India is the largest country in South Asia and the second most populated country in the world. The word “Indian” comes from Sindhu, a local name for the Indus River. There are many things India is known for; spicy cuisine (Butter Chicken is definitely our favourite), Bollywood, the Taj Mahal, vibrant festivals, cricket and yoga. However, the diversity of languages is not always something that comes to mind.
There is a wealth of Indian languages and dialects spoken in India and we are talking about over 19,000! Hindi is the most spoken language with 44% of the population speaking it as their first language and it’s the official language of India. Did you know that English has borrowed a great number of words from Hindi? Examples of Hindi loanwords include avatar, bandanna, bungalow, guru, jungle, khaki, karma, loot, nirvana, pajamas, sorbet, shampoo, typhoon, and yoga.
Here we list the top 5 spoken languages in India after Hindi.
5 popular Indian languages
With the number of speakers second only to Hindi, the Bengali language is spoken in the states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam. Bengali belongs to the family of Indo-European languages, with considerable influence from other language systems present in South Asia. Bengali is thought to date back to the early 10th century with the writing style constantly evolving. The Bengali language has no capital letters and shares punctuation marks with the English language. Did you know that Jana Gana Mana, the National Anthem of India is written in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore? Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali polymath who reshaped Bengali literature and music.
Native speakers: 97 million
Official Language of: India and Bangladesh
Marathi is a language with roots in the ancient language of Sanskrit. It’s the native tongue of people in the central Indian state of Maharashtra and parts of Gujrat and popular in Goa and the union territory of Daman and Diul. Initial inscriptions of Marathi have been found in copper plates and stones at excavation sites across India. Marathi speakers can often communicate with speakers of Punjabi and Hindi as the languages are closely related, with similar origins and vocabulary.
Native speakers: 83 million
Official Language of: Maharashtra (India)
Telugu is part of the Dravidian family of languages which includes Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada. It stands alongside Hindi, English, and Bengali as one of the few languages with primary official language status in more than one Indian state. It is the 4th most spoken language in India and the 15th most spoken language in the world. Native speakers are spread out across two main states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, With origins as early as the 6th century, it is a language categorized as having retroflex consonants, a pronouncing technique using the curling of the tip of the tongue at the top of the mouth. Various dialects of Telugu can be found in the neighboring states of Andhra Pradhesh and Telengana.
Native speakers: 81 million
Official Language of: India
This Indian language is one of the oldest living languages in the world. With the first use of the language thought to be in the early 5th century. Tamil is classified as a classical language by UNESCO and given it is ancient, it had considerable amounts of ancient literature and possesses a unique tradition. Most popular in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka, Tamil is a language with an international presence. Tamil speakers can be found in large numbers from South Africa all the way to the tiny South Pacific island of Fiji.
Native Speakers: 69 Million
Official Language of: India, Sri Lanka, and Singapore
The Gujarati language is a mix of three languages Gujarati, Urdu and Sindhi. Gujarati speakers are mostly found in the states of Gujrat and Maharashtra, with a sizeable presence in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. The earliest records of the language go back to the 14th century. Gujarati speakers are also found in the South-Eastern parts of Africa as well as Pakistan. The written Gujarati script is also known as the śarāphi (banker’s), vāṇiāśāi (merchant’s) or mahājani (trader’s) script, which symbolizes the early use of the language in the Gujarati community, known for their business ventures.
Native speakers: 55 million
Official Language of: Gujarat (India)
Culturally and linguistically diverse, India has many languages to offer a language enthusiast or a culture explorer. Browse through our expansive list of Indian languages and get started on your Indian language learning experience.