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Do They Speak English in Pakistan?

Do They Speak English in Pakistan

Key Takeaways

Official languages of PakistanUrdu and English
Percentage of English speakersApproximately 10% are fluent, many more understand
Role of English in PakistanUsed in government, business, education, and media
Types of English spokenPakistani English (Paklish)

The Linguistic Landscape of Pakistan

Pakistan, with its rich history and diverse cultures, boasts a myriad of languages. While Urdu holds the title of the national language, English too, plays a significant role.

A Historical Glimpse

The legacy of English in Pakistan can be traced back to the British colonial era. The British, during their rule in the Indian subcontinent, established English as a medium of instruction, governance, and judiciary. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the newly-formed country inherited this legacy.

Languages Spoken in Pakistan

The linguistic profile of Pakistan is both diverse and fascinating:

  • Provincial Languages: Each province in Pakistan has its own regional language. These include Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, and Balochi.
  • Other Languages: Apart from provincial languages, there are several other languages spoken by minorities, such as Kashmiri, Saraiki, and Hindko.
  • Urdu: Despite being the mother tongue of only a small percentage of the population, Urdu is Pakistan’s national language and acts as a lingua franca.
  • English: Officially recognized, English is widely used in various sectors of the country.
LanguagePercentage of Speakers
Urdu8% (as a mother tongue)

The Role and Presence of English

In Education

English holds a dominant position in the educational system:

  • Private Institutions: Most private schools in Pakistan use English as the primary medium of instruction.
  • Public Schools: English is taught as a compulsory subject.
  • Higher Education: Many universities offer courses in English, especially in fields like science, engineering, and business.

In Government and Administration

English is extensively used in:

  • Official Correspondence: All official documents, laws, and regulations are written in English.
  • Judiciary: The higher courts of Pakistan conduct their proceedings in English.

In Business and Media

  • Business: Due to globalization, many businesses prefer employees who are proficient in English. It’s also the language of choice for international transactions and communications.
  • Media: English newspapers, magazines, and TV channels have a substantial presence in Pakistan.

Varieties of English in Pakistan

Pakistani English (Often Termed ‘Paklish’)

Pakistan, like many other countries, has its own flavor of English, often referred to as ‘Paklish’. It includes:

  1. Unique Vocabulary: Words from Urdu and regional languages are incorporated into daily conversations.
  2. Distinct Pronunciations: Certain English words might be pronounced differently in Pakistan.
Paklish TermMeaning
LighterA matchstick or lighter
Open/close lightTurn on/off the light
HotelCan mean a restaurant

Challenges and Opportunities with English

Though English is widespread in Pakistan, challenges remain:

  • Quality of Education: The quality of English education can vary greatly between urban and rural areas.
  • Economic Disparities: Often, proficiency in English is seen as a sign of elite status, which can create divisions in society.

However, the widespread use of English also presents numerous opportunities:

  • Employment: English proficiency often opens doors to better job opportunities, both domestically and internationally.
  • Cultural Exchange: English acts as a bridge, enabling Pakistanis to engage with global media, literature, and art.


While Urdu remains the heart and soul of Pakistan’s cultural and linguistic identity, English has carved out a vital space for itself in the nation’s socio-economic fabric. From education and business to governance and daily communication, English continues to play a pivotal role in shaping modern Pakistan. Whether you’re traveling to Pakistan or engaging with its diaspora, understanding the country’s relationship with English can provide valuable insights into its history, challenges, and aspirations.