The Urdu language is an Indo-Aryan language that is spoken by over 100 million people, which makes it another important language to study. The language is dominant in India and Pakistan, and spoken by large communities in the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
The Urdu language is a variant of Hindustani that evolved from the 6th century up to the 13th century from a form of Apabhraṃśa that came from the Shauraseni language. The latter is a Middle Indo-Aryan language from which other languages such as the Punjabi dialects came from.
About 75% of Urdu words and 90% of verbs have roots from Prakrit and Sanskrit. The Persian language was heavily influential in the development of Urdu, with some help from Arabic.
Urdu came from orda or ordu, which is a Turkic word for ”army.” This is also the origin of the English word ”horde.” This does not mean that Urdu is akin to the Turkic languages. There was no direct borrowing of Urdu from Turkish words. Words that originated from Arabic and Chatagai (a Turkic language) were borrowed from Persian instead of from Turkic. Since Turkish and Urdu both borrowed from Persian and Arabic, the pronunciation of many words in Urdu and Turkish are similar.
The influence of the Arabic language in the region started in the first millennium when the Indian subcontinent was conquered by Muslims. Through the several Afghan and Persian dynasties that came later, the Persian language became prominent and influenced Hindustani which was still developing back then.
First use of Urdu
Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi used the term Urdu for the first time in 1780. It used to be called Hindi from the 13th to the 18th centuries. However, Urdu was also called other names, like Dehlavi and Hindavi. In written form, it used the Persian script that Hindus and Muslims used. The practice continued until 1837 when Hindustani replaced Persian as the official language together with English.
Hindustani enjoyed patronage outside of the Indian subcontinent. Because India came under British rule, Hindustani was well promoted by the policies issued by the British to parry the focus on the Persian language.
The literary community in northwestern India protested the move and wanted the language to use the local Devanagari script. It was called the literary standard of Hindi and became Bihar’s official language after it replaced Urdu in 1881. Because of this, a sectarian divide was established. Hindi was used by Hindus and the Muslims used Urdu. It became a formal linguistic division when Pakistan and India separately gained independence.
Hindi and Urdu are closely related and they share similar grammar and phonology. However, the lexicons of each language were borrowed from different sources. Hindi borrowed heavily from Sanskrit while most of Urdu’s words came from Persian and Arabic. The distinction between the two is more pronounced in their written form. Hindi employs Devanagari script while Urdu uses the Perso-Arabic script in a modified form.
Only minor variations in short vowel phonemes exist between Urdu and Hindi. Urdu also has retroflex stops and the full set of aspirated stops characteristic of the Indo-Aryan language but not the full set of Perso-Arabic consonants.
Pakistan’s official language is Urdu, which is also one of India’s official languages. Urdu’s literary tradition is very rich, with poetry and prose being written since the 17th century and the 19th century, respectively. Strategically, Urdu is a vitally important language in the region.
India is growing to be a very important country in the modern world as its people provide the web with plenty of content. It is also one of South Asia’s most important consumer markets.
Urdu’s grammar is quite easy and almost the same as the English grammar, as it contains all of the English language’s grammatical concepts, which is one of the reasons why students find the concepts easy to grasp.
Although the speed in learning a language depends on the learner, it could take about six months to learn speaking, writing and reading in Urdu.
Urdu is spoken in Pakistan, many parts of India, the Middle East, Nepal, Bangladesh and many other locations worldwide. In India, most of the Urdu speakers live in huge Muslim communities and in cities that used to be the power centers, like Hyderabad, Bhopal, Kashmir, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
Learning the Urdu language allows you to gain access to other languages in the region. For one thing, it is closely related to Hindi, so you’ll have a head start in this language if ever you want to pursue it after learning Urdu.
In terms of the writing system, Urdu uses the Nastaliq script, a modified Persian script that is a type of modified Arabic script. This particular script is also used to write Pashto, Persian, Punjabi and Kashmiri. You do not have that many characters to remember when writing Urdu. The language only has 35 scripts while Hindi has 46.
Outside South Asia
It’s been said often that the British should learn to speak other languages, which is one of their weak points, considering that the country has international economic concerns. While English the lingua franca in business, other languages are quickly gaining ground. With Brexit, the British should also think about learning other European languages. Britain used to be a mighty force in parts of Asia, a region of the world that is gaining ground in international trade. Many companies in the West are trying to establish offshore bases in the region.
If you are from any part of the West whose career goal is to be part of a multinational company that has multilingual staff, think of learning Urdu instead of learning German or French. It is not undermining the importance of German and French, but it is a fact that the number of students learning these language is going down.
The new groups of languages students are most interested in are Portuguese, Urdu, Russian and Chinese. The UK projects that these four languages would be dominant in the very near future as the countries where these languages are spoken are foreseen to be the new world markets. Thus they are encouraging more students to learn any of these languages. Other South Asian languages that are gaining interest include Punjabi, Gujarati and Bengali.
Just imagine. Learning Urdu will help you to learn other South Asian languages, which could be a very distinct advantage. You can work for a global company, teach or become a translator. It would be easier for you to study a host of regional languages, including Sindhi, Pashto, Punjabi, Balochi and Kurdish.
In the United States, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of State provide scholarship grants to study Urdu through the Foreign Language and Area Studies and Critical Language Scholarship.
Aside from a career angle, knowing Urdu would allow you to understand the rich literary gems from the Indian subcontinent and fully enjoy the movies produced by Bollywood, which is the biggest film producer in the world.
Benefits of learning the Urdu Language
While we are mentioning the many positives you can gain from learning Urdu, still a lot more benefits are forthcoming.
- Learning Urdu helps improve your cognitive abilities. It trains your brain and keeps it strong and healthy. The introduction of new grammatical rules, new vocabulary, new sentence structures and forming new words are good exercises for the brain.
- It increases your skills set. Globalization diminishes the boundaries among countries. In order to survive the new environment, it is important to improve your set of skills, to have a market edge and more job chances.
- As mentioned, India and Pakistan have rich histories and learning Urdu will open the doors to fascinating, mystical and intriguing cultures – from their age-old practices, traditions, values and norms. You’ll be able to read classic literature from the 14th century. You could read over 4,000 journals, understand shows from 74 TV stations and 70 radio stations.
- Neuroscientists say that that the graphic structure and sound system that are unique to the Urdu language activates the front part of the brain. This helps improve your analytical skills and heighten your capacity for making decisions.
As you can see, a surplus of advantages can be gained from learning Urdu. Gaining access to other languages and learning the culture of India and Pakistan.
No matter where and what time zone you’re in, you can get in touch with Day Translations, Inc. for document translation. Our Urdu native speaking translators are located in various places around the world, making it convenient for clients to have access to a translator any time. Trust our translators and subject matter experts to deliver the most accurate Urdu to English or English to Urdu translation in the most professional way we know how.
Whether you want a textbook, magazine, journal, script, literature or other documents translated into or from Urdu, give us a call at 1-800-969-6853 or request a quote via email through Contact us. We are open 24/7 all throughout the year to serve you better. At Day Translations, each translation project is a priority.