Learn Punjabi!

If you want to learn Punjabi, you will face a few obstacles. With a variety of dialects, several written scripts, tones, and relatively limited sources to learn from, Punjabi presents a unique but rewarding challenge for language learners.

Punjabi, also spelled Panjabi, has many different dialects and even different scripts, depending on which region it is spoken in. In the Punjab province of Pakistan, the script used is Shahmukhi, while in the Indian state of Punjab, the Gurmukhi script is generally used, and in some cases, the Devanagari script is the preferred way to write Punjabi. If it is relevant to you, be aware of which regional dialect and writing form you need to focus on.

Although Punjabi is an Indo-European language, and therefore related to English, French, German and many other European languages, it is far removed from those languages in many ways, and does not bear much resemblance to them on the surface. Furthermore, Punjabi is unusual among Indo-European languages because it is a tonal language.

Punjabi is the most spoken language of Pakistan and the native language of the largest ethnic group in the country, as well as a sizeable number of people in India. When you think of the most widely spoken languages of the world, does Punjabi come to mind? Probably not, but with nearly 100 million speakers in Pakistan and India, as well as immigrants in England, the US, Canada, Australia and around the world, Punjabi ranks as the 12th most spoken language in the world by number of speakers.

Unfortunately, if you think that means that there are lots of published courses to learn Punjabi, you would be wrong. Like many regional languages, it is overlooked by most publishers of language courses. But all is not lost. There are opportunities to learn and use Punjabi on the internet, as well as two very solid published courses to learn Punjabi.

Learn Punjabi.org
This site has basic grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure and other introductory features of Punjabi. It goes a little further than most sites to learn Punjabi, but is just meant as an introduction into the language. There are a couple of nice extras, though - there are interactive talking stories and songs that have a transliteration feature and audio, and these and other elements of the site are downloadable.

There lots of other resources on the internet for learning Punjabi, if you are persistent. YouTube is actually a good source of both introductory audio and some everyday spoken Punjabi (do a search for 'learn Punjabi'), as well as music from Bollywood movies and other sources. Not for your main source of learning, but more for supplementary listening. Also, don't forget to try language exchanges or chats once you get started.

Book/Audio Combo - Teach Yourself Punjabi
Whenever I'm researching an uncommonly learned language, one of the first courses I look for is Teach Yourself for the simple reason that they publish courses for so many languages. Lo and behold, there is a Teach Yourself Punjabi. All the Teach Yourself courses come with the most important vocabulary and phrases, everyday conversation topics and essential grammar. It also comes with two audio cds. It is inexpensive and is easy to find as it is available in most bookstores or online. Because there are so few courses to learn Punjabi, I would recommend getting this course and the Colloquial Panjabi course below for a thorough introduction to Punjabi.

Book/Audio Combo - Colloquial Panjabi
The Colloquial series provides a nice alternative coursebook for many languages. There are lots of dialogs, practical vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar notes. Make sure to get the audio - very important for any language, but especially a language like Punjabi. For introductory courses to learn Punjabi, this course and the Teach Yourself course above are the most easily found and accessible for most people. I would recommend using both courses to get a good foundation in conversational Punjabi.

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No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality.

- Edward Sapir