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The Urdu Language 


Spoken by an estimated 170 million people worldwide, Urdu is the official language of Pakistan, together with English.

Also spoken in many other countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal and India, Urdu speakers are generally found in places with significant Muslim communities. Like many different languages, Urdu has been influenced by the English language and has a variety of English words. Urdu can be a challenge for English speakers, with some complex grammar and the fact that it is read from right to left instead of left to right, like English. Urdu is also one of the official languages of India and is widely spoken throughout Southern Asia.

Many words in the Urdu language are used to show respect. Interestingly, in Urdu-speaking society, what we see as ‘small’ issues are considered bad-mannered, such as sitting with your legs crossed.

Brief History of Origins:

  • Roots in the Indo-Aryan Languages: Urdu is a member of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It developed from the medieval (6th to 13th century) Apabhraṃśa register of the preceding Shauraseni language, a Middle Indo-Aryan language of North India.
  • Persian Influence: Urdu has been heavily influenced by Persian, which entered the language through the invasions of Central Asian Turkic and Afghan dynasties.
  • Emergence as Distinct Language: By the 17th century, Urdu became recognisable as a distinct language. It was cultivated in the courts of the Mughal Empire in India and used alongside Persian for literary purposes.
  • Relationship with Hindi: Urdu and Hindi, though considered distinct languages, share significant grammar and essential vocabulary similarities. Their divergence comes primarily from Urdu’s Perso-Arabic script and more extensive Persian and Arabic influence, whereas Hindi relies more on Sanskrit terms.

Number of Speakers:

  • Native Speakers: Around 70 million people speak Urdu as their first language.
  • Second Language Speakers: Approximately 100 million people speak it as a second language.
  • Total Speakers: This brings the total number of speakers to nearly 170 million worldwide.

Where It Is an Official Language:

  • Pakistan: Urdu is Pakistan’s national language and lingua franca, connecting various linguistic communities in the country.
  • India: It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages of India, where it is the first language of the Muslim community.

Example of Text:

Urdu Text: “ہم ایک ایسے ایشیائی ملک میں رہتے ہیں جہاں اردو بولی جاتی ہے۔”
English Translation: “We live in an Asian country where Urdu is spoken.”

Where It Is Used and How:

  • In Pakistan: Urdu is used in government, media, education, and literature.
  • In India: It’s primarily spoken among the Muslim community and is used in literary and cultural contexts.
  • Diaspora Communities: Urdu is also spoken among diaspora communities in the UK, USA, and other countries.

Examples of English Words Used in Urdu:

  • Doctor: Same as in English.
  • Bank: Same as in English.
  • Hotel: Same as in English.

Urdu Words Absorbed into English:

  • Bungalow: From the Urdu “banglā”, meaning a type of single-story house.
  • Pajama: From the Urdu “pāy-jāma”, meaning leg garment.
  • Shampoo: From the Urdu “chāmpo”, derived from the verb meaning to massage or knead.

Urdu is a vibrant language rooted in the Indo-Aryan languages but heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic. As a symbol of cultural and linguistic unity in Pakistan and a significant language in India, Urdu continues to be a vital part of South Asian identity and heritage. Its interconnections with English reflect a shared history and ongoing exchange between Eastern and Western cultures.

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Our translation services - FAQ

Do you use native translators?

Yes, always. All our translators are native speakers and most are still resident in their native country. We pride ourselves on ensuring that all Brightlines’ translators are native. We do not accept applications from non-native candidates or allow them to register on our online recruitment database. All our translators are rigorously tested.

How long will the translations take?

The turnaround for the translation will depend on the word count. As a rough guide, assume that the translators can comfortably process about 2500 words of non-specialised text per day. Proofreading can effectively be completed on a basis of 4000-6000 words a day. Our minimum turnaround time is usually about three days, although it is possible to shorten this if you are in a rush for the final files and we will always be happy to discuss this with you.

What is the variation in your translators’ experience and qualifications? Are they native speakers? Will the cost increase if we use a more experienced translator?

All our translators have to go through a series of tests to make sure they are as good as they say they are, and only if they pass are they allowed to work for Brightlines. There is quite a range of experience and qualifications, but all translators have a minimum of five years’ experience. All translators translate into their mother-tongue without exception and are generally based in-country so they are up-to-date with the local language. We match translators with projects/clients depending on the subject matter, and most of our translators have industry experience in their speciality – there is no better experience than being immersed professionally in the industry they specialise in. Our costs are based on translator experience, speciality (i.e. medical, creative, scientific) and the language choice.

Which languages can you translate into?

We have an extensive database with hundreds of trusted and tested translators covering all commercial languages. If you cannot see the language or dialect you need please ask.

I don’t know the word count; can you base the quote on the number of pages?

Our pricing structure is based on a rate-per-word, but we can estimate from a page count. If we can’t see the source document then we would usually estimate between 300 – 500 words a page depending on the density of the text and the presence of photos and images.

Does the translation need to be proofread?

Brightlines is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company. This means that quality is safeguarded. We adhere to the “four-eyes principle” and translations are always checked by a second professional proofreader (who is not the translator). If the translation is for internal use and reference purposes only (i.e. not to be published, distributed or used in a court of law), or you simply don’t wish to have proofreading, we can remove the proofreading stage.

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