Punjabi, Sindhi and Urdu as Locale Languages in Windows 8

At a time when the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs rejected a bill to grant regional/native languages the status of national languages, and one of the committee members called the move ‘an act against the national interest’, Microsoft Windows has extended its support to Punjabi and Sindhi as locale languages in its new operating system, Windows 8.

In the Windows operating systems, a locale is a set of user preference information related to the user’s language, environment and/or cultural conventions.

Ironically, Punjabi and Sindhi are national languages in India, and Windows already supports Punjabi (India) Gurmukhi script. The newly added Punjabi (Pakistan) is based on Arabic/Shahmukhi script.

Before Windows 8, Urdu was the only Pakistani locale language, which was introduced from Widows 2000. Pashto (Afghanistan), also widely used in Pakistan, was added from Windows XP.

Windows 8 offers 109 display languages, including a new United Kingdom version of English, and the locale support to 13 other languages, including Punjabi (Pakistan), Sindhi (Pakistan), Central Kurdish (Iraq), Uyghur (China), Belarusian (Belarus), Kinyarwanda (Rwanda), Tigrinya (Ethiopia), Tajik (Tajikistan), Wolof (Senegal), K’iche’ (Guatemala), Scottish Gaelic (United Kingdom), Cherokee (United States) and Valencian (Spain).

This is indeed a historic moment for language lovers, especially, veteran campaigners like Abdul-Majid Bhurgri – a computer software professional from Larkana, Sindh, and now settled in Seattle, USA – who had written a white paper for Microsoft in 2002 titled Enabling Pakistani Languages Through Unicode.

Referring to Mr Bhurgri’s paper, Microsoft’s Michael S. Kaplan commented in his blog: “This is pretty exciting, since at one point Sindhi was being considered for Vista (but was ultimately not done). I suspect that Abdul-Majid Bhurgri (who I was in contact with back in 2007 talking about Urdu and Sindhi) will be pleased to see Sindhi finally being added to Windows 8”.

Although Windows 8 is expected to be released in October this year, its features can be tried free by installing Windows 8 Release Preview and language interface packs. To avoid any inconvenience, some people may like to experiment it in a virtual PC, like, Oracle VM VirtualBox.

Keyboard Layouts

Since Windows 8 official keyboard layouts for Punjabi and Sindhi are not available yet, customised layouts can be searched in download.com or in a search engine, and downloaded for free.

Punjabi and Sindhi

Like Seraiki and Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi belong to Indo-Aryan subdivision of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Both the languages are widely spoken in India and Pakistan, and are very rich in literature, news media, music and film. Punjabi is considered one of the most spoken languages in the world. Sindhi is also taught as a first language in the government schools of Sindh, including some schools in Karachi.

Punjabi emerged as an independent language in the 11th century. Many ancient Sufi mystics and later Guru Nanak Dev ji, the first Guru of the Sikhism, started the literary tradition in Punjabi. The early Punjabi literature has had a very rich oral tradition and was principally spiritual in nature. Muslim, Sikh and Hindu writers composed many works in Punjabi between 1600 and 1850. Baba Bulleh Shah was the most famous Punjabi Sufi poet.

The first translation of the Quran into Sindhi was completed in 883 in Mansura, Sindh. Sindhi became a popular literary language between the 14th and 18th centuries, when mystics like Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Sachal Sarmast narrated their theosophical poetry. During the British rule in the late 19th century, an Arabic-based orthography was decreed standard, after much controversy, as the Devanagari script had also been considered.

What lies in future?

Looking at the Microsoft team’s excitement to bring powerful, easy-to-use language features to more users than ever in Windows 8, we can expect much more in future, like, support to more Pakistani languages, especially, Pashto (Pakistan), Balochi and Seraiki.


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