No, Indians don’t speak Indian. If only it were that easy! There are 29 major languages in India, with their own grammar and script. But beyond that, there are hundreds more. This is confusing even to the Indians themselves. Often Indians converse together in English, because neither knows the other person’s native language!
These languages are divided in two main groups: Indo-Aryan and Dravidian.
The Dravidian languages are over 3000 years old, and they are spoken in South India. They are ancient ‘original’ Indian languages, such as Tamil and Telegu. These languages are spoken by a quarter of the Indian population.
70% of Indians speak what we call Indo-Aryan languages. These languages are mostly spoken in the Northern part of India, and they stem from the Sanskrit and Persian languages. These North Indian languages, like Hindi and Punjabi, are only about 1000 years old.
The ‘Official Language of the Union’ is Hindi. It is taught in school, and used in parliament by government officials. But most colleges and many schools teach English. English still is the ’language of education’ in India. Many Indians therefore know 2 or 3 more languages. A ‘home’ language and a ‘work’ language!
1. Have you ever heard Hindi spoken?
2. If you had to learn an extra language, what would it be?
3. What is easier, to learn to understand a foreign language, or to speak it?