Devanagari (sometimes referred to simply as Nagari) is the name of the script used to write Hindi, the national language of India (Snell, 1-5). Although you may have seen some Hindi words written in the familiar ABC's (such as Namaste), this merely represents a transliteration of the actual Hindi word. That is, someone has chosen letters in the English alphabet that reflect (sometimes only approximately) the sound of the actual letters of the Hindi alphabet—Devanagari. Devanagari is not only used to write Hindi; over time it has been modified to record words of other languages, both inside and outside of India (Hayes, 112).

This set of lessons is designed to teach an English speaker to read the Devanagari script. I will sometimes use, Hindi to refer not only to the language but also as a synonym for its writing system, Devanagari. It is assumed that you are at least familiar with the Hindi language in general. The lessons have been created on the presumption that you would like to learn Devanagari, but you want to enjoy it and you'd rather not do any more work than needed. With this in mind, these lessons stress relaxed reading: start with the first lesson, read, and enjoy.

This is not to say that there is no work in this tutorial. Learning a new script, in my opinion, requires drills in certain situations to enforce the concepts learned. However, these drills will be (soon, hopefully) implemented by online programs which do most of the work. The lessons intend to teach you the elements of Devanagari through keywords, concepts, and links to things you already know, so that you can take a more passive approach. I'll try to take all the work that I can out of the process.

The lessons should be experienced in order. If you know nothing about Devanagari, Lesson 1 is the place to start. If you have some experience reading Hindi, it is best that you still review this lesson, because certain terms and concepts are outlined here that other lessons assume you know. There will be references to other subjects throughout the lessons, such as phonetics and linguistics in general, but I hope that you will agree that these references do not explicitly provide more material to absorb, but rather assist the learning process.

This tutorial is obviously under construction, and I hope to have the time to continuously update it. I welcome any comments, feedback, or suggestions. If you are just learning Devanagari, please let me know how these lessons can be improved. If you are actually a Hindi expert (unlike myself; I'm also a beginner) I welcome all the corrections and criticisms you want to take the time to alert me to.

Garret Wilson

February 26, 1998

Update 2013

The original version of this tutorial has been on hiatus for over 15 years. I appreciate the notes, comments, and encouragements received from users over the years; I now intend to begin the completion of the set with a new motivation. To start, the entire tutorial (through Lesson 5) has just been modernized to the latest web standards such as Unicode and HTML5, leveraging web application technology I've created over the past decade or more. Now that the existing content has been renovated, I hope to press forward with new letters, activities, and tests; someday completing the entire Devanagari syllabary.

Garret Wilson

August 10, 2013

Notice: The audio presented in this tutorial is under construction. The voices of native speakers will be added soon. For now, the audio provided is not meant to be an accurate representation, but instead is being used to provide playback testing.