Three Ways Indian Culture Reflects its Multilingualism

By Sarah-ClaireSouth_Asian_Language_Families Jordan

India is one of the most interesting countries in the world. It has an amazing history, as well as being home to over one billion people. Its cultural history can be traced back some 4,500 years, and includes some of the best philosophical and religious literature of all time.

One particularly interesting thing about India is that it has no national language. There are about 120 languages spoken in India, yet not one of them has been determined as the national one. Of course, there are some languages that are spoken a bit more than others, but in general the Indian constitution is careful to not favor any one language over another one.

This multilingualism makes for a very diverse and interesting culture, which varies depending on the region and state you are in. Sometimes, people have to resort to English or Hindi as a lingua franca because the languages they speak may not be mutually intelligible. India’s particular multilingualism is reflected in many ways in the culture, and vice versa. Here are just three ways that it does so:

1. Religion for Everyone

Being bilingual or multilingual was always thought of as a good thing in India, and especially so in terms of spreading the word about some new religion or school of thought. Buddhism is a good example of this, where early followers were encouraged to learn and use languages other than Sanskrit in order to spread the teachings of Buddha to more and more people. This resulted in a particular dialect of Sanskrit, and in Buddhism being spread to all social classes.

2. Education for Success

Practically every school in India is at least bilingual or multilingual. Many schools offer a huge variety of languages for students to choose from, but almost all will offer Hindi and English. Hindi serves as the lingua franca in a way among Indians of different regions, and English as well to some extent. English is necessary for business, science, and technology careers, but students will still speak a particular language at home and maybe even another with their friends. This creates citizens who speak at least three languages, which is extremely useful for any kind of job and makes adapting to different places much easier.

3. Going to the Movies as a Linguistic Experience

Almost everyone has heard of Bollywood, the branch of the Indian film industry that makes films in Hindi. There are other regional branches as well, but Bollywood is one of the most popular. Even though they make films in Hindi, those who work in Bollywood are very aware of the multilingual culture of Indian and always incorporate other languages, including English. The way this is done, however, with such ease and poise, reflects perfectly what it is like to speak many different languages in India. Unlike other countries, where one would feel like they stood out if they spoke a language other than their native one, in India it is seen as perfectly normal. If you have ever seen a Bollywood film, you will be able to see this at least with how English is incorporated into the script. The actors switch over to English for a few lines without batting an eye. This is exactly what multilingualism in India is at its core, something necessary but natural.

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Category: Foreign Language

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