Every month this year, we will be turning our focus towards one of the core languages we love to teach – looking at the language’s potential for business, considering a few facts and figures to put its global prospects in context, plus sharing some tips to help you get started. This month we take a look at Hindi, the most widely spoken language in India.
India is one of the largest countries in the world, and it has the second-largest population after China (at 1.39 billion). However, the 600 million people who speak Hindi adds up to barely half of this because India is a country with considerable language diversity, with other common languages including Bengali and Urdu. Yet 600 million is a phenomenal number of people, and Hindi jostles with Spanish for third and fourth place when it comes to the most spoken languages in the world. Therefore, learning Hindi makes a lot of sense if you want to reach a large number of people across different industries. The question, of course, is whether your business can see opportunities for success in India.
Learning Hindi: Business Prospects and Opportunities
India is a large country – the seventh largest in the world, in fact. It also has the fifth largest economy in the world, with an accompanying population of 1.39 billion (an astonishing 17.7% of the total world population). As the third/fourth most spoken language in the world (depending on its tug of war with Spanish, which is spoken by a similar number of people around the world), Hindi offers a gateway to India.
As well as being one of the world’s largest economies, India is also one of the world’s fastest growing economies – and despite India’s struggles with COVID-19 (including a diminishing vaccine supply), it is also poised to continue to bounce back from the economic impact of the pandemic in 2021 and 2022.
Major industries in India include IT (information technology) services, agriculture/farming, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and manufacturing, and the service sector (notably technology services) contributes significantly to India’s economic output. India is also one of the BRICS countries (consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), a group of five major emerging global economies that are considered to be the “engines of global economic growth” and which should all continue to be significant players in the business world for years to come.
Did You Know? A Few Facts about Hindi and the Languages of India
Hindi is India’s main language, but it is only one part of the diverse language landscape in India. Here are a few interesting facts to know about Hindi (and some of the other languages of India) before you get started on your language-learning journey.
- While Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India (with around 600 million speakers), India also has the fourth highest number of languages in the world by country (at 454, coming fourth after Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and Nigeria). The majority of people in India speak one of only a handful of these languages; therefore, many of India’s languages are endangered.
- Three Indian languages (Hindi, Bengali, and Urdu) are in the top ten languages spoken in the world!
- Hindi and English are the official languages of India.
- While Hindi is predominantly a language of India, it is also spoken in some other parts of the world, including Mauritius, Nepal and Trinidad & Tobago.
- Written Hindi uses the Devanagari script, but many people (computer users in particular) use a romanised form of the language and write Hindi in its romanised form.
- Keyboards in India are more likely to use English than the Devanagari script. English is widely utilised in professional and educational contexts in India, so the romanised keyboard allows users to write in both English and the romanised form of Hindi.
- The Devanagari script is used by a number of languages, including Marathi, Nepali, Sanskrit and Kashmiri. Interestingly, while an Urdu and a Hindi speaker may be able to converse at a basic level and achieve a degree of mutual intelligibility, they would not be able to understand the writing of the other because Urdu uses an Arabic script!
- Hindi has introduced a number of words into the English language over time, including bungalow, guru, jungle, karma and yoga.
- Languages in India are often regional, so remember to check the language of the area you intend to work within, as another language – such as Bengali, Punjabi or Urdu – may be the predominant local language. While Hindi is by far the most widely spoken language in India (and a significant number of Indians speak Hindi as a second language), there are plenty of other languages that may hold the top spot in specific regions.
Tips to Help You Get Started
As Hindi can be learned in a romanised form, language learners may feel reassured that they do not have to learn a new way of writing – at least not at first. Here are a few tips to help you develop your Hindi language skills and enhance your language-learning confidence.
- Hindi is a phonetic language, so it almost always sounds like it is written (unlike English, with its ‘read’ and ‘read’, and ‘lead’ and ‘lead’, all of which may look the same but can sound different and mean different things!).
- Hindi, like around a quarter of the world’s languages (including French and Spanish), has masculine and feminine genders for its nouns. If you have previously learned a gendered language then this may seem familiar, but it can be hard to get used to if you have not encountered this before. Aim to learn both genders each time you learn a new noun, as this will help you get used to the ways that gender can influence the expression of nouns.
- One component of language you do not need to stress about with Hindi is the definite (‘the’) or indefinite (‘a/an’) article. All Hindi does in this department is add ‘ek’ to mean ‘one’ when you are referring to one of something (such as one book, one cat, one dog).
- Try to engage in some fun ways to get to know the language when you are learning Hindi. You could watch a Hindi language film (sometimes called ‘Bollywood’ cinema!) or familiarise yourself with the Devanagari script by reading news and magazines in Hindi. You might even spot useful Hindi words in your local Indian restaurant menu – or even hear them at your yoga class! The more familiar you are with the look and sound of the language, the more confident you may feel about speaking the language.
If you would like to find out more about learning Hindi to help grow your business prospects around the world, contact us today. We can work with you to develop a bespoke language-learning plan for your business, as well as provide cross-cultural training to help you connect with your global colleagues, whether virtually or in person. All our courses can be taught live online.