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The ability to relay information between languages proved critical in my personal life, but it's also becoming important in an ever-globalizing society. 



But in the meantime, enjoy some linguistic geekery provided by yours truly. 


With over 350 million native speakers, combined Hindi-Urdu is the 4th most spoken language in the world. Hindi is the most widely spoken co-official language of India. Urdu is also a co-official language in India, though it is often associated with Pakistan due it being the national language there. Linguistically speaking, Urdu and Hindi are registrars of the same language once called Hindustani. That means, the following sentence will sound and mean the same when spoken colloquially:  


Please give the guest a tasty egg sandwich. 


Mehman ko ek tasti egg sandvich dijiye please. 



With that said, there are of course differences between the two. The main difference is the script: Urdu is written in Perso-Arabic script (with modifications), and Hindi is written in Devanagari script. Vocabulary-wise, Urdu derives much of its middle to tertiary terms from Persian and Arabic. The more erudite or religious you want to sound, the more Perso-Arabic terms you would use. Hindi, on the other hand, looks to Sanskrit for these terms. Thus, the following differences:





Meherbani karke mehman ko ek mazedar ande ka sandvich dijiye. 



कृपया करके अतिथि को एक स्वादिष्ट अंडे का सैंडविच दीजिये । 

Kripya karke athithi ko ek swaadisht ande ka sandvich dijiye. 


Hindi and Urdu have other slight differences in grammar and pronunciation, but not so much that your Average Jai and Yosef can't sing to the same Bollywood tunes. 

The dark orange shows the "Hindi-Urdu belt"


Bengali (or Bangla) is a sister language of Hindi-Urdu and other Indo-Aryan languages of South Asia, which are part of the broader Indo-European language family (see language tree below). Though Bengali-speakers can understand and often speak Hindi-Urdu due to the latter's popularity in the subcontinent, the two are not mutually intellgible. Bengali is the 7th most spoken language in the world with 210 million speakers, however it is largely unknown outside of its home region of Bengal, split between the nation of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal.


Bengali has a long literary history, creating such giants as Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and economist Mohammed Yunus. Bengali has its own script, which has some similarities with Devanagari.  Bengali has a diglossia - Shadhu (meaning Pure) and Cholito (meaning Current) Bengali. There are noticeable differences in vocabulary between the Hindu and Muslim Bengali speakers, though not to the extent of Urdu-Hindi. Our same egg sandwich sentence in Bengali looks and sounds like this: 


দয়া করে মেহমান কে একটি সুস্বাদু ডিমের স্যান্ডউইচ দিয়েন।  

Doya koré mehman ke ekti shushadu dim'er sanduich diyen

Bengali is spoken in Bangladesh and India's West Bengal 


Chances are that most people have never heard of this language. It is a little-known language of Myanmar of an equally little-known Muslim minority in its Arakan state. 


Then why even mention this language? Well interestingly, as Myanmar opens up to the rest of the world, the plight of the Rohingya minority will be heard more and more (at least we hope so). The Rohingya have been persecuted for many decades, with the worst violence occuring recently as Arakanese and Burmese militias attacked the already helpless community. Out of dire necessity, many Rohingya made and continue to make perilous boat journeys to Malaysia and Thailand, though they live in substandard conditions there as well. Some are seeking asylum in Western countries, however their linguistic isolation proves to be a barrier. 


So how do I know Rohingya? It's actually very similar to Chittagonian, a language I speak at home with my family's older generation (read more on Chittagonian). The two differ only in accent and a few terms borrowed from Rakhine Burmese. Rohinya is not a written language per se, though if necessary, it is written in neighboring scripts like Bengali, Urdu, Burmese, and more recently, Rohingyalish (Roman) script


Mehrbani goriore gorbaworé ugwa moza' anda'r sendwuis diyo



Rohingya is spoken in scattered communities in Arakan. Source: VOA

This beautiful image depicting the Indo-European language family is by Minna Sundberg. The complete image can be viewed  here.

Languages are windows to different cultures and societies, and equally to an individual's mind. A language - whether it is verbal, written, or signed - can connect people at an intimate level. Yet, just as easily, languages can act as a barrier. More so than the social and financial draws of translating and interpreting, languages are actually one of my greatest academic interests. Contained within phonemes and diacritrics, I find history, migration, and sociopolitcs of languages. Languages shape us so greatly that it is no wonder people consider it a hallmark of humanness.


I plan to have a blog in the near future documenting more of these language-related ponderings, but in the meantime, enjoy these links. 


"Please give the guest a tasty egg sandwich" in other languages that I *somewhat know: (coming soon)

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