Do you love Urdu?
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Do you love Urdu?

If you love Urdu, you can pick up this beautiful language easily. The increasing number of students desirous of learning the language calls for many more Urdu teachers.

education Updated: May 26, 2010 10:39 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi
Vimal Chander Joshi
Hindustan Times

Jamila Begum’s day is incomplete unless she reads the Urdu newspaper in the morning. She fell in love with Gulzar’s and Mir Taqi Mir’s poetry as a child. Having studied in an Urdu medium school, this passion has only grown stronger.

Even now, when she teaches mathematics at the Islamia Middle School near Turkman Gate in Old Delhi, Jamila has continued to hone her skills in the language. “Though my main subject is mathematics, I teach Urdu to junior classes purely because of my love for the subject,” she says.

On the lookout for a chance to teach senior classes, Jam-ila says this will give her “the opportunity to read a lot of Urdu literature for which I don’t find time now”. It is her sheer love for the subject that keeps Jamila in touch with Urdu. “It’s not just a subject in which one has to clear an exam at the end of the year. One must get pleasure out of it,” she adds.

The same reason drew Ali Taqi from Seattle to Delhi. “On one of my visits to India, I went to an Urdu teacher near Jama Masjid but couldn’t understand the language at that time because the tutor had problems communicating in English. That was the time when I decided to set up an institution where English-speaking people could learn- the language,” says Taqi.

Taqi is not a one-off case. There are several international students who visit Delhi, primarily to learn Urdu. “Recently, a girl flew in from the US to learn Urdu at St Stephen’s College. She didn’t know any Indian language but her love for Urdu brought her to India for six months,” says Dr Shamim Ahmed, a lecturer at St Stephen’s, which offers Urdu as one of four BA subjects.

The increasing number of local and international students desirous of learning the language calls for many more Urdu teachers.

It’s a misconception that only those who have studied in Urdu medium can become Urdu teachers. Considering the similarities in Urdu and Hindi, it’s not difficult for any Hindi-speaking person to pick up the zubaan in a short time.

“If you have read Hindi, it will not be difficult for you to pick up Urdu. Our lingua franca is Hindustani and Urdu is similar to it. The difference lies only in its script and some words,” says Dr Ahmed.

Though Urdu is becoming popular among youngsters, it faces a serious bias in most schools. “Urdu is taught in some schools as a first language and as second or third language in other schools. In some schools, students wish to learn the language but principals don’t encourage them as finding an Urdu teacher is not easy,” says Dr Mohammad Nauman Khan, professor, languages, NCERT.

This is the reason that few teachers are available at the school level, and qualified faculty members teach either in private institutes or in madrasas.

Jamila also worked in a Delhi madrasa after her MA (Urdu) at a paltry salary before she joined the school. Even Ahmed spent 12 years as a school teacher (though he is a gold medallist in MA Urdu from the University of Delhi) before he got his long-awaited break in St Stephen’s. Non-Urdu speakers can learn Urdu from a private institute or the Urdu Academy before getting into academics. “We are running nine centres in Delhi alone and admit only those who haven’t studied Urdu at any level,” says Marghoob Haider Abidi, secretary, Urdu Academy.

What's it about?
An Urdu teacher can teach Urdu in school, college, academy or private institutes. It is not only taught in schools/ colleges as a subject but also as a language in private institutes

Clock Work
8 am: Read at least one Urdu newspaper apart from one English/Hindi daily
8:15 am: Start class
10 am: Break
11 am: Next class
Noon: Lunch
1:30 pm: Resume class
2 pm: Leave for home
4 pm: Read Urdu literature

The Payoff
The salaries are equivalent to what other teachers get in government or private schools as per the Sixth Pay Commission norms. Initially they earn as much as Rs 24,000-25,000 amonth as TGT (trained graduate teacher) while in colleges, salaries start at Rs 35,000 which increases with experience

You must have a passion to learn the language
. An inclination for Urdu literature
. A desire for teaching

How do I get there?
To become a TGT, you must be a graduate in Urdu. For PGT and college lecturer, postgraduation in Urdu language is mandatory. Though a majority of Urdu teachers have received their basic education in Urdu medium, that doesn’t mean English medium students cannot teach Urdu. For such students, it’s advisable to improve their language skills by regular reading of newspapers, books and journals, and also by listening to Urdu shows on radio or TV

Institutes & urls
. BA and MA in Urdu from Jamia Millia Islamia
. BA/MA/ diploma/ certificate in Urdu from University of Delhi
. BA/MA in Urdu from Osmania University
. BA/ MA in Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University
. MA in Urdu/ PG diploma in functional Urdu from Maulana Azad National Urdu University.
. MA in Urdu from Kashmir University

Pros & Cons


You get to learn while you teach


The money is as good as in other popular subjects


Fewer people take this subject, which makes the field relatively less competitive


Students whose first language is Urdu usually score over their non-Urdu medium counterparts

The sweetness of Urdu has no parallel

A senior teacher talks about the prospects of the language

How did you become an Urdu teacher?
Urdu was one of the four subjects I had studied at the graduation level. But I knew it was the only subject to which I could give my best. And I topped the entire arts faculty (University of Delhi) during my postgraduation.

How different is teaching Urdu from other languages?
Urdu literature is different from other languages. The flavour and sweetness engrained in this language is unparalleled. After
studying literature, if you pick up Urdu language, apko ismein kahin zyada lutf ayega (you will derive much more pleasure from it).

Few students learn the language in school, which, in turn, means fewer teachers. As a result, we now have limited places to learn the language from. What do you have to say about this?
I agree to this to some extent. If Urdu is taught in all the schools, the situation can improve. But those who couldn’t study Urdu in school can still learn it at the college level. At present hundreds of students learn Urdu at Delhi University. Even Jamia (Millia Islamia) runs a programme. There is one correspondence programme for beginners too at Jamia.

Is it possible for someone who hasn’t studied in the Urdu medium to become an Urdu teacher?
Usually, most Urdu teachers have done their schooling from an Urdu-medium school. Even I went to one such school — Fateh Puri Muslim Senior Secondary School. But in case you don’t go to any such school, there are ways and means to compensate the loss. For example, one can listen to BBC’s Urdu channel, read Urdu newspapers. (Sahara and Sahafat are the popular Urdu dailies). Even Voice of America and Voice of Germany have one-hour Urdu programmes in the evening. Learning depends entirely on desire. If you have that in you, you can lea- rn the Urdu language easily.

Do you think youngsters today want to learn the language?
Yes, they are. Earlier, it was the first language in undivided Punjab and was popular among non-Muslims. Even our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh (who was also born in the same region) still reads his speeches in Urdu.

Though its popularity has dipped of late, we, at Stephen’s, receive scores of applications from students the world over. We also run short-term language programmes, which are, however, meant only for international students.

Dr Shamim Ahmed, lecturer St Stephen’s College Interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi

First Published: May 18, 2010 10:08 IST