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The Linguistic Diversity of India: Southern States

Updated on May 24, 2017

The pleasure of travel is great. Being a citizen of India, I am lucky enough as her culture is so versatile and naturally it provides me a wonderful and colorful experience when I travel. Here my attempt is to give you some accounts about the linguistic features of India, which are very strange too. This time I stress on the language features of the Southern part of the nation. I will come to narrate about the rest in the near future.


The language, religion, food, climate, colour, festivity, everything change in India as you travel from one place to the other. It is so versatile and complex and one may, especially if he is a foreigner, even think that India is not just a country but a continent!


Though Hindi and English are India's national languages, many of the Indians don't know Hindi. The amusing but sad scene is that every Indian can't converse with his fellowmen as the people here speak many languages. It means that one Indian from a state goes to another state, he finds it difficult to converse with people in that region. The problem is mainly faced by the Southerners on their visit to the Northside. But you may still laugh when you know that people in the South itself face such problem as all the Southern states have different languages. So when a Keralite goes to his neighboring state Tamil Nadu as well a Kannadiga (Karnataka people) goes to his border state Andhra Pradesh and vice versa the problem is still there when it comes to communication. Perhaps no other country in the world faces such a mishap!

The world famous Tirupati Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh
The world famous Tirupati Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh

The country can be generally classified into four regions as South, North, North East and West. Let me narrate a few things about the South India. What makes the South so different from the rest is mainly on the language aspect. Except South, people from all other regions speak Hindi; whereas in the South it is least used. The southern part of India include Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Also, Pondicherry and Lakshwadeep can be added to this list. Some reference books add Goa too to this list, it is only partially right.


To add variety to its complexity, you can see that each of these states in the southern part itself has different languages. While people of Kerala speak Malayalam, what you hear in Tamil Nadu is Tamil. Both languages have certain similarities. When Andhra people speak Telugu, "Kannada" is what one speaks in Karnataka. They also speak Tulu. People of Pondicherry (Puducherry) use Tamil and French (because of the French invasion centuries back). When you move to Lakshwadeep, you will hear Mahal and Malayalam. Surprisingly, in some parts of Andhra and Karnataka, Hindi also widely spoken. In Andhra Urdu also used in places like Hyderabad and Secundrabad. Mostly the Muslims use Hindi and Urdu in these areas.

The Film industry in all these four states is vibrant with a large number of releases every year. Ditto is the case with the print media also. The region has the most educated folks. Many of the Doctors, Engineers and Computer professionals working abroad are from the Southern states.


The Tamil Superstar Rajnikant
The Tamil Superstar Rajnikant

If you are a traveller and knows Hindi, things are easy in India. Still you may find it difficult when you are in South India, especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. But don't panic. Your English will do good here as people in these places know the language. They may not be fluent, but they can manage with you. So my humble advice to all travellers: Learn English as far as you can. This being a universal language, a knowledge in the language will come to your aid at any time and place.


If one is fluent in both Hindi and English, he is the luckiest one in this land of cultural diversity. He won't face any communication problem then. My advice to the travellers, who plan to visit India: If your aim is to explore the South India, utilize your English knowledge, if you are not, sharpen your language skill. In case you are venture to North India (or West and East sides), try to learn Hindi. the rural folks in India are so averse to English. They use only Hindi. Surprisingly, in many parts of the Northern region, even educated people also prefer to speak in Hindi only. But no such issues persist in Metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, etc, where English also widely spoken.

Now One question arises. How can I learn Hindi? Don't worry. Hindi is not a tough language as you fear. In fact is very easy while comparing with other Indian languages. Sure, it may be difficult to read and write for the outsiders. Yet not at all tough to converse in. You need not learn to read and write for travel purpose. Just learn to converse only and that too with simple sentences for daily usage. For this, you can refer good books. I think the "Rapidex" series books are handy for this purpose. Its "English-Hindi Conversation" books will help you to master Hindi translation for day-to-day life situation. The questions you need to ask in shops, railway stations, bus stops, parks, hotels, beaches, etc are available in the simple style. Some books also give you CDs so that you can learn the pronunciation also. Give a try on the internet, you can find useful materials for the learning process. Google search will give you a satisfactory result.

Now a comes a happy news for those who plan to visit Kerala. You can learn Malayalam, the local language of the state absolutely free!. The official announcement in this regard has appeared as a news time in a famous English Daily recently. The news item titled "When in Kerala, speak like a Malayali" read as follows: To make their Kerala experience more meaningful, tourists can now sign up for a two-week long (all it takes is 24 hours!) program and acquire basic communication skills in Malayalam. The medium of instruction will be English. The learning materials will be given to students free of cost.

The State government's Malayalam Mission is ready with the learning materials and the training modules for the course titled "Namukku Padikkam Malayalam" (Let's learn Malayalam). Tourists will be taught how to communicate with local people in Malayalam at places such as bus stand, railway station, hospital, post office, etc. The timing of the course will be fixed as per the convenience of the tourists". (Courtesy: Sunday Times, 26th August 2012).

So dear tourists, please use this golden chance by enrolling for this Free Crash Course and make your Kerala experience a wonderful as well memorable one. You can collect the details from the Official site of the Department of Tourism, Govt. of Kerala. (Address I have given in my profile page). It will be published within a few days. So please wait.

My humble intention is to give you some valuable advice to help your travel safe and comfort. It is a vast subject. In this hub, I have just stated about the language aspect only. Still a lot of areas remain to discuss like food, religion, culture, climate, etc. We need to understand about the regions beyond the South also. I will soon cover that in the near future.

Wish you all a safe and comfortable journey. It will be nice if you leave your valuable comments so that I can update you with more precisely and richly about my nation-The Incredible India!.

Each journey is a discovery! Let's discover more!!

Now it is time to analyse your knowledge on the topic: The linguistic diversity of India. Please attend the quiz. By answering the ten questions, you can convince yourself how fine is your grasping power and knowledge on the subject. So Let's try.

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      Md Azhar Anjum 2 years ago

      According to the constitution of India , there is no language recognised as National language. Hindi and English are schedule languages.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @ashia thappar

      Thank you for your compliments.

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      ashia thappar 2 years ago

      gryt job....