How to Get Started Learning Punjabi

Punjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, پنجابی, पंजाबी) is an Indo-Aryan language, related to Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, and Sindhi, and is spoken by roughly 100 million people in the Eastern and Western Punjab regions of Northern India and Pakistan as well as Haryana, Delhi, West Bengal, and Punjab. Outside of India Punjabi communities exist in Canada, the UK and many other countries, deeming the language the 10th most spoken in the world. Punjabi also serves as the sacred liturgical language of the Sikh faith. Knowing even the basics of Punjabi will open your doors into the culture, faiths, food, music, film, and hearts of a colourful and ancient peoples living on all four corners of the Earth.


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    Obtain print and audio materials for learning Punjabi. Many publishers such as Travel Guide, Teach Yourself, and Assimil offer an array of phrase books, textbooks, tapes, CDs, and other learning materials to get you started learning Punjabi. Do your homework on what's available and invest in what works for you.
    • Don't forget a dictionary. A dictionary can help you when your language materials are short on expressions, words, or other language tid bits. In general, dictionaries may be difficult to find because Punjabi is not as common a language to learn as say Italian, Hindi, or Chinese, but they do exist if you know where to look/shop. Try
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    Take a Punjabi course or get a Punjabi tutor. Many people feel more confident being taught their target language by a native speaker. If you have access to a local Indian community, ask around and check out their community centres and Sikh temples regarding available classes and tutors. has available Punjabi tutors you can Skype at times that suit your lifestyle.
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    Immerse yourself in the Punjabi community and culture. Language and culture are inseparable elements; you need to know both in order to understand the nuances of the people behind the language, and language behind the people. Attend Sikh religious and cultural events, shop at Punjabi stores, eat Punjabi cuisine, make Punjabi-speaking friends, etc.
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    Listen to Punjabi. This is important for getting a feel for the ebb and flow of the language. Listen to as much of the language as you can---eavesdrop on conversations, listen to Punjabi music and radio programs, watch Punjabi television. You don't have to understand a single word, just absorb the language like a baby.
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    Read Punjabi. Presuming that you're studying outside India or Pakistan, the Punjabi diaspora is a very literate one rich in community newspapers, bilingual signage, and small libraries filled with books for both children and adults. Learn how to read Punjabi and then start reading whatever you can get your hands on, first for pronunciation and later for comprehension. Reading opens your doors into new culture and new thinking, it builds vocabulary and language skills, and it teaches you how native speakers use their own language naturally and creatively.
    • Punjabi uses any one of three writing systems: Gurmukhī, Shahmukhī, and Devanagari. Gurmukhi is the official script used in India's Punjab state as well as both the most commonly used script in the Punjabi diaspora and the script in which the Sikh holy scriptures are written in. Shahmukhi is an Arabic-based script and is used officially in Pakistan and among Punjabi-speaking Muslims. Devanagari is used by Punjabi-speaking Hindus and is the same script used in writing Hindi and Sanskrit.
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    Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Try not to be intimidated if your grammar is broken, your vocabulary is limited, or your comprehension is poor. It will come with time and practice. People learn best from their mistakes and native speakers will be more than happy to correct you.


  • Have fun! Whether your study of Punjabi is serious or casual, make a game out of learning the language and you won't become overwhelmed.
  • It will take you awhile to be able to comprehend how grammar works in Punjabi as it differs from that of say, English. Therefore immerse yourself on the online newspapers, television and music. Reading a lot will familiarize you with the rules.
  • Don't be surprised if you hear Punjabi borrow and use words and even sentences from other languages, especially English. Some English words for objects etc. do not exist in Punjabi because they were western inventions, therefore the English word is used. Most Punjabi speakers (and Indians in general) are very multilingual people and have grown up co-existing and doing business with other languages and cultures their whole lives.
  • Several Punjabi TV channels exist for both satellite and cable, including Alpha ETC Punjabi, Gpunjab Newstime, JUS One, JUS Punjabi TV, MH1, PTC Punjabi, and Punjabi TV. Check out what's available through the internet as well.

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Categories: Sikhism | World Languages