There is little doubt that “hello” is the most important phrase you can learn when you’re exploring a new language. It’s estimated there are around 6,900 spoken languages all over the world!
That’s an awful lot of hellos. While some linguists disagree about when something is a language (as opposed to a dialect), we can all agree that learning how to greet someone in their native tongue is the best way to open doors to new friendships.
Learning languages can be tricky, however, and it can sometimes take up to two years to learn how to speak fluently! The good news is, you just need to know where to start, and we’ve got you covered on that front.
Let’s look at how to say hello in some of the world’s most popular languages. Keep reading until the end to find out how the digital world is changing the way we speak and learn about language!
The Importance of Language
Language is essential to human interaction, whether it’s spoken-word or non-verbal. Humans are the only species that have perfected cognitive verbal communication, although all species have ways of communicating.
Language allows us to communicate our thoughts, feelings, and ideas with clear intent and accuracy. It can both empower people and tear them down. While this may seem obvious, in order to understand the value of language, we need to understand the impact it has on the world.
To most people, language comes naturally. We learn to communicate before we can even properly talk. And as we grow, we manipulate our language to convert our thoughts into complex sentences and sentiments.
Of course, not all communication happens through language, but mastering a language can certainly help speed up the process.
When you’re learning a foreign language, in particular, you are learning to understand thoughts and ideas outside of your own culture. You get to learn new customs and how people interact in their own society.
Because of this, language helps preserve culture. It also gives us the opportunity to learn from, and about, others. When we adopt a new language, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow and learn beyond our own spheres of existence.
However, the way we speak is often more confusing than the actual words we’re saying.
There are three primary language styles we want to talk about before we dive into greetings, namely because greetings themselves can fall into any of these categories.
Direct and Indirect Styles
Direct language is a means of expressing to someone exactly what you want to say and/or how you’re feeling.
Indirect language is when you use other words or methods of communication to show you’re feeling a specific way without directly stating why or what you’re feeling. If you’ve ever disagreed with a significant other, you’ve undoubtedly encountered both of these communication methods.
Personal and Contextual Styles
These two linguistic styles are a little trickier to understand. Personal style refers to someone’s personal way of speaking. It’s typically quite casual and is influenced by their lifestyle, culture, and region.
Contextual style refers to how language changes based on the situation. For example, when communicating with friends and colleagues, a professor may use their personal style of speaking as opposed to how they may speak to their students in a lecture.
Words That Are Untranslatable
Untranslatable words are words or phrases that we must adapt from other languages because we lack words in our own language to adequately translate them. There are many interesting occurrences of this, and “Bon appétit” is a simple, yet excellent example.
It literally translates to “good appetite” in English, but we know it to mean, “enjoy your meal.” The sentiment is there, but we can’t use our own words to actually translate the words in a way that feels fluent.
The Value in Hello
Greetings can be direct and indirect, personal or contextual. Certain iterations of hello in personal styles may even be untranslatable, but you’re unlikely to encounter this at the start of your linguistic journey.
What we’re saying is that the way you speak, and the way you say hello, matters. There are formal and informal ways of greeting people, and body language matters in making a good first impression.
What Makes a Good Greeting?
We typically express greetings through spoken words. Sometimes, however, just saying something isn’t enough. We occasionally require gestures to ensure the other person properly understands us and our intent.
Shaking hands, waving, light kissing, and even hugging or bowing are common gestures in some cultures. Depending on a person’s culture and their relationship with you, it could mean the difference between a sincere greeting or an (unintentionally) insulting one.
Shaking hands is the most common non-verbal greeting in most cultures. If you’re unsure, abide by the following golden rule. In general, you should attempt to greet everyone you encounter with warmth and authenticity. A societal faux pas will likely be forgiven, especially if you’re a foreigner.
How to Greet Someone in Their Language
The importance of greetings in everyday life cannot be overstated, and it’s the first place you should start when learning a new language. It can even give you a sign of whether you’ll like the language you’re trying to learn!
Let’s look at some of the most popular ways to say hello in different languages, listed in alphabetical order.
The EU officially has 24 languages, though five of those are spoken by over 50 million native speakers in Europe. These are Russian, French, Italian, German, and English, with Russian being the most spoken language in Europe.
English, naturally, has the largest number of second-language speakers with around 200 million in Europe alone.
- Albanian – Përshëndetje
- Bosnian – Zdravo
- Bulgarian – Zdraveĭte
- Croatian – Dobar dan
- Czech – Ahoj
- Danish – Hej
- Dutch – Hallo
- English – Hello
- Estonian – Tere
- Finnish – Hei
- French – Bonjour
- German – Hallo
- Greek – Geia sas
- Hungarian – Jó napot kívánok
- Icelandic – Góðan daginn
- Italian – Ciao
- Latin – Salve
- Lithuanian – Sveiki
- Norwegian – Hallo
- Polish – Cześć
- Portuguese – Olá
- Romanian – Salut
- Serbian – Zdravo
- Slovenian – Živjo
- Spanish – Hola
- Swedish – Hallå
- Turkish – Merhaba
- Ukrainian – Dobriy den
- Welsh – Helo
Africa boasts over 2,000 languages, accounting for a third of the world’s languages, despite being less than a seventh of the world’s population.
Comparatively, Europe has about an eighth of the world’s population, yet only has about 300 languages. That being said, some areas of Africa still speak European languages like French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
This is a lingering effect of the widespread colonialism that started in the 1880s, though many countries in Africa have embraced these languages by making them work in a more authentic, local setting.
The people of Africa are incredibly multi-faceted and the linguistic diversity found in Africa is astounding. It even occurs at micro-levels, with unique dialects cropping up in smaller groups.
- Afrikaans – Hallo
- Amharic – tena jistilign
- Arabic – Marhaba
- Bambara – I ni ce
- Chichewa – Moni
- Igbo – Ibaulachi
- Krio – Kushe
- Malagasy – Salama
- Ndebele – Salibonani
- Oromo – Ashamaa
- Oshiwambo – Mwa lele po
- Sesotho – Lumela
- Setswana – Dumela mma (for women), Dumela rra (for men)
- Swahili – Jambo
- Twi – Agoo
- Xhosa – Molo
- Yoruba – Bawo
- Zulu – Sawubona
Languages of Asia
Asia is home to roughly five billion people and around 2,300 languages. That’s obviously too many to cover in this section, so let’s look at some of the more widespread ones.
It’s important to note that some languages, like Chinese, have variations like Mandarin and Cantonese, but linguists refer to these as dialects as there aren’t major differences in how the language is spoken.
- Armenian – Barev Dzez
- Bangla – Nomoskar
- Chinese – Nĭhâo
- Filipino – Kamusta
- Hindi – Namaste
- Indonesian – Halo
- Japanese – Kon’nichiwa
- Korean – Annyeonghaseyo
- Punjabi – Sata srī akāla
- Russian – Zdravstvuyte
- Tamil – Vaṇakkam
There are a few variations of sign language around the world. It’s a common misconception to think that it will be the same wherever you go. In fact, there are somewhere between 138 to 300 different types of sign language used worldwide.
There are around eight primary sign languages that are most commonly used, however, so we’ll take a look at those. These are:
- British sign language (BSL)
- Australian sign language (Auslan)
- New Zealand sign language
- French sign language (LSF)
- American sign language (ASL)
- Irish sign language (ISL)
- Chinese sign language (CSL or ZGS)
- Brazilian sign language (Libras)
The first official accounts of sign language come from around the 17th century, though there have been some allusions to hand gestures being used for communication as far back as the 5th century.
For now, let’s have a look at how to say hello in ASL, as it has the highest number of users at a whopping 250,000-500,000 people.
To say “hello” in ASL, simply place your dominant hand on your forehead, close to your ear, and move it outwards and away from your face and body. Think of it as a casual salute with a slight upward movement.
Language in the Modern Age
The intersection of language and the internet is swiftly becoming a hot topic for policymakers, software designers, and academics alike.
Most times, language not only influences how you talk online, but how you act in those spaces. It controls how much information you can access on sites like Wikipedia, and, as boundless as the internet may seem, it appears to only be as big as the language you speak.
That’s why tools like Voice Generation Software using AI are so important. It breaks down the divide between accessible information and the way we communicate with each other.
Imagine having to memorize all the above iterations of hello? With software that generates voice for you, the process of breaking down language barriers begins to look a whole lot easier.
Learning Languages with Technology
We live in an age where information is literally at our fingertips, with most of us having access to some form of smart device. You’re reading this article on your phone, right? Maybe even your laptop or tablet. That means you have the unique advantage of accessing modern technology to learn new skills.
Try out apps like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone to start your linguistic journey. There are even plenty of free online courses to help you learn new languages if you can’t download apps.
Is It Really That Beneficial?
Yes! The benefits of learning a new language far outweigh the time commitment required to learn them. With new learning comes new neural connections, strengthening your brain and making it more pliable.
People who speak more than one language have proven advanced memory and problem-solving skills as well as enhanced concentration and better listening skills.
With the technological and societal advantages we have today, what is stopping you from taking a bite of the multi-cultural, multi-lingual world we exist in?
Technology opens new doors to inclusivity, accessibility, and connection. Whether you’re implementing new language systems into your business or simply aiming to deepen your understanding of other cultures, why not start with a simple hello?
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Language is important to any society, as it gives people a way to express themselves and communicate with those around them. Hello is one of the easiest ways to start a conversation and without it, we’d all be stuck staring at each other, wondering where to start.
Now that you know how to greet someone and break that language barrier, why not take some exciting new language lessons or travel to places you hadn’t ever considered before? We are only at the start of an exciting new journey into language and the digital age, so why not step forward with your best foot?
If you enjoyed reading this, check out some of our other enlightening articles in our tech section!