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  • Urdu started developing in [[w{North India|north India]] around Delhi in about the 12th century. It was based on the language spoken in the region around Delhi, and it was heavily influenced by Arabic and Persian, as well as Turkish.
  • Urdu shares its origins with Hindi, sometimes referred to as a ‘sister’ language of Urdu due to the similar grammar base that they share. However, Hindi went on to be written in ‘Devanagri’, the same script as Sanskrit, and its vocabulary has more of a Sanskrit influence than a Persian and Arabic influence.
    • Urdu in: "Urdu Language – history and development"
  • During the 14th and 15th centuries, much poetry and literature began to be written in Urdu. More recently, Urdu has mainly been connected with the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, but there are many major works of Urdu literature written by Hindu and Sikh writers.
    • Urdu in: "Urdu Language – history and development"
  • After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Urdu was chosen to be the national language of the new country. Today Urdu is spoken in many countries around the world, including Britain, Canada, the USA, the Middle East and India. In fact there are more Urdu speakers in India than there are in Pakistan.
    • Urdu in: "Urdu Language – history and development"

A Guide to Urdu – Ten facts[edit]

The word Urdu, written in Nastaliq style
Urdu and Hindi on a road sign in India.

BBC in: A Guide to Urdu –Ten facts, BBC

  • Urdu is a living language which, according to estimates, is spoken by close to 100 million people around the world. It is the official language of Pakistan, a status which it shares with English. It is also spoken and understood in parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Middle East, and many other countries around the world where Pakistani communities have settled.
  • In India, Urdu is spoken in places with large Muslim communities or cities that were once power centres of Muslim Empires.
  • Many English words are commonly used in spoken and written Urdu. Such as سائنس [science], science, گلاس [glass], glass and many more.
  • Similarly, Urdu has also contributed a few words to the English language such as cushy from خوشی [khushi], ease, happiness, pukka from پکّا [pakka], solid and many more.
  • Urdu grammar, word construction and sentence structure are very systematic, however, Urdu presents some challenges.
  • Urdu uses formal and informal verb forms and each noun has either masculine or feminine gender. Don’t worry if you mix things up at the beginning – as a learner you will be forgiven.
  • For those whose mother tongue is written from left to right, one of the challenges of learning Urdu is getting used to reading right to left.
  • Urdu pronunciation is not always regular. For example, the word exactly is written بالکل [bal kul], but pronounced “bil kul”, so it’s advisable to memorize vocabulary with the exact pronunciation. In this respect it’s similar to English which has plenty of irregular spellings.
  • The closest relation of Urdu is Hindi. Spoken Urdu and Hindi are almost identical at the day-to-day functional level, apart from certain words. After learning Urdu, you’ll find it much easier to speak and understand Hindi but written Hindi will remain a mystery as it’s written in a different script.
  • Other languages written in the same script as Urdu include Pashto, Kashmiri and Punjabi, although Punjabi is also written in a script called [[w:Gurumukhi|Gurumukhi. The Urdu script is over 90% similar to the Persian and Arabic scripts as well, so learning Urdu will help you to read the Arabic and Persian alphabets. Urdu vocabulary also borrows about 40% from Arabic and Persian.
  • In Urdu there are three commonly used verbs which are very similar: کہنا [kehna], to say کھانا [khana], to eat and کرنا [karna], to do. Learners often mix these up, so pay careful attention to them.
  • The informal Urdu word for hey or hello is اوئے [oey] but don’t use this with anyone in the street or any other public place because it is an extremely informal, almost intimate, word. You may only use the word with a respectful suffix like بھائی [bhai] brother or دوست [dost] friend.
  • To attract someone’s attention in a polite way, you may use a variety of different words like سنئے [sunye], similar to excuse me in English - بھائی جان [bhai jaan] elder brother or جناب [Janab]mister, sir. To get the attention of a woman you may use polite words like باجی [baaji], older sister or بہن جی [behen jee], a respectful word for sister. With older women you can use بی بی[bibi] lady or اماں جی [amma jee] dear mother.
  • The first book in Urdu is known to be سب رس [Sabras], written in 1635-36 by Mullah Asadullah Wajhi. It’s an allegorical mystical romance translated from the Persian Masnavi Dastur-e-Ushshaq and Husn-o-dil by Mohammad Yahya Ibn-e-Saibak, written about two centuries earlier. The copies of Sabras were handwritten as the printing press had not yet reached India at that time.
  • The first Urdu book printed by a printing press brought to India by the Portuguese, was باغ و بہار [Bagh-o-bahar] by Mir Amman, published in 1801.
  • Urdu is a delicate and sophisticated language and many of its words are used to show respect and civility. This emphasis on politeness in vocabulary is known as ادب [adab], respect or تکلف [takalluf], politeness. This polite vocabulary is generally used when talking to seniors or people you’re not familiar with.