Translated's Research Center

India, do you speak English?

Economy + Geopolitics

How relevant can English-only content be in a multilingual India? Multi-awarded author and journalist Luca de Biase is a professor at Pisa University, innovation editor at Sole 24Ore newspaper and a Member of the Mission Assembly for Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities, amongst many other roles and achievements. 

Legend

  • Hindi

  • Kashmiri and Dogri

  • Punjabi

  • Gujarati

  • Marathi

  • Konkani

  • Kannada and Tulu

  • Malayalam

  • Tamil

  • Telugu

  • Odia

  • Bengali

  • Nepal

  • Assemese

  • Khasi and Garo

  • Nyishi and Adi

  • Konyak and Sumi

  • Manipuri

  • Mizo

Of course India speaks English, but it’s a bit more complicated than that…More than 19,500 languages are spoken in India

First, Second, and Third languages by number of speakers in India (2011 Census)

First language speakersSecond language speakersThird language speakers Total speakers
LanguageFigure% of total Figure% of total*
HINDI528,347,19343.63%139,207,18024,160,696691,347,19357.09%
ENGLISH259,6780.02%83,125,22145,993,066129,259,67810.67%
BENGALI 97,237,6698.03%9,037,2221,008,088107,237,6698.85%
MARATHI83,026,6806.86%12,923,6262,966,01999,026,6808.18%
TELUGU81,127,7406.70%11,946,4141,001,49894,127,7407.77%
TAMIL 69,026,8815.70%6,992,253956,33577,026,8816.36%
GUJARATI55,492,5544.58%4,035,4891,007,91260,492,5544.99%
URDU50,772,6314.19%11,055,2871,096,42862,772,6315.18%
KANNADA43,706,5123.61%14,076,355993,98958,706,5124.84%
ODIA37,521,3243.10%4,972,15131,52542,551,3243.51%
MALAYALAM34,838,8192.88%499,188195,88535,538,8192.93%
PUNJABI33,124,7262.74%2,300,000720,00036,074,7262.97%
SANSKRIT24,8212%1,234,9311,196,2232,360,8210.19%
Languages spoken in India

*sum of percentages takes into account the fact that many people speak more languages

English is shrinking in the media.

Share in growth rate of publication volumes across India in 2019, by region

Source: KPMG, Nielsen 2016

Number of Indian and English language Internet users acaross India from 2011 to 2021

(in millions)

Source: KPMG; Nielsen 2016


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So, in which language is it worth translating in India?

English is spoken in cities but not in the country: it’s a problem.

Share of English speakers in India in 2019, by region

Sources: CMIE; Oxford University Press, Website (Lok Foundation), 2019

Challenges faced by non-English internet users across India

Sources: KPMG; Nielsen, 2016

Tamil is big online. Of course, Bengali is bigger and Hindi is the biggest.

Share of internet adoption levels among non-English users across India in 2016, by language

Sources: KPMG; Nielsen, 2016

Number one Hindi, then Marathi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada.

Estimate of the share of non-English internet users across India in 2021, by language

Sources: KPMG; Google, 2016

Most common languages in India in 2011, by number of speakers

Sources: KPMG; Nielsen, 2016

Anyway, take a look at Tamil.

Share of online advertisement response readiness among non-English users across India in 2016, by language

Sources: KPMG; Nielsen, 2016


Imminent Annual Report 2021

Imminent Annual Report 2021

Fit your business in global shape. Get your copy of Imminent Annual Research Report 2021. And let us know what you think.

Get your copy now

Media and languages in India

Share of advertising volumes in Indian newspaper in 2019, by language

Sources: EY; FICCI; TAM Media Research

Television viewership across India in 2017 by preferred languages

(in million impressions)

Sources: BARC; Wweek 2016-2017

Distribution of the Indian box office in 2019, based on language

Sources: BARC; Wweek 2016-2017

Distribution of film produced in India in FY 2019, by language

Sources: BARC; Wweek 2016-2017

News about Indian languages


Photo credits: Pop & Zebra, Unsplash / Zekeriya Sen, Unsplash / Nikita S, Unsplash