How English Language Has Brought Change to Urdu Language

Last Updated: 19 May 2021
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As my group and I interviewed Amjad Islam Amjad we got to know several reasons for the changes that English has brought to the Urdu language over the period of time. The two I will be discussing are:  Differences in schooling.  Government role in making English as an official language. However these two reasons are interlinked. At sir Amjad’s time English was taught like a foreign language in schools, after the 5th or 6th grade and now it is taught since prep.

In fact when a child is taken for an admission he/she is interviewed in English language and is expected to answer in English as well. Before people could easily and fluently interact in Urdu language and children could speak in Urdu without any code mixing and code switching. They had a command over their mother language but today translations into Urdu are even more difficult than English and are understood by even fewer people. Especially, children and young people find it easier to use English.

The current generation believes that Urdu language brings orthodoxy and limits their scope and vision. To date, when a child enters the learning stage, he is taught words and things in English. Indeed parents try to use as much English vocabulary as they can so that their child learns and speaks the higher language of the society. Analysing the government’s part in bringing a change in the Urdu language, we see that it has played a vital role by declaring English as the official language.

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It should not be so; people have actually become confused about their mother language, first language and the second language. The Advisory Board of Education in its first meeting in 1948 had resolved that the mother tongue should be the medium of instruction at the primary stage. Also, a number of institutions were established or supported by the State to do basic work in Urdu: from coining new terms, to translations, to developing new tools and techniques to speed up its adoption as an official language.

The Sharif Commission, formed in 1959, had recommended that both Urdu be used as a medium of instruction from Class VI onward and in this way, in about fifteen years, Urdu would reach a point of development where it would become the medium of instruction at the university level. The Commission clearly stated that until Urdu was ready to replace English, English should continue to be used for advanced study and research. Now, this statement served a purpose.

It allowed confusion to take root in terms of how and when and by whom it would be determined that Urdu was ready to replace English. This was a convenient method of maintaining the status quo and English was given a fifteen-year lease. The 1973 Constitution of the Republic was propagated with Article 251 stating:  The National language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for its being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencing day.  Subject to clause, the English language may be used for official purposes until arrangements are made for its replacement by Urdu. The timing of the Constitution coincides with the lapse of the fifteen year lease given to English by the Sharif Commission and hence refreshes that lease for another fifteen years. The contradiction that emerged in Bhutto’s era was that on the one hand, he propagated a socialist ideology, nationalized industry and education, and stood for the rights of the poor.

On the other hand, he did not make any effort to change the official language to include the poor in decision making. The elected governments of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif continued with parallel education systems and encouraged private sector English medium schools and higher educational institutions. One step that Benazir’s first government took was the introduction of English as a compulsory subject from Class I in all government schools on the plea that it would enhance opportunities for poor children. The implementation remained weak because there was no quality teaching available.

In all parts of Pakistan, more public and private institutions are coming up and promoting the use of English. The recently held national education conference in Islamabad, attended by both the President and the Prime Minister, saw no single change in the government’s policy on language education and the medium of instruction. The primary issue is not the choice of a medium or various mediums of instruction. It is the language in which the affairs of the state are managed, legislation is drafted and decisions are made.

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How English Language Has Brought Change to Urdu Language. (2018, Jan 16). Retrieved from

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