Learning Urdu in the United States

University of Washington students learn Urdu and experience the rich culture of South Asia in Seattle.

By Mariam Haris, Hisham Bhatti, Hannah and Musa Subramanium

September 2023

Learning Urdu in the United States

Mariam Haris (From left), Hannah, Musa Subramanium and Hisham Bhatti are studying at University of Washington and learning the Urdu language. (Photograph courtesy Hannah)

As first year students of Urdu, studying the language has helped us forge deeper connections with each other and the rich culture of South Asia. Over the course of the year, our classroom has become a place where we explore the joys and depths of South Asian identity. 

Each student in our class comes from a different cultural background, with various experiences and practices. Our Urdu classes offer us an opportunity to explore our identities and find commonality in learning Urdu. 

History and culture 

We have learned Urdu’s beautiful script and how its history ties into the rich culture of South Asia. Our professor, Jameel Ahmed from the Department of Asian Language and Literature, would share stories from his childhood, bringing the language alive, and he encouraged us to share our own stories in Urdu.  

Outside of class, we meet for lunches, share different foods, and bond over cricket, bowling, and canoeing in Seattle’s many lakes. We have become a strong community; it is touching to see how we’ve shared our interests and vulnerabilities with one another over time.  

A confluence 

Over the past year, our Urdu class gave us the opportunity to connect with the South Asian communities outside our classes. For instance, we learned enough about Urdu poetry by the end of the year to host and participate in a Seattle Adabi Mehfil around Eid on the University of Washington campus. Here, we read our favorite poems and met Urdu poetry enthusiasts from Seattle. We had always heard about the fun and intimate environments of Urdu poetry culture, and it was an honor to be welcomed into the space.  

At the end of the year, our class attended a celebration of South Asian culture. We dressed in our South Asian clothes, ate delicious food, listened to popular music, and watched live dance performances. 

None of this would have been possible without our professor. We are all grateful to him and his classes for bringing us so much joy this year. 

Mariam Haris, Hisham Bhatti, Hannah and Musa Subramanium are students at University of Washington, Seattle. 

Click here to sign up for the free SPAN newsletter: https://bit.ly/SubscribeSPAN


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *