Learn to Read Punjabi

Lesson 1

Lesson 2..All Punjai lessons -zipped file..Home..Golshani's alphabet comparison page..Asian Books

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Punjabi is a language of the Indian Subcontinent spoken by Muslims in Pakistan who write it in the Arabic script , and the Sikhs and Hindus of Punjab who write it in the Gurumukhi (language of the Gurus) script . Punjabis also probably constitute the largest group amongst subcontinent immigrants to Britain and Canada. When we say Punjabi here we take it to mean the Gurumukhi script.

It has very many common letters with Hindi and shares similar vowel marks. You might find it easier to do the Learn Hindi lessons first. Please write to if you find these lessons useful and with suggestions. Please read the notes at the end of this letter written by a reader .

For downloading all lessons 1-5 file or go online

You may also obtain all the current lessons for non commercial uses and images on a floppy disk together with a Balaji book -Learn to Read Punjabi and a cassette of all the lessons . Send a cheque for $50 to ukindia Box 346 Nottingham UK .
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This is the Punjabi letter for N as in No and the vowel mark aa

Can you read your first word in Punjabi ?

The answer is

Nana ! - Mother's father.

You can make similar lessons yourself by using a Punjabi font. Open windows character map program - its in the windows directory- and copy some letters . Paste them into a windows paintbrush program using the text tool and save as a monochrome bitmap file. Open this file in thumbs or paint shop pro and save as a gif file. For really large letters you need Universal word program.

Lets look at another Punjabi letter - R . See how it is modified by the common vowel marks as in the figure below ? The closest English word with that vowel marked letter is written in brackets. The best way to learn anything is to sit back and visualize it and then get up and vocalize while walking around. Study each figure slowly and carefully and you should get through all the lessons in one or two goes.

Notice that for littel i as in wrist above the mark comes before the letter while for big ee it is after the letter.

Next lets look at Letters S , N , R and G.

These are written as in the first line below . Note as in Hindi most words are joined at the top with a line. So what is your first word of Punjabi at the end of the first line ?

Yes it is sun ( as in our nearest star) .

The second line above has the common vowel marks . .The first one is just to give the letter it is over a slightly longer sound . Here the first word is Sir as in 'This is yours sir'. Next one is Saan . Note the Aa vowel has a shorter line than in Hindi. Whats the next word?

Yes it is Sin (short i) . Next is Seen (long i) . This completes the second line.

In the next figure the first word is Sun ( as in Soot -short u) , next is Soon (long U ) . Then is Sane (short ae as mAy) , next is Sag ( as in sAnd long ae) . This completes the third line. Guess what the words on the fourth line sound like ?

The first is o as in sOnar -here the word is Sona ( gold) , next is au as in AUtumn -here it is Sawn . What is the next word on this line-hint it has three letters and two vowel marks.

The word is Snsar ( Punjabi for world) . Note the short nasal n marked by a dot over the letter S , followed by S again and then a long aa followd by a R - Snsar . The final word has a long nasal n after the S and is the English word Sung (a song). We will come back to more vowel marks later.

Lets look at the first line in the Punjabi Alphabet. Like Hindi it has the letters K ; Kh as in Khan ; G as in goat ; A chesty Gh as in Ghandi and the last letter is N . As in Hindi N has many forms. These letters are called gutturals because they are sounded from the back of the throat and are pronounced as in the word below each letter.

These letters are in the first line of the figure below.

Using the four words learnt at the beginning S , N . R and G ; the vowel marks and the additional letters K , Kh , Gh can you read the words below the first line in the above figure ? There is one more letter introduced somewhere to make the word Ghandi - try and spot it.

Here are the answers

The words are Cake , Khakhi , Roar . Wrong , Ghandi and Song.

Next we come to the palatals because the tongue touches the palate.

The next line is the cerebrals , the tongue is folded a little behind the palate.

The figure below has the next two lines in the Punjabi alphabet and a further two lines made of words. See if you can read the words. On the first line are the letters ch as in china ; chh as in chatri (umbrella) -the tongue is rolled back a little more than in ch ; j as in jane ; jh as in jhanda -flag and n .

The second line below is t as in turkey ; tt -tongue rolled back a bit more as in thanda (cold) ; d as in dog ; dd as dholak ( drum) and n again.

Were you able to read the words ?
Answers are Choke ; Chhika -a six in cricket and Jag as in Jaguar on the third line above.

The fourth line has Date ; Jhandha -flag and Thandha -cold.

Next come the Dentals where the tongue touches the back of the upper teeth .

. In the figure below the first line has the letters soft T (tota-parrot) ; then th as in thanks ; d as in the ; dh -a d sounded from the chest as in dhan (mone) and N.
Next follow the Labials formed by the the lips coming together.


Next come the semi vowels.

The figure below forms the sibliants -or S sounds .

The second like has the remaining consonants - P , F , B , Bh -B sounded from the chest as in Bhai (brother) , M .
The third line has Y as in yes ; R ; L ; Sh as is shucks , S and finally H as in hand.

Try and read the words below . The first two lines are English words.

. The answers are

The words are Thank ; Your; That , Laugh , Had , Move , Ship , Been and Crook. Dont worry if you cant get them the first time.
The final line has the Punjabi words without equivalent English sounds - Bungh - a B and G from the chest (marijuana) ; Tota (parrot), Gadha (donkey) and last of all Smundhar (Ocean).

The following letters complete the Punjabi alphabet. We will look at them in a later lesson.

. Go over the lesson again and again to get these letters imprinted in the mind. Note the Punjabi S and M are different only in S having a line on top. Similarly for P and THHE with P missing the line. TE , D and Bh look simialr . R and G differ only in G having an extra line..

Lesson 2

The aim is to introduce rapidly to English speakers and Overseas Punjabis the script of the language . So what matter is the SOUND of the word rather than the way it is spelt . So for eg sansar sounds pretty much the same whichever vowel mark for n you use . Once readers have done these five lessons they can then go on to the books and learn the correct spelling. Some corrections will be made in due course .

A reader writes..

I was looking through your Punjabi lessons and spotted some mistakes. I hope you wil edit the lessons so that whoever uses this site to learn Punjabi will learn proper Punjabi.

In lesson 1, the word "snsar" is spelt wrongly.It should be spelt with a tippi, the way the word "sung" is spelt. The word "ghandi" is spelt with a "g" and not a "gh". The word "Jhandha" is spelt with a "D" and not a "DH". Secondly, it is spelt with a tippi and not a bindi which is over the letter "JH". The word "Thandha" is also spelt with a tippi and not a bindi. The word "LAAF" should be spelt with a dot to the left of the letter "F".(it's not the same as "F" in English.) The word "SMUNDR" is spelt with a tippi and not a bindi.

In lesson 2,you have incorrectly stated that the numerals are from 1-9 when they are only from 1-8. Again, at the end of the page you have incorrectly stated that the first letter has the sound "de" when it has a "R" sound.

In lesson 3, kindly use correct punctuation. A fullstop in Punjabi is a short vertical line and not a dot. Another point I would like to bring up is that I would appreciate it if you used proper Punjabi words and not English words spelt in Punjabi.It is no way to teach a language.

I am outraged by a sentence at the end of lesson 4. All letters in Punjabi sound different. There are no two letters which sound the same.It is difficult to describe the sound of some letters but please refrain from saying that they are all "N" when they are not. They are certainly not written in order of popularity and they all sound completely different.I hope I have made myself clear on this point.

These are just some of the mistakes and there are plenty more. I hope you will rectify them. After reading this e-mail, please do not dismiss what I have said because let me assure you that I am perfectly aware of what I am talking about. The sound system of Hindi and Punjabi is different so kindly refrain from usin the Hindi sound system to teach Punjabi. I would also like to add that if you put up these lessons, please ensure that that there are no mistakes in them. I feel that the Punjabi language is being spoilt considering all the mistakes that have been made. Please correct them and remember that if you want to put up language lessons, please ensure that they are correct. I will be glad to provide any assistance if necessary.