A lot of people think the United States is the world’s leader of multiculturalism. The truth is that India has been the leader of multiculturalism for much longer. Over the thousands of years that India has been inhabited, people from other nations have settled in this subcontinent and brought their own culture with them. Today, there are more than 500 languages spoken throughout India. The majority of these languages are only known to tribes and indigenous people who exist in different regions of the country.
There is a total of 29 states in India and each one of them has their own official language. As for the nation itself, India has recognized two official languages for its country; Hindi and English. It is certainly unusual for a country to have two official languages, but that is how diverse India has become over the centuries. The English language allows India to become part of the global economy, attracting English speaking tourists from all around the world.
In each of the 29 states which have their own official languages, they have incorporated English as a primary unofficial language too. All the government records of the country are written in both the English and Hindi languages. States will write their government records in English and whatever their official language is. To give you some examples of state languages, here is a list of the most popular ones:
- The State of Assam speaks the language: Assamese
- The State of Punjab speaks the language: Punjabi
- The State of West Bengal speaks the language: Bengali
- The State of Jammu and Kashmir speaks the language: Dogri and Urdu
- The State of Maharashtra speaks the language: Marathi
- The State of Karnataka speaks the language: Kannada
- The states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh speak Hindi.
To increase the diversity, even more, there are also different dialects of the same language used in each region of India. For example, Kannada is the official language of the Indian state of Karnataka. However, Kannada is not spoken in the same way by everybody throughout the state. The dialect of the language is different between the northern region and southern region of the state.
If there are towns and cities close to the border of other Indian states, those states will influence the dialects spoken in these locations. In some cases, it may even cause these towns and cities to speak entirely new languages which are different than what is spoken in their own state. The state of Karnataka shares a border with the state of Maharashtra. Note that the former’s official state language is Kannada and the latter’s official state language is Marathi. However, near the border of these two states, there is a unique language spoken known as Konkani.
Languages are Personal
Most people think of languages as just a way to communicate with someone else. Indians take their unique languages more very personally than this. All these unique dialects, intonations, and sounds associated with these regional languages are a way for native people to recognize each other. For instance, if someone from the border of Karnataka were to travel somewhere far away and happen to meet someone else from Karnataka, they will both recognize their native origins immediately after they hear each other speak. This is how meaningful their spoken language is to them.
When you meet somebody from India, chances are they will speak more than one language. The school system in India will usually teach children at least two or three languages. English is typically the primary language that is taught to children. After that, they have a choice to learn two out of three other languages. Their choices are Hindi, their own state’s official language, or an ancient Indian language like Sanskrit or Tamil.