SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Languages of South Asia at SOAS

At SOAS we teach the widest range of South Asian language courses available anywhere outside the subcontinent. This part of our website gives information about the individual languages; but first, here’s an overview of how the courses run.

Beginner’s courses are available each years in Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Sanskrit and Urdu, and if there is sufficient demand in Gujarati, Panjabi, Sinhala and Tamil (classes jointly taught with the SOAS Language Centre) and Pali (taught in the Department of the Study of Religions). (All courses need a quorum of five students, and the availability of some courses may not be confirmed until the beginning of the teaching year.) These introductory courses are designed for people having no previous knowledge of the language or its script: they start right at the beginning, and give the student a good grounding in all the requisite linguistic skills. A typical course would give four hours’ class instruction per week and would require at least as much time again in private study or homework.

If you are thinking about learning a South Asian language, do not be put off by unfamiliar scripts or fear of the unknown: a uniquely rewarding experience awaits you, and knowledge of the language opens doors to the culture of the region as nothing else can.

Would you like to start learning the Devanagari script — used for Hindi, Nepali and Sanskrit? Go straight to our on-line resource at:

Our classes are fairly small (typically groups of ten or twelve), informal, and highly interactive! Teaching in the modern languages puts emphasis on speaking and understanding as well as reading and writing, and the SOAS environment provides ample opportunity for students to practise their skills with mother-tongue speakers outside the class too.

In addition to introductory courses we offer a range of intermediate and advanced courses in Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, Sanskrit and Urdu, and sometimes in Sinhala and Tamil too.

Students who come to us already having some knowledge of the language may be given direct entry into intermediate-level courses: for example, a student who is able to speak and understand Urdu, but not read and write it, might start his or her studies with our course Urdu Literacy.

Much of our introductory material has been tailor-made for our courses, but from the intermediate level onwards we also make extensive use of film, video, fiction, correspondence, print media, radio, television, internet sources and so on. Much of the instruction is given in the language being studied.

In addition to language courses we also teach courses in the literatures and culture of South Asia; and our BA and MA programmes offer students the chance to work on topics of their own choosing, through supervised research.

Some of our courses are taught in collaboration with the SOAS Language Centre, which also provides evening courses for non-degree students.

Language List

If you would like to know more about the languages we teach and the courses we run, read on…