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How many languages are spoken in Pakistan?

February 21, 2019
 

 

More than 210 million people live in Pakistan. It is home to many communities with their distinct food, traditions, culture, languages, and dialects.

As the world celebrates the International Mother Language Day, SAMAA Digital looks into the types of languages spoken in Pakistan.

People speak as many as 74 languages in Pakistan, according to Ethnologue, a website on languages. Sixty-six languages are local and eight are foreign, it said.

A map identifying the linguistic trends in Southern Pakistan. Photo: Ethnologue

Urdu is Pakistan’s national language, but only 10% of the people speak it, according to Ethnologue. Punjabi is the most common language as 48% of the people speak it. The website says that 12% of the people speak Sindhi, 10% Seraiki and English, 8% Pashto, 3% Balochi, 2% Hindko and one percent people speak Brahui.

Related: Hindi is now the third official court language in Abu Dhabi

Mother language is very important as ‘cultural root’, said Dr Rasul Bux Rais, a professor at LUMS University. He said 10 to 12 dialects are spoken in Pakistan, however the number increases because of their ramifications.

A map identifying the linguistic trends in Northern Pakistan. Photo: Ethnologue

Dr Rais pointed out that work is under way for the last two years to preserve the dialects and their linguistic diversity.

Speaking in mother tongue

Dr Rais said that the debate over getting educated in the mother tongue is not going in the right direction. “Urdu is not as developed as French or German,” he remarked. “It is alright if people don’t get educated in Urdu.”

He said the conferences held in this connection underscore the need for parents to talk to their children in their mother tongue.

International Mother Language Day 

The International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is being marked across the globe to highlight the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity, across the world including Pakistan.

The idea of observing this day came from Bangladesh, according to UNESCO. On Bangladesh’s initiative, the UNESCO announced it on November 17, 1999 and it was formally recognised the United Nations General Assembly. The day was first observed in 2000.

At least 7,457 languages are spoken across the globe, of which 360 are not spoken anymore.

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