Sindhi is a language spoken as a mother tongue by 23.4 million people in Pakistan, where it is the official language of the province of Sindh, and 2.8 million people in India, where it enjoys official status since its inclusion in 1967 in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. Sindhi’s official recognition has given the language institutional support: the Sindhi Adabi Board and the Institute of Sindhology in Pakistan and the Sahitya Akademi in India which promote the publication of literature and research in Sindhi.
Sindhi used to be written in a plurality of scripts, both Perso-Arabic and Sanskritic, up until the mid-nineteenth century. But after their annexation of the province in 1843, the British decided to standardize Sindhi to use it as an administrative language. The script now in use, a modified Arabic script in Naskh style, was created in the early 1850s and adopted by the East India Company for official use. Indian Sindhis, however, after the 1947 Partition, remain undecided over whether to employ the Devanagari or Perso-Arabic script and many writers and schools have switched to the former.
Sindhi shares a number of features with other Indo-Aryan languages, such as retroflex sounds and word order, but also possesses specificities of its own: its phonology includes a set of rare implosive phonemes, while its grammar is characterized by the use of pronominal suffixes which allow the speaker to condense a sentence into a single word.
Due to a lack of demand, there is unfortunately a limited offer of courses and material to learn Sindhi for non-native speaking students. This article presents brief information on two major learning centers for Sindhi in India and lists available material.
Indian Institute of Sindhology, Adipur-Gandhidam
Julien Levesque, 2012 student
The Indian Institute of Sindhology does not offer a proper course as such but provides a favorable context to learn Sindhi. The Institute was set up in 1989 by writers and scholars for the preservation and promotion of Sindhi culture. It has a school attended by more than 600 students and also conducts research and publication activities. Cultural events, concerts or theater plays, are held monthly. The Institute possesses an important library catalog as well as a folklore department in charge of collecting and digitalizing folk music.
I contacted the Indian Institute of Sindhology in May 2012 to inquire about the possibility of learning Sindhi in Adipur and was agreeably surprised by the quick and positive response from the director Mr Lakhmi Khilani. I received a warm welcome and was hosted for a month in the Institute’s guest house, located in the Malir Enclave where the staff lives.
As I was the sole student, my learning was mostly based on a two-volume correspondence teaching book designed by the Indian Institute of Sindhology for the Central Institute of Indian Languages. Every day, I would first read the lessons, complete the exercises, and then spend about two hours with Mr Preetam Varyani who would explain grammar rules and invite me to read out loud in Sindhi. As a town founded by Sindhi migrants from Pakistan and still largely populated by Sindhis, Adipur is probably the only place in India where the learner can practice his or her newly acquired language skills with shopkeepers. I was really satisfied of my stay in Adipur, since I was able to go over most of the lessons of the two-volume book, but I would never had made such progress had I not had previous solid knowledge of Hindi and Urdu. The book is fairly well-designed but cannot be used as a self-teaching method by somebody unfamiliar with North Indian languages.
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AIIS, Sindhi Summer Language Program, Pune
Natasha Raheja, 2010 student
In 2010, from early June to mid-August, I participated in a ten-week Sindhi language program where I was the only student and was paired with two part-time teachers. I received instruction in both the Devanagari and Arabi scripts in the areas of writing, grammar, listening comprehension, speaking, and literature from 9am to 1pm, five days a week, with occasional guest speakers and field trips. My classes were held at the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) Language Center at the beautiful Deccan College Campus in Pune. Classes in Marathi, Sanskrit, and Prakrit are regularly held at this center and at the tea break and lunch hour, these students were good company for a lone student. While AIIS does not offer Sindhi on a regular basis, if even one student submits a strong application to learn Sindhi or any other less commonly taught language, they will happily make the necessary arrangements.
In the months of June, July, and August, the weather in Pune is quite cool and pleasant. While the city does not offer an immersive environment for Sindhi language learning like Ajmer, towns in Kutch, and other locales that have emerged out of former refugee camps, Pune is home to many prominent Sindhi literary figures, cultural institutions, and places of worship, which offer students the promise of engaging interactions and productive language learning opportunities. The Sindhi colony and former refugee camp of Pimpri is in close proximity to Pune and can be visited at ease. Longer field trips from Pune to the former Sindhi refugee camps and populous Sindhi colonies of Kalyan and Ulhasnagar are also feasible over the weekends.
When I was a student, there were not many options for accommodations presented to us that were close to the college campus and commutes of 30-45 minutes each way were part of our daily routine. The teachers are friendly and well-connected and may be able to arrange for a home stay in a Sindhi speaking household. There are just a handful of structured, short-term Sindhi language courses and this one is well organized and instructive.
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Short-term Sindhi Language Courses
Indian Institute of Sindhology (Adipur-Gandhidham, Gujarat, India)
Inquire at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Instructors: Lakhmi Khilani, Preetam Varyani, Satish Rohra
American Institute of Indian Studies
Apply at: http://aiislanguageprograms.org
Instructors: Jiwat Keswani, Bhojraj Lekhwani
SASLI program, University of Wisconsin – Madison (United-States)
Apply at: http://sasli.wisc.edu/
Sindhi Courses at University Level
University of Sindh (Jamshoro, Pakistan)
University of Karachi (Karachi, Pakistan)
Shah Abdul Latif University (Khairpur, Pakistan)
Tolani College (Adipur, Gujarat, India)
Western Regional Language Centre, Central Institute of Indian Languages (Pune, India)
R. K. Talreja College (Ulhasnagar, India)
Sindhi Language Book (2 volumes), Satish Rohra, B. Syamala Kumari & I. S. Borkar (eds), Central Institute of Indian Languages & Indian Institute of Sindhology, 2007.
Sindhi: An Introductory Course for English Speakers, Hubert F. Addleton & Pauline A. Brown, Doorlight Publications, 2010.
An Intensive Course in Sindhi, Kanhaiyalal Lekhwani, Central Institute of Indian Languages, 1995.