The Top 10 Most Spoken Languages in India
Last week, we discovered India’s astonishing linguistic diversity, ranging from widely spoken languages like Hindi and English to those at risk of extinction, such as those from the Great Andamanese family.
This week, we will provide a more realistic look at the most commonly spoken languages in India. While exact figures for each language are disputed, here are ten of the ones you’ll likely hear most during your Indian travels:
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Spoken by 8% of India’s population, Bengali ranks as the second most widely spoken language after Hindi, with approximately 83 million speakers. It is predominant in Eastern states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam, and Tripura.
About 4% of the total population, roughly 46 million people, speak Gujarati If you want to hear this language for yourself, you will need to visit: Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu.
One of the most prevalent languages in India, Hindi, with its Indo-Aryan Central origins, has around 366 million users, accounting for about 40% of the population. You can hear it in states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
Under 4% of the population of India speaks Kannada, equating to around 55 million people. As seems to be typical of many of India’s languages, Kannada has its roots in the Dravidian civilization. So, where can you hear this language? Mainly, in the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.
Just over 3% of India’s population speaks Malayalam. This means around 33 million speakers use this language as their native tongue. Another language with Dravidian civilization roots, Malayalam is very popular in the states of Kerala, Puducherry, and Lakshadweep.
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Like Telugu, Marathi is spoken by approximately 7% of the population. This estimates of around 72 million people speaking the language on a daily basis. Marathi is an Indo-Aryan Southern language and you can hear it in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
32 million people across India speak Odia, which is around 3% of the population. An Indo-Aryan Eastern language, Odia has most of its speakers in one location in India — the eastern Indian state of Odisha on the Bay of Bengal.
Tamil is the language of around 6% of the Indian population, spoken by approximately 61 million people. It is, like Telugu, from the Dravidian civilization. You can find Tamil speakers in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, and Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Telugu is spoken by around 7% of the Indian population or 74 million people. Do you want to hear this language for yourself? You will need to visit one of these places: the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Telangana and Andaman, or the Nicobar Islands.
Urdu has around 52 million speakers across India, making up about 5 of the population. It is a language originating from the Indo-Aryan Central civilization. Regarding distribution, Urdu is quite scattered across India, but it can mainly be found in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana, and Delhi.
A few more…
Though not as widely spoken as those mentioned above, Punjabi, Maithili, Kashmiri, and Assamese have a significant number of speakers across India. To hear Punjabi, head to Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi; for Maithili, visit Bihar and Nepal; for Kashmiri, explore the Kashmir Valley and Chenab regions of Jammu and Kashmir, and for Assamese, go to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland.
What about English?
English, the global lingua franca, has around 375 million speakers worldwide. In India, it serves as the second official language and is primarily a language of business and trade. Approximately 10% of India’s population speaks English, with around 125 million people using it as a second language. It may not be one of the native languages of India, but it surely has official status.
In conclusion, India’s linguistic landscape is incredibly diverse, offering a plethora of languages for visitors to experience. We hope this overview has inspired you to consider which phrasebooks to purchase or even plan your travels accordingly.
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