japanese (which I feel is a lot more difficult) really helped me with Nepali.

Of course, you don't need to learn Japanese or any other language first to start with Nepali. Just have an open mind, and remember that other languages have rules that can be quite different to English. Learning to "think" in a different language can be fascinating!

Source

We'll start off with the alphabet. If you are committed to learning a language, being able to read it is an important step. Many people, though, are able to speak conversationally without ever being able to read.

The Vowels

Source

The writing system used for Nepali (called the Devanagari script) has some interesting rules. Check out the chart above. The first line are the vowels by themselves. You'll usually see them at the beginnings of words, or when more than one vowel are side by side.

The second line shows how vowels look when combined with a consonant - in this case, P.
It doesn't matter which consonant the vowels are paired with, they will always follow these same rules.

  1. क+ओ=को
  2. प+ओ=पो
  3. स+ओ=सो

All three of the above are different consonants paired with the vowel O.


Now, take a look at the last one on the right, अँ
This little letter is an interesting one. See that little curve on top with the dot in the middle? It's called a chandrabindu (which means "moon-dot") and in Nepali, it means that vowel is nasalized. Nasalization can take some practice. It almost sounds like you're adding an N to the vowel. Try talking while holding your nose. Sounds like you have a cold, right? Well, it's kind of the same idea. Listening to Nepali speech will definitely give you a flavor for this sound. (*Make sure you watch the music video at the very bottom of this page...it gives a hysterical example of this nasalization technique!)

The video below shows all the vowels being pronounced by a native Nepali speaker.

Consonants

I know, it seems like a lot. That's because in addition to what we think of as "regular" English consonants, Nepali also has aspirated consonants, retroflex consonants....aspirated retroflex consonants...

But it's not as hard as it sounds. 'Aspirated' only means you let out a puff of air (basically an H sound) when you say the letter. These consonants are the ones listed with an H after them, like ख, ध, etc.

As for retroflex, these ones are pretty fun to say. Check out the first four letters on the second line in the picture above. Those "dots" underneath the spelling indicate that these are retroflex consonants. To say them, you have to curl up your tongue and flick it against the roof of your mouth. Try saying "da" this way. Sounds like an Indian accent, right? The same goes for the other retroflex letters. Just speak in your best Bollywood accent and you've got it right.

The interesting thing about these consonants is that they come prepackaged with the consonant अ in them, pronounced like "uh". Unlike English consonants, these already have a vowel attached. So if you see them all by themselves, you'll pronounce them with an "uh" afterwards - "tuh, duh, kuh." There are plenty of exceptions to this rule - lots of Nepali words end with a consonant, not a vowel, and you pretty much have to memorize the word in order to know whether it ends with an "uh" sound or not.

Since the vowel अ is automatically included, how do we write words which are supposed to have two consonants stuck together, e.g. the word for hello, "Namaste"? It would be weird to write it out as नमसते, "na-ma-sa-te," because that's not how it's pronounced. Well, here is where another crazy feature of the Nepali alphabet comes into play. In Nepali, you can actually cut consonants in half and stick them onto other consonants. This is how "Namaste" is actually spelled:

नमस्ते

See that? That's half of स stuck to त. You can do this to pretty much any consonant, and they'll usually be easy to recognize since they appear to have just been cut in half. Some follow special rules, though. Check out this amazing chart on Devanagari conjuncts, which shows how all the consonants behave when combined with other consonants.

Practice with Nepali phrases!

तपाईंलाई कस्तो छ?
Tapāilāī kasto chha?
How are you? (Literally: To you how is it?)
मलाई राम्रो छ.
Malāī rāmro chha.
I am well. (To me it is good.)
तपाइँको नाम के हो?
Tapāiko nām ke ho?
What is your name? (Your name what is?)
मेरो नाम ___ हो
Mero nām ___ ho.
My name is ___. (My name __ is.)
Notice in the third example, the word नाम ("name") is pronounced "nām" instead of "nāma". Some words do drop the "uh" sound that usually comes after a Nepali letter, so be on the lookout!

There are plenty of fun ways to practice listening to Nepali and getting your accent right.

  • Search for Nepali movies and music videos on YouTube. There are plenty to choose from.
  • Get a radio app like TuneIn radio, which includes Nepali radio stations.
  • Search for Nepali apps, which are common on both Google Play and the App Store. Several feature tons of Nepali radio stations.
  • The best way to practice Nepali is to converse with Nepali people. As is true with any language, practicing with native speakers is the best way to learn. The Nepali culture is naturally friendly and easy-going, and most Nepali people, especially those living in foreign lands, are thrilled to see others learning their language.

*"Honey Bunny" Nepali Music Video :)

*Notice at 2:05 the nasally sound he makes when he sings "Hello"? That's the nasally sound you're going for with that "chandrabindu"! It's fun, so practice it!

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)