Together there are well over 400 million speakers of Hindi Urdu in the world. Hindi and Urdu are mixed languages which means that their grammar structure is the same, and at introductory levels, a majority of the vocabulary is also the same in both languages. The differences in vocabulary are largely seen when talking about political or religious topics. Additionally, each language also takes on a different written form (script). Check out our blog on the top 5 apps for learning Hindi script to learn more about the written form of Hindi. Read on to learn 9 cool facts about Urdu script.
1. Urdu is read and written from right to left.
2. Unlike Hindi, each letter has a specific name. If you were to ask someone how to spell a certain word, they would tell you each name of the letter. For instance pani/پانی (water) would be pey, alif, noon, choti ye.
3. Urdu borrows symbols from Arabic and Persian in its script, but the sounds of these symbols differ across languages. For example the words for the month of fasting in Islam is written with the same symbols in both Urdu and Arabic, however the different sounds of these symbols in both langauges results in this month of fasting being pronounced as Ramzan in Urdu vs Ramadan in Arabic.
4. The script also closely resembles Pashto, Kashmiri and Kurdish language scripts.
5. The shape of letters can change depending on where in the word they occur.
6. Urdu is written in a downward slanting form called Nastaliq, which literally means hanging script. This is purely for aesthetic purposes; whereas Arabic is typically written in Naskh form, which is a straight line.
7. Vowels are read by linguistic instinct, which means that sometimes the vowel sound is assumed. This is why being able to speak and understand spoken Urdu is valuable prior to learning to read and write Urdu script. For instance, the words kiya (did) and kya (what) are written the exact same way - کیا, and depending on the context of the sentence, the reader would understand which word was intended.
8. Instead of writing constants twice, a diacritic symbol called tashdid is written above a letter to indicate it is repeated. There are other diacritic symbols that help the reader understand if the consonant is followed by an aa, ee, or oo sound, if the vowel should be a nasalized sound, or when two vowel sounds are combined. Diacritic symbols do not commonly appear in written literature, such as books or newspapers. However, diacritic symbols are especially helpful for a beginner reader to understand proper pronunciation of Urdu words when reading.
9. There are helpful patterns in Urdu. When learning Urdu script, it’s helpful to think of the 40 letters categorized into “families" as there are several different groups of letters. This refers to the style of the shape in which letters are written. It is also helpful to understand which letters can be considered connectors and which ones are breakers. There are a handful of letters, categorized as breakers, that will never be joined to a subsequent letter, while the rest of the letters can be considered connectors and will link with whichever letter follows.
Urdu is a beautiful language both in its spoken and written forms. It can be helpful to know how to understand and speak Urdu prior to learning to read and write it. Launch India's GPA approach for Hindi and Urdu helps learners build the foundation for being able to read this script. We also have workshops for both Hindi and Urdu Script that help participants grow their skills in reading and writing in fun and effective ways. Reach out today for more information!