Urdu: Why You Should Learn This Fascinating Language
Urdu: why you should learn this fascinating langauge
The Language of the Camps
Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and one of the 23 native languages of India. It is one of the two branches of the Hindustani language, the other being Hindi. Urdu and Hindi are more or less completely mutually intelligible, given that the grammar and core vocabulary are virtually identical. These two sister languages only diverge in the context of more high-flown vocabulary, with Urdu borrowing words from Arabic and Persian, and Hindi leaning on Sanskrit.
However, these languages really run on a continuum, rather than being separated than a sharp divide (as is the case with, say, Spanish and Portuguese). Native speakers in India and Pakistan will say that they speak one language rather than the other, but this is more to do with religious affiliation. So, if you’re not sure which you want to learn – don’t worry! You will be able to communicate with anyone as you travel from north India to Pakistan.
You really only need to ask yourself two questions: 1) do you prefer the appearance of the Arabic or Devanagari script, 2) do you prefer Sanskrit-based or Arabic/Persian-based phonology? Personally, I think that Urdu offers more in terms of literature and that its words sound pleasanter, but this is of course just a personal preference.
There are so many reasons to learn Urdu
- It has been proven that learning Urdu improves cognitive abilities. It keeps your brain and thinking abilities healthy and maintained. Of course, this applies to all languages, but you will give your brain an extra challenge by engaging in a different script and unfamiliar vocabulary
- Neurologists say that the sound system of the Urdu language and the system it holds within itself improves the front portion of the brain.
- One of the most fascinating part of learning the Urdu language is the fact that all the journals and historical records concerning India, dating back as far as the 14th century, can be read if you're good at Urdu. For anyone fascinated by historical events, such as the rule of the Mughals and the Partition, learning Urdu will enrich your understanding and appreciation of these seismic shifts in South Asian politics and society
- The biggest advantage of learning Urdu is the fact that you'll be able to connect with a large number of people. Approximately 170 million people speak Urdu as a native language, and that number soars to 700 million if we use the broader category of Hindustani
- The colloquial language used in Bollywood movies is a particular form of Hindi that leans heavily on Urdu, so if you want to watch Bollywood films without subtitles, a good understanding of ‘street’ Urdu will be essential.
- Naturally, learning Urdu will open up career options that would otherwise remain unavailable, given that it is such an infrequently studied language. Pakistan is a vitally important country in global politics and as such fluent Urdu speakers will always be in demand
- If travel is your goal, then you’ll be pleased to know that Pakistan abounds in natural and architectural beauty. The northern side of Pakistan in particular holds a special place in my heart.
Language of Poetry and Literature
But let’s be honest – the best reason to learn Urdu is to gain access to a body of literature that is renowned for its deep and touching imagery. While our Urdu poets and storytellers are famous all over the world for their creations, surprisingly few translations have been produced (maybe something you could help with!) As it stands, the only way to read and comprehend these works is to learn the Urdu language.
Just to give you a flavour, stated below are some beautiful verses and phrases in Urdu along with their meanings. Known as Ghazals, these poems explore the duel side of love: the pleasure of being at your lover’s side, and the pain of separation and abandonment.
چھوڑ کر مجھے وہ اپنی دنیا میں خوش ہے
یہی غم کیا میرے مرنے کے لیئے کم ہے
It is in her world only that happiness exists,
Is this sorrow not reason enough,
To depart eternally?
ابھی عشق کے امتحاں اور بھی ہیں
Beyond the stars themselves,
Reside ever more,
And with them, ever more to love.
Penned by the famous Allama Iqbal, during the creation of Pakistan, these lines were dedicated to the people of Pakistan who were in pain and misery. Although their suffering had been great, and although there were unenumerable obstacles still to come, the future was also filled with hope and possibilities.
Finally, I leave you with these words, also by Allama Iqbal, who never stopped writing for the betterment of Pakistan’s citizens. Perhaps when you too have mastered Urdu, you will be able to look back at this poem with the same love and appreciation for this language as I have.
کبھی اے حقیقت منتظر نظر آ لباس مجاز میں
کہ ہزاروں سجدے تڑپ رہے ہیں مری جبین نیاز میں
طرب آشنائے خروش ہو تو نوا ہے محرم گوش ہو
وہ سرود کیا کہ چھپا ہوا ہو سکوت پردۂ ساز میں
تو بچا بچا کے نہ رکھ اسے ترا آئنہ ہے وہ آئنہ
کہ شکستہ ہو تو عزیز تر ہے نگاہ آئنہ ساز میں
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