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Thread: Languages of India (!!)

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    Languages of India (!!)

    Vanakkam,

    At some point in my life, preferably in 1-5 years (while I'm still young and able) I would love to travel to India. India, from what I have heard and seen, is the absolute coolest place on the planet. There is so much diversity, and . . . I can't even describe how much I love India - without even having been there. It will definitely be a once in a lifetime trip as there is no place like it. It will be very challenging for a dense westerner to understand the culture AND to deal with all of the "weird third world" things that I'm not used to. However, I am sure that it will be a very rewarding experience.

    But, I am caught up on the language thing. I love languages. I love studying language. I learned German in 3 years of high school, and according to my teacher, I was the best in the class (she was probably just being nice ) So, I was thinking about what language I would want to learn for India - after all, I don't have the time or patience to learn 22 different ones. And I am not entirely sure. Here are the ones I am thinking of.

    Hindi
    Tamil
    Bengali
    Sanskrit

    I can give different reasons for different ones. For example, Hindi seems to be the most popular of all of them. I think that, if I am correct, a majority of Indians speak Hindi to some degree. This will not only help me on my trip, but it will make it easy to communicate with other Indians here. Another plus side, is every single Punjabi/Sikh I have known, speaks both Punjabi and Hindi - meaning that it would be near pointless for me to learn Punjabi unless I was a Sikh (and wanted to understand the Granth, talk to other Sikhs, etc). However, I get the impression that this is only the case for North India. I feel that I am drawn to the gods Shiva, Ganesha, Saraswati, etc which are mainly worshiped by South and East Indians. This brings me to Tamil and Bengali. If I am correct, Bengali is the language of East India and Tamil of South India. My knowledge of these two is not extensive beyond that. I know that Bengali is Sanskrit based - like Hindi while Tamil is Dravidian. But that's all I really know. So, next up is Sanskrit. The best of all language. The mother of all languages. The language of the scriptures. The language of the gods. If, as some had hoped, Sanskrit became the national language of India, I would focus on it without ANY hesitation. However, according to Wikipedia, only 0.01% of Indians speak Sanskrit, and it's not even located in a specific geographical location. That makes it highly impractical for any form of communication. I would learn it only for the sake of studying the ancient scriptures, but that's not all I want. I want to also be able to communicate with other people.

    And so, that is my biggest dilemma. And I have no idea where to go from here. I'd definitely be willing to consider others, if anyone has a suggestion. But mainly, I'm hoping somebody can shed some light on my particular situation and what they think would work best.

    Thanks so much, in advanced.

    Aum Namah Shivaya

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    Re: Languages of India (!!)

    Vannakkam: Unless you intend to spend 80% of your time in Tamil Nadu, your best choice, by far, is Hindi. In the south, there are 4 languages: Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu. and Kannada.

    Learning a language that has a different script, different sounds (ones European languages don't use) and lots of different rules may be harder than it sounds. I've never done it, although I started trying once and gave up fairly quickly when 3 year olds were surpassing me. Its not the same as going from English to German.

    But you can easily get by with English, and a few phrases, unless you go into remote villages. On my trips, indeed it was frustrating at times, like checking into hotels in out of the way places, but we always managed.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: Languages of India (!!)

    Namaste,

    Each state has its own native language, like West Bengal has Bengali, Tamilnadu has Tamil, Kerala has Malayalam, Gujarat has Gujarati and so forth. But Hindi is spoken by 60-70 of the population as a first language or as a second language. So, that is the most useful one in terms of being able to communicate with the masses. In metropolitan areas, one could get by with English. Sanskrit, the language of the gods, is and will continue to be a dormant language. Having said all that, the commonly spoken street language of the majority is not Hindi but Hindustani, which is Hindi peppered with words from Arabic/Farsi/Turkish. I hope you are thoroughly confused by now.

    Pranam.

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