Urdu

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Urdu, like Bhojpuri, belongs to the Indo-Aryan language family. However there are some differences between Bhojpuri and Urdu. One of them is the Bhojpuri is mainly spoken by the Hindi population, while Urdu is mainly spoken by the Muslims. Among the two hundred thousand Muslims living in Mauritius, 64,000, that is, around 30%, of them speak Urdu (Johnstone, 1993). It is the second largest Indian language on the island, and is mainly spoken by the Indo-Mauritius Muslims.

Similar to all other minority languages in Mauritius, Urdu is most frequently used in religious and cultural contexts. As Urdu is one of the Muslim languages on the island, it appears widely in mosques and the Holy Quran. To help Muslims understanding the Holy Quran, Urdu is often taught in Islamic institutions madrassas or Dar-ul-Uloom. The education of Urdu is not restricted to religious institution but also formal education. The education in Mauritius allows students from primary to tertiary institutions to learn Urdu. In social ceremonies like betrothal and nikah in Muslim marriage, Urdu is also used since no terms in English and French can represent its cultural meanings, and the coinage of the terms in Creole is not suitable.

Although Urdu is the second largest language used by Indo-Mauritian, various reasons also caused negative influences on the development of the language. As what Rao (1994) suggested, Creole has slowly replaced Urdu. With the nation's mother tongue Mauritian Creole, people of different ethnicity who speaks different languages can communicate better by using this common language. Slowly they choose to communicate in Creole, particularly in urban area, in order to raise the communication efficiency, and left Urdu mainly used in religious discourses.

One of the other reasons is that a trend of learning Arabic at some parts of Africa during the 1970s. Not only people thought that Arabic could help them to understand the Holy Quran, they also believed that being proficient in Arabic can help them to have better jobs. Afraid of losing their jobs, quite a number of Urdu teachers worried that Arabic would some day replace Urdu, and thus started to learn and teach Arabic in order to secure their jobs, resulting in the linguistic erosion of Urdu.


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