Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language with approximately 61 million speakers worldwide, according to the Ethnologue Language Report. Urdu is an official language of Pakistan, although there are also significant Urdu-speaking communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India. Since the 12th century, Urdu has been written with a version of the Perso-Arabic script. In order to be able to read and write the Urdu language, beginners first have to learn how to understand this script.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Download and print out a script chart of the Urdu alphabet, such as the one on the website of Columbia University. Stick a copy of the chart on the wall in a prominent place in your house where you will see it on a regular basis. Study the chart one letter at a time. Practice drawing out new characters by hand, as this helps you memorise their shapes.
Familiarise yourself with the conceptual differences between writing in English and Urdu. Urdu is written from right to left, which is the opposite direction to English. All letters have different forms depending on whether they are written at the beginning, middle or end of a word. Concentrate on learning the different forms of the letters, paying particular attention to the forms that appear at the end of words. This will help you to know where one word finishes and a new word begins.
Expand your Urdu vocabulary. The more Urdu words you are able to recognise on sight, the more fluently you will be able to read Urdu text. Each time you learn a new word, practice writing it out in the Urdu script until you are confident that you can reproduce it accurately without looking at a copy of it.
Practice reading in Urdu. When you feel that you have mastered Urdu script and have acquired a basic vocabulary, it is time to apply what you have learnt to practical situations. Buy a children's book written in Urdu, as the basic vocabulary and simple sentence structure will be perfect for a beginner in the language. Use an Urdu-English dictionary to check the translation of unfamiliar words.
Study Urdu grammar. This will enable you to construct and write your own sentences in accurate language. Use free online resources, such as the Urdu lessons on the Ukindia and Columbia University websites, to understand the differences between Urdu and English grammar. Urdu speakers normally place the verb at the end of the sentence, which may seem strange to native speakers of English. Words such as "a" and "the" are also rarely used in Urdu.
Tips and warnings
- Dedicate a regular amount of time each day to practicing Urdu, as regular study helps you to progress faster. Early in the morning is the best time to learn for many people.
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