How Many Languages are there in Pakistan?
By: Sehar Khan
The Asian region of the world is known for its rich history and diversity. A vast land, where a magnanimous total of 2197 languages are spoken, Asia-pacific region makes one of the most important components of language pie of the world, particularly the Southeast Asian region. If you take a closer look at Asian region, you will be able to decipher the countries within.
Zoom down into South Asia further and you stumble across Pakistan.
Many people in the West know Pakistan as one of the “terror-financing, poverty-stricken, and an underdeveloped” nation. What they don’t know, however, is the land of diverse languages, people and cultures that fuse together into an amalgamation that is both unique and distinct.
Since this “land of the pure” is renowned for its distinctiveness in linguistic aspects, let’s take a closer look at how many languages are spoken in Pakistan.
Pakistan is the sixth-highest populated country and a home to several ancient civilizations. To add a feather in its cap, Pakistan is one of the few countries where 73 languages are spoken. In fact, the northern region of Pakistan alone speaks 30 languages, some of which are endangered.
The Official Languages of Pakistan:
When it comes to categorizing the official languages, English and Urdu both are termed as the official languages of Pakistan.
Urdu, the official and national language of Pakistan, is a fusion of Arabic, Persian and local languages, taking its origins from these old languages. Although only 8% of Pakistanis consider Urdu as their native language, it is understood by 90% of the population and is used in formal occasions, government administration, as well as taught in educational institutes.
A Peek at the National Language:
Urdu is the national language of Pakistan. Derived from Persian, Arabic and a combination of local dialects, it is the language of the Subcontinent along with Hindi. Long before it was declared the national language, it was the lingua franca of Mughal kings and courtesans, and spoken in the literary as well as social circles. It was declared the national language after the emergence of Pakistan and is spoken and understood widely in the region now.
What other languages are spoken in Pakistan?
To answer the question of how many languages are spoken in Pakistan, it is imperative to look at the group of native languages that form the linguistic pie of this country. Let’s take a look:
The language that is most widely spoken by Pakistanis after Urdu is Punjabi. A language of Punjab province, Punjabi has different dialects like Hindko, Saraiki, and Mahi Punjabi. Almost 44.2% of the Pakistani population speak this language and its dialects vary from city to city. Punjabi takes its roots from Classic Sanskrit of 600 BC.
Pashto is the second largest provincial language of Pakistan that is spoken and understood by 15.4% of Pakistanis, mostly of whom reside in the Northern KPK area of the country.
Sindhi is spoken in the lower Sindh region of the country and is derived from Sanskrit and Indo Aryan language. Spoken by 14.1% of the population, Sindhi is also spoken by a sizable population in the Indian region.
Balochi, the language spoken in the Balochistan, the biggest province of Pakistan. Yet only 3.6% of the population speaks Balochi as a native tongue, mainly owing to the geographic landscape of this place, composed of deserts and inhabitable plains. It has origins in the 10th century and has a large number of dialects.
English, a remnant of British colonial rule, the British Raj, as often called, is an important medium of communication in the country—particularly in the official spheres. The constitution and laws were originally drawn up in English and are now being translated into other regional languages for comprehension and interpretation.
Coming back to the question of how many languages are in Pakistan, one may consider that Pakistan is a country with a wide range of languages. Nevertheless, Urdu, the main language of this country has a rich history and is influenced by words from English, Arabic and Persian.
The reason for this influence are the historic conquests made by invaders in this part of Asia, particularly in the 16th and 17th Century, who brought their native languages and dialects with them in this land. This is the reason this land is known as the land of rich languages and Urdu, being the forerunner of the languages, is taught across the world and is considered as the backbone of literature in the Subcontinent.
Pakistan—literally meaning “the land of the pure” is also the land of diverse languages and cultures, making it one of the most linguistically diverse regions of the world.