Learn Urdu

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About Urdu

Urdu has official status in Pakistan and 6 states of India. In Pakistan, it is mostly spoken as a second language - only ten per cent of the population speaks it natively - and is the lingua franca of the country. It is mutually understandable with Hindi: both are standardised registers of the Hindustani language, although there are differences in vocabulary and writing system - Urdu uses a version of the Perso-Arabic script. The basis of the vocabulary is Sanskrit and Prakrit, with additional influences from Arabic, Persian and English.

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Fun facts — Urdu

  • Britain’s former monarch Queen Victoria learned Urdu for 13 years. She was taught by Abdul Karim, her personal servant and a native Urdu speaker.
  • There’s an Urdu saying: ‘a running thief’s underwear is right’ meaning ‘something is better than nothing’.
  • The word ‘chutney’ comes from the Urdu verb chatni ‘to crush’ and the word ‘cushy’ comes from the Urdu word khushi for ‘ease/happiness’.

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