Hindi Word Yesterday and Tomorrow

The Hindi word for yesterday and tomorrow is the same, “kal”. When I shared this with some of my students understandably many of them were like:

Seriously?!? It’s the SAME word? 

Out of self preservation and always to make them laugh, I told them that Hindi was created by the Hindi Fairies and the day they created this concept, said Fairies were having a bad day.

When my students were amused-frustrated when they learned that the Hindi word for yesterday and tomorrow is the same word.

Teaching Children Hindi Through English

Languages come with culture attached. And that’s one of the fun challenges of teaching a language – I simultaneously teach culture and cultural concepts. For my older students, this idea of the Hindi word for yesterday and tomorrow being the same made sense once I explained it in the context of karma and that time is not linear per many Indian religions.

Words Don’t Always Translate 1:1

In addition to cultural context words do not directly translate from language to language. “Kal” doesn’t actually mean yesterday nor tomorrow. It means one day away from today. 

When I explained that, again to my older students they were like:

Hindi word for yesterday and tomorrow before and after the confusion was clarified

Words don’t always translate 1:1 across languages. In this case we use the words yesterday and tomorrow to describe “kal” because can you imagine if I said, “one day away from today” to 5, 6, and 7 year olds? Or started explaining karma? If I taught them every day of the week, that would be a different story. But my students are in class for 1 hour, once a week.  

Translation and Meaning Are Different Things.

There’s a famous Bollywood song, ‘’Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche har zubaan par”. Aaj = today; and kal = one day away from today. In this case “kal” doesn’t mean yesterday nor tomorrow. When someone says “aaj kal” together what that means is “these days or nowadays”. Such as these days kids are doing some amazing things. 

Having Fun While Learning

Back to the instance from my class, this was a funny moment and I’m always trying to ensure my students are learning while having fun, smiling and laughing. They understand there are not really Hindi Fairies but now it’s become a fun joke – whenever we come across a challenging or confusing concept they’ll say, Aunty I bet the Hindi Fairies were having a really bad day that day.” 

Children are so imaginative they sometimes go as far as to make up short stories of what could have led to the bad day that led to the confusing topic in Hindi. 

They have fun and are learning and that’s what matters.


Kids think and say the cutest things. In this series on the Learn Hindi Blog I like to share sweet, cute and funny moments from my classes. 

In this class we were talking about the Hindi word for yesterday and tomorrow. It’s the same word, “kal”, so you can see why that would be confusing. For my older students I can get into deeper meanings surrounding karma, the idea of time and how it’s perceived as circular vs. linear. And for them I can share that “kal” doesn’t actually mean yesterday or tomorrow – it means one day away from today. 

But for my younger students these explanations would not land. So for them my approach is to amuse and entertain.  

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About Samta Aunty

I try to be like the quintessential cool Masi, to all of my students. Smiling, loving, and ALWAYS trying to make them laugh.

Welcome and thank you for joining me today! I set out to create an educational platform for desi children to learn conversational Hindi (no reading, no wriring) and their culture in a fun, no stress, and convenient way. Students across the globe take our classes right from the convenience of their living room!

I learned Hindi at home while growing up in southern California. My parents were amongst the first Indian and South Asian immigrants to this country and I appreciated their efforts and those of the Uncles and Aunty’s that worked hard to foster cultural and religious awareness for us first generation American-born desi kids. Especially when they themselves were establishing their lives in a new country.

And now I’m in a position to continue their work. Language connects people. And for the children I teach I’m helping them connect to their grandparents and other loved ones.

Samta Aunty enjoying vegan ice cream.