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Learn Punjabi Gurmukhi Alphabet, Practice Tips, From Billie Grosse The Font-maker


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Practice makes perfect . . .
Start off by learning the alphabet, five letters at a time. Write them down and get the shapes, sounds and names correct before moving onto the next five - you don't have to be perfect, look at a score of 4/5 to start with. Then do a similar thing with the vowels. Once you have learned the letters and vowels, you can write things down in English. This should take several weeks to do. Once you have learned these, you can start to develop fluency (which is the fun bit).
One of the most effective ways to learn something is to immerse yourself in it - a bit like learning how to swim by being thrown in at the deep end. However, although I know people who have learned Punjabi by going to live in India for a year, this site is not about learning Punjabi - it is about learning Gurmukhi and you can do that at home (or at least locally).

So, here are a number of suggestions of how to learn how to read and write Gurmukhi in a short period of time. Which are more or less appropriate for you will depend upon your own circumstances.

  • Shopping list (in English, Punjabi or both);
  • 'secret' notes (to self or friends or on calendar and so on);
  • newspapers (in Punjabi); and,
  • On-line resources (in Punjabi) such as on-line versions of newspapers.
The shopping list is what I used and this is how I did it.
Shopping list . . .
If you do your own shopping (doesn't matter what age you are for this, there is always something that you can write down), you can write your shopping list in Gurmukhi. I wanted to learn Punjabi as well so I use a mixture of English and Punjabi on my list.

To start with, I folded a piece of A4 paper into 2 and then 2 again. On one quarter, I wrote my list in Roman (this text). On the other side, I wrote it in Gurmukhi. When I had done, I folded the list so that I couldn't easily read the Roman version and then, I had to read it in Gurmukhi. If I couldn't read it, I could always open up and read the Roman version so I knew that I wasn't going to be left in a position of not being able to complete the shopping.

One thing to note is that Gurmukhi is phonetic and one other thing is that there is little in the way of standardised spelling and even less for foreign (non-Punjabi) words. So, in English, you can write it the way you say it. One example of this - although it has nothing at all to do with shopping lists (not normally) - is the way I say the word 'garage'. Many people in England say 'ਗਰਿਜ' and the Americans say 'ਗੱਰਾਝ' but I say 'ਗਰਾਝ'. None of them are wrong, that's just the way it is. So, onto the shopping list.

You can see that I'm fairly organised with this: the list has the name of the store on it (habit - you can tell when you've missed somewhere out) and the date (it's often best to use today's list rather than yesterday's) and then everything is pretty much in the order that it appears in the store.
Fresh veg at the beginning, through to bread and then frozen at the end.

To check on the identity of something in the image of the list, if you hover your mouse over the writing, you should get a 'tool-tip' of it.

There is an A4 PDF page to print out from the resources page on using Gurmukhi to write English words. One thing you have to remember is that even though there are only 26 letters in the Roman alphabet, there are more than 26 sounds used (more than 40) and there are 35+ and 10 vowel forms in Gurmukhi so it is not as though there is a large tract of Gurmukhi that has no use.

However, there are areas of deficiency (the lack of any distinction between 'w' and 'v' or between 'a' and 'e') and areas of over supply (such as having a differentiation between lines 4 and 5 [lines starting with ਟ and ਤ]. These reflect the areas of concentration in Punjabi rather than Gurmukhi trying to be able to represent the sounds made in all languages in the Universe).
So, without a formal standard for the spelling of English words in Gurmukhi (there isn't one for Punjabi words either, as a matter of interest), you are free to write down the words how you say them.

One item to note regards choice of letters from lines 4 and 5 (lines starting with ਟ and ਤ). The tongue position for line 5 is so far forward that it has been traditional to represent a normal English 't' as a ਟ and 'd' as a ਡ. A voiceless 'th' (as in 'think') as a ਥ but a voiced 'th' (as in 'this') as a ਢ.
The letter 'n' is usually represented as a ਨ. 'ink' (as in 'sink') and 'ing' (as in 'thing') are normally shown as ਸਿੰਕ and ਥਿੰਗ even though you could write ਥਿੰਗ as ਥਿੰਙ instead.

Plurals ending with a voiced 'z' use the paer-bindi form ਜ਼ and whilst the 'sh' sound as in 'shiny' uses ਸ਼, the 'sh' sound as in 'chef' or 'Cherie' uses ਛ
As a result of this, you can write things down in virtually any language once you have an idea of what to do.

GurmukhiRomanTranslation ਢਾ ਕ੍ਵਿਕ ਬ੍ਰਾਉਨ ਫਾਕਸ ਜੁਮਪਸ ਓਵੈਰ ਢਾ ਲੇਜ਼ੀ ਡਾਗ The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog ਨਮ ਐਟ ਇਪਸਾ ਸਾਐਂਟੀਆ ਪੋਟੈਸਟਾਸ ਐਸਟ Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est. (Latin) Knowledge itself is power. ਝੈ ਮੈ ਡੈਮਾਂਡ ਕੈਲ ਗੂ ਈਲ ਔੜੇ ਡਾਂਜ਼ ਐਂ ਸੌਸ ਓ ਵੰਨ ਰੂਝ Je me demande quel gout il aurait dans une sauce au vin rouge? (French) I wonder what it would taste like in a red wine sauce. ਇਖ ਬਿਨ ਡੀ ਗੰਜ਼ਾ ਵਾਖਾ ਬੈਤ੍ਰੁੰਕਨ Ich bin die ganze woche betrunken. (German) (Punjabi)
ਮੈਂ ਸਾਰਾ ਹਫਤਾ ਸ਼ਰਾਬੀ ਸੀ
(ਤੁਹਨੂੰ ਪਹਿਲਾ ਪੜ੍ਹੋ, ਫੇਰ ਸਮਝੋ)
ਲੌ ਜੌਈਸਿੰਗ ਗੌ ਸਿੰਕੀ lor jaw-ee-sing gaw sinkee. (Cantonese Chinese) ਯਾ ਸਮ ਬੀਓ ਪੀਆਨ ਸੀਐਲੋ ਸੈਡਮਿਤਸੂ Ja sam bio pijan cijelu sedamicu. (Bosnian) ਅਮ ਫਾਸਤ ਬੀਅਤ ਤੋਆਤਾ ਸਪਤਾਮਿਨਾ Am fost beat toată săptămâna. (Romanian)
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