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What Language Do They Speak in Pakistan?

What Language Do They Speak in Pakistan

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageUrdu
Regional LanguagesPunjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki, Pashto, Balochi, and others.
Percentage of Urdu SpeakersApproximately 8% as a first language, but over 75% have proficiency.
Language of InstructionMostly Urdu and English
InfluencePersian, Arabic, and local regional languages.

The Linguistic Landscape of Pakistan

Pakistan, officially known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a diverse country in South Asia with a rich linguistic landscape. The country’s language profile is influenced by its history, ethnicities, and regional variations.

Official Language: Urdu

Urdu is the official language of Pakistan. While it is spoken by approximately 8% of the population as a first language, a significant majority, over 75%, have proficiency in it. Urdu serves as a lingua franca, bridging the communication gap among Pakistan’s multicultural populace.

Characteristics of Urdu:

  • Script: Urdu is written in the Nastaliq script, a form of the Persian alphabet which is itself derived from the Arabic script.
  • Vocabulary: It borrows extensively from Persian and Arabic, and to a lesser extent from Turkic languages and Sanskrit.
  • Status: It’s used in government, education, media, literature, and day-to-day communication.

Regional Languages

Pakistan is home to a myriad of regional languages, each representing the country’s diverse ethnic and cultural groups. These regional languages are spoken in various provinces and regions.

Table: Major Regional Languages of Pakistan

LanguageRegionPercentage of Speakers
SaraikiSouth Punjab10.53%
PashtoKhyber Pakhtunkhwa15.42%

Language of Instruction and Business

Urdu and English are predominantly used as the languages of instruction in educational institutions. English, in particular, is often associated with higher education and professionalism. In the business domain, English is frequently used, especially in corporate and international transactions.

Key Points:

  • Primary Education: Mostly in Urdu, but English is also introduced at an early stage.
  • Higher Education: Predominantly in English.
  • Business Communication: A mix of Urdu and English, with English being predominant in formal and international settings.

The Influence of History and Culture

The languages spoken in Pakistan have been influenced by various civilizations and empires that have ruled the region in the past.

  • Indus Valley Civilization: One of the world’s earliest urban centers.
  • Persian Empire: Brought Persian influence, especially on Urdu.
  • Arabic Influence: Due to the spread of Islam.
  • British Raj: Introduced English and made it an administrative language.

Challenges and Preservation

While Urdu and English dominate the linguistic landscape, regional languages face challenges in terms of preservation and growth. Efforts are being made to promote regional languages through media, literature, and cultural events.


  • Urbanization leading to a dilution of regional identities.
  • Preference for Urdu and English in education and business.
  • Limited resources for the promotion and preservation of regional languages.

Preservation Efforts:

  • Media: Regional language channels, newspapers, and radio stations.
  • Literature: Publishing of books, poetry, and research in regional languages.
  • Cultural Events: Festivals, music, and theatre in regional languages.


Pakistan’s linguistic landscape is as diverse as its cultural and ethnic makeup. While Urdu serves as a unifying language, the richness and vibrancy of its regional languages reflect the country’s multifaceted identity. Understanding the languages of Pakistan is essential to appreciating its history, culture, and diversity.