An Introduction to Urdu

Urdu, spoken by approximately 180 million people worldwide, is often referred to as the ‘sister language’ of Hindi. Like Hindi, Urdu is studied by individuals who wish to increase their communication abilities in Northern India, Pakistan and other countries where the South Asian Diaspora resides, and/or are interested in immersing themselves in the rich and still vibrant tradition of Urdu prose and poetry.

During the reign of the Delhi Sultanate and most of that of the Mughal Empire, spanning a time period from roughly 1200 to 1800s, Persian was the language of the court and was used for official proceedings and record keeping. However, as Persian and Arabic came into the contact with numerous local languages and vernaculars, many new dialects emerged along with what came to be known as Hindustani or Urdu. Later Urdu was used for administrative purposes and became a medium of expression for countless writers, poets, and lyricists who have been admired and cherished all over the world for their ghazals, poetry, novels, and more recently, Bollywood song lyrics.
 Like Hindi, Urdu draws its vocabulary from languages as diverse as Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Turkish, Punjabi, and English.

In everyday conversation, the distinction between the Urdu and Hindi languages isn’t discernible by most people. The differences only really come in when comparing their formalized forms.