Languages We Offer

The languages listed here are currently offered at the Dept. of Indology. For information on the specific courses taught, please consult ALMA.



Contact: Divyaraj Amiya, M.Phil.

Like German, Hindi belongs to the Indo-European language family. It is one of the two official languages and major lingua franca of India. With more than 600 million speakers, Hindi is the third largest spoken language in the world. Embracing vocabulary from Sanskrit, Urdu, and many Indian vernaculars as well as European languages, Hindi exhibits the linguistic vibrancy of India. Hindi is also the language of the thriving film industry known as Bollywood and a medium of popular culture in India. Closely related languages are spoken in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and even in Mauritius, Suriname, and the Fiji Islands in addition to India itself. For instance, spoken Hindi, in normal daily life, as the language of entertainment industry and mass politics is to a great extent mutually intelligible with Urdu, the other important language of  South Asia. 

Why should you study Hindi?

Learning  Hindi, the third important language of the world, demographically; serves as a junction not only to pre-modern and contemporary India, its cuture and traditions but also to the neighbouring imporatnt languages, for example, Punjabi, Gujrati, Nepali and Bangla. Learning Urdu becomes easier once you have mastered Hindi and Devnagri script. The explicit vowel signs prepare you beforehand about the `correct´ pronunciation of Hindi-Urdu words in Perso-Arabic script. Presence of Urdu in the northern South Asia connects and confirms the age-old contact between two old river valley civilizations of Middle-East and the  region between Indus and Ganga.Learning Sanskrit and Tadbhav register of Hindi connect the students to one of the oldest continuous cultural traditions of the world going back to the texts, concepts, ideas and terms used by Vedas, Buddha, Mahavir Jain, Kabir, Guru Nanak and other great saints and scholars. Situated in South Asia Hindi, belonging to Indo-European family of languages, has inherited many of the key concepts, sounds, terms and ideas of its mainstream cutural and religious life from  Dravidian, Mon-Khmer and other Non-Indo-European language families of the  sub-continent. Thus learning Hindi, a new language,  will not be entering a new cultural zone with its ´boundaries. On the contrary, it will open the boundaries to many new worlds  and phases  of the history of mankind and of the contemporary world.

Levels of language offered: Beginner/ Intermediate/ Advanced

All levels are offered.



Contact: Prof. Dr. Heike Oberlin

Malayalam (Malayāḷam | മലയാളം) is one of the four major Dravidian languages of South India. It is the official language of the south-western Indian State of Kerala and the Lakshadweep islands. It has about 35 million speakers. Malayalam has a long and rich literary history and its own script. The University of Tübingen is one of the few places in Europe that offers Malayalam. In fact, in Germany, we are the only university with an Indology Department that teaches Malayalam – since 2008. The courses are known worldwide and attract international students, as well as graduates and postdoctoral students, resulting in a diverse and stimulating learning environment. Since 2015 the University of Tübingen has a cooperation with the Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University (Tirur, Kerala), offering the joint “Gundert Chair” program which allows for faculty members of the Malayalam University to come, research and teach Malayalam at the Department of Indology at the University of Tübingen. Hermann Gundert (1814-1893), grandfather of Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse, studied and earned his doctorate in Tübingen. As one of the most important Malayalam linguists, he is still known to every schoolchild in Kerala, and his Malayalam dictionary is still being reprinted. His legacy of manuscripts, studies and literature at the University Library of Tübingen was digitised and made open source online in 2018 ( Thus, today's Tübingen Malayalam programme is based on an old foundation that is unique worldwide.

Why should you study Malayalam?

Learning new languages and scripts is time-consuming -–but the key par excellence to a deeper understanding of other cultures and different ways of life. Actively engaging with the Malayalam, learning to read, write and speak Malayalam, will literally open the door to the people in and from Kerala. And will make you consider your own language and the culture associated with it from a new perspective. With Malayalam, you will get to know a different language family than the Indo-European, which for example includes German, Hindi and Sanskrit. 

Levels of language offered: Beginner/ Intermediate/ Advanced

Since 2008, an internationally renowned beginners’ course has been offered every winter semester, which is then built upon in the following semesters. We worked and still work with international experts such as Scaria Zacharia, Ophira Gamliel and Kesavan Velutath as part of the Gundert Chair programme, so that all language levels are met, from complete beginners to small reading groups. Prior to Corona, one to two-week Summer and Winter Schools were held in Tübingen, this tradition is likely to be revived and extended by intensive language courses in Kerala. At the end of the B.A. programme, you will have developed reading, writing, speaking and listening skills that are at least equivalent to competence level „B1“.



Prakrit is a cover term for a group of Middle Indo-European languages. The broadest definition uses the term to describe any Middle Indo-European language that deviates from Sanskrit in any manner. According to some scholars "Prakrit“ refers only to a smaller set of languages that were used exclusively in literature, especially in theatre / scenic plays and scriptures of Jainism. For more information about the drama-Prakrits please contact Prof. Dr. Heike Oberlin (; for more information about the Prakrit called (Ardha)Maghadi used by Jains please contact Jun.-Prof. Dr. Claire Maes (



Contact: Dr. Frank Köhler

Sanskrit is the classical language of India, from which many modern languages are derived. Like Latin and Greek, it is an Indo-European language with a complex system of inflections and conjugations. Originally, Sanskrit was used exclusively by clergy as a liturgical language, but since the beginning of modern times it has become the dominant language of political, scientific, religious and literary discourse in India and beyond (Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia...). Hindus, Buddhists and Jains composed many of their sacred texts in Sanskrit and the closely related Middle Indian Prakrit languages. It is also the language used by astrologers, mathematicians, grammarians, and legislators. Sanskrit provides access to an enormous body of literature. World-famous epics such as the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa were written in Sanskrit. However, the importance of Sanskrit is not limited to India's past. The study of Sanskrit is also important for understanding socio-cultural developments in contemporary India. Moreover, this ancient language is very much alive in music, literature, drama, politics, yoga studios, popular culture, and everyday life in India and beyond.

Why should you study Sanskrit?

Sanskrit is by far the most important pan-Indian written language and can look back on a history of over three thousand years. During this time, scientists, poets, philosophers and religious thinkers have used Sanskrit to compose a variety of works, some of which have become foundational scientific works (e.g. Pāṇini's Astādhyāyī), others part of world literature (e.g. Kālidāsa's Śakuntalā). Sanskrit literature also includes much of the Buddhist literature that was disseminated by missionaries and intensively translated and recipitated, especially in East and Southeast Asia. In addition, the scientific study of Sanskrit that began in the 18th century led to the development of Indo-European studies, and the simultaneous exploration of religious literature led to the emergence of comparative religious studies. Sanskrit enjoys - comparable to Latin in Europe - a high prestige in India to this day; it is recognised as an official language and is still used as a literary language. Finally, Sanskrit plays an important role in the self-image of many Hindus, as some of the most important Hindu texts that are now also known outside India, such as the Bhagavadgītā or the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, are written in Sanskrit. The study of Sanskrit enables approaching all these fascinating worlds.

Levels of language offered: Beginner/ Intermediate/ Advanced

All levels are offered along with light readings (this may be changed in the upcoming terms)



Contact: Rainer Kimmig, M.A.

Urdu is a rather young language by South Asian standards. It is based on the colloquial language of the Delhi region, where, after the Islamic conquest of northern India in the early 13th century, a soldierly and commercial language developed that integrated Persian, Arabic, and Turkish elements which spread rapidly over wide areas of northern India; the language of the Islamic courts, administration, courts, and literature, however, remained Persian. Urdu did not develop into a literary language until the 16th century in the southern Indian Sultanate of Golconda; there, Persian was replaced as the language of poetry by the language brought by the local dynasty from their homeland in the north. At the beginning of the 18th century, this literature becomes known in Delhi; Urdu now rapidly gains an independent place alongside Persian here as well and largely replaces it in the 19th century, not only as a literary language but also as the language of administration and the courts; the British colonial power, which de facto rules Delhi from 1803, plays an essential role in this. In this phase, Urdu (which is now also consistently referred to by this name for the first time) becomes the elegant written and colloquial language of the educated urban elites of northern India and, as such, is used equally by members of all religions. In the 20th century, precisely because of this secular character, Urdu became one of the most important languages of the anti-colonial independence movement.

Since the middle of the 19th century, there have been efforts on the part of many Hindus to replace Urdu with a language that follows its grammatical norms, but systematically replaces the Persian-Arabic vocabulary with words and neologisms from Sanskrit and is written not in Arabic script but in the Indian Devanagari. This new language was called Hindi ('Indian'), in deliberate contrast to Urdu, which was rejected by this side as 'Islamic'. In the 20th century, the opposition between the two languages quickly became ideologized to the point that it contributed significantly to the alienation between Muslims and Hindus, and thus to the partition of British India.

Why should you study Urdu?

Today, Urdu is the national language of Pakistan; in India, it is one of the officially recognized languages and is spoken by a portion of the population in a number of states. The number of people who speak Urdu as their mother tongue is estimated at about 70 million, plus about 160 million who speak Urdu as a second language. This makes Urdu the second most important language in South Asia after Hindi and next to Bengali.
Urdu has a rich literature; the great poets of the 18th and 19th centuries are still present in the general consciousness today, even among people who cannot read the Arabic script. To this day, the language of Urdu poetry is an essential element of the language of Bollywood, especially film songs. Since the second half of the 19th century, a rich narrative literature has been rapidly developing alongside the poetry, which is unfortunately still too little known outside South Asia. Knowledge of Urdu is also indispensable for any deeper study of South Asian history of the last 300 years.
Since Urdu differs almost not at all from Hindi in grammar and hardly at all in basic vocabulary, it is possible to base language acquisition on a good knowledge of Hindi; what really needs to be relearned is the Arabic script.

Levels of language offered: Beginner/ Intermediate/ Advanced

The Department of Indology in Tübingen therefore offers regular reading courses to provide students with elementary knowledge from which they can continue to work independently. Islamic Studies in Tübingen currently also offers courses for beginners, which do not require any knowledge of Hindi. 

Classical Tibetan

Contact: Dr. Bettina Zeisler (

The Classical Tibetan language course is an additional option (without credit points). Please contact for further information.

Levels of language offered: Advanced

Advanced - Diligent beginners who are ready to invest in the demanding course are welcome to apply.