Finding Common Ground between Arabic and Hindi

hindiarabicAs I have been moving along with my NSLI-Y Pre-Program course and my independent Arabic studies, I can’t help noticing the intricate interconnectedness between Arabic and my own language: Hindi.

I have grown up speaking Hindi with my family, and a few years ago, I taught myself how to read and write in the Hindi script. While I had always valued my language, it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much Hindi and Arabic have in common. Though the grammatical structures of the two languages are worlds apart, what intrigues me is the connection between Hindi and Arabic vocabulary.

As I first began to learn more Arabic words, I was constantly reminded of Hindi words that I already knew. When I noted them down, I noticed that the cognates I discovered fell under distinct categories. Here are a few examples:

Theme: State of Being/Condition

English Arabic Hindi/Urdu
State of Being حال (haal) हाल (haal)
Age عمر (aumr) उम्र (umr)
Health صحة (saha) सेहत (sehat)
To Be Alright بخير (bikher) खैरियत (kheriyat)

Theme: Literature and Writing

English Arabic Hindi/Urdu
Book كتاب (kitaab) किताब (kitaab)
Newspaper أخبار (akhbaar) अखबार (akhbaar)
Pen قلم (qalam) कलम (kalam)

Theme: Society and Humanity

English Arabic Hindi/Urdu
World دنيا (duniya) दुनिया (duniya)
Human/Man آدمي (aadmii) आदमी (aadmii)
Human/Man إنسان (insaan) इंसान (insaan)


Not only do I find it a delight to discover the linguistic connections between these two languages, I have also found that Hindi has been actively helping me “decode” the Arabic language. For example, the other day while I was at the refugee tutoring center, a teacher was helping an Iraqi girl with three-digit by three-digit multiplication. The little girl kept on writing the comma that separates the thousands digit in the middle of her calculations, resulting in confusion. The teacher, who spoke Arabic, explained to her that she should add the comma only after she had solved the problem. Of course, I didn’t understand most of the conversation; however it was the repeated emphasis on the word “akher”, which means “end” in both Hindi and Arabic, that clued me into what the teacher was trying to explain.

I am a bit of a linguistics nerd, and as I continue to learn more, I am keeping a running list of the Hindi/Arabic cognates that I find, and constantly evaluating the common themes and patterns that turn up. It’s so fascinating and honestly, I am having trouble condensing my excitement in one blog post- I could write an entire book!

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