Urdu, a member of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family of languages, is one of the major languages of the South Asian subcontinent. With upwards of fifty million native speakers worldwide, it is among the most important literary and cultural languages of Asia. Urdu is the official language of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and is one of the officially recognized national languages of India, where it has concentrations of speakers in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir. Urdu, along with its sister language Hindi, is used as a lingua franca in emigrant South Asian communities throughout the world. Urdu is the possessor of a rich literary tradition, written in both the modern standard language and in earlier dialects. The renowned poets Quli Qutub Shah (1581-1611), Vali Muhammad Vali (1667-c.1725), Mir Taqi Mir (c.1723-1810), Assadullah Khan "Ghalib" (1797-1869) wrote in literary varieties of Urdu. Important Urdu literary figures in more recent times include Muhammad Iqbal (c.1877-1938), the national poet of Pakistan, and Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984).

The Department of Asian Languages and Literature offers three years of basic instruction in the language, providing a solid foundation in the written and spoken styles of the language.

In its official style, Urdu is written in a modified form of Perso-Arabic script. A sister language to Urdu, written in the Devanagari script and drawing upon the rich cultural and linguistic resources of Sanskrit and Prakrit, is Hindi, for which instruction is also offered in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature.

Watch the Urdu Course Trailer.

Please see the UW Course Catalog for course descriptions and Courses for class offerings per quarter.

Faculty in This Area

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Vazir Khan Masjid Lahore
Senior Lecturer
Assistant Professor



Title Date Time Location
Ek Adabi Nashist:  An Urdu Literary Session  May 21 2:00pm to 5:30pm 230 Communication Hall


Title Date Time Location
Ankit Chadha presents Dastan Goii
Ankit Chadha
Nov 5 9:30am Thomson Hall (THO) 317
On Reading Culture in The Making
Priya Joshi
Feb 26 3:30pm HUB 145


Title Date Time Location
Ek Adabi Nashist (A Literary Session) Nov 15 2:00pm 317 Thomson Hall


Title Date Time Location
"What Makes a Poem Good?"
Frances Pritchett
Oct 23 3:30pm to 5:30pm 317 Thomson Hall, Seattle, WA
"Welcoming Vali: An Exploration of the Literary Legacy of Vali Dakhani"
Heidi Pauwels (Asian L&L) and Purnima Dhavan (History)
May 18 3:30pm to 5:00pm THO 317
Centenary of Sa'adat Hasan Manto May 11 2:00pm to 5:00pm SAV 166
"A Century (almost) of Ghalib’s English Translations: A Historical and Comparative Perspective”
Jameel Ahmad
Feb 16 3:30pm to 5:00pm SAV 137


Title Date Time Location
"A multilingual poet in eighteenth-century India: A Krishna bhakta's experiments with Urdu"
Heidi Pauwels, University of Washington
Nov 29 7:30pm Walker-Ames Room (Kane 225)


Title Date Time Location
Patronage, Performance, Procession and Pilgrimage: Channels of the Flow of Religious Exchange in Early Modern India May 18 to May 19
"Translating Classical Urdu Poetry: Problems and Possibilities"
Jameel Ahmad, University of Washington
Feb 22 3:30pm to 5:00pm Savery 211


Title Date Time Location
"The New Urdu Ghazal from 1947 to 1970"
C.M. Naim, University of Chicago
Jan 19 3:30pm Savery 211