Urdu is widely spoken in India, where it is used by about 50 million Muslims.

It is also the official language of Pakistan where it is the first language of about 10 million people, and spoken fluently as a second language by a further 80 million.


Urdu is similar to Hindi, although the most important difference between the two is that Urdu is written in the Perso-Arabic script which reads from right to left. Urdu also takes many words from Arabic and Persian, while Hindi tends to borrow words from Sanskrit instead.

Urdu, like Hindi, is derived from the dialect which was spoken for centuries around Delhi. In the 16th century a large number of Persian, Arabic and Turkish words entered the language via military camps and marketplaces in and around Delhi. After a time this language came to be known as Urdu or "camp language", and it eventually became the lingua franca of much of the Indian subcontinent. Although for a time the names Urdu and Hindustani were used interchangeably, eventually Urdu came to refer solely to the Arabic-influenced form of the language, written in Arabic characters with additional letters for Indian and Persian sounds. Hindi and Urdu are often viewed as being in essence one and the same language by many linguists; discussions of phonology or grammar will often refer simply to Hindi-Urdu.

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