The Republic of India is the world’s seventh largest country by area as well as the world's second most populous country. The country has a population of more than 1.2 billion people. There are several religions practiced in the country including Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Jainism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. Following the market reforms of 1991, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is home to the third largest economy by purchasing power parity. However, the population still faces challenges such as malnutrition, corruption, poverty, and inadequate healthcare. India is mainly defined by the various cultures highlighted by the different ethnic groups.
There is no single Indian language. Instead, India is home to several major languages, the most notable of which are looked at below.
The 5 Most Spoken Languages in India By Number of Speakers
1. Hindi - 551 Million Speakers
Hindi is the most spoken language in India. Hindi is also the fourth most spoken language in the world after Mandarin, Spanish, and English. Currently, there are 551,416,518 Hindi speakers in India.
Hindi is a descendant of Sanskrit and has been influenced by the Dravidian language, Arabic, Portuguese, English, Persian, and Turkic. The dialects of Hindi include Awadhi, Braj and Khari Boli. Hindi words are divided into five categories, namely Tatsama, Ardhatatsama, Tadbhava, Deshaj, and Videshi.
2. English - 125 Million Speakers
Alongside Hindi, the English language is one of the official languages of the federal government of India. In some states of India, such as Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, English is an official language. English has been taught in schools in India since the days of the East India Company in the 1800s. Although English used to solely be associated with colonialism, the language has slowly lost that connotation over recent years as English has become a more prominent global language.
3. Bengali - 91 Million Speakers
Bengali is an Indo-Aryan language mostly spoken in South Asia. It is the foremost language in most of the states in the northeastern regions of India, including Andaman and Nicobar Island. Bengali was initially a secular language of old Indo-Aryan and was influenced by Persian and Arabic. The language varies in different states especially in the use, accent, words, and phonetics. Bengali is the second most spoken language in India with over 83,369,769 people speaking it in the country. The language is also spoken in the Middle East, US, Australia, Japan, UK, and Canada. The Bengali language is part of the program offered by the University of Karachi. India’s national anthem was written in the Bengali language.
4. Telugu - 84 Million Speakers
Telugu is a Dravidian language spoken widely in India and dominates a number of states in the country. The language is mainly spoken in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Yanam. Its dialect includes Berad, Vadaga, Dommara, Salewari, Nellore, Komtao and Kamathi among other dialects. The language is also spoken in several countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and South Africa.
5. Marathi - 84 Million Speakers
Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language that serves as an official language of states in the western portion of the country, including Goa and Maharashtra. There are approximately 42 different dialects spoken of Marathi. There are three genders in Marathi grammar.
6. Tamil - 67 Million Speakers
Tamil is a language with Dravidian roots. While it is a official language of both Singapore and Sri Lanka, it is also a widely spoken language in India. Around 67 million people in the country speak Tamil. Tamil is notable for being one of the oldest surviving languages in the world. It has a literary tradition dating back more than 2,000 years. Most Tamil languages are found in southern India, near the coast of Sri Lanka.
7. Urdu - 59 Million Speakers
There are around 59 million Urdu speakers in India. Urdu also serves as one of the country's official languages. the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, and Jharkhand all list Urdu as an official language. Urdu is also the official language of Pakistan. Urdu is a form of Hindustani.
8. Kannada - 51 Million Speakers
Kannada, like Tamil, is also a Dravidian language. It is spoken by just over 50 million people in India. Kannada is one of the oldest surviving languages in the world. Outside of India, Kannada is also spoken in places like Australia, the United States, and Canada. Many of these speakers are members of the Indian diaspora. There are estimated to be around 20 different dialects of Kannada.
9. Gujarati - 50 Million Speakers
Gujarati is an Indo-Aryan language that is spoken by around 50 million people in India. It is the official language of Gujarat, a state in northwestern India. Guarati evolved from Sanskrit.
10. Odia - 37 Million Speakers
Odia is an official language of India. It is spoken by around 37 million speakers throughout the country, although most speakers are concentrated in the state of Odisha.
Other Languages of India and Its Multilingual Society
More than 20 languages are commonly spoken in India. Such other languages include Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, and Odia. The many languages in India do not hinder communication between different language speakers as most of the Indians are multilingual. The majority of the Indians can speak English, Hindi, and one mother tongue. English is no longer considered a foreign language since it is popular and the most common mode of communication between the people in the south and north of India. Nonverbal communications such as gestures are also popular forms of communication among different language group in the country.
The Most Widely Spoken Languages In India
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