My French-Indian 6 year old boy on nationality and language:
- Him: Me, I am Indian, like papa. I was born in Mumbai, Mumbai is in India so I am Indian.
- Me: Ok, but you don’t speak Hindi?
- Him: In Mumbai, people don’t speak Hindi.
- Me: But you have been living in Gurgaon [in North India, which is much more Hindi-speaking.].
- Him: Yes okay but here they speak English.
One must admit that the whole language thing in India is not easy to understand! According to the 2011 census, there is a total of 121 languages and 270 mother tongues spoken by more than 10,000 people in India (if we don’t limit the number of speakers, there are almost 20,000 languages spoken). And the Constitution of India (Article 343) lists 22 official languages. Hindi, the official language of the Indian Union, is the mother tongue of 528 million Indians – less than half (44%) of the population. English, which “shall continue to be used for all the official purposes of the Union for which it was being used immediately before such commencement”, is the mother tongue of 260,000 people (0.02%) (source). It is estimated that between 12 and 30% of Indians are able to communicate in English.