Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language with around 46 million speakers living mainly in India, Bangladesh, and Fiji. If you want to learn to speak Gujarati, start by learning how to pronounce the alphabet. Then you will be able to spell any word you see in Gujarati. From there, you can move on to having basic conversations. Immersion is a good way to become more familiar with the language and also with the Gujarati culture.
Method 1 of 3: Pronounce the Alphabet
Step 1. Start with the basic vowel sounds
Many vowels in Gujarati have sounds that will be familiar to you if you speak Spanish and English. Knowing the correct vowel sounds is essential if you want to pronounce Gujarati words correctly. These are the vowel sounds in Gujarati:
- like the vowel in Spanish
- i as the "i" in the word "bid" in English
- ī like the "i" in Spanish
- u like the "u" in the word "put" in English
- ū, pronounced "iu" as in some English words
- e as the vowel in Spanish
- ai, pronounced just like it sounds
- or like the vowel in Spanish
- au, pronounced just like it sounds
- â like the "u" in the word "fur" in English
- ô like the "u" in Spanish
Gujarati writing uses a syllabic alphabet in which each consonant has an intrinsic vowel sound. Vowels can be written either as separate letters or as diacritic markers that are added above, below, before or after a consonant.
Step 2. Learn the single consonants that may not have an equivalent in Spanish
For the most part, the single consonants used in Gujarati produce the same sound as the consonants that you may already know in Spanish. However, some have sounds that you will not find in this language. Here are some of these distinctive consonants:
- The g (ગ) always sounds like the soft "g" in Spanish.
- The ñ (ઞ) sounds like the ñ in Spanish.
- The d (દ) sounds like the "d" in the English word "dream" or as if you pronounce the "d" by placing your tongue on your front teeth. However, the ḍ (ડ) sounds like the "th" in the word "that" in English.
Step 3. Move on to consonant combinations
Some consonants in Gujarati are formed by mixing an "h" with another consonant to create a distinctive sound. Some of these have equivalents in Spanish, but this is not the case for many of them. Here are some common consonant combinations:
- The ch (ચ) sounds like in Spanish.
- The chh (છ) has two "h" sounds, like saying "ch" and then the "j" in Spanish.
- The ph (ફ) sounds like "p" followed by "j" in Spanish. Unlike in languages like English, this combination does not produce an "f" sound.
- The gh (ઘ) sounds like the "j" in Spanish or like the combination of the letters "g" and "j".
- The jh (ઝ) may sound like "z" in words like "zebra" in English.
- The dh (ધ) sounds like the "d" in Spanish. However, the ḍh (ઢ) sounds more like the "th" in the words "bro ther "o" the "in English.
Method 2 of 3: Strike up a basic conversation
Step 1. Say "namaste" (નમસ્તે) to greet people in general
If you are familiar with any Indian language or Indian culture in general, you are probably familiar with the word "namaste". This is a general greeting that is appropriate to use with anyone, regardless of their age or level of familiarity with them.
When greeting a Gujarati Muslim, it may be more appropriate to say "salaam" (સલામ)
You can also say "suprabhat" ("good morning") in the morning. "Shubh sandhya" is a greeting for the nights, but it is archaic and is rarely used.
Step 2. Continue with "aapne kem chhe" to ask someone how they are
After greeting someone, ask "Aapne kem chhe?" This is a more formal way of asking someone "How are you?" Use it with the elderly or those you do not know.
- For people your age and younger or people you know well, you can say "Tame kem chho?" Many times, Gujarati people shorten it as "Kem chho (કેમ છો)?".
- Respond by saying "mane saru chhe" (મને સારુ છે; formal) or "hu maja ma chhu" (હુ મજા મા છુ; informal).
Step 3. Ask the person what their name is by saying "Aapnu naam shu chhe?" (આપ્નુ નામ શું છે?)
This is the formal version of the question and therefore it is appropriate for you to use it with anyone you do not know. If you are talking to someone much younger than you (for example, a child), you could ask "Taru naam shu chhe?" (તારુ નામ શું છે?).
Respond by saying "maru naam", then your name and then "chhe". Avoid worrying about trying to translate your name into Gujarati. For example, if your name is Andrés, you would say "Maru naam Andrés chhe"
when someone tells you their name, you could say "tamne maline anand thaiyo", which means "nice to meet you".
Step 4. Learn a few more basic questions
Start a conversation using basic questions. If you don't understand what the person is answering to your question, you could say "mane samajan padti nathi" ("I don't understand") or "tame krupa karine farithi kehsho" ("please repeat it"). Here are some good questions you can learn:
- "Semeye śhum chhe?" ("What time is it?")
- "Teme ā kerī śheko mene medede?" ("Can you help me?")
- "Keṭelī chhe?" ("How much does it cost?")
- "Teme imgueliśhe vāte?" ("Do you speak English?")
Step 5. Use polite words and phrases to show respect
In any culture, it is important that you consider your manners. Native speakers will treat you much more kindly if you learn a few basic polite words and phrases. Here are some words you should know in Gujarati:
- "maaf karjo" ("Excuse me" or "Sorry")
- "manne maaf karo" ("I'm sorry")
- "dhanyavaad" ("Thank you")
- "aabhar" ("Thank you" formal)
- "tamaarūṃ svaagata cha" (reply to "Thank you")
Step 6. End the conversation by saying "avjo"
The word "avjo" means "goodbye" and is appropriate for anyone. It literally means something closer to "come back some other time", but it is understood to mean that you are leaving.
You can also repeat "namaste", as it is used as a greeting and also as a farewell
Method 3 of 3: Immerse yourself in the language
Step 1. Listen to music in Gujarati
Music lyrics are slower than normal speech and therefore you can work on your pronunciation. Also, the repetitive nature of the letters helps to etch the phrases in your mind more easily. Gujarati culture has a rich musical tradition of classical and folk songs, as well as more recent popular artists.
- The Times of India newspaper has many trending Gujarati music videos that are available here.
- Your favorite streaming music service may also have some Gujarati playlists or channels that you can listen to.
Step 2. Watch Gujarati movies and videos
Watching Gujarati movies or videos online can be a great way to learn the language. You may be able to find Gujarati movies on streaming services or search for videos on YouTube.
Unscripted TV shows and videos are generally better at learning a language than movies and written shows. With a script, you won't get as good an idea of how normal people regularly talk and engage in conversations
Step 3. Talk to a native speaker regularly
When learning to speak any new language, the best way to become more comfortable with speaking and perfect your pronunciation is to converse with a native speaker. If there are no Gujarati speakers near where you live, find a language partner online.
- Usually, language exchange websites connect you with a native Gujarati speaker who wants to learn Spanish or another language in which you are fluent. He helps you with Gujarati and, in return, you help him with his Spanish. These websites are mostly free, but you may be able to get premium services by paying a monthly fee.
- You can also get online tutors to talk to you in one-on-one video sessions. You will generally pay an hourly rate for these tutors, but many of them are reasonably priced.
When using a language exchange website, be careful to protect your private information. Do not enter into personal conversations with your language exchange partner, especially in the beginning.
Step 4. Label the objects around your house with the word in Gujarati
Write the Gujarati word for various objects around your house on sticky notes or using another method that does not damage them. Put the labels in a place where you will easily see them several times a day. Over time, your brain will automatically begin to associate the object with the Gujarati word instead of the Spanish word.
- You can get free vocabulary lists online. For example, there is an extensive vocabulary list available here.
- After memorizing the names of the objects, you can move on to the adjectives and verbs. For example, you could learn the Gujarati words for colors by labeling various objects with the Gujarati word for color.
Step 5. Travel to a place where Gujarati is spoken
In India, Gujarati is spoken mainly in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh. There are also large groups of Gujarati speakers in Bangladesh, Fiji, Oman, Pakistan, and many countries in Africa.