Mr Rakesh Saraf shares his experience of learning Urdu with Zabaan.
My father was a scholar in Urdu amongst his other interests in life. When he passed away early in 2009, he left me many books. Amongst them was a veritable treasure trove of Urdu literature, including great poets like Iqbal and Ghalib. Some of those books had eventually to be re-bound because they were editions from the 1920s and 1930s.
What do I do with them? I knew as much Urdu as I did Quantum Mechanics, which is zero. The only letter I recognized out of the entire alphabet was Aliph, which resembles an ‘I’. So, one day, on an impulse I called in my trusty assistant, and asked her to look for an Urdu language school. She came back within a few hours saying that her google searches mostly led her to an institute called Zabaan, which also had great reviews. So, to cut a long story short, I enrolled.
In walks my instructor one Tuesday morning, a youngish chap with an American accent. I was flabbergasted. He is going to teach me an Indian language that scares me? He, with the midwestern accent, who was actually born and brought up in the US? Anyway, I was committed for 15 hours of instruction. The costs were so low, I felt almost embarrassed asking my various instructors to shlep all the way to my office twice a week. I expected to learn Urdu like a little child, reciting Aliph, Be, Pe, etc. My instructor spent very little time on this. We launched into reading essays within weeks. I still don’t know how.
One year later, my first instructor, he with the aforesaid accent, asked me to write a letter in Kashmiri, using the Urdu script. This letter was to be addressed to my first cousin who was the only one I knew who spoke and read Urdu. This letter went by snail mail, as I handwrote it. Small edits by my teacher, but by and large intact. My cousin was flabbergasted? You started learning Urdu from scratch just one year ago?
I am now 2 years into my lessons and am now mainly working on my vocabulary. During the course of the entire learning experience, I was intrigued by their methods. I visited the institute for the first time this year, and was astounded at how well it was maintained, and what a great learning environment it had. But the real trump card for me was how they taught.
There are many language schools. But there is only one Zabaan. Trust me, I know.
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