Gain a better understanding of the culture of South Asia by studying one of its languages such as Hindi, Urdu or Sanskrit. 

The Program in South Asian Studies offers a six-term sequence of language instruction in Hindi and Urdu and Sanskrit and that the completion of the fourth semester or its equivalent through demonstrated proficiency satisfies Princeton’s language requirement. The fifth and sixth semester courses in Hindi and Urdu literature can also be used toward the South Asian Studies minor or certificate course requirement, as well as the University’s LA distribution requirement. Completion of four terms of language satisfies Princeton’s language requirement. The language courses emphasize speaking, reading and writing, as well as the cultural context of South Asia. Students are encouraged to take advantage of intensive summer language programs and opportunities to study or travel in South Asia, including a semester or a year abroad.

Hindi and Urdu

Discover one of the most vibrant regions of the modern world and the rich heritage of the South Asian cultures through Hindi and Urdu languages. Hindi is the national language of India, and Urdu is the national language of Pakistan. Together, Hindi-Urdu is the 4th biggest language of the world in terms of the number of speakers. Hindi and Urdu are nearly identical and mutually comprehensible at the spoken level but differ in terms of the script and cultural markers. At the formal and literary level they distinguish themselves. Hindi derives its vocabulary from Sanskrit, while Urdu borrows from Persian and Arabic. In the beginning and advanced levels Hindi and Urdu are taught together. At the intermediate level and beyond, students have the opportunity to focus intensively on one script, while continuing to develop their broader cultural and linguistic fluency in Hindi-Urdu.

A mixed variety of the two languages is used by Bollywood, the biggest film industry in the world. Hindi-Urdu opens the door to studying rich and diverse cultures of the Indian sub-continent as well as the controversial politics of one of the most important regions of the globalized world through film, literature, and other forms of popular media.


Sanskrit is the classical language of the South Asian cultural world, with a vast literature (still in production) that extends back over 3,000 years to what may be the earliest extant texts in any Indo-European language. Like Latin for medieval Europe, it was the lingua franca for much of Asia (from Afghanistan to Java) for 1,000 years, during which time drama, poetry, science and philosophy in Sanskrit reached their peak. The key writings for the study of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and other Indic religious traditions are in Sanskrit. In modern times, the European “discovery” of Sanskrit language and literature (including its unique grammatical science) sparked the rise of modern linguistics and religious studies, and an ever-growing interest in Asian religions and cultures has brought a variety of Sanskrit “world classics” to the attention of philosophers, historians, litterateurs, musicians and spiritual seekers.


Language lecturers in the Program in South Asian Studies include Fauzia Farooqui and Robert Phillips, who teach Hindi-Urdu, and Nataliya Yanchevskaya, who teaches Sanskrit.  

In addition to teaching Hindi and Urdu at Princeton, Farooqui also teaches literature, as well as other South Asian Studies courses. Prior to joining the University, Farooqui taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and the Defense Language Institute. She also worked as a Urdu-Hindi Language Specialist at the National Foreign Language Center, housed by the University of Maryland. Additionally, she has published various writings including poetry, short stories and literary critiques in leading Urdu literary journals as well as a monograph on Urdu prose poetry. She has co-authored two textbooks, Beginning Urdu and Beginning Hindi, published by Georgetown University Press.

Phillips joined the University in 2013 teaching Hindi and Urdu. Prior to this position, he was a program coodinator and lecturer at Emory University in Hindi-Urdu language and literature and a lecturer at North Carolina State University and the South Asia Summer Language Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. His teaching and research interests include South Asian literary culture, translation studies and Hindi-Urdu language pedagogy. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Yanchevskaya joined the University in 2015 as a Sanskrit lecturer. Prior to this appointment, she was an adjunct lecturer in South Asian Religions at Moravian College and in the East Asian Religions department at Lehigh University. She was also a teaching Fellow at Harvard in the Department of South Asian Studies and a Visiting Instructor in Classics (Sanskrit) at Brown University.  


Sam Evans
Program Manager
Call 609-258-2635