Where the rivers Ravi, Chenab, Sutlej, Jhelum, and Beas run in the north of the Indian subcontinent, the lilting tones of the Punjabi language flow like melodies weaving through the centuries.
Perhaps you’ve heard the call from the Punjab, the “Land of the Five Rivers,” to learn to speak this ancient tongue. Maybe you’re traveling to the Punjab, doing business there, or just wanting to speak with family and friends around the world in their native language.
Whatever your motivation for learning Punjabi, we’ll explore many resources that you can use to study and master it.
First, let’s discover more about the history and characteristics of this unique Indo-European language.
- About the Punjabi Language
- Hacking Punjabi for English Speakers
- Your Plan for Learning Punjabi
- Resources for Learning Punjabi
- Apps and Marketplaces for Learning Punjabi
- Language Exercises and Games
- Punjabi Podcasts
- YouTube Channels
- Punjabi Websites and Blogs
- Punjabi Newspapers and Magazines
- Punjabi Books
- Punjabi Dictionaries
- Punjabi Radio
- Punjabi Television
- Punjabi Music
- Punjabi Movies
About the Punjabi Language
In some ways, Punjabi is a language divided.
The Indian-Pakistani border denotes the distinction between Western Punjabi, spoken in Pakistan’s Punjab province, and Eastern Punjabi, spoken in the Indian state of Punjab.
Ethnic Punjabis comprise half to three-quarters of the Pakistani population. The Western standard of Punjabi, sometimes called Lahnda or Shahpur, is a majority language.
Yet, in Pakistan, the Punjabi language is sometimes seen as inferior.
Although spoken as a native language by millions in Pakistan, Punjabi has no official legal status there. English and Urdu serve as the country’s two official languages. Urdu, the first language of the Pakistani élite — about 8% of the population — was considered a “power language” for people wanting to advance in society.
Nonetheless, some argue that Punjabi — with its much larger number of native speakers — ought to have been selected as a national language in Pakistan. There is now a growing movement to make Punjabi language education mandatory in the Pakistani education system.
In the Indian state of Punjab, Punjabi is the official language. Per the 2011 census, Eastern Punjabi has about 36 million speakers, most of whom speak it as a first language.
Once Punjab became a separate Indian province, the government supported Punjabi-language education, and Punjabi media flourished. This strengthened the perception of Punjabi as a distinct language.
Yet, just as in Pakistan, there is some concern for the continued use and survival of Punjabi in India.
In certain contexts — such as state employment screenings or within private schools — Punjabi is being overshadowed by English. Even the chief Minister and the governor in Punjab have been using English to address the people of their state, 90% of whom speak Punjabi. Charanjit Singh Channi, who heads the Ministry of Technical Education and Industrial Training in Punjab, is promoting a resolution in the Punjabi legislature to make the Punjabi language compulsory throughout the school system.
Eastern Punjabi is also spoken in Haryana, West Bengal, and Delhi.
Linguistic Influences on Punjabi
From Darius the Great’s occupation of the Indus River Valley during the time of the Achaemenid Empire in 515 BC to the later Muslim conquests in the 10th century AD, both Old Persian and Arabic have contributed greatly to the Punjabi language — even more than the later influences of Greek and Turkish, Japanese and Portuguese, English and Chinese.
Differing histories in each country have produced a variance in cultural and linguistic influences. Indian (Eastern) Punjabi has adopted many words of Sanskrit origin, with a smattering of Arabic-influenced words. Western Punjabi is heavy on Persian and Arabic linguistic influence, without the imprint of Sanskrit.
The Majhi dialect of Punjabi as a standardized form of the language, common to both Pakistan and India. (This is not to be confused with the Majhi language, spoken primarily in Nepal.)
Punjabi Around the World
Today, between 100 million and 125 million people around the world speak some form of Punjabi. It’s among the top five languages spoken in the UK and Canada, and among the top thirty languages spoken in the US.
Punjabi speakers in Pakistan greatly outnumber those in India. Yet, due to the language’s lack of official status in Pakistan, it’s much harder to find learning resources for Western Punjabi.
If you’re looking to learn Punjabi as an English speaker, you’re much more likely to run across resources for learning the Eastern (Indian) standard of the language.
Due to this bias, most of the resources mentioned in this post will be for Eastern Punjabi learners — although we will certainly discuss available Western Punjabi resources. If there are other Western Punjabi resources that we should include, please let us know in the comments section!
Hacking Punjabi for English Speakers
The Eastern standard of Punjabi has incorporated some English loanwords, which may help English speakers trying to learn that form of Punjabi.
Nonetheless, the many differences between English and Punjabi might trip you up.
Challenges of the Punjabi Language
Let’s examine a few potential snags for Punjabi learners — especially those who are native English speakers.
If you’d like a deeper dive on this topic, this thesis provides an in-depth understanding of the differences between Punjabi and English grammar.
The two different standards of the Punjabi language are represented in writing by two very different scripts.
Shahmukhi: “From the Mouth of the Shah”
Western Punjabi, spoken primarily by Muslims in Pakistan’s Punjab region, uses the Shahmukhi script — a right-to-left script derived from the Nastaʼlīq script used to write in Arabic.
Gurmukhī :“From the Mouth of the Guru”
In the Indian state of Punjab, the Gurmukhī script is generally used by the Sikh population to write Eastern Punjabi. Gurmukhī comes from the Devanāgarī scripts used in northern India. (Hindus who speak Punjabi tend to write it in Devanāgarī.)
Like the English alphabet, Gurmukhī is written left-to-right.
Gurmukhī can be somewhat simple to learn, because each letter only makes one sound — unlike English, where the same letter can make more than one sound, or more than one letter can make the same sound.
Punjabi uses grammatical gender for improper nouns. This is not normal for English speakers.
In Punjabi, adjectives must be either feminine or masculine, depending on the nouns they modify.
There are a few rules of thumb for distinguishing noun genders. Many of them are based upon the endings of singular nouns.
Like Mandarin or Cantonese, Punjabi is a tonal language. The vocal inflection placed on different syllables in Punjabi words can change the words’ meaning.
There are a number of different Punjabi dialects, each of which has its own tonal characteristics. Most Punjabi dialects have at least three tones, which are generally described as “low/rising,” “middle/medium,” and “high/falling.”
Tonal languages can be particularly tricky for English speakers. Although we use syllable stress to change meaning in English, we don’t change the pitch of individual syllables or words to change meaning, the way tonal languages do.
Declensions in Punjabi
Punjabi declines nouns, altering their form to change their meaning.
For instance, Punjabi uses a vocative case that changes nouns to indicate that someone is being directly addressed. (English uses the “direct address” or “vocative” comma for this function.)
Punjabi words often use a suffix to indicate qualities such as the number of something, its gender, or its case. (This is sometimes called “inflection.”)
Instead of prepositions that precede nouns, Punjabi uses postpositions.
Most Punjabi nouns followed by postpositions must be declined in the oblique case.
Some of the word order in Punjabi may seem odd to English speakers.
Rather than the Subject-Verb-Object pattern normally found in English, Punjabi uses a fairly strict Subject-Object-Verb word order.
Polite Forms in Punjabi
Similar to vous in French (which is both the plural and formal form of “you”), Punjabi can use the same pronoun for both the formal/polite form and the plural form.
Your Plan for Learning Punjabi
As with any complex endeavor, you will more likely succeed at learning Punjabi if you start by making a plan.
Decide on Your Goals
You’ll approach your studies in a different way if you’re learning more formal Punjabi for business or learning “survival Punjabi” for travel. If you’re trying to get more fluent to connect to family and friends, your approach will be different than someone who’s going to study in the Punjab.
You can further refine your learning goals based on whether you’re a complete beginner, an intermediate learner with rusty Punjabi, or an advanced learner who is trying to reach native-level fluency.
Figure Out Your Timeframe
Your learning goals may not be bound by a specific timeframe.
On the other hand, you might already have a trip planned, or have family coming to visit soon from the Punjab. In these cases, mark your calendar with projected learning milestones. To achieve the desired level of fluency on time, you’ll need to commit to a study schedule.
Pick an Approach
Based on your learning goals, the type of Punjabi you want to learn, and your timeframe (if any), you can decide on a learning approach that will best suit your needs.
While you’re planning, take your own personal preferences into consideration. If you know your learning style, use that information to choose resources that will accelerate your learning.
Think back to your own educational experiences. What kind of learning did you most enjoy? Was it lectures? Videos or other presentations with a lot of visual content? Did you prefer reading and then applying your knowledge through exercises?
We’ll be looking at a plethora of different Punjabi-learning resources in the next section. Start with the ones that most appeal to you. After all, you have a long learning journey ahead of you — you don’t want it to be a drag from the very beginning. Begin with something you find fun or exciting, whether it’s word games, an interactive app, or a series of comical videos about basic Punjabi.
Keep Yourself on Track
Learning the basics of a new language — especially one that’s somewhat different from your native language — is a process that takes many months. And that’s just the beginning.
A language journal can help you stay on the right track. Update it regularly — but don’t make it a burden.
Practice writing in your chosen Punjabi script. Record new words and review old ones. Look back periodically at older entries to see how far you’ve come.
Let yourself do free writing in your language journal: Puzzle over what you don’t understand about Punjabi. Air your frustrations. Evaluate your learning process.
If a language journal isn’t your cup of tea, consider recruiting an accountability partner. While it would be helpful if your partner is also learning Punjabi, it’s not mandatory. Check in regularly with each other to make sure you’re each meeting your goals. An accountability partner can also be a great source of support when you’re discouraged — or simply tired of studying.
To avoid learning burnout, keep study sessions short. It’s better to do ten or fifteen minutes a day than four hours, once a week.
If you are under time constraints and have to learn Punjabi more quickly, think of creative ways to keep yourself interested.
Review, Reconsider, and Remix
As you learn Punjabi, you’ll go through many phases. Apps or exercises that delighted you when you started out might start to get on your nerves after a few months.
It’s important to review your progress and reconsider your learning options every few weeks or months. Take a break from some learning resources, and add some new ones to the mix.
Varying your learning resources and tasks does more than maintain your interest in learning Punjabi: When you’re learning a living language, you’ll want to immerse yourself in many different resources as possible so you’ll learn more of the language — everything from basic vocab and grammar rules to slang and specialized vocabulary. Even if you only concentrate on a small handful of resources at a time, it’s important to expose yourself to a broad range of resources — like the wide variety of Punjabi-learning tools we’re about to explore.
Resources for Learning Punjabi: Language Courses and Apps
Only a few of the better-known language courses have tackled Punjabi. Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, Busuu, and Glossika are not offering Punjabi courses at the time of this writing.
Unless otherwise noted, the following courses teach Eastern (Indian) Punjabi, using the Gurmukhī script.
With video lessons, quizzes, and lots of cultural information, this course builds a solid foundation for learning the language.
You’ll start with learning about the Gurmukhī script, how it is organized, and how it is used to build words. There are numerous vocabulary lessons, presented by category.
As you progress through the lessons, you’ll move on to literature, stories, and rhymes, as well as many lessons covering everyday Punjabi conversation.
For each lesson, there’s a vocabulary list, a quiz, and a set of helpful downloads:
- Audio version (MP3 file)
- Lesson transcript (PDF)
- Vocabulary list with color-coded columns for Gurmukhī, romanized phonetic version, and English translation
You’ll also find links to video lectures from Dr. Harjit Singh Gill, based upon a textbook called A Start in Punjabi.
Even though there are a few lessons still in production, which aren’t available yet on the eLearnPunjabi site, this is a very thorough and enjoyable course.
The Pimsleur program’s recently-redesigned app includes some reading practice and cultural notes, but the emphasis is primarily on speaking.
Conversations mirroring real-life situations, such as checking into a hotel or meeting a new person, introduce new vocabulary in Pimsleur’s lessons.
Visually oriented learners may be stymied by the lack of corresponding text during the audio portions of the lessons. However, the spaced repetition, flash cards, and word-matching exercises will help reinforce the Punjabi you’re learning.
The quality of Memrise courses can vary, since they’re contributed by professional educators and amateurs alike. Still, Memrise’s open sourcing of curriculum usually produces a variety of courses, even for harder-to-find languages. Punjabi is no exception.
Learn Basic Punjabi by Talwaar-e-Fateh is a solid Memrise course with good, clear audio. You’ll learn fundamentals such as greetings, numbers, personal pronouns, telling time, and basic verb conjugations.
With over 3,700 words and phrases, the 50 Languages – Punjabi (No Typing) course can certainly help you expand your vocabulary. The caveat? There’s no audio, so you won’t learn how any of these Eastern Punjabi words are pronounced. It’s probably best for intermediate learners who already know some Gurmukhī script, or for those who are only planning on reading and writing in Punjabi. In addition to many individual words, you’ll get exposure to plenty of simple sentences.
The General Vocabulary and Basic Sentences course lacks audio, but it boasts a very logical and systematic presentation of categorized vocabulary and grammar.
The Eastern Punjabi lessons on Learn101’s website are not fancy. However, they are well-organized.
Vocabulary and basic phrases are presented with clear audio clips to match the Gurmukhī and phonetic renderings. Grammar concepts such as prepositions, adverbs, plurals, negation, and the interrogative are covered. Cardinal and ordinal numbers are taught together. There’s a short quiz to test your knowledge of Punjabi.
iLanguages’ Learn Punjabi
The iLanguages.org site has simple Eastern Punjabi lessons for beginners, with a very similar setup to Learn101’s site.
5abi offers text-based lessons for beginning learners. Its author’s aim was to reach Punjabi learners around the world, particularly children of the diaspora.
While these lessons are not interactive, the explanations are straightforward and comprehensive. You’ll start with the alphabet, Punjabi language sounds, and basic greetings in Lesson 1. Lesson 2 continues with a few games and exercises, and a lot of additional vocabulary.
Although these lessons have a few shortcomings, they would probably appeal to verbal-linguistic learners who like to read and learn about their target language in great depth, with extensive written explanations. Auditory learners might lament the lack of audio pronunciation examples, or stimulating recorded dialogues.
Mango Languages (Western Punjabi)
One of the few major language courses to teach Western/Pakistani-style Punjabi with the Shahmukhi script is Mango Languages.
Mango Languages’ lessons can work well for complete beginners who want to start speaking early. Basic greetings are introduced in the form of dialogue.
You will be taught to construct sentences using modular component elements — a method that might appeal to logical or mathematical learners.
One of Mango Language’s helpful features, aside from the grammatical tips and cultural nuggets, is the green slider at the top of the screen. This slider lets you toggle between the more idiomatic translation, which is the default, and the literal translation.
Mango Languages also does a good job of identifying whether a certain phrase is used in a casual situation or a more formal register.
17 Minute Languages
This program offers lessons in many languages, and Eastern (Indian) Punjabi is one of them. However, 17 Minute Languages is not a program we can heartily recommend.
If you’d like to try it yourself, you can sign up for free, two-day access to a “Punjabi for Travelers” course.
Resources for Learning Punjabi Scripts
One of the biggest hurdles for Punjabi learners can be mastering Gurmukhī or Shahmukhi script. Here are a few resources to get you started.
Gurmukhī (Eastern Punjabi Script)
Gurmukhī – The Punjabi Alphabet (video)
This video introduces the letters and their names one by one, then puts it all together with a catchy Punjabi alphabet song.
Learn Gurmukhī – Punjabi Alphabet Part 01 and Part 02 (videos)
Part 01 of this set of videos from Khalsa Junior will teach you all of the individual letters in the script. Part 02 pairs the letters with words, sayings, and proper names that use them.
Sing the Basic Gurmukhī Punjabi Alphabet! (video)
Pashaura Dhillon shares his original tune for learning Gurmukhī.
Gurmukhī Mastery (IPA) (Memrise course)
If you know the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and appreciate detailed explanations, you’ll enjoy this course. While there’s no audio, it provides a systematic way to practice the Gurmukhī script.
Punjabi Alphabet (Memrise course)
This course goes through the Gurmukhī script, letter by letter, using Romanized transliterations — rather than the IPA — to help you learn the sound of each letter.
Shahmukhi (Western Punjabi Script)
Many of the YouTube resources for learning Shahmukhi presuppose a knowledge of Gurmukhī. However, there are other ways to learn the Shahmukhi script.
Western Punjabi resources from the Academy of the Punjab in North America include lessons in the Shahmukhi script.
Wikibooks has a series of lessons on learning Shahmukhi. These are well-organized and detailed, and will probably appeal to logical-mathematical learners. Unfortunately, some of the lessons seem to be missing at this time. Nonetheless, the in-depth explanations may be helpful, since they break each character down into its initial, medial, and final components.
Apps and Marketplaces for Learning Punjabi
In addition to more traditional courses, there are mobile apps that teach Punjabi more casually.
Other programs and apps can help you locate Punjabi-learning resources, such as tutors or conversation partners.
Mobile Apps for Learning Punjabi
Language Curry is a language-learning startup based in Gurugram, in northern India. They specialize in teaching languages such as Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Sanskrit, and Eastern Punjabi. Their app is available for both iOS and Android devices, and emphasizes speaking over reading. There are plenty of cultural notes to give you a deeper understanding of Punjabi speakers. However, you’ll need supplementary materials if your goal is learning to read and write Punjabi, in addition to speaking it.
The Learn Punjabi app from Punjabi Charm, currently available for Android, will teach you Eastern Punjabi. You’ll learn how to draw each letter in Gurmukhī script, step-by-step. The app will track your progress as you master Gurmukhī letters and numbers, as well as Punjabi words…including basics such as colors.
The Learn Punjabi with script and pronunciation app for iOS users presents Eastern Punjabi vocabulary in logical categories, such as Basics, People, Body and Health, Shopping, and Food and Drinks. The app includes flashcards with Gurmukhī and phonetic Punjabi, multiple choice quizzes, and vocabulary lists. Hear the pronunciation for each word or phrase. Add important words to your own customized Favorites list.
Language Exchange Apps
Tandem, Hello Talk, and Speaky connect Punjabi learners with conversation partners.
You can converse with conversation partners via texting, or arrange for a remote audio/video call.
Language Tutor Marketplaces
Both italki and Verbling can set you up with a Punjabi tutor. Verbling uses only certified teachers; italki has a mix of certified teachers and community tutors.
As of this writing, all the Punjabi teachers on Verbling hail from India, so it’s unlikely you’d find a Western Punjabi tutor there.
Punjabi tutors from both India and Pakistan are available on italki.
Language Exercises and Games
Games and language exercises can be helpful learning tools. Unfortunately, two language game sites, Clozemaster and Digital Dialects, don’t currently offer Punjabi.
SikhVille.org has an Eastern Punjabi language games page. It’s intended for children, but it’s also useful and fun for beginning adult learners. These games teach basic Punjabi concepts and vocabulary, including:
If you’d like to make your own Punjabi flashcards for online or mobile device use, Anki can be an excellent choice. It supports numerous alphabets and scripts, as well as embedded audio and video. Currently, there are a limited number of pre-made Punjabi flashcard decks available.
Amazon also carries some Punjabi flashcards, especially for learning Gurmukhī. This set, by SikhLink, appears to be the size of standard playing cards, so they’d probably be easy to carry around.
PlayerFM hosts numerous Punjabi podcasts. Some suggested podcasts are Learn Punjabi Like a Native and SikhNet Stories for Children (both Eastern Punjabi). AWR Punjabi and EDC: Translation of the Meaning of the Quran in Punjabi could work for Western Punjabi learners.
There are several YouTube channels dedicated to learning Punjabi from English. Some of them will be more helpful for beginning learners; others will appeal more to intermediate and advanced learners.
Eastern (Indian) Punjabi
The Learn Punjabi / Gurmukhi: Read & Write & Speak playlist from the singhdhoor channel on YouTube will teach you some Punjabi basics, such as:
● Sounds of the Gurmukhī alphabet
Almost all of these videos have English-language voiceovers. The sanyukt akhar (half letters) video has no audio; however, its written explanations are fairly extensive.
Encore!!! Language Learning, a company with a new language-learning app, has a YouTube playlist dedicated to learning Eastern Punjabi with Gurmukhī script. There are “semi-immersive” and “total immersion” videos that teach sixty Punjabi phrases apiece…plus other videos that focus on specific topics, such as shopping for food.
Actdpl Punjabi University’s channel presents twenty-one Eastern Punjabi lessons, averaging about forty-five minutes apiece. These lessons are based on the text of A Start in Punjabi, by Gleason and Gill.
This simple classroom format features Professor Gill, a blackboard, and various language charts. Graphics are used to show the Gurmukhī script and English translations more clearly. The professor speaks slowly and the lessons are easily understandable.
You’ll start with a grounding in the history of the Punjabi language, move on to learning the script, and then tackle more complex structures and topics. The approach of these lessons would be particularly appealing to verbal-linguistic learners.
The experience is like having a front-row seat in a university lecture hall, learning Punjabi thoroughly, at a high level.
Punjabi Charm is an active channel with a wealth of videos, nicely organized into playlists. You can learn Eastern Punjabi through English or Hindi; the videos for English speakers are color-coded in red, and the videos for Hindi speakers are color-coded in purple. In addition to more structured lessons, there are live-stream speaking sessions published regularly.
Stephen Gucciardi’s YouTube channel has two playlists that will be helpful for Punjabi learners: One is the Punjabi Grammar Series, which will help you learn Punjabi plurals, the oblique case, the vocative case, echo words, and more. The other is the Learning Punjabi playlist, which offers tips on improving your Punjabi accent, typing in Punjabi, and tools for learning Punjabi.
For advanced learners, the Learn Punjabi with Jagjeet Sir channel presents higher-level video lessons, classified according to India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) standards. Lessons are taught almost entirely in Punjabi. The teacher is well-educated, with several graduate degrees. The lessons appear to be thoughtfully organized. Updates are posted to Jagjeet Sir’s Facebook page, and a corresponding website is in the works.
Advanced learners looking for news and entertainment on YouTube may also enjoy the Apna Punjab TV channel, which is an Eastern Punjabi channel based in Canada.
The Jagat Sewak Web TV channel, from Bagha Purana, India, has a wealth of news videos from Delhi, Punjab, and Chandigarh.
Western (Pakistani) Punjabi
As with other resources, YouTube seems to offer less content for learners of Western Punjabi than it does for the Eastern counterpart of the language. Still, there are a couple of helpful videos and channels for Western Punjabi learners.
Encore!!! Language Learning has one of the few YouTube resources for beginning learners of Western Punjabi who wish to learn through English. The lessons are presented with English, Shahmukhi, and romanized Punjabi phonetics.
You can also learn basic phrases in Western Punjabi with this “Learn before Sleeping” video from Learning Phrases with Chris & Friends. You’ll see the Shahmukhi word or phrase, followed by a phonetic version in the Latin alphabet, followed by the translation of the phrase in English. Each word or phrase will be repeated three times in Punjabi.
If you’re at an upper intermediate or advanced level of Western Punjabi, you’ll find lots of cultural, historical, and current events content on the Punjabi Lehar channel. There’s even a playlist called “Kabaddi,” with videos from matches of this popular Southern Asian sport.
The Lokaai Punjabi TV channel delivers a variety of short videos to intermediate and advanced learners of Western Punjabi. These include news features, poems, and short stories.
Punjabi Websites and Blogs
For families with young children studying Eastern Punjabi, the SikhVille.org site has varied resources. These include word game downloads, lessons on constructing Punjabi sentences, and Punjabi videos about Sikh culture. The site also links to related apps for Android and iOS; these apps were developed by its sponsor, Vismaad.
The Academy of the Punjab in North America (APNA) hosts a website offering content for learners of both Western and Eastern Punjabi. The APNA site features interviews and articles, as well as research papers, in the Shahmukhi script for intermediate and advanced Western Punjabi learners.
Singer and poet Pashaura Singh Dhillon’s site has both Eastern Punjabi and English-language content. He blogs about music, poetry, and other cultural topics.
While not a Punjabi language blog, this article on Punjabi culture from the Pakpedia site will introduce you to the music and literature of Western Punjabi. You’ll learn about famous Punjabi writers, poets, singers, and other artists, whose work can enrich your Punjabi learning adventure.
Punjabi Newspapers and Magazines
Here is a brief list of online Punjabi newspapers and magazines.
Eastern Punjabi Periodicals
● Ajitlandhar (Jalandhar, India)
● Punjab Express (Italy)
● Punjabi Tribune (Chandigarh, India)
● Sky Hawk Times (Mohali, India)
Western Punjabi Periodicals (based in Pakistan)
While perhaps not as exciting as videos or interactive apps, textbooks provide thorough explanations of grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary that you can absorb completely at your own pace.
An Introduction to Punjabi: Grammar, Conversation, and Literature by Gurinder Singh Mann is a foundational text that’s highly recommended by YouTuber Stephen Gucciardi. It focuses on Eastern Punjabi, using the Gurmukhī script.
This book is difficult to find as a hardcopy. As of this writing, it’s . However, it’s available for download or online reading through the Sikh Book Club website. (Signing in using your Google account may present technical difficulties. You can easily create a free account on the Sikh Book Club website to gain access to this and other resources.)
The Sikh Book Club has other free-of-charge Eastern Punjabi learning materials, such as:
● Readwell’s Learn Punjabi in a Month by Bhai Ishwar Datt (Indian Language Series)
● Gurmukhī Giān: Come To Learn Punjabi by Dr. Satnam Singh Sandhu
● Learn Punjabi in 25 Days by Bhai Santokh Singh
Several of these textbooks include Gurmukhī writing practice, language writing exercises, and Punjabi reading exercises.
These textbooks are part of an extensive online catalogue of Punjabi books available from Sikh Book Club. These free books can be read online, downloaded as PDFs, or printed out.
Punjabi Books for Intermediate and Advanced Learners
Intermediate learners of Eastern Punjabi can get reading practice through these simple children’s stories from SikhVille.org.
Learners of either Western or Eastern Punjabi can enjoy Gurmeet Kaur’s . This book teaches about the entire Punjabi region with text in Gurmukhī, Shahmukhi, and English.
For learners of Western (Pakistani) Punjabi, the Academy of the Punjab in North America has a collection of free Shahmukhi e-books, as well as Shahmukhi magazines.
Advanced learners may find some value in the free ebook downloads from LearnPunjabi, sponsored by Punjabi University in Patiala. These offerings include phonetic and IPA transcriptions of Eastern Punjabi texts (with translations), an Encyclopedia of Punjabi Language and Culture, and several volumes of verse.
The Sooherang Punjabi Bookstore has tiered plans, paid and unpaid, that give members access to various Eastern Punjabi books and ebooks.
Although a few dozen books are currently available to read online, only four of them are accessible through a non-paid account. That said, the membership prices are fairly modest. As of this writing, you can have a paid annual membership for as low as $2 per month.
In order to get access to any of Sooherang’s e-books, even the free ones, you’ll need to register on the site.
LearnPunjabi.org has an interactive online Punjabi-English Dictionary. You can search for words via Gurmukhī, Shahmukhi, or English meaning. (There’s a virtual onscreen keyboard that you can use to type in Shahmukhi or Gurmukhī script.)
Amazon has a few Eastern Punjabi dictionaries, available as print books:
● by Gurkirpal Singh Sekhon
● by Manmohan Kaur (includes a pronunciation guide, plus categorized words and phrases)
● by Wahab Translations
The English Punjabi Dictionary (Seventh Revised Edition) by Punjabi University is available through the Sikh Book Club. Like the dictionaries available on Amazon, it’s for Eastern Punjabi.
If you’d like a mobile dictionary app for Eastern Punjabi, the Punjabi Dictionary by Kulpreet Chilana may be a good choice for you. Unfortunately, it’s only available for iOS at this time.
California-based Punjabi Radio USA broadcasts in Eastern Punjabi on the West Coast of the U.S. You can also stream the station online, or listen to it on a mobile app.
From elsewhere in the Punjabi diaspora comes Panjab Radio. It’s broadcast from the UK, and available online and through mobile streaming apps.
Online Radio Box streams numerous Eastern Punjabi stations from India and around the world.
From the Pakistani Punjab, Online Radio Box offers streaming from about twenty stations.
Several of the major subscription services bring Punjabi programming — mostly from India — right into your living room:
● Dish Network’s Punjabi TV packages
● Punjabi TV packages on Sling TV
● World Punjabi and Mehak Punjabi TV on Roku
Coming from Canada, Apna Punjab broadcasts a variety of Eastern Punjabi programs, which you can access online.
AjitTV streams Eastern Punjabi programming online from its website.
Google Play has a Punjabi TV and Movies Online app for Android devices.
Punjabi music is available in many styles, and can add energy and spice to your language studies. A YouTube search for “Punjabi pop music” will yield pop, dance, rap, and hip-hop, among other types of songs.
Here are but a few genres of Punjabi music.
Sufi and Folk Music
TheSufi.com has a large collection of both Sufi and Punjabi folk music. You can download over 6,000 songs in MP3 format, ensuring hours of Punjabi listening.
With roots in the Punjab and popularized by the Punjabi community in Great Britain, Bhaṅgṛā music is a favorite within the Punjabi diaspora. A fusion between traditional Punjabi folk music and Western musical instruments of the 20th century, Bhaṅgṛā music is even finding a place in Bollywood films.
You can hear Bhaṅgṛā music on TuneIn.com, as well as on the Music India Online site.
The APNA site features an extensive collection of both Sufi and folk music, plus Punjabi pop and Bhaṅgṛā music.
Punjabi folk singer Pashaura Singh Dhillon has audio downloads of his music on Bandcamp. Try his YouTube channel for “moving image slideshows” of his songs, with English subtitles.
For popcorn-powered Punjabi learning, check out these sources for cinematic curriculum:
Tech tip and review site Tekkibytes, from Kolkata native Soumik Ghosh, features a list of Punjabi movie download sites.
Streaming service Netflix has a tremendous amount of Punjabi-language content. You’ll find movies and television shows in several genres, including romance and comedy. Netflix generally gives you many options for audio and subtitle control, so you can probably set these for Punjabi audio with English subtitles to start. As you progress in your knowledge of the language, you can switch to Punjabi audio with Punjabi subtitles — and then, perhaps, drop the subtitles altogether when you reach an advanced phase of your learning.
Punjabi links India and Pakistan through hundreds of years of history. It’s the language of a colorful culture that’s been embraced by Bollywood and spoken throughout the world.
Whether you learn this lyrical language for travel or business, or to connect to friends and family, becoming a fluent Punjabi speaker is a tremendously rewarding experience.