Urdu in USA

The Alliance for Pakistan and Urdu Studies ( APUS )

Breaking Down Barriers: New Community Center Aims To Celebrate Pakistani Culture, Connect Neighbors

The Alliance for Pakistan and Urdu Studies at New York University is proud to celebrate the First International Urdu Conference at NYU only two years after it was founded in 2013. APUS means “reciprocity” and “mutuality”. Our Organization works towards the promotion of a culture and a language,  with a rich and complex history. This history encompasses centuries-long social, ideological, political processes envisioned and articulated through its unique literary and intellectual traditions. Raising awareness about these traditions as well as recognizing, re-examining and celebrating them has been the main goal of our organization. We focus our efforts in the five  national capacity sectors: (1) academic/educational; (2) domestic heritage preservation; (3) government;  (4) overseas; and, (5) private providers.

First, the South Asian Language Program at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, NYU is the first one in the country to establish a separate and independent Urdu language program. In addition, since 2008 we have been the only one in the country to apply for and receive every year the STARTALK grant to hold an annual summer training institute for Urdu teachers. We have been lucky to receive a great response from Urdu teachers involved in community schools, colleges and federal institutions as well as prospective teachers who started teaching Urdu classes in different settings as a result of their training. With the STARTALK funding we have also been able to organize numerous training workshops and events, celebrating Urdu literature and culture in partnership with other Universities, such as Columbia University, University of Texas, Austin, CUNY, Yale University, St. John’s University or NYU, Abu Dhabi, etc. and also with public schools in NYC and NJ. In addition, we have initiated, consulted and received support from STARTALK to establish the first federally-funded Master’s in Urdu and Hindi Pedagogy at Kean University.

Second, we have succeeded to establish APUS Community Center in Brooklyn and APUS Student Initiative supporting academically and mentoring local children of the immigrant community. We have also join our efforts to promote the teaching and studying of Urdu language and literature with community organizations, such as the National Youth Organization of Pakistan; Pakistan Christian Association – USA; Sony Wattan Gilgit – Baltistan Association, Queens NY; Pakistan Music and Cultural Association, Brooklyn; Pakistani American Merchant Association, Brooklyn; Global Christian Voice Ridgewood, Queens;  Eric ki Bhatak; to name a few.

Third, we have worked with government officials and representatives. We have received acknowledgement and awards for our community efforts by the Brooklyn Borough, the Heampstead Town Clerk’s office, LI  and from the Bronx Community Council.

Forth, not only are we sending students on a Borren, Fulbright  or Critical Languages Scholarships to Study Abroad Programs, but we also are trying to establish relationships with institutions and organizations in Pakistan and have hosted Foreign Language Teaching Assistants from Pakistan and India for several years.

And finally, we reach out to private businesses to support us in our work. We hope that the promotion of the cultures and languages of Pakistan becomes a larger, nationwide and even, let us dream together, an international initiative. And we hope to move in this direction with our first International Urdu Conference at NYU where we hope to see representatives of the five capacity sectors in the U.S., Pakistan, and beyond interact and cooperate.

Why is what we do important? Because we need to develop fine sensitivity and deep understanding of the cultures and languages of other countries, in order to develop further our own intellectual horizons and tolerance towards diversity. Then only can we embark on the projects for change at home or abroad in the fields of literacy and education, equal opportunity, religious and ethnic tolerance, economic development, etc. And these projects can be completed only through the local language when understanding the local mindset and culture. And this is exactly where APUS helps!

APUS congratulates everyone here, in the U.S., in Pakistan and globally who is working towards the promotion of cultural sensitivity and tolerance. We are proud of these accomplishments and will continue adding our efforts like small drops in a big wave of a future in which all communities have a voice and a choice to pursue their dreams on equal terms.

  • Gabriela Nik. Ilieva
  • Clinical Professor
  • Chair, Alliance for Pakistan and Urdu Studies
  • Coordinator, South Asian Language Programs
  • Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
  • New York University