What language is spoken in india?

What Languages are Spoken in India? India’s Amazing Linguistic Landscape!

Maureen Mitchells Uncategorized

What language do they speak in India? Is there any one traditional language in India? 

These are fair questions if you’re traveling to India, doing business in India, or seeking Indian language services for any number of purposes.  However, the only simple answer is: There is no single language that’s consistently spoken across this vast, vibrant, and incredibly multilingual nation.

Having recently overtaken China as the most populous country in the world, India’s more than 1.4 billion citizens represent an incredibly rich, diverse, and complex linguistic landscape encompassing more than 19,500 mother tongues in 28 different states across more than 3.2 million square kilometres.  

Sound overwhelming?  Wondering where to begin?

There’s no doubt that exploring India’s thousands of mother tongues and dialects in depth could take many lifetimes.  

The good news is: Gaining a fundamental understanding of the country’s language structure that will allow you to begin communicating effectively with your target audience can be accomplished much more quickly. 

Below, we’ve provided a brief history of language in India, an overview of the country’s officially recognized languages, and a note on the role of English.  If you’re seeking high quality Indian language translation and interpretive services but aren’t sure where to begin, CanTalk can help.  

The History of Language in India

Let’s start with a little bit of background.  

The languages spoken in India primarily belong to two major language families: Indo-Aryan languages (northern India) and Dravidian languages (southern India). Other less prevalent language families include Austroasiatic, Sino-Tibetan, and Tai-Kadai.

Proto-Dravidian languages date back as far as the 4th millennium BC while Old Indo-Aryan evolved around 1500 BC. Over thousands of years, regional and cultural influences have shaped the vast array of distinct languages and dialects spoken throughout the Indian nation.

How Many Languages Are Actually Spoken in India?

Incredibly, the 2011 Census of India reported more than 19,500 mother tongues, 121 of which are languages with more than 10,000 speakers. For an in-depth overview of the country’s languages and a breakdown of where they’re spoken, access the Language Atlas of India.

The 22 Officially Recognized Languages of India

Fortunately, if you’re seeking Indian language services, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to translate content into tens of thousands of different languages.  This is because in May of 2008, the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India laid out a list of 22 official Indian languages (also known as scheduled languages). 

More than 96% of the Indian population speaks at least one of these 22 languages, many of which are recognized as official languages in specific Indian states (of which there are 28 in total).  

If 22 languages still feels like a lot to navigate, it may be helpful to know that, at a national level, Hindi is recognized as India’s official language. English is also recognized as an official language (see below).

Let’s take a closer look at each of India’s 22 scheduled languages and learn something memorable about each:


Assamese is the official language of the northeastern state of Assam. More than 15 million people communicate in Assamese, and it serves as a common tongue in the linguistically diverse region. 

Did you know?

  • Assamese has no grammatical gender distinctions.
  • The Assamese alphabet is made of 33 letters–all of them consonants!  The language is known for its “consonant clusters”.  


With more than 300 million native speakers, Bengali (also known as Bengla) is one of India’s most prevalent languages, particularly in the northeast region near Bangladesh (where Bengali is the official language).

Did you know?

  • Bengali has two written forms: Shadu bhasha (elegant language) and Cholito bhasha (current language).  
  • The national anthem of India was originally written in Bengali.  


Bodo is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken primarily in northeastern India. It is also known as Boro and closely related to other languages spoken in the state of Assam, where it is a co-official language.

Did you know?

  • Bodo can be written using three different scripts (Latin, Devanagari, and Bengali), but was only an oral language until the early 20th century.  


Once considered a dialect of Punjabi, Dogri is spoken in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the northern parts of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.  It’s spoken by more than 2.6 million people.  

Did you know?

  • Like Punjabi, Dogri is a tonal language.  The same word spoken with different tonal inflections may have different meanings.  
  • Dogri literature includes poetry, fiction, and plays.  


With 55 million native speakers, Gujarati is the official language of the state of Gujarat and also operates as an official language in Dadra, Nagar Haveli, Daman, and Diu.  It’s the 6th most spoken language in India.  

Did you know?

  • In Gujarati, vowels can be written independently or be affixed before or after any consonant.  
  • Gujarati is thought to be about 700 years old and is heavily influenced by both Urdu and Sindhi.  


Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India and holds official language status in 9 out of the nation’s 28 states. Hindi and English are used in official settings at the country’s national level.  

Did you know?

  • Spelling and pronouncing words in Hindi is straightforward, because each letter in the alphabet has its own distinct sound.  
  • Some English words have Hindi origins.  Examples include: dinghy, jungle, khaki, typhoon, shampoo, and more!  


Also known as Kannadigas, Kannada is considered a classical Indian language. It is the official state language of the southwestern state of Karnataka and is spoken by approximately 44 million people.  

Did you know?

  • Kannada is one of India’s oldest languages.  Its first known work of literature dates back to the 9th century CE.  
  • There are no silent letters in Kannada and every word ends in a vowel (of which there are 15).  


Kashmiri is the official regional language of the Jammu and Kashmir territory and is spoken by more than 6 million people.

Did you know?

  • Like English, Kashmiri follows Subject-Verb-Object word order.  
  • Kashmiri is heavily influenced by both Sanskrit and medieval Persian.  


Spoken by about 2 million native speakers along India’s western coast, Konkani is an official language in the state of Goa.

Did you know?

  • Konkani can be written in multiple scripts including Deanagari, Roman, Kannada, Malayalam, and Perso-Arabic.  
  • All Konkani literature was burnt by the Portuguese in the 1500s.  Native Konkani speakers fled to neighboring regions, where different dialects of the language evolved.  


Primarily spoken in the eastern states of Bihar and Jharkhand, Maithili is also the second most spoken language in the country of Nepal.

Did you know?

  • Like Bodo, Maithili is written in Devanagari script.  
  • Maithili is a grammatically complex language.  As an example, Maithili verbs consist of a verb stem, a tense marker, a mood marker, and a person or honorific marker.  


Malayalam is prevalent in the southern state of Kerala as well as the regions around Puducherry and the Lakshadweep islands. It’s spoken by nearly 3% of India’s population.

Did you know?

  • When the word Malayalam is written in English, it’s a palindrome (reads the same forwards and backwards).  
  • The Malayalam alphabet has 15 vowels and 42 consonants!


With about 1.7 million native speakers, Manipuri is mainly spoken in northeastern regions of India.

Did you know?

  • Manipuri is used in offices and government institutions in the state of Manipur and can be studied up to the Ph.D. level in some Indian universities.  
  • Manipuri is also known as Meitei.  


Marathi is the third most spoken language in India and is an official language in the western states of Goa and Maharashtra.  

Did you know?

  • Roughly 50% of Marathi words are rooted in Sanskrit.
  • Lyrical poems, songs, and theatre are important elements of Marathi language and culture.  


Nepali is spoken in the Indian state of Sikkim and nearby regions by less than 3 million people, but is an official language of nearby Nepal, where it is spoken by millions more.  

Did you know?

  • Nepali is one of the official languages of the United Nations.  
  • The Nepali film industry, known as Kollywood, reflects the language’s current relevance and cultural significance.  


Odia was declared as a literary classical language in India in 2014. Today, it’s spoken by almost 40 million people throughout Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.

Did you know?

  • The oldest known example of Odia writing dates back to a stone inscription from 1051 CE.  
  • Odia’s curvy written script is said to be the result of writing on palm leaves, which may tear if written on with straight lines.  


India’s 11th most spoken language, Punjabi, is an Indo-European language with more than 33 million speakers throughout the state of Punjab and beyond.

Did you know?

  • Punjabi is the scriptural language of Sikhism and is considered spiritual by many.
  • Punjabi’s origins are more than 1,000 years old, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization.  


While very few people speak Sanskrit, this scheduled language remains the liturgical language of Hinduism.  

Did you know?

  • Sanskrit’s documented history dates back nearly 3,500 years and nearly all languages around the globe have been influenced by it either directly or indirectly.  
  • Sanskrit is a highly descriptive and poetic language.  While English has one word for water, Sanskrit has more than seventy.  


With roughly 7 million native speakers, Santhali (also known as Santali) is spoken in parts of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Odisha, Tripura, and West Bengal.

Did you know?

  • Santhali is also known regionally as Paharia or Parsi.  
  • The language can be written in Roman, Devnagari, or an Indigenous script known as Ol Cemet.  


Sindhi has not been declared an official language in any Indian state but is one of the spoken languages across the northern part of the country.  

Did you know?

  • Sindhi is written in Arabic script, even though it is not a Persio-Arabic language.  
  • Sindhi has six main dialects, the largest and most standard of which is Vicholi, which is widely used for literary and educational purposes.  


Tamil is a Dravidian classical language with a rich literary history. Today, it’s the primary language for people in regions of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and more.  

Did you know?

  • Tamil is considered the world’s oldest living language and its name means sweetness.  
  • Tamil’s script has 247 distinct letters!  


Telugu ranks as the fourth most spoken language in India and is recognized as an official language across multiple states.  It’s also widely used across digital and social media.  

Did you know?

  • Telugu has a three-gender grammatical system that includes masculine, feminine, and neuter.  
  • UNESCO has recognized Telugu as one of India’s classical languages.  


Also known as Lashkari, Urdu has official language status in Delhi.  It is mutually intelligible with Hindi, but has more Arabic and Persian influences and uses a different written script, known as Nastaliq.  

Did you know?

  • Urdu is a highly expressive language and boasts a wealth of poetry and literature.  
  • Urdu is read from right to left.  

English Usage in India

At a national level, Hindi and English are both recognized as official languages in India. These are the languages used in parliamentary proceedings and the highest courts.

Though India gained independence from British rule nearly a century ago, English still remains prevalent in many contexts. Not recognized as a scheduled language, it’s nevertheless considered the unofficial language of business and is taught in schools, particularly in higher socioeconomic settings. Many news channels report in English, and when Hindi cannot serve as a common language, English often can instead.

Punjabi Translation Services With CanTalk

Are you seeking high-quality translation, interpretation, and localization services? CanTalk’s exceptional team is ready to assist you with Punjabi translation services as well as service in many other Indian languages. Learn more by contacting us directly today!