Mother tongue

20140210_175600Whenever I fill out any forms for my son, they ask about his mother tongue. I write Urdu in that but what’s funny is that he doesn’t know it at all except to say Yes, No and Goodbye.

When we came to Dubai my son was not even a year old. Everyone told me that he wouldn’t get admission in any school until he could speak English fluently. So I made sure that I spoke to him in English all the time. I thought he would learn his mother tongue Urdu along the way. But that didn’t happen.  Now at 4, he speaks English beyond his years and according to his teacher his vocabulary is outstanding for his age. But if you talk to him in Urdu he’ll just stare blankly at you.

I have realized my mistake and am trying to rectify it. I have a tutor who comes in to teach him the Quran and speaks to him in Urdu. We haven’t made much headway yet but hopefully we’ll get there. He doesn’t like the fact that he has to study just after coming back from school and half way through the lesson he tells his teacher “Khudahafiz” meaning Goodbye!

We are planning to visit our home country in April and I’m worried that he won’t be able to speak to most of the people there who speak only Urdu. Imagine their disappointment when they will be meeting him after more than 3 years and won’t even get to talk to him. And they’ll really be missing out because his stories are wonderful to hear.

P.S. I actually got my son to pose with his tongue sticking out so I could have a photo for my post. He didn’t like being interrupted while he was busy at play. But after a lot of coercing I finally got my photo. He is a good sport!

Daily Prompt: Take That, Rosetta!

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Urdu and Desis

The national language of Pakistan is Urdu which comes from a Turkish word meaning army. The alphabet and script of written Urdu is similar to Arabic, yet most Pakistanis do not understand Arabic. Although its script is totally different from Hindi, spoken Urdu is very similar to Hindi.

Roman Urdu is the name given to Urdu written in English. This is commonly used when texting or on Facebook as Urdu scripts are not readily available on computers and on the internet.

This is what Urdu and Roman Urdu looks like with its translation given below:

Urdu: میرا نام زینب ہے

Roman Urdu: Mera naam Zainab hai

Translation: My name is Zainab

One thing that I’ve noticed is that when conversing in Urdu people like to bring up their predecessors and relatives in the conversation:

“Ye tumhare baap ka ghar hai jo is tarha bethe ho?”

Is this your father’s house that you’re sitting here this way?

“Woh tumhara mame ka puttar lagta hai jo is sai baat kar rahi thi?”

Is he your uncle’s son that you were talking to him?

Although the above sentences were meant to be insulting, we have a lot of respect for relatives. We don’t just say aunt or uncle; there is a separate word for mother’s sister, another one for father’s sister, mother’s brother’s wife etc.  This just shows how much importance we give to these relations.

Pakistanis like to converse in English especially when they’re living abroad. Even when they’re speaking in their native language Urdu, half their words will be in English. For example one would say:

“Mai kal mall gait hi, uff itni excellent sale thi, I got really good stuff there!”

(“I went to the mall yesterday, there was such an excellent sale, I got really good stuff there!”)

And read with a desi (Pakistani) accent it would be:

I went to the mall yesterrrday, suchhh an axcellent sale, I got reaaalllly good stuff there!!!!

Having said all that, I must also add that an average Pakistani is much better at conversing in English than many others who are also not native English speakers.

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