Urdu اردو (sometimes formally called Zabān-e-Urdū-e-Mo‘allah زبانِ اردوِ معلیٰ), is the official language of Pakistan and one of the official languages of India.
Urdu shares its grammar from Hindi, but the vocabulary is mainly Persian, Arabic, and Turkish. It is written in a Perso-Arabic abjad writing system, and in particular in the flowery script known as Nast'alīq (نستعليق).
Dakini is a dialect of Urdu with less Arabic and Persian loanwords and is spoken in the Muslim enclaves of the Deccan (India).
Urdu emerged during Muslim rule in Central and Southern Asia where Persian was the official language. The word Urdu is itself derived from the Turkish word ordu, ultimately derived from the Mongolian word "horde." In addition to vocabulary, Urdu also adopted the Persian use of the enclitic ezāfe and most poets used takhallus (noms de plume). Urdu is renowned for its poetic tradition dating back to Mughal times when, as mentioned, Persian was the court language; thus the reason why Persian vocabulary and elements are so notable. A mixture of Urdu and Hindi, called Hindustani, is the form heard in most Bollywood films, that try to appeal to the widest audience possible.
Urdu, as mentioned earlier, is written in a modified Perso-Arabic script called abjad. An abjad does not write short vowels, except at the beginning of a word with alif' serving as a place holder. This can make it frustrating for the learner as the words I and in are both written ميں in Urdu. Urdu is also written in a stylized form of the Arabic script called nast'alīq (نستعليق). Developed in Persia, it is still used for religious and poetic calligraphy in Iran today, while Urdu still uses it as its standard script. Therefore, if you want to read an Urdu newspaper, street sign, etc. you will have to learn to read nastaliq, which can prove difficult for the beginner. As a result, a simpler style called Naskh (نسخ), as used in other languages using the Arabic abjad will be used for two reasons: 1. to ease the learner into nastaliq, and 2. because Unicode does not support nast'aliq. Vowel diacritics do exist, mostly used to modify the alif vowel holder at the beginning of a word but also used for educational purposes, in the Qur'ān, and for clarifying ambiguous spellings.
The Arabic system of writing is cursive. Most letters have four forms. Others, which do not attach to the letter coming next to them, have only two. These forms are quite self-explanatory: initial, medial, final, and isolated. When written alone letters are written in their isolated form. Example:
پ + آ + ك + س + ت + آ + ن
when these isolated letters are joined together they look like this:
At the beginning of a word alif serves as a placeholder for the diacritical mark. Due to directional issues with unicode the medial/final occurs before the initial example, when they should appear after, i.e., to the left of the letter. A final ﻪ is sometimes used do represent an inherent 'a' at the end of a word (c.f. Arabic usage). When choṭī ye and baṛī ye occur in the middle, both take the ﻴ form. For further reference, in Urdu transliteration ai is ae and au is ao.
So why are there 5 z's, etc.?! - The letters ق,غ,ع,ظ,ط,ض,ص,ژ,ذ,خ,ح,ث are exclusively Persian (Fārsi) or Arabic sounds. As such; the Arabic sounds especially, are pronounced with the closest Indic equivalent. Thus, to illustrate: the Arabic ث (θ) is pronounced as س, and the Arabic ذ (ð) is pronounced as ز. A rare Urdu letter unique to Persian and Persian loan words is ژ, which is pronounced as the Russian ж, or s in pleasure.
To make aspirated letters in Urdu the do chashmī he is added to the letter it aspirates. In Nastaliq, the do chashmī he, lit. meaning "two-eyed he" looks like this: ﻬ. Unfortunately unicode only supports this character as it exists in Arabic; therefore the Urdu Naskh will have to suffice.
Special diacritical signs will be used with ت as an example when appropriate. Explanations are given below the table.
nūn-e ghunna - The nasalization symbol in Urdu. In medial form a normal nūn is used.
hamzah - Though part of the alphabet, the hamzah is not really a letter. Nor is it exactly a diacritical sign. It is an entity unto itself. It is a vowel separator similar to the glottal ‘ain. It is used often, on a consonantal "seat" in words ending with the irregular polite imperative suffix -iye.
iẓāfat - Though identical to zer in appearance, it is an element borrowed from the Persian ezafe. This is very common in Urdu and unlike zer is pronounced as a "long" e. It is placed under the last consonant of the adjective which is affecting the noun. Roughly translated as of. It is transliterated as the suffix -e, or -e-. Example:
زخمِ قلب — zakhm-e-qalb — lit. wound of (the) heart, i.e. heartsorrow, or better, German Herzeleid.
When the first word ends in a vowel, the iẓāfat is written under a hamzah placeholder: ءِ.
taśdīd - A small "w" which doubles the consonant it is written over. However; in verbs, the consonant is written twice.
jazm - Placed over a consonant, it indicates there is no short vowel following it. It looks like a circumflex.
ālif maqsūra - Used only in Arabic loanwords. Appears over the final choṭī ye as a superscript ālif. Indicates an -ā sound.
khaṛa zabar - lit. "standing zabar", also only occurs in Arabic origin words. Written over a consonant like the above, it indicates an ā after that consonant. Also called a "dagger alif".
tā marbūtah - Is the Arabic fem. marker. It is often merely replaced by a choṭī he or te.
There are many special ligatures in nast'aliq. Kāf+ālif, kāf+lām, gāf+ālif, gāf+lām, and many more which unicode does not support. Learn the naskh and you will hopefully be able to spot these on your own with some practice; not to mention much patience.
In Pakistan and other Urdu speaking place, two calendars are used: the Gregorian and the Islamic. Months of Gregorian calendar are used as these are in English so the Islamic will be discussed. The Islamic calendar is a lunar Calendar. Months are usually 29-30 days long. The Calendar dates from the hijra, or migration, of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. The abbreviation for Muslim dates is AH (anno Hegiræ). When writing in Urdu, the word ەجرى, hijrī should precede/ follow the date.
Note: If you stick to main cities Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad, you should be fine with using English words in Urdu phrases. The native speakers do it all the time. This is why the phrase I need a car' becomes Mujhe car chahye.
rail gaari (ریل گاڑی)
railway station (ریلوے سٹیشن)
bus stop (بس سٹاپ
gaari / car (گاڑی ؕ/ کار)
hawai jahaz (هوأی جہاز)
hawai adda / airport (ہوأی اڈہ / أیرپورٹ)
How much is a ticket to _____?
_____ tak ticket kitnay ka hai? (ّّّّتک ٹکٹ کتنے کا ہے؟_____)
One ticket to _____, please.
ake ticket _____ kay liyee
Where does this train/bus go?
Yeh train/bus kahan jaati hai? (یہ ٹرینؕ/بس کہان جاتی ہے؟)
Where is the train/bus to _____?
_____ ki train/bus kahan se jaati hai? (ّّّّکی ٹرین/بس کہاں سے جاتی ہے؟_____)
Does this train/bus stop in _____?
Kya yeh train / bus _____ rukti hai? (کیا یہ ٹرین / بس _____ رکتی ہے؟)
When does the train/bus for _____ leave?
_____ ki train/bus kab jaati hai? (ّّّّکی ٹرین/بس کب جاتی ہے؟_____)
Note: Alcohol is only available in some bars inside five star hotels. Availability is limited to non-Muslims holding the proper license and foreigners with passports. Bars serving drinks have English-speaking staff available.
Do you serve alcohol?
Aap sharaab bechte karte hain? (آپ شراب فروخت کرتے ہیں؟)