I speak Punjabi (but my kids might not)

Published: March 16, 2012

How many more generations can Punjabi last before the original dialect just vanishes from the planet? DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD, PHOTO: FILE

Ik Sutti Uthi Dooji Akhon Ka’ani ’-

Do you understand what this Punjabi idiom means, or do you need a translation in English first? The literal translation may be “one just woke up and the other one is partially sighted!” but that isn’t what it means. 

This funny phrase refers to a person who has just woken up and then on top of their disheveled appearance is cross-eyed as well. It is used “icing on the cake” in English.

Most people wonder why everything in Punjabi sounds so comic? Maybe our ancestors just appreciated humour.

If you belong to a Punjabi speaking family and couldn’t understand then this is proof that our language is teetering on the brink of extinction. How many more generations will it be before the original dialect just vanishes from the planet? Nobody in my circle of friends has a Punjabi vocabulary like my parents have. If the trend continues, than it’s not really hard to predict the outcome.

The Punjabi language is not the only one facing this acute hazard of becoming extinct. According to the World Resource Institute, out of 7,000 unique languages spoken in the world today, nearly half are likely to disappear this century, with an average of one lost every two weeks!

Imagine the sound of Punjabi and the rich cultural heritage it boasts lost forever.

You may think the notion is absurd or maybe do not see it happening in your life time.

So, what’s the big deal if there isn’t a single person speaking Punjabi at the end of this century?

Who needs Punjabi anyway?

Aren’t we better off with a universal language?

But imagine our offspring speaking only English (or Chinese for that matter). Language is not just the encoding and decoding of information among people but it brings with it the norms, identity, traditions, history and values of a society. When we move to a foreign country, we adapt to other languages and our lifestyle also changes.

While I believe different languages can co-exist within a society and this might be the ultimate solution to save the endangered ones. We spend so much time learning so many random things, but what I fail to understand is, why not make a little effort to learn our own mother tongue? Why not strive to save our languages, so that history may not hold us responsible for confining these languages only to the books kept in the unfrequented corners of old libraries.

I can’t describe the delight I saw on the faces of my elders when they came to know that at least somebody from their descendants was interested in learning the language they spoke all their life and are so proud of.

Languages need not to be taught, but should define who we are, which means we need to inculcate a sense of responsibility and understanding explaining why a mother tongue is important for the next generation – why speaking their own language will earn them more respect.

The point here is not against the learning of other languages but the emphasis is to keep our own culture alive. I believe that we become the unintentional ambassadors of many things involuntarily, but by fate and being the heirs of Pakistani and Eastern culture at large, we owe it to our region to uphold its worthiness and value, and keep it bustling with progression and development for our future generations.

Affan Chaudhry

Affan Chaudhry

The author is an Entrepreneur and a final year student of Electrical Engineering at NUST Islamabad. Interested in literature, culture, music and robotics. He tweets @affanch

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • faraz malik

    there is deep self hatred amongst the punjabis today.We hate our culture,our mother tongue,our heritage.We are too ashamed to speak in our own language.We aren’t teaching our children their mother tongue.The rest of the communities in pakistan teach with pride their children how to speak their mother tongues but we hate our language too much to teach our kids how to speak punjabi.We punjabis believe that we are so inferior to others that now we feel embarassed to speak our own language.Recommend

  • shahid chaudhry

    Punjabi is going extinct.People in punjab don’t read punjabi newspapers,all the newspapers are in urdu or english whereas in sindh the people proudly read sindhi newspapers.Given its large population there are very few punjabi language channels.punjabi is not taught in punjab’s schools,whereas in sindh ,sindhi is compulsory in board exams.
    one should never forget one’s own mother tongue.Like there is a sindhi topi day ,why is there never a punjabi pugreee day? why are punjabis so full of loathing and shame for themselves?Recommend

  • Jamil bawany

    All the communities in karachi proudly speak their mother tongues except for the punjabi people.They never speak punjabi even amongst themselves.Don’t know why they are so eager to hide who they are,why they are so ashamed of who they are.
    Those who are ashamed of their own selves can never succeed in life.Recommend

  • arif waqar

    well, i remember living in karachi i was always taunted with shouts of ” paindu” whenever i would try to speak in my language.These kinds of insults were never shouted at anyone speaking sindhi,pushto,balochi,hindko. gujrati or memoni.It was only the punjabi children who were subjected to taunts and insults.
    And we punjabis were weak and fragile enough to play into the hands of those taunting us,we did what they wanted us to do,we gave up and forgot our own mother tongue.If the rest of the people don’t feel embarassed of their language then why should we.it is high time we stopped being ashamed of ourselves.Recommend

  • mazhar sharjeel

    @shahid chaudhry:

    There will never be a punjabi pugri day.The punjabis are too embarassed to be even identified as punjabis so forget about them being proud of their culture,language or clothes.Hating one’s self and one’s identity is indeed sad to see in today’s punjabis.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=647842094 The Reader

    My parents speak Punjabi and I speak Punjabi with my fellows with any embarrassment. It is such a sweet language.Recommend

  • Anas Shaikh

    it doesnt matter whether they speak punjabi or any other language i dont think this is even an issue, languages are just means of communication nothing more, it doesnt reflect your character or living many languages inherit from other languages and modify themselves .. as the time passes you may not even recon the english which was 100 years ago now would you?Recommend

  • http://Facebook Pakthun

    Being pakhton, we mostly speak pakhto, and we are proud of culture. . . . . Oye aik chunde naswar ki lawo.Recommend

  • Zubair

    I am a proud Punjabi with roots in Seraiki belt as well. For me Seraiki remains a dialect because speaking both Punjabi and Seraiki, I have never been able to make any difference between the two,both languages are just too same hence in my personal opinion, the language is one i.e. Punjabi.
    As for Punjabi language in Pakistan is concerned, Muslim Punjabis must learn from Indian Punjabis and promote their language, culture and tradition. Just that you all know, Punjabi language is BANNED in Pakistan and Punjab since last 150 years and the ban is withheld by Pakistani and Punjab government ever since British left. Punjab was the last province that fell to British. Others before Punjab just gave in but it was our great leaders like Ranjeet Singh who fought till the very end.
    People should also know that not a single province in Pakistan enjoys autonomy and yes Punjab too does not enjoy autonomy. We Punjabis want Punjabi language to be our official language in Punjab the way Sindhi is in Sindh. We are Punjabis, distant cousins of Sindhis and original remnants of Indus-Valley civilization and we too want our rights just like Balochs and Sindhis want it. Sadly, we have been hijacked by none other than our own Punjabi politicians.
    I by the way also believe that if Punjab is divided then Punjabi nationalism will ultimately rise in new divided Punjab. Just that you all know there is a new movement started here in Punjab known as ‘Punjabi Language movement’ which i completely support.

    In the end, Punjabiaan di shaan vakhri ! Recommend

  • http://707monty.blogspot.com/2012/03/is-this-kind-of-media-we-need.html Pakistan politics

    Very very nice article :), just loved itRecommend

  • Ali

    That is why we Sindhi are asking for awarding all local languages as National Language status, as in India.
    All our local languages Balochi, Pashtu, Punjabi, Saraki and Sindhi are not taught in 90% of schools to our kids.
    Take example of any country China, France, Italy, Spain and Iran they all taught their kids in own languages that’s why they are improving in field of Science and Technology. Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com yashfa haider

    well i dont think punjabis feel any sort of embarassment speaking punjabi. and every punjabi i know can speak punjabi. i live in karachi myself and i speak urdu still i know my mother toungue. and i guess punjabi is the only regional language that anyone having a different mother toungue can understand.

    as far as extinction is concerned. well punjabi is the most spoken laguage in pakistan even more than urdu. go see for yourself

  • Shahid

    A foolish debate to say the least.Recommend

  • http://www.zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com Zaid Hamid

    We should stop speaking all the indian languages.. Arabic should be the official language of PakistanRecommend

  • Gladiator

    This guy probably has never been to England..Recommend

  • Ch Allah Daad

    Sorry to say but writer is very wrong. Punjabi as a language will stay forever. There are 30 million plus Sikhs in Indian Punjab and millions more in the world. Punjabi is as sacred to them as Arabic to Muslims. Would Arab Muslim stop speaking Arabic ever? Sikhs write Punjabi different way (Gurmukhi) but everything else is just like us. Punjabi has bettter future in Punjab than Urdu, which has changed so much since arrival of mobile and internet. Recommend

  • Jas

    I used to live in firozpur(india) near Pakistan border and watch Pakistani punjabi dramas, which created this great urge inside me to go and see Pakistan. Well I haven’t been fortunate yet to go there. The main reason behind this love was punjabi. Pakistani people speak beautiful punjabi. But now I have say this with a shame that same people now killing punjabi. I live in uk now with loads of Pakistani punjabi friends they speak beautiful punjabi with each other but speak in Urdu with their kids.
    I follow lots of punjabi comedian one of them is sohail Ahmed. Imagine if he starts doing comedy only in Urdu will you get the same kick from his jokes.
    And why the hell this guy from khabarnaak who used to be in hasbe haal stops everybody from speaking punjabi.
    Never mind I speak punjabi and I am proud of it. Recommend

  • Fahd

    Very happy that someone took the initiative to write this. Its a pathetic fact that punjabi is on the brink of extinction especially in Pakistani Punjab. Punjabis are inculcated with an inferiority status due to their language, and the generation before us has not done enough to preserve it. Urdu has been used as the medium of language here. I think its about time that schools all over punjab start teaching punjabi to their kids and preserve this beautiful language of ours.Recommend

  • veryberry

    Isn’t the loss of Punjabi only a phenomenon in middle class and elite urban areas? Punjabi is still alive all across the Punjab in smaller towns and in rural areas, and among the common people. Since these are the majority of the people, Punjabi is at no risk of being lost any time soon. The problem is the social attitudes towards Punjabi, which make the so-called educated classes prefer to speak in Urdu and English. Why not make a mass movement against this and demand to be educated in Punjabi as well as Urdu and English?Recommend

  • http://www.sohaib.me/ Sohaib

    Great Article & I complete agree with the Writer..
    Keep it up!Recommend

  • Ahsan Punjabi

    Sindh can have it’s language as the official language of the province, Punjab can’t. Sindh cannot be divided, Punjab can ? Punjabies are there own enemies, I being a Punjabi loath at my own creed, for they do not care about their motherland or culture.Recommend

  • Maira

    @Ch Allah Daad:
    Exactly. Punjabi can never be extinct. For me, the main reason is its slang and friendly and sweet expressions.Recommend

  • asad bajwa

    @Ahsan Punjabi:

    Exaclty,You’ve hit the nail right on the head.Recommend

  • Anum Jawed

    Amazing article! Completely agree with the writer. Though I do not belong to a punjabi background but still the point explained by the writer has made me think about our culture and traditions once again. A great effort indeed !Recommend

  • Faraz

    @Jamil bawany
    It is not easy to say punjabi in Karachi . I was born in Karachi but still i can not tell my friends that i am punjabi even my sindhi friend is reluctant to tell that he is sindhi in front of mahagirs in karachi. the word paindoo always annoys me and the reaction i hear from my friends about punjabies always forces me not to tell them that i am punjabi.
    But i am sure
    Hasb e hall (Azzizi) will always make punjabi alive…Recommend

  • bilal

    As a student of language i feel in the same way… interestingly today i was talking to my mother at evening on tea that our next generations may not be able to speak Punjabi because we prefer to teach our child’s which teach them manners help in their education…i doesn’t mean that Punjabi is a bad language but we studied in urdu and english….we study literature in these languages and though our first language is punjabi…..from sialkot!!!!Recommend

  • Sabih Zafar Ullah

    The problem is there because the Pakistani-nationalism has replaced Punjabi-nationalism. Our heroes are Bin Qasim rather than Raja Ranjeet Singh.
    People fail to understand that Pakistan has been there for just 60 years, but our Punjab was here since the beginning of time. One should be loyal to the country, but never forget the land upon which we tread.
    But do not fret, there is still lots of Punjabi spoken all over the land, the language is here to stay, and it will inshallah.Recommend

  • waqar

    I agree with the writer views to some extent but Punjabi can never be vanished because the kalams of Sufi’s of Punjab ( example Mian Mohammad Baksh, Pir Mehr Ali Shah, Hazrat Sakhi Sultan Baho , Pir Naseerudin Naseer etc and many more are forever and there is no language other than Punjabi on which there kalams can be transformed ). Recommend

  • Asma Ch

    Enjoyed the article..Though i agree to most of things said above, i would like to raise a point here..The writer is representing our youth..if he is thinking this way means atleast our youth is not ashamed of the mother tongue as we are!Recommend

  • Humanist citizen

    what the great great grandfathers spoke Panjabi? hell no probably sanskrit or some other ancient language. wait where are those ancient languages? Hebrew, Latin and Gods know how many others vanish from the planet earth. what difference does it makes? does someone become a good human by speaking some language? I think not, what matters is the human itself and the believes he has. As it is said “The greatest evil of our time is the rise of the nationalism” Divide and rule. Thats sheer evil. Thing evolves with the passage of time as the human did so does the launguage and cultures. The only infinite I know is GOD himself everything else will perish.Recommend

  • Arsalan

    Anybody who thinks that Punjabis are embarrassed of their language and identity, is outright wrong. I have lived all my life in Punjab and except few “Burger” families who speak twisted english, I have never come across people who don’t speak Punjabi. It is a fact that Punjabis are open minded and unlike muhajirs, sindhis, balochis or pashtuns, they are not extreme nationalists hence they easily adapt to the culture of the community where they live. For example unlike pashtun and urdu speaking people, there are no ethnic punjabi groups in Karachi. They respect the culture of majority hence in punjab they proudly speak punjabi.Recommend

  • http://pakistani-edu.blogspot.com Usman Shahid

    At last i found an article on the express tribune which is worth reading.

    @author: You are real writer who can think out of the box, i will wait for your more articles as well. Well Done. Loved it.Recommend

  • sameera

    very thought provoking article, finally someone come up with the good thought of giving awareness regarding very important issue. being a punjabi myself i love my mother tongue more than any other language in the world. and i also encourage everyone to pass on their own languages to their upcoming generations. I’ve seen parents who are ashamed of talking to their young kids in punjabi, they will talk in any other language but in punjabi; mostly they think it’s the language of servants and maids:( and that’s really sad. one should be proud of their own language because it gives you identity and self confidence, even if you are an expert english conversationalist you can never get rid of your own dialect, look at the tamils from india or the chinese or arabs, they never want to change their own dialects and even if they are highly educated or no matter how big is their professional post, they prefer speaking their own language or when they speak in english, it’s heavily accented with their own dialects. punjabi language will never be extinct IA, it’s the language of love and poetry. you can never find such amazing expressions as you find in this language, be it daily conversation, romantic expression, sufism or anything, the punjabi vocabulary is rich and fertile just like the soil of punjab and colourful like punjabi culture!Recommend

  • Yousaf Abdul Salam

    A very well written article, and every bit worth reading. We need this kind of awareness and should be proud of who we are. Loved it!Recommend

  • nadeem khan

    I AM SARAIKI…similar feelings like author….its a pity our children don’t speak mother tongue..pity Recommend

  • …..

    @Zaid Hamid:
    LOL! Recommend

  • Raheel

    don’t you see the evolution in Punjabi music ? we have Punabi rappers…so as long as Bhulla Shah gets published Bohemia make raps we have songs like Jutt werga yaar naa koyee tay Jutt Jay haa Wairee koyee na…!! it’s going to stayRecommend

  • Raheel

    @faraz malik:
    Sir …Taadi maair bani …you have the right to speak for yourself but spare the word “Us” it’s just the urban phenomena people people still walk, eat , sleep and talk the language…on rural areas.Recommend

  • MuslimFirst

    Languages like Punjabi will stay alive so need to waste time worrying. Educated cultured religious people study and speak Urdu but most people are not like that. They just want to live, speak slang among themselves. When speaking to them others will have to speak Punjabi too!Recommend

  • MuslimFirst

    Why Punjabi people ashamed to be called paindoo? Everyone wants to learn better language. We adopted better religion. Why not better language?. Even Hindus love Urdu! Would they do it if Urdu wasn’t better than Punjabi, Gujrati, Marathi?Recommend

  • bilal

    dear let me get it straight …………………….
    u live in karachi the capital of sindh ……….. even though sindhis are like ~10% of karachi
    its still in sindh….. im not trying to racist but if u want to live in karachi u shud respect he locals….. and btw yes i say punjabis are going in a decay there population % is dropping census by census whilst % of small and mostly ruralised ethnic groups is icreasing (for e.g. sindhis,paktoons and balochs etc)
    if u want to learn to punjabi then there is lahore …no problem if they dont teach it there u can always ask shahbaz sharif
    btw karachi is,was, and will be a part of sindh …….so u have to learns sindhi too…… i have many paktoon friends who know sindhi better than me……”where ever there is a will there is a way”
    but in rare cases if the student doesnt know sindhi much or if it is hard for him them ask the karachi board ……. then ur son/daughter will have to give the sindhi paper in urdu
    problem solved …………..
    but people should respect he heritage of a area…… its not our (sindhis ) fault we are less than 10% of karachi……….. we let u guyz in so be happy my friend !!
    no offence !Recommend

  • bilal

    sorry for ma previous comment.
    well punjabi is on the extinct they are in busy in food and concerts and yes i forgot punjabi movies…….i have never saw a punjabi newspaper.
    they are not united and dont care abt their heritage tell shahbaz to make official in punjab like sindhi is in sindh…..
    take action 2day for a better tomorrow
    punjabi speaking % is decreasing per every census !Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    I guess punjabi peoples are very smart peoples like wise Muhajirs urdu speakers in karachi they adopt the envirment very quicklly and easy.Recommend

  • http://- Abid P. Khan

    Endangered Languages

    I am afraid this write-up too, like many others is aimed more at provoking than providing any serious research based knowledge. On the other hand a newspaper article is seldom a cutting edge researched thesis.

    Old English with passage of time became Medieval English and today we have Modern English. It is the same language but quite changed, having absorbed newer words, is spelled differently or so many expressions has attained different meanings. Old English is almost impossible to read and comprehend today. Languages are like living beings, under a continuous process of change all the time.

    Lack of usage due to dwindling number of speakers is one cause of “death”. Two languages from the same family get nearer to each other, sharing more and more of similar words maintain a parallel life for a period, eventually one of them, a more flexible one, with bigger vocabulary and greater number of speakers survives, while the other one is abandoned.

    Panjabi having such a huge number of users, is in no danger of extinction. Those who use Urdu with their children, help them gain greater communication skills.

    On the other hand, those living in diaspora, in English speaking countries, in particular, run the risk of loosing the skill. English having attained the status of a universal language, would tempt them to become monolingual.

    Those who speak Mongolian or Swahili, there isn’t a finer or sweeter language than their own. It is only when you achieve a good command of another language and read the literature, you discover that there are great expressions having no equivalent in your own language.

    The Chinese or anyone else can learn to speak accent free English if exposed to the right environment at a very early age around, at 10 goes the limit. You can’t teach new tricks to an old dog.

    @ Sameera, please tune in to Aljazeerah, where you will find dozens of reporters and commentators who easily outclass any native English speaker. I still have to find somebody from the subcontinent, having such skills.Recommend

  • Fahad

    I have got to say, I’m not a frequent reader of Express Tribune but this article is definitely one of those few that I really appreciate. Kudos to the writer!
    I too am a Punjabi and just like most Punjabi families, we were discouraged to speak in Punjabi at home – although I can understand the language since my parents would communicate with each other in Punjabi. But then I realized what I was lacking was not only knowing how to speak the language but also the culture that you got to know from knowing it. I now can speak Punjabi fluently and encourage most of my friends to communicate with each other in the same language. I would advise not only Punjabi’s but everyone to prefer speaking in your own mother tongue at home.Recommend

  • gp65

    @faraz malik: “there is deep self hatred amongst the punjabis today.We hate our culture,our mother tongue,our heritage.We are too ashamed to speak in our own language.We aren’t teaching our children their mother tongue”

    This statement is not true for Indian Punjabis.Recommend

  • gp65

    @MuslimFirst: “Everyone wants to learn better language. We adopted better religion. Why not better language?. Even Hindus love Urdu! Would they do it if Urdu wasn’t better than Punjabi, Gujrati, Marathi?”

    I am a Hindu Gujatati and I do like the sweet sound of Urdu. This does not mean that I think it is ‘better than Gujarati’ as you seem to imply. If i like rose. It does not mean It is better than lotus. I may like them both and not find one better than the other. You can definitely appreciate another language without thinking your language is inferior or even wanting to give it up.
    Also you are implying that Urdu is the natural language of all Muslims. That is simply not true. Let’s look at the countries with the maximum Muslim population (other than Pakistan). In Indonesia they speak Bahasa. In Bangladesh they speak Bengali. In India you will find Muslims with mother tongue varying from Urdu, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu.

    Please do not confuse language and religion.Also do not use religion to minimize languages other than Urdu.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    I’m in favour of preserving an old language as an art-form, but do not believe in forcing it on people as an everyday way of life just for the sake of keeping it alive.

    Life is defined by its dynamic nature. Our cultures and languages are flowing into each other, impacting each other…changing each other. The culture of white Americans has been altered tremendously by African, Asian and Middle-eastern immigrants in the past few decades, and our cultures have been influenced the same way by other ethnicities.

    There’s nothing wrong here. Sometimes old and coarse dies down to make room for something new and convenient. Nobody uses Egyptian hieroglyphics any more, but they have still survived in the caring hands of artists and scientists.

    Don’t let nostalgia stop the world from taking its natural course. Punjabi won’t die, even if its use becomes infrequent.Recommend

  • Irony


    I never knew that Pakistani Muslims speaking Pashto, Hindko, Balochi, Punjabi, Dari/Farsi, Bengali, Sheena, Brahvi and Sindhi (among dozens of other languages) as their first language were not educated, cultured and religious people. Thank you for enlightening us with your research!

    Come to think of it, perhaps Bengalis also opposed Urdu because “they just want(ed) to live, speak slang among themselves” according to you. You just solved a great mystery for me! I simply cannot thank you enough for your informed opinion!Recommend

  • http://www.twitter.com/Omaidus Omaidus

    I traveled through Pakistan, and in Balochistan I was said to avoid Punjabi, I asked to myself is it worth it, and then me and my cousin spoke punjabi in all baloch tour, well we made our hosts to speak punjabi :)Recommend

  • http://expresstribune.com farhan

    I think having many ethnic languages in a country like Pakistan will cause severe harm to the unity of the nation. and if people keeps on dividing ourself in different ethnic , regional basis, speaks the mother tongue; GOD forbids, we heading towards the disintegration of the country. A very small example is today’s KARACHI. you can find here memoms, gujratis, sindhis, balochs, pathans, punjabis, mohajirs etc hating each other to the core. we must decide either we wanna live in the past with each ethnic entity holding its roots and culture or we must become brothers and sisters who just be the citizens of pakistan with no pride or prejudice among themselves.

    we only become Pakistani when we are playing cricket against India. shame upon us.Recommend

  • MuslimPunjabi

    I was brought up in Canada and live in Canada. My parents taught me Urdu and when I tried speaking in Punjabi, I was yelled at. In Canada, Sikhs hold Punjabi as a sacred language. I learned Punjabi from a Sikh. I now speak fluent Punjabi and love it. When I have kids, I will ensure they learn English (because it is universal and one can not move on without knowing it) BUT I WILL ENSURE THEY LEARN PUNJABI AS WELL!
    Speaking Punjabi does not make a person less Muslim. My parents now talk to me in Punjabi and I have convinced my parents that Punjabi is not an inferior language.
    Please ensure that you teach your kids Punjabi. Our elder generation did not bother but it is encouraging to see the youth taking up this cause.
    Jeevay Punjab!Recommend

  • ali

    love this article! well written and elaboratedRecommend

  • Amrita

    @ Author: thank you for writing this. Once I confronted my mom about why didn’t she speak Punjabi to us at home while her parents did so with her, and her answer was, “Oh it wasn’t fashionable when you were growing up”. Her answer speaks volumes about the self esteem of Punjabis. It is true that people in rural areas still speak Punjabi but it’s mostly because they don’t have much choice. It would be nice if Punjabis from urban areas concede some respect to their roots
    @ MuslimFirst: who gave you the right to brand languages and religions as better or worse? Urdu is spoken by newer generations brought up in big cities and/or Urdu-speaking people. Don’t try to sound intelligent by spewing out words like ‘educated, cultured, religious’. Recommend

  • Daniel Choudhury

    while i completely agree that pakistani so-called ‘Punjabis’ are profoundly ashamed of speaking the language of their ancestors, the Punjabi language continues to be exalted by it’s most ardent proponents and genuine custodians–the Punjabis of India. what the educated/middle classes of pakistan fail to recognize is the importance of language not only in the cultivation and retention of identity, but of other social themes, like pluralism and egalitarianism.

    while indian punjab is INDEED a classist society, and probably will be forever, the language permeates all social strata and threads. this, on it’s own, creates some form of cohesion among Punjabis. among the ‘punjabis’ of pakistan, the language differential simply reinforces the social divisions. i would know; i was born to pakistani parents who suppressed punjabi in favour of urdu, and have many friends of indian extraction who have a protectionist attitude towards their beloved Punjabi.

    so, it’s time to decide. do you people want to be the proponents of one the oldest and richest languages of the world, and the cradle of the indus valley, or not? either OWN IT or GIVE IT UP!Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Sabih Zafar Ullah:
    “The problem is there because the Pakistani-nationalism has replaced Punjabi-nationalism. Our heroes are Bin Qasim rather than Raja Ranjeet Singh.
    People fail to understand that Pakistan has been there for just 60 years, but our Punjab was here since the beginning of time. One should be loyal to the country, but never forget the land upon which we tread.
    But do not fret, there is still lots of Punjabi spoken all over the land, the language is here to stay, and it will inshallah.”

    With respect to what you said, I think Pakistani nationalism is exactly what Pakistan needs MORE of right now, as it’s currently so divided in almost EVERYTHING. I mean the only thing that unites Pakistani’s these days is cricket. Of course one should never forget their origin or roots, but as a country Pakistan needs to be united, not split into four. Cheers!Recommend

  • muhammad sharjeel


    Well done.The world needs more people like you.people who are proud of who they are.Recommend

  • Ali Wali

    Punjabi will never be extinct as it is religious language for many people in the World and its literature is very humanistic. Recommend

  • Sane

    Punjabis are federalists they contributed in Urdu literature more than Urdu speaking ones.Recommend

  • prabhjyot singh madan

    We punjabis are just ashamed to learn punjabis in many of the cases. Just declare Punjabi to be a second language there like in the case of Indian punjab. Teaching of Punjabi should be made compulsory till fa exams. Punjabiat is in real danger there for the sake of Urdu there. Sindhis respect their language more than the west punjabis there. Shahmukhi should be introduced back in Pakistani punjab. People who don’t respect local language and culture tend to lose their identity. That is one of the reasons for imposition of ban on basant thereRecommend

  • Sindhi

    Sindhi has its own alphabet, which makes the reader comfortable, which Punjabi is missing that and need to have to grow. Writing Punjabi you need Urdu alphabets, which doesn`t completely fulfill the requirements of language.
    Yes, we love to read Sindhi newspapers.Recommend

  • prabhjyot singh madan

    Punjabi has its own alphabets called shahmukhi in west punjab and we follow gurmukhi here in Indian punjab. Recommend

  • Kehndi_tu_paindu_ain

    @prabhjyot singh madan Punjabi is the official language of Indian Punjab and compulsory for every student studying in Indian Punjab

    Studied Punjabi and English during my high school years while studying Hindi was optional.Most of the Pakistani Punjabi’s you meet in the west try to converse with you in Urdu and expect Indian Punjabi’s to speak in Hindi(which they believe every Indian knows) even after knowing you are from Punjab.

    Secondly why are Pakistani Punjabi’s ashamed of being called Paindu…..Calling yourself a Paindu and Desi is pretty hip on the eastern side of the border :)

    Punjabiye Zubane – Gurdas Mann

  • Sindhi

    @prabhjyot singh madan:
    I did not see any news channel or paper in Pakistan using alphabets you mentioned, but they are writing Punjabi in Urdu?Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    Jaaag Punjabi JaagRecommend

  • Salman Chaudhry

    Totally agree with the writer .. “Language is not just the encoding and decoding of information among people but it brings with it the norms, identity, traditions, history and values of a society. When we move to a foreign country, we adapt to other languages and our lifestyle also changes.” these r really deep meaning words .. We should be proud of our own Lagrange & try to promote it besides learning foreign languages ..Recommend

  • nash30

    I have often thought about this.. When I was younger and didn’t know any better, my parents only talked to me in Urdu. I wasn’t allowed to play with street kids, because I might pick up Punjabi phrases. Now that I am older, I envy people who can fluently converse in Punjabi. It is a beautiful language, and like the writer said, everything sounds funnier in it. My Urdu and English are both far from perfect, and sadly I can’t even say a complete sentence in my mother tongue without being called a ‘matarwan’ by someone. (no offense intended to anyone). Although I try to speak and understand the language as best as I can.. I am ashamed of myself. To all parents: Teach your kids Punjabi.Recommend

  • Stephen Gucciardi

    I am a Canadian of European descent who recently spent a year studying Punjabi in Patiala. I chose to do so for no other reason than my love for this language. It is the vehicle of a culture boasting great religious literature, such as the writings of Bulleh Shah and Guru Nanak. Punjabi music is extremely rich, representing a wide variety of genres. It is flexible; it incorporates English vocabulary when necessary, but not to the embarrassing extent of “Bollywood Hindi”, for example. Contrary to what some supporters of Urdu might think, Punjabi is also used by many talented writers in the modern period.

    No language is inherently inferior to another. I agree that Urdu has its charm. It sounds and feels quite refined, and its literary tradition is of top quality. That doesn’t mean that the language itself is superior to Punjabi, however. No language touches my heart like Punjabi does, and no thought which I can express in Urdu fails to take shape in Punjabi, as well. I encourage Punjabis to continue studying both English and Urdu, but don’t forget the beauty of your mother tongue. Punjabi is a treasure not only of India and Pakistan, but of the entire world. Its extinction would be a loss for human civilization.Recommend

  • MuslimFirst

    irony gp65

    Bengali is a developed language. Gujrati, Punjabi are primitive slangs. No shame in adopting Urdu. Gujrati Punjabi even sound very bad. Don’t be narrow minded.Recommend

  • B


    The script you are referring to as ‘Urdu Script’ is, in fact, Shahmukhi and had been used to write Punjabi before Urdu even came into being. Although both scripts are Perso-Arabic and usually written in Nastaliq (unlike Sindhi), Punjabi does have a few more consonants and its prestige dialect is tonal. But I also understand your point of view and there is dire need of standardising Shahmukhi alphabets along with a regulatory board similar to Pashto, Urdu and Sindhi language authorities in Pakistan. Here is the Punjabi-Qaida for first grade students published (privately?) in 1995 by Asif Khan for your reference.

    Hope this helps!Recommend

  • Irony


    Uh……no! Actually, Punjabi has older literary tradition than Urdu, it’s an established fact. Please do inform me of an Urdu poet or writer who lived before Baba Farid (R.A.). Nice trolling, by the way!Recommend

  • Cynical

    A language is much more than just a means of communication.
    A takes a lot along the way as it develops over long period of time.
    It contains within it the history,tradition,culture,social customs and so many other aspects of life of the community identified by that particular language.

    Languages can be compared, but to say one is better or superior to another is silly.Recommend

  • faraz

    Punjabis are the only people in Pakistan who feel ashamed of their language.Recommend

  • http://- Abid P. Khan

    @Humanist citizen:
    @Stephen Gucciardi:
    I very much agree with the analysis which you two presented.

    Research indicates, whenever economic curve points downwards, ethnic and lingual conflicts come to the fore Right-wing parties gain more voters.

    Italy has had the practice of importing seasonal workers from Africa for plucking and packing tomatoes. When recession set in, presence of “blacks” became controversial. Belgium which has more than one language, faces rise of tension between Flam and French speaking citizens. Diversity and multiculturalism is treated as a threat.

    A very important factor causing the conflict is the rift between urban and rural cultures. With the mechanization of farming, countryside can no longer sustain huge numbers of jobless. Wars, floods and other catastrophes can also become the cause. The push from the rural areas and the pull of metropolitan centers results in mass migration within the country. Industrialists welcome the new arrivals, as they can keep the wages very low.

    Many decide to migrate to foreign lands, hoping to gain economically thus ascertaining “brighter prospects” for their offspring.
    If my information is sound, Peshawar, Quetta, Islamabad and Karachi became major nodes that attracted migrants and also experienced violence. Lahore though second biggest city, did not receive many immigrants. One can wonder why.

    Calling any language inferior or superior borders on racism, in my opinion.

    The author can be blamed for sowing seeds of discord, by painting himself as a victim, intentionally or not. Raising slogans like “jaag panjabi jaag” was an expected outcome, which definitely gladdens politicians of certain hue, for whom votes are more important, than peaceful existence and betterment of citizens. Recommend

  • prabhjyot singh madan

    Punjabi is not dead in east punjab. It is a way of life where I visit it. I know gurmukhi script and whole of east punjab. Please save shahmukhi, script of kings, like bulley shah , baba farid, we save them in gurmukhi script. Please respect your script. It is there . Persian , Indian etc in writing, please respect it . I am indian Sikh. Please respect punjabiat.Recommend

  • Zehra

    hey, its not just about punjabi. it goes for all the regional languages of Pakistan. I am Sindhi-my husband is Urdu Speaking. But I made sure my son speaks fluent Sindhi. This, while the world insisted I should switch to English or my son would never get into a good school. But I remained firm to my earlier decision. Reason? He has to learn English one day for sure, given that EVERYONE around him has excellent english. And the school that I pay awful lot of money to has to make sure he does. But Sindhi is a difficult language for a non-speaker. Either he learns it by default earlier on- or he never does at all. I hate it when my cousin’s kids having BOTH Sindhi parents, fail to understand Sindhi and speak in Urdu. Urdu is a given in Pakistan-who doesnt understand that? Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @Prabhjyot singh madan,
    I am not punjabi speaker but do know punjabi reason i had a Arian punjabi friend in school years and i learn going there home and playing cricket but u not believe me if i try to speak
    punjabi zuban with punjabi speaker he gonna answer me in Urdu may be he knew i am Hindko


    A alarm provoking article, but it seems the author depicts this particular picture of a particular region, it might not be applicable to other global places. Punjabi langauge and culture doing its best in otherv parts of the world check, England, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Kenya and so on, I would say punjabi is not shrinking it ia spreading at its best.Recommend

  • Hira

    What a splendid read! Kudos! Tuaday vaaray neyaray!Recommend

  • B

    @Abid P. Khan

    While I agree with most of your points, I would also like to add a couple of things. Lahore has constantly been expanding due to immigration from other parts of the country. In not so distant past, Lahore was only confined to the boundaries of walled city, but it is merely a tiny administrative division of today’s Lahore city. And if I’m not mistaken, there is a sizeable Pashtun presence in major cities like Lahore and Rawalpindi. You wouldn’t come across many Baloch or Sindhis, though.

    As for the article and author itself, I don’t believe he can be blamed for sowing seeds of discord since he did not paint himself as victim. He would be portraying himself as a victim if he blamed someone else for it, whether directly or indirectly. On the other hand, he is a supporter of multilingualism and co-existence of different languages within the same society. I, for one, believe that he is simply encouraging us to pass down our native languages to next generation(s) just like Zehra is doing, which is a commendable feat in my opinion.Recommend

  • farhan

    Dude you should really go to England!! Recommend

  • Me

    love itRecommend

  • Jaz Dhillon

    This is obviously a problem peculiar to Pakistan. In places such as England, Canada and America young 3rd and 4th generation western born Punjabis speak the Doaba / Faisalabad dialect of Punjabi with pride and clarity, and yet neither know a word of Urdu or Hindi nor have any desire to learn. Punjabi is the second most spoken language in the most multi-cultural mega city on earth: London, and unlike Urdu and Hindi, is part of the official school curriculum, thus is learn’t by white, black and brown students alike.
    In Canada, it is officially part of the national exams, learned by students of various races and creeds and, year after year, it has been Chinese students there who have scored the highest marks in the Punjabi exams.
    You see, western minds see the bigger picture. Because they understand the rich history of Punjabi poetry and culture, and know that Punjabi is 900 years older than Hindi, both of whom are far older than the relatively new language of Urdu, they value Punjabi alot more.
    Like I stated before, the problem that the article highlights is peculiar to Pakistan and the internal politics within. In the rest of the Punjabi speaking world Punjabi pride and use is greater than its ever been before. Recommend

  • Bilal

    I’ve been very disappointed by the content being published by Tribune of late but this article shows there are people who know how to write. A perfect start to the article which leaves on wondering what exactly is the author’s point. Congratulations Author I hope to see more of such stuff from you!Recommend

  • http://mezaajedeen.blogspot.com Tribune Reader

    Some simple facts, Punjabi’s all over Pakistan are being demonized, in the case of one province they are experiencing a brutal ethnic cleansing at the hands of terrorists who target civilians cause their easy. This is distancing Punjabi’s from their culture, language and heritage. In a multicultural city like Karachi where Urdu is the Lingua Franca, Punjabi’s living in Karachi have shown integration towards Karachi’s Urdu Speaking culture, where the native Urdu speakers dominate in population and most spheres of life. Yes, also those with Punjabi heritage are stereo typed as being uncivilized village dwellers, having lived in Karachi majority of life, I can relate to growing up trying to speak Punjabi like my parents, but my Sindhi, Pathan and Urdu Speaking friends mocked my Punjabi-ness, hence now a day has come where my linguistic ability is completely cleansed of the Punjabi Language, though Urdu I can speak with complete fluency. If anything we need to end the Anti Punjabi attitude. Punjabi’s have made a fair contribution to Pakistani culture and society, just because the institution and the government is made up of mostly Punjabi’s I hardly think that is far, that the ordinary Punjabi person is made an escape goat. Recommend

  • http://- Abid P. Khan

    Title of the write-up alludes, to the factors beyond the author’s control, which have put him in dire straits. Zehra speaks in a language which comes natural to her, the bond thus created will last for ever, even if the child learns a dozen languages.

    Thirty years back several theories about languages were under discussion in Europe. Preferred among them was to hinder a child from learning too many languages at the kindergarten level. A child’s brain is not developed enough to handle too many signals simultaneously thus will only confuse him. Later the linguistic experts concluded that a child who was getting proper language training at home, could distinguish between two ways saying the same thing.

    Multilingual persons were found to be creative. The are always sure there can be more than one solution to any problem.

    Once a person is proficient in one language, s/he can enjoy translations of works from other languages which he has never learned. Some one knowing good enough Urdu and English, can enjoy translations Sartre, Tolstoy or Lorca.

    Population explosion all around the world, despite population controlling campaigns has forced a wave of mass immigration. Lahore is no exception, it will keep on growing, if nothing is done to reverse the process, we may be heading towards a catastrophe, as we will run out of resources.

    I did not find much coherent information about the number of Afghanis settled in Lahore though UNHCR has a Mohajir camp.up and running. The refugees claim that authorities have not been specially kind with them. I could very well be wrong in my conclusions. Thanks all the same.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    children do not learn but speak mother tongue with mother and father!

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • http://truemuziklover.wordpress.com truemuziklover

    well i strongle disbelieve that punjabi language is going to extinct, its impossible though the vocabulary is losing its essence!Recommend

  • n hasan

    Punjab is not becoming extinct.
    Go to any Police Station or (higher) Government office in Pakistan and you will hear it spoken often and loudly.
    Nuff said!

  • nikhil

    @muslim first : excuse me “better language” ?? what do you mean by it ?? by your notion of “better religion” one can very well judge your ideology but how can you term a language superior to other ?? and even “hindus wanted to learn urdu” ?? is urdu a muslim monopoly ?? by the way urdu was born in medieval period in courts of central india ..not in a 60 year old nation !!Recommend

  • http://- Abid P. Khan

    @Rex Minor:
    “children do not learn but speak mother tongue with mother and father! “

    Good one! Who can beat that?Recommend

  • Muhammad Shahbaz

    Aslamo Alikum,
    This is a wonderful article. I really appreciate the efforts and ideas for this article. Being a linguistics student, I fully understand how grim the situation is in Punjab for Punjabi Language. I am studying abroad and all my family members want my Daughter not to speak Punjabi. When they first told me, I was surprised that how they decided to do so without any problem. Just like most families in Punjab, they are willing to lose the identity just to sound so-called “Civilized” Urdu Speaking. I do not say Urdu is not important because it is our National Lingua Franca, but we should also understand and highlight the importance of local languages including Punjabi. According to 1998 Census, less than 8 percent Pakistanis own Urdu as mother tongue. I think this discrimination with local languages have caused us enough damage in form of Bangladesh… Of course there were other reasons too……….
    So, I appeal all parents that we should focus to make our Children Multilingual…. they should be able to speak local language, Urdu and English. And remember learning more than one language is always useful for mental abilities… Cognitive abilities….
    I hope we could start some sort of movement to promote Punjabi in Colleges and Universities and establish it as a renowned language in the world. Internationally, Punjabi has more native speakers…. and if my memory is supporting me… its seventh largest language of the world by Native speakers of any language.
    Keep it up Affan…. INSHALLAH… we will be able to save it as our cultural language and symbol of pride for us… At least it is a symbol of pride for me and my daughter is now listening all three languages at the same time… and she is yet to celebrate her 3rd Birthday…Recommend

  • A Riaz

    It is indeed sad to see “some” families discouraging their own language and being more focused on English and Urdu. This, however is not the case with ALL the punjabis. I am a punjabi, born and raised in Karachi and my Punjabi is pretty good (if not fluent). It does get to me at times when people around me associate everything “paindoo” or in another words, “out of class” and “out of style” with Punjabis. Interestingly, the same people enjoy Punjabi pop songs and Bhangra Dance. I don’t think I have seen many (or ANY!) Pushto, Sindhi or Balouchi songs making it to the Top Charts with leading music channels in India or Pakistan. So if people really like us that much then why do they look down on Punjabis and refer to them as Paindoos and “Dhuggas”? I also know a lot of non-punjabis who love to speak the language and try imitating the punjabi accent (and fail miserably!) and feel so proud on having learnt a few phrases in Punjabi yet like to make fun of the actual Punjabis all the same! The kind of profession I am involved in, makes me travel to all the small interior cities in the provinces and honestly I don’t think I have seen much classy people in other cultures! Im not differentiating but really just trying to say that there are similar kind of people in every different family belonging from various cultures so really just stop attacking Punjabis always!

    I don’t know how this mocking of Punjabi’s began in our country in the first place, but the people around us are equally to be blamed for this. I do, also agree with the writer that Punjabi’s should totally encourage their children to use this language as frequently as possible cos that might definitely post a positive image of the Punjabi’s as a whole. I guess the problem started with our Parents generation who were embarrassed about it cos our grandparents have taught our parents this language well. Our parents in return have failed to really teach the language to our generation however people of my age group usually try using the language whenever possible and I think my generation will pass this language on to their children as well. This is the era of awareness. Recommend

  • Kashmirian

    Unlike indian punjab, pakistani punjab is quite diverse. There is practically no punjab racial identity in most parts of pakistani punjab. We identify ourselves as Jatts, Gujjars, Arain, rajputs, mughals, Awans, syed shah, kashmiris, pathans, baloch etc. This punjabi thing is indian not pakistani. If today they change the name of pakistani punjab to lets say Ravi-chenab province, I dont think anyone will mind it. Yes we like our language but that does not mean that we see sikhs or hindu punjabis as our people. No way. Recommend

  • Kashmirian

    I am not in favor of forcing people to speak some particular language, let the people decide what suits best to their ambitions. I am a native punjabi speaker, I have spoken it all my life, I feel the most comfortable only in punjabi but still I have never got a problem with people who dont have such comfortability with punjabi because I cannot force others to speak some particular language. Recommend

  • Jaz Dhillon

    @Kashmirian: You wanna get out more Kashmirian. Indian Punjab is just as diverse, if not more so. There are Hindus, there are Sikhs, there are Christians, there are Muslims. Each of these groups goes under their own identities of Jatts, Gujjars, Mirasis, Khatris, Aroras, brahmins, Sainis, Kambojs etc etc etc. In fact, there’s not enough space on this page to go down the whole list. On top of all that, you’ve got millions and millions of migrants from other states such as Bihar, Bengal etc. You really do need to get out more and learn about the world if you think there is a lack of diversity in Indian Punjab. What unites them all though is that they learn and speak the ancient language of that soil : Punjabi. They don’t speak Hindi because Hindi belongs way down south from Punjab in the heartlands of central India, They don’t speak Urdu because Urdu belongs way down south in the heartlands of central India. The languages that Indian Punjabis respect and learn are the languages that belong more with the historical and cultural identity of Punjab : Farsi. Recommend

  • J. Khan

    Sadly, this is the case with almost all of Pakistan’s regional languages.

    For example, people in Peshawar’s markets no longer use Pashto numbers – they count in Urdu. And since Pashto has no official patronage or recognition in Pakistan, political, scientific and other terms that have very valid Pashto equivalents have, instead, been popularized in Urdu. What this does is that it waters-down the language and takes away from its richness and beauty.

    In fact, I can say with great confidence that very few Pashtuns in Khyber Pushtunkhwa, if any, would be able to name the seven days of the week or the twelve months of the year in Pashto. Fewer still would know the Pashto equivalents for military military ranks such as “colonel”, “general” or “sergeant” – which is even a greater pity for a people who take pride in their martial prowess. Pakistani Pashtuns have also been deprived of the knowledge of Dari, which had traditionally been the preferred “second language” of Pashtuns.

    The Pakistani state has designated these ancient languages (that are far older and culturally richer than Urdu can ever be) as mere “regional languages” and has ignored them to the point where they might become extinct in this century only. These languages are the ancient identities of people and it’s about time that at least some official recognition be given to them.Recommend

  • Sindhi


    There are Punjabis living in rural Sindh and they have adopted Sindhi culture and are called Sindhi Punjabis just like Sindhi Baloch, Sindhi Seraiki, Sindhi Pathan etc. In Sindh these people speak Sindhi as well as their own mother tongue.

    Please support the cause to make all local languages as national language. There is a conspiracy to retain only Urdu and English as the national language of Pakistan and we know who this scheme favoursRecommend

  • Daniel Choudhury

    and believe me, the true Punjabis (those from India) do NOT and WOULD NEVER consider you their people. my mom hails from Sialkot in Paki “Punjab”, and from what i have seen and read, there is NO DIVERSITY at all in her home province. Muslims persecute and even execute Punjabi Christians. i don’t recall the nation of india requiring its religious minorities to carry identity cards declaring their religious affiliation.

    you’re obviously a fool, so i’ll leave you with numbers–simple and straightforward.

    Paki “Punjab”: 98% Muslim
    Punjab (Indian Punjab): 60% sikh, 37% hindu, 3% christian, muslim, jain, buddhist, etc.


  • Raj

    Punjabi will never die. This language is taught in Canada at university level. In Calgary alone there are about ten Punjabi Newspapers. Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary have more than 10 Twenty Four Seven radio stations.Recommend