Urdu Translation Services
Whether you are looking for a Urdu translation for something technical, legal or medical, or simply a letter, we can help you.
We will equip you with knowledge and methods, enabling you to communicate in the correct written Urdu form, whether you are targeting an audience in Pakistan or India, we can help. Remember not to pick the wrong one!
We offer a professional Urdu to English and English to Urdu language translation service, and more. Here is some information which you will find useful as the Urdu language is full of interesting facts and essential tips when you are looking to communicate effectively in Urdu speaking countries.
Location: South Asian
Population: 192 million
Language Family: Indo-Aryan
Related Languages: Hindi
Number of Global Speakers: 64 million native speakers with a further 94 million who use it as a second language
- About Urdu
Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and an official language in six Indian states. The language is not spoken universally as a native language in Pakistan; many more people speak Punjabi as it is the provincial language of the Punjab region and spoken as a native language by around 45% of the Pakistani population. Many more speak it as a second language. Urdu is in fact mutually intelligible with standard Hindi, but a lot of Urdu vocabulary (around 40%) comes from Persian and Arabic, whereas a great deal of Hindi vocabulary comes from Sanskrit. At the informal, spoken level, there are fewer differences between them and they could be considered as dialects of the same language. Whereas Urdu is traditionally associated with Muslims from the region of Hindustan, Hindi is associated with the Hindu religion.
Urdu is a relatively modern language which has borrowed heavily from languages such as Persian, Arabic and Turkish, as well as certain local South Asian languages. The oldest name for what is now known as Urdu is Hindustani, the ancestor of both modern Urdu and modern Hindi.
According to the 2011 UK census, around 270,000 UK residents speak Urdu. With such a significant Urdu community, high quality Urdu translation and interpreting services have become ever more important to provide translations of medical, legal and government documents as well as to facilitate understanding in legal situations or at medical appointments, for example. Lingua Translations has a wealth of experience in providing excellent Urdu language services all around the world, so contact us today and we’ll be delighted to give you more information.
- Written Urdu
Urdu is written from right to left using an adapted version of the Arabic alphabet called the Nasta’liq script. Due to the differences in their scripts, Hindi and Urdu are treated as separate languages, whereas at spoken level they could be termed as different registers or dialects.
This alphabet has 38 characters, which have different forms according to their position in a word (this is due to the fact that, like the Arabic and Persian scripts, Nasta’liq is cursive and the letters join together). Depending on whether a character is isolated, or in initial, medial or final position, the character will look slightly different. The alphabet also uses several diacritics (or accents) which modify the pronunciation of certain characters.
Certain sounds in Urdu have no equivalent in English and cannot be written with the Latin alphabet, meaning that it can be difficult to pronounce Urdu properly using another alphabet or script. Another difficulty is that many letters look very similar, the only difference between them being the position of small dots or diacritics.
- Dialects of Urdu
Urdu can be broadly categorised into four main dialectical groups: Dakhni, Rekhta, Modern Vernacular and Pinjari.
Modern Vernacular Urdu (from the Khairboli dialect) is the dialect of Urdu spoken around Delhi, Lucknow, Karachi and Lahore. It is the most commonly used modern dialect.
Dakhni (or Dakani or Mirgan) is spoken in the Deccan region of southern India, and is different from other dialects because it borrows vocabulary from Marathi and Konkani, as well as having some Persian and Arabic loanwords that aren’t present in standard Urdu. This form of Urdu is spoken in Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Rekhta has the highest influence from Persian and is the language of Urdu poetry.
Pinjari is not very widely spoken any more (a lot of people speaking these dialects now speak something most like Modern Vernacular) but it was spoken in the Hyderabad and Anderpardesh regions of southern India.
It must also be noted that people who speak Urdu as a second language (for example the Punjabi population) speak it with a very different accent that might be a little more difficult to understand to speakers of standard Urdu.
Any verb in Urdu can be conjugated according to a four-tier system of politeness. This means the imperative “Sit!” can be conjugated in various different ways, allowing subtle changes to register and politeness. For extremely formal or ceremonial situations, verbs will often have a Persian or Arabic equivalent. Urdu is therefore considered in South Asia to be quite an aristocratic and formal language.
Nouns and expressions can also be modified to reflect formality or politeness. For example, the word “yes” could be hāṉ, jī, hāṉ jī or jī hāṉ depending on how polite the speaker wants to be.
There are equally two forms of addressing the word “you” – tu/tum or ap. The former is used to address those of lower standing than the speaker, and the latter is used in many situations where any degree of formality is required.
- Difficulties for translating Urdu
Urdu and English are very different languages and require careful translation strategies. Literal or machine translation would be entirely inadequate to accurately translate Urdu into English or vice versa. There are also some other important considerations:
Because the Nasta’liq script is read from right to left, instead of left to right in English, it is very likely that you will need to use expert Desktop Publishing services to ensure that your translated Urdu documents are displayed to their best effect. This includes professionally localising the content of images (for example spreadsheets and other displays) so that they read the other way. Otherwise it might look like your company is losing money rather than making a profit, for example!
English does not have the same concepts of politeness as are embedded in the Urdu language and culture, and certain subtleties of register will be very difficult to translate across. It would take a very skilled translator with an intimate knowledge of Urdu politeness structures and a native command of English to transmit these nuances in registers across.
Differences between Urdu and English
Urdu uses postpositions which are inflected on a noun to express location, rather than prepositions (such as “in”, “behind”, “on”) in English, which are separate words coming before the noun.
Urdu word order is different to English. Whereas English word order is Subject Verb Object (I go there), in Urdu it is Subject Object Verb (I there go).
Urdu nouns are gendered, meaning that they can be either masculine or feminine. English does not make this distinction.
English uses upper and lower-case versions of the alphabet, whereas the Urdu script has no cases.