Portrait of an 'English-speaking' nation: India

Right now, I am a lucky holidayer (or vacationer for my North American readers), writing to you from the South of France. I've got a great little post to share, an Eastern perspective on languages. This is a reminder that English can be the official and go-to language of a place, but native languages have their place and merit attention. In India, where guest poster Varun comes from, the number of official languages alone is more than what most learn in a lifetime. Westerners consider this an English-speaking nation, but is it really? Over to Varun...

Hi Everyone. I’m Varun from Gurgaon, India. I am a Management student and reading and writing are my favourite pastimes. I would also like to thank Kerstin for considering me for a guest post here. Today I would like to share with you guys, the importance of speaking Hindi in India, even though English is so widely spoken.


The Government of India recognizes as many as 22 official languages, but one language stands out from the rest, and in a distinctive manner - Hindi. India is a vast country and the geography includes snow-peaked mountains, deserts, plains, backwaters and beautiful islands. But if you don’t know Hindi, chances are that you’d be socially impaired here. That’s because Hindi is the Official Language of the Central Government and Republic of India.

For some this may come as little surprising. How could a country with a population of 1.2 billion become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world without English? But the truth is that Hindi is more spoken here than English. In villages and rural areas, English is not at all used.

For a major part in India (like the North-Eastern belt), Hindi is the only language spoken here. Of course its variations exist but a Hindi understanding person can also understand all other languages (like Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Haryanvi etc.). Regions in south have their own language like Tamil, Kannad, Telugu and Malayalam, but there’s only one language that is common to all these populations- Hindi.

Hindi is a way of life in India and it is used extensively in all the walks of life. It doesn’t matter what you hire - a rickshaw, cab or a bus, you’ll always have to pay some ‘rupaiye’ (a Hindi slang word for rupees). For foreigners, if you travel by bus or train all by yourself, then you have no option but to take help from your fellow passengers. Of course you’ll see road signs and billboards in English and sometimes in Urdu too, but Hindi is used much more often. Even in secondary examinations and entrance exams, Hindi is an available medium.

It's true that English has managed to carve out its own niche. It is our language of commerce and largely of business; it is the medium and the only medium of communication between the educated men and between the various language areas. While Hindi is used in only government offices, English is used in all the MNC’s (ed: multinational companies) and corporate organizations as the medium of communications.

To us in India, it's not about making a fuss over the merits and demerits of a language. Language is not merely a means of communicating thoughts but also a way of getting civilized. And for India, both Hindi and English co-exist in harmony as of now.