Is it Urdu?

Aug 7th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan

A couple of days back I was walking back to home from my workplace when I overheard two students talking to each other…“Itni Tension horahi hai, kal assignment submit kerna hai aur test b hai.” Being a linguist, I was compelled to observe the switching of language by the students and therefore it made me observe the fact that the utilization of the vocabulary of English in Urdu discourse is the norm these days. Every now and then such formation of sentences can be heard or if we take notice of our own speech we will realize that we ourselves are engaged in such kind of discourse. These days we hardly hear or speak a sentence that can be said to be entirely of Urdu words. Either we watch a talk show, an interview, a drama, tune it to our favourite fm channel or pick any local Urdu daily; we will find scores of English words and phrases and sometimes even complete sentences.

There are many reasons behind this emerging trend of the usage of English in Urdu diction in such a way. Scientific technology, sports jargon, names of organizations and designations have not yet found their Urdu replacements and people find it easy to borrow these words and make them part of our own language and with frequent exposure, these words are learnt by everyone including those who don’t even know English. In this manner such words become part of the lexicon of our language, gain entries in the dictionaries and with continuous usage we don’t even feel the foreign sense attached to them.

Another important reason for their usage is for the clarity or exactness of the concept associated with a particular word. Consider for e.g., the word ‘stadium’, if we use the word ‘maidaan’ as its Urdu replacement then it will strike another mental image in our mind. Hence for such reasons it is necessary to select a word that best suits the need, topic and context. But what is of significance to note is that sometimes we find people using words from this foreign language even though we have substitutes or synonyms readily available in Urdu. Also sometimes such usage of language is mainly to impress upon people that you know the language very well. This happens when the culture or language is a dominant one and is considered superior and English, as we all know is considered in this part of the world, a mark of highly educated and belonging to the elite class.

It is high time we realize that this present trend of using English lexical items in our national language is responsible for its rapid change of vocabulary, although it might not sometimes be a conscious process or a deliberate phenomenon, but still it is contributing largely in the deteriorating standards of the language and in its distortion and the need is to desist from using English words in Urdu discourse as much as possible so that we are able to maintain our language and what we pass on to our coming generations is in a standardised form.

Also the need is to coin more words as replacements of the currently borrowed words of English language and to raise awareness among people about it. Media (both print and electronic) need also to play a positive part in elevating the standards of the language instead of being part of the deterioration process and we as individuals can start owning our language and try to stop ourselves from unnecessary insertion of English words. It is high time we realize and act wisely before it’s too late.

Mehwish Abdul Wahid

About the author

Mehwish Abdul Wahid is a writer and a linguist and currently teaching at a private school in Karachi.

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  1. Well, about time someone wrote about it. But the sad fact is that I don’t see any Urdu development institute actively working on promoting and advancing urdu language in our country. We do need urdu substitutes for new words coming in everyday.

  2. ہمیں کسی تنطیم کی نہیں بلکہ اپنے رویوں میں تبدیلی لانے کی ضرورت ہے۔ درحقیقت ہم اپنی زبان استعمال کرنے میں ہتک محسوس کرتے ہیں اور یہی اس مسئلے کی جڑ ہے۔ ہم جتنی چاہیں تنظیمیں کھڑی کر لیں، سب بے سود ہے جب تک ہم اپنے رویوں سے اپنی زبان کا خود استحصال کرتے رہیں گے۔ آج ہمیں اپنی زبان کے استعمال میں کسی قسم کی رکاوٹ حائل نہیں ہے، حتی کہ اب تو ہم کمپیوٹرز پر بھی با آسانی اپنی زبان استعمال کر سکتے ہیں جس کی کچھ زندہ مثالیں ؛ ؛ یہ ویب سائٹس ہیں
    لیکن اس کے باوجود ہم میں سے کتنے لوگ انٹرنیٹ پر اپنی زبان استعمال کرتے نظر آتے ہیں؟ بمشکل تمام آٹے میں نمک کے برابر۔ ہمیں اپنے اس رویے کو تبدیل کرنے کی ضرورت ہے۔

  3. “…still it is contributing largely in the deteriorating standards of the language and in its distortion and the need is to desist from using English words in Urdu discourse as much as possible so that we are able to maintain our language and what we pass on to our coming generations is in a standardized form…”

    The irony, however, is that Urdu itself is an amalgamation of different languages. Urdu was borne out of Hindi and Persian and it also adopted many a words from Arabic and Turkish.

  4. good observation….!!!!

  5. Thank you for your feedback and appreciation…

    Yes Yasir and Wasif Hasan Baib, i agree… its high time something is done for our mother tongue… at individual level what we can do is not feel ashamed for owning our language and we need to show the same enthusiasm and eagerness that we exhibit in learning the vocab of English since there are many words that do have Urdu alternatives but we dont know them and therefore do not incorporate them in our everyday speech.

    Hani: You have a point there.. Urdu no doubt is a language that itself is made up of many different language and so are many other languages in the world… languages continually evolve but what Urdu is undergoing is something drastic in terms of its standardization… what is highlighted here is how we can put a stop to this enormous addition of English lexicon in our daily conversations!

  6. I didnt know my math teacher is such a cool blogger…well written seriously..
    You are very right in your observation…i have tried alot of time to say one sentence in urdu , without seeking help of any other lang’s word…But english and Punjabi ( mostly punjabi ) are always determined to interpret. this lang mess is so very part of our routine and is now considered and accepted as more than Normal…Where, language is mere a tool to converse with each other and for common man this concern doesn’t hold any importance , there a linguistic’s tension is obvious…
    Sadly ( If i speak of me ) today I am not very good at Urdu / our national lang, Punjabi/ Mother lag or English -international langue..

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