The Differences between Pakistani & Indian Urdu
The Urdu language is a member of the Indo-Aryan group of languages, a subgroup within the Indo-European language family. The majority of the speakers of the Urdu language live in Pakistan, where Urdu is the official Pakistan language. However, a version of the language known as Indian Urdu is spoken in India, where it is one of 22 official languages.
Although both Pakistani Urdu and Indian Urdu are forms of the same language, there are significant differences to be aware of. This article uncovers these differences and highlights why defining your target audience is essential when translating to Urdu.
History of the Urdu Language
The Urdu language came to life in the twelfth century CE. It originates from the regional Apabhramsa of north-western India, where it served as a linguistic modus vivendi. The role of Urdu was further cemented due to the Muslim conquest. The very first poet of the language was Amir Khosrow, who created riddles, folk songs and dohas or couplets in the newly formed speech.
The Indian Urdu spoken then was known as Hindvi or Old Hindi. The language gradually evolved to include many Persian loan words. The newly formed speech was known by various other names, including Zaban-e-Hind, Zaban-e-Urdu, Dakkhani, Hindi, Zaban-e-Urdu-e-Mualla, Rekhta, Gujari, or Zaban-e-Delhi. It was also referred to simply as Urdu, which means “the language of the camp”.
Eventually, there became a sectarian divide between “Urdu” written in the Perso-Arabic script for Muslims (mainly used in Pakistan) and “Hindi” written in the Devanagari script for Hindus (predominantly used in India, known as Indian Urdu). However, it wasn’t until 1973 that Urdu became the national Pakistan language.
Pakistani Urdu spoken in the country day-to-day is closely related to Indian Urdu, and both can be referred to as “Urdu”. The Urdu language is today the native language for 70 million people, while over 100 million have it as their second language. Outside of India and Pakistan, there are significant enclaves of Urdu speakers in the United Kingdom, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates.
Pakistani Urdu & Indian Urdu Use Different Scripts
Although Indian Urdu and Pakistani Urdu are akin, the languages are written using varying writing systems. Indian Urdu utilises the Devanagari script, a Sanskrit-based system. On the other hand, Pakistani Urdu utilises Nasta’liq, an adapted version of the Arabic script. Where the Pakistan language script is written from right to left like Arabic, Indian Urdu is written from left to right.
The Devanagari script is perceived as better equipped for writing Urdu as Hindustani languages can be traced back to Sanskrit (the language from which the Devanagari writing system developed). The script has a letter for every Hindi sound and most sounds in Urdu. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions, with the Devanagari script adapting to add new letters like z and j with a dot underneath. The z is utilised when foreign loan words are used.
On the other hand, the Nasta’liq script isn’t the best choice for writing any Hindustani language. A significant reason for this is the vowels. Arabic, the source of the Nasta’liq script, has three vowels in short and long variants, while Pakistani Urdu has thirteen! Therefore, vowels are typically omitted when writing Pakistani Urdu.
Pakistani Urdu is More Difficult to Learn
Because the Nasta’liq script omits vowels, Pakistani Urdu is almost written in a type of shorthand. Unless you know what vowel is used in the word, pronunciation is complicated for people that don’t know the language. The Pakistan language is also more challenging to read and write due to complex Perso-Arabic script and right-to-left reading pattern.
Conversely, the Devanagari script is phonetic, meaning everything written in Indian Urdu is pronounced as imagined. As soon as you memorise the character pronunciation and know the writing system, you can pronounce just about everything in Indian Urdu. When Urdu translation services are offered with this script, it is much easier to ensure that accuracy is followed as there isn’t a steep learning curve associated with this script.
Vocabulary Differences in Urdu Languages
You are unlikely to notice a difference between Indian Urdu and Pakistani Urdu in everyday speech. For the most basic of conversations, daily discussions in Hindi and Urdu are completely the same. It is only when you begin delving deeper that you see vocabulary differences, particularly when it comes to more formal, political, or scientific terms.
A reason for this can be traced to the Hindustani language history. Persian and Arabic influences were brought into the Hindustani language via the Mughal Empire and Delhi Sultanate. This means that foreign loan words came from invaders, and they required vocabulary that was strictly formal and political. The Pakistan language is more Persianised with a greater influence from Persian and Arabic countries.
Are Pakistani and Indian Urdu the Same when translating?
Quite a number of people believe that both Indian Urdu and Pakistani Urdu are the same. The main difference is that both languages use different writing scripts or alphabets. However, linguists do not see alphabets or scripts as part of a language but rather as a way to express language on paper. Therefore, many argue that the Indian and Pakistan language are akin.
Yet while both languages have an everyday vocabulary in common, there are still some stark differences between them. As highlighted above, there are major differences in the formal registers. Pakistani Urdu, as its name states, has been developed in Pakistan. While everyday speakers can understand Hindi, there are more than a few differences to make both languages stand out.
Renaissance Translations’ Urdu Translation Services
If you have a document to translate to either Indian Urdu or Pakistani Urdu, get in touch with our project managers today. They will help you choose between the Indian and Pakistan language variant for your document. We have a team of over 5,000 qualified native speakers that understand the complexities of the language. They can understand both writing systems and nuances in vocabulary to ensure a high-quality translation.
Our company is member of the Association of Translation Companies in England as well as SDL LSP Partner Programme. If you choose to work with us, we can guarantee that you have selected the right translation agency. Let us be your trusted language partner and provide your business with our professional translation services.