Non-greeting analogs of "hello?" in other languages ...

Imagine you are in a large, quiet, cubicle-filled office. Or in a large, empty public place. You think you are alone. But you hear some indistinct ruffling somewhere nearby – and you are a little startled.

An English speaker in this situation might say something “Hello?” Now, the analog to “hello” in other languages are often time-sensitive, for example: bonjour/bonne nuit in French, dobroye utro in Russian, konnichi wa in Japanese. It would seem odd to me, on first thought, that a French person would call out “bonjour?” in response to the situation above. But maybe that’s the right idiom, after all.

So, just how do speakers of other languages verbally handle the situation above? Analogs of “who’s there?” (which also work in English)? Alternative greetings (might a Russian say “privyet?”)?

¿Hola in Spanish?

In Chinese, a person might say “wei” which is also the phone greeting. “ni hao” is the conventional hello.

In Spanish I’ve heard my wife saying, “¿Hay alguien allí?” I think on the telephone (for which my understanding in English, “hello” was deliberately adopted) the Mexican analogue is simply “bueno.” Aside from answering such, if you think the other person’s nodded off or gotten disconnected or whatnot, “bueno” is the world. Having read “The Godfather” in Spanish-Spanish, I think “Aló” may be their analogue.

That only satisfies the telephone usage, which while related isn’t directly queried in the OP. I’m ignorant, so if I were arrive home to my house here in Mexico that should be empty but which I suspect is otherwise, I’d probably shout “¡bueno!” just to get attention, or may “¡oye!” or something similar to “¿Hay alguien allí?” If I were particularly worried, I’d say “Soy narcotraficante y traigo mi AK-47 apuntado hacia ti.”

Well, the French analog to “hello” is “allô”, and that would probably be what I would use. As for “Who’s there?”, it would be “Qui est là?”.

I think this is generally what I hear Spanish-speakers say when they are coming up to a house which they are not sure is occupied, say, in order to find out if anyone is there. It pretty much equates to “Hey!”, though technically it’s the imperative of “listen.”

mmh…I would say “Qui est là?” then/or “Ya quelqu’un?” (who’s there?/is anyone here?)

Allo sounds like it would work for the French; Japanese you would probably say, “Dare ka?” (someone there?)

That’s what I was thinking… “Dare ka?” or “Dare ka iru?” seem to be commonly said in movies, etc., that I’ve seen.

The German equivalent (that I am used to in fiction, and that I use myself in such situation) would be:

Hallo? Ist hier jemand?
(Hello? Is someone here?)

In a movie setting this phrase could almost be called a stereotype.

Assuming you’re German, the word you’re looking for would be cliche. Actually that works even if you’re not German.

I’ll go along with Lazz , I’d say “Ya quelqu’un?” (“Il y a quelqu’un?” = lit. ‘is there someone?’)

In Polish I’d use the very ubiquitous ‘Slucham’ (soo-ham), used on the phone for ‘hello’ - in business situations when waiting to others to make a suggestion, the trans. is I’m listening/I listen & as I understand it is generaly used as an invitation to speak.

In Italian I’d use the smae idea as French, “C’é qualcuno ?” (usual apologies for spelling).

Thinking about it Italian, French, Spanish and German all have formal and informal versions of ‘you’ so maybe they avoid calling out a cheery ‘hello’ when not knowing who they are addressing ?

I believe your analogy is false. You are comparing an English phrase that has multiple uses to phrases in other languages that are only used for greeting. English does have unambiguous phrases for greeting and confirming presence, being “good morning/afternoon/evening” and “who’s there?”.

So essentially you’ve asked, “how do other languages express the confirmation of presence” which is a trivial translation task. A more interesting question, in my mind, is which other languages have a phrase like “hello” – an all-purpose phrase suitable for confirming presence, hailing, greeting, and any other things that might be exclaimed when a body meets a body coming through the rye.

I’m willing, nay waiting, to be corrected by native speakers but it strikes me that any ‘all purpose’ phrase or word will be less formal.

The Italain ‘Ciao’ and Polish ‘Czesc’ are a quick and friendly way of saying both ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. No real information need be exchanged - it’s highly unlikely that you would use either when entering a shop or in a business situation unless the people are already fairly familiar. (The last time I was in Italy traversing a market with friends there was a seemingly infinite number of Ciaos echoing around - ‘Ciao ciao’ is now a popular farewell.)

In France ‘Bonjour’ is pretty ubiquitous with ‘Bonsoir’ taking over after dusk - entering a shop, meeting a colleague for the first time during the day etc., with friends & certain young neighbours I’d use ‘Salut’ - it could be taken as disrespect used with the ‘wrong’ person tho’.

In Welsh there is the formal informal split once again; the time linked formal Bore /Prnhawn /Noswaith da or the relaxed “Sut mae?” which literally means “How are you?” but doesn’t necessarily expect a reply.

Is that more what you had in mind Brain Wreck ?

Or maybe “Na shi shei?”, which is “Who is that?”

I’ve taken to using "Ahoy hoy"when answering the phone, in a Mr. Burns style.

“Moshi Moshi” is the Japanese telephone greeting.

Nope. “Allo” is only ever used on the phone. You won’t say “allo” to anybody if you’re not on the phone (actually there’s one exception, but it’s still an indirect and non-obvious reference to phone use) . And it’s actually derived from the english “hello”.

The equivalent of the english “hello” in french would be “salut”. But it wouldn’t be used in the situation described by the OP, only for an actual greeting. A french person in the situation described would have to ask the equivalent of “is there somebody?” or “Who’s there?”.

Hrmm… really? It seems to me that I would only say that if I was sure someone was there. If I just wanted to probe in case someone was there, my natural response would be “wei?”. I can’t imagine saying Na shi shei in this context.

But how often is it used in non-phone conversations? I have seen it (heard it) being used at least once outside of a phone conversation, but as a novice student of the Japanese language, I have no idea what the appropriate context for it is (or even what it means literally).

Sure, “allô” is mostly used on the phone, but if I’m in the dark and suddenly hear a sound, that would probably be the first thing I would blurt out. Followed by “il y a quelqu’un?”.