Looking to learn more about Indian languages? This article is a great start, with beginners information on how Indian languages relate to each other.

India is an incredibly diverse place, and like many large countries, contains multiple languages, and multiple dialects within those languages. At present, around 22 Indian languages are officially recognised by the government, although there are many more, running into the hundreds, spoken across the country.

Indian Language Roots & Language Families

The languages that are spoken in India go back a very long time, when the population started with just two language families – Indo-Aryan and Dravidian.

Indo-Aryan

Indo-Aryan languages come from Sanskrit and the majority of North India speak Bengali, Punjabi and Hindi, which fall under the Indo-Aryan language family. The language family contains various dialects and languages beyond the most recognised types and has some heavy Persian and Arabic influences at its heart.

Dravidian

In Southern India the majority of the languages spoken come from the Dravidian language family, which sounds completely different to Indo-Aryan. The Dravidian language family includes languages like Malayalam and Tamil but again, like Indo-Aryan, it also contains many other languages and dialects within it.

Understanding the language families of a country’s languages is important because it enables you to get an idea of which languages might be more similar than dissimilar.

Indo-Aryan languages like Bengali and Punjabi are considered Indian languages but they are completely different to Dravidian languages like Tamil. For that reason, if you’re using Indian language in a marketing voiceover or educational film, you cannot just choose any Indian language as you could completely alienate your viewers.

It also helps to understand if you’re travelling to, for example, North India, speaking Bengali could mean you’re understood across the area, to some degree, because it is in the North India language family. Speaking Bengali in Southern India though, you may not be understood by anybody.

In addition, there is a deeper cultural divide with the Indian languages between the North and South. This is because in the 60’s the Indian government sought to make Hindi the official Indian language but South Indian people who mainly spoke Dravidian languages, which has an ancient cultural heritage, were angry about this and protested against it. So Hindi is widely understood across India, but in certain areas of India, speaking it could cause you to look rude and offensive because of this history.

This is particularly important when it comes to marketing to certain parts of India, where the wrong language could not only cause your audience to struggle to understand your message, but you could even offend them.

The Official Languages Of India

There is actually no official language of India, although many people feel that English and Hindi are the most widely spoken and, therefore, should be the official languages in modern times.

Across the country though, strengthening the reasons an official language would be difficult to choose, over 780 languages are spoken, and more dialects within that number. 22, though, are recognised by the government and include:

  • Bengali
  • Telugu
  • Marathi
  • Tamil
  • Urdu
  • Kannada
  • Gujarati
  • Punjabi
  • Assamese
  • Malayalam
  • Konkani
  • Manipuri

If you’re looking for the most common language understood across India, you’d be hard pressed to find one more understood than English on a broad spectrum. Hindi is commonly understood and spoken, but as we mentioned above, it can cause offence in some areas. English, however, is spoken by nearly 90% of Indians in urban areas. So any marketing or travelling in the main cities of India would lend itself to speaking English, or using English speaking voice over actors. Rural areas, though, have over 96% of residents who do not speak any English, which means a specialist regionalised campaign or language programme might be needed if you plan to operate in those areas.

How Will You Further Your Understanding Of Indian Languages?

If you want to include Indian in your business globalisation marketing, or to make your business education more accessible, speak to a professional voiceover company. They will be able to provide Indian language services for subtitling and voice overs that are accurate and correct, ensuring a professional, polished result for your campaign.

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