Thursday, January 6, 2011

اردو - My first introduction to Urdu, the language of Pakistan

I signed up on Live Mocha for Urdu, the official language of Pakistan. I am not sure if I will learn Urdu, but if I do, Urdu will be the first Indo-Aryan language I have ever studied. Urdu is the lingua-franka of Pakistan and a few Indian States. Urdu developed under heavy Arabic, Turkic, and Persian influences. There are so many similarities between Hindu and Urdu that at a basic level, there is mutual intelligibility.

The first part of learning Urdu, at least for me, means learning how to write the alphabet. The Urdu alphabet has 38 letters. My first task will be to write the entire Urdu alphabet everyday for at least two weeks. I am not sure if this will be enough for me. Maybe I will need to practice the alphabet for a lot longer than that.

Here is the plan - I am going to make a simple Urdu workbook. In the workbook, I can practice writing the letters over and over again until they get the hang of it.  This does sound tedious, but unfortunately that is how we have to learn a lot of these foreign alphabets. Repetition.

If I do this then eventually I will be able to write the entire Urdu alphabet with greater ease. Then I will be able to connect letters together. After I write basic words, then I can write bigger, more complicated words. From there, I will be able to write little sentences. Language learning is cumulative. First, we learn to add and subtract. After we learn that, then we can learn how to multiply and divide. From there, we learn basic algebra. Then, we can perform more complex algebra.

As always, I provide links.  URDU LANGUAGE LINKS. This language is on the back burner for me. If I make any progress on this one I will blog about it.


Naomi said...

An e-mail today from Haseeb,

Fancy that! I just stumbled onto your blog, having somewhat of an interest in studying languages myself, and it was interesting already before I saw that you're trying to learn Urdu!

Let me explain: I am a Pakistani.

I learned this language informally though, went to an English medium school. I don't even recognize half of the alphabet up there!

I know Punjabi (mother tongue), Urdu (like you said, lingua franca), English (academic language) and smatterings of Persian and Arabic (similarities with Urdu, the mandatory readings of the Quran).

The only language I've learned from a purely personal initiative is Spanish (well, when I say learned I mean learned to catch a sentence or two). I think when I get a bit of free time I can get a good grip on this, the enunciations are easy for a Punjabi speaker.

Maybe that'll open up the other Latin languages for me, as well. I think I'll always struggle with the Germanic languages though, they sound too harsh to my ear anyway...and I've never even touched the far eastern ones.

Nice blog!

Saim Dusan Inayatullah said...

Pakistan is wonderfully diverse, eh? I didn't realize many people spoke Rajasthani in Pakistan! It's unfortunate that there's elements of Pakistani society that want to replace all of Pakistan's languages with Urdu. Urdu speakers are the only educated Pakistanis that can get away with only being bilingual. Good thing that they're not succeeding in pushing down the other languages, though, even if the regional languages (and even Urdu to a lesser extent) have a long way to go to be developed in terms of media, education and politics (I don't think you'll hear someone talking Brahui in parliament, and only recently has Khyber-Pakthunkhwa decided to put in place Hindko-medium education).

By the way, Saraikis do not want to split from Pakistan. No, they just want to split off a new province of Saraikistan from Punjab. Saraiki-speakers, the way it is now, are not just beneath Urdu-speakers in Pakistani society, but also suppressed by Punjabi speakers (my family is Punjabi, incidentally). They deserve their own province to preserve their cultural autonomy and distinctiveness (and thus, their language as well). Fair enough, considering that Saraikis have only recently asserted their identity and used to considered a Punjabi (and their language was a "Punjabi dialect"). In fact, I wish Punjabis themselves had as strong a linguistic identity, since they seem to think Urdu and English are sooo much better than their own mother tongue.

How did you go with Urdu? The way I learned the script was by learning them in fours, and then repeating each group of four. So I'd learn four, then another four, then have to write all 8, then 12, then 16, until I can write out the whole alphabet. Then learning the medial and final positions wasn't so hard, and took like another hour (although there's still much room for practice). My family is Punjabi, but I speak neither Punjabi nor Urdu because my father only speaks to me in English (he only speaks conversational Urdu as he grew up in the US and in US expatriate communities in Malaysia and Switzerland). I'm really keen to learn though! And then I can finally move onto Punjabi and *really* connect with my heritage!

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