If you want people to understand you, speak their language. – African Proverb
Language is our identity. Language is the bridge that helps us cross borders. Language is the window that opens to opportunities. Language is an amazing gift.
Understanding the language of a community helps us create a bond with that community and helps us understand the culture, tradition, custom, cuisine, and many other things. A lot of languages are spoken by different communities in the world.
According to Ethnologue, which is considered the most extensive catalogue of the world’s languages, there are 7,151 languages spoken in the world in 2022.
The most spoken languages in the world are Mandarin, Hindi, English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Punjabi, German, Japanese, Persian, Telugu, Italian, Vietnamese, Korean, Tamil, Marathi and Indonesian, to name a few.
In May 2022, Google Translate announced adding support for 24 new languages, including eight Indian languages Assamese, Bhojpuri, Sanskrit, Dogri, Konkani, Maithili, Manipuri and Mizo.
Talking about India, as per the data of the most recent census of 2011, the number of rationalised mother tongues is 1369, which are further grouped into an appropriate set that results in a total of 121 languages.
These 121 languages are further categorised into 22 languages – (Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithali, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu) – which are included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India and 99 languages which are termed as ‘other languages’.
The people of India speak a large number of languages. The major language families found in India are:
- Indo-Aryan language family
- Dravidian language family
- Austro-Asiatic language family
- Tibeto-Burman language family
Languages such as Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Dogri, Gujarati, Sindhi, Marathi, Oriya, Sanskrit, Santali, Assamese, Urdu, Nepali, Khanda, Kachchi, Konkani, Bihari, Kashmiri, Maithili belong to Indo-Aryan language family.
Languages such as Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam belong to a Dravidian group of languages. Khasi language, spoken primarily in Meghalaya state in India by the Khasi people, belongs to the Austro-Asiatic language family.
Languages such as Bodo, Naga, Kukichin, Manipuri, Garo, Tripuri, Mikir, Hmar and Lusai (also termed as Mizo) belong to the Tibeto-Burman language family.
A recent study indicated more than 19,500 languages and dialects are spoken in India.
India is known for its linguistic diversity. Many interesting facts surface when we do comparative studies between different Indian languages belonging to other language families or with the English language, considered a global language.
Let us find out more about language and the characteristics of Indian languages. Some of the prominent features of Indian languages are:
- Word Order (the order of the words in a sentence) Subject-Object-Verb
In Indian languages, the Verb comes at the end of the sentence, i.e., after the Subject and the Object. The sentence structure will be Subject-Object-Verb.
For example, in the English sentence, Ram eats an apple, will be written as
‘Ram ne ek seb kha-ya’ in Hindi
‘Ram-an apple saappid-ugirar‘ in Tamil
‘Ram na seb cha-ye’ in Manipuri
Indian languages do not have prepositions like the English language. For example the English sentence, I kept the book on the table. The prepositional phrase on the table will be written in the following way in Indian languages –
maine kitab mez par rakhi in Hindi
naan puthaka-thai mesain mael vaithaen in Tamil
eihak na lairik adu tebal da thammi in Manipuri
- Gender agreement
All languages have a Subject-Verb agreement. A singular subject takes a singular verb, and a plural subject takes a plural verb in all sentence constructions. Indian languages have a Subject-Verb agreement as well as a gender agreement. For example, the English sentences,
Rahul sings a song and Anjali sings a song will be written in Hindi as
Rahul gaana gaa-ta hai and Anjali gaana gaa-ti hai
Some fun facts about Indian languages include:
- Hindi is the second most spoken language in the world.
- Tamil and Sanskrit are one of the oldest languages in the world.
- Sanskrit is quite popular in European countries.
It is quite interesting to know about languages. By the way, what is Language? The American linguists – Bernard Bloch and George L. Trager defined language as a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates.
So, we can say that language consists of spoken or written symbols through which human beings express themselves. People who speak the same language can understand each other, and people who speak different languages cannot understand each other.
SGT University established the Faculty of Mass Communication and Media Technology (FMMT) to meet the demands of an increasing job market in the media industry in India and abroad. The Faculty has a dedicated Centre for Languages and Communication (CLC), which offers BA in English Hons., and MA in English (Hons.) courses. The Centre for Language and Communication is among the best colleges in Delhi NCR for English Honours courses.
Dr. Sarju Devi
Head of Department
Centre for Languages and Communication (CLC)
Faculty of Mass Communication & Media Technology