Today I had the privilege of interviewing Shahida, who has been teaching Urdu as a foreign language since 2011 in Pakistan.
UrduLearner: Hello Shahida. Thanks for taking the time to share about your experience today. First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into teaching Urdu to expats in Pakistan?
Shahida: Sure, so I live in Karachi, Pakistan and started teaching Urdu to expats more or less by accident. I had been teaching basic Urdu literacy skills to illiterate women in my area, when a relative of mine told me that there were some foreigners who wanted to learn Urdu. It seemed like a great opportunity, so I agreed to give it a try. Since then I have really come to enjoy it and made it my profession.
UrduLearner: So, who are the students you have been teaching?
Shahida: I have taught people from all over the world, e.g. Korea, Germany, USA, Brazil, Netherlands, Mexico and China. Most of have come to Pakistan to work or to study.
UrduLearner: That is great! In your opinion, do you think Urdu is really necessary for foreigners in Pakistan? After all, isn’t English also spoken?
Shahida: Yes, of course you can get by with English here. You might even be able to understand a bit of the culture. But the truth is that you will just stay on the surface. When a Pakistan wants to talk about issues in depth or in detail, they will prefer Urdu (or their respective mother tongue). This is especially true when it comes to topics that are close to their heart. Also, language is closely linked with culture. If a foreigner really wants to understand our culture, they need to learn Urdu. The other thing is that if you want to communicate with the majority of people, including the average, “normal” person on the street (in contrast to the upper-class and highly educated people), Urdu is a must.
UrduLearner: Going back to your own experience of teaching Urdu, is there anything in particular that you have learnt in the process?
Shahida: Oh, yes. The main thing I have learnt is that teaching Urdu is not that easy. People often say that teaching your own mother tongue is a piece of cake. This is certainly not true! I discovered that there are lots of aspects that are complicated to teach. When I started teaching, I suddenly paid more attention e.g. to proper grammar, the use of certain words. I also realized that I had been mispronouncing words before. It has been a great journey of learning more about my own language.
UrduLearner: Thanks a lot for your time. This has been very insightful. Any last comments you want to make?
Shahida: I just want to greet all the Urdu learners out there. I wish you all the best and success in studying Urdu. Good-Bye.