How Many Languages Does India Have?

There are 29 States in India. And 22 major languages are spoken in our country! Wow! These languages are listed in our Constitution, under what is known as Schedule 8. Therefore, they are also known as Scheduled Languages. They are, in alphabetical order, Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

Within these 22 major languages, there are 720 dialects, or small variations which are used only by people of distinct areas. This makes India one of the countries in the world with the most number of spoken and written languages.

So what are the chances of you speaking a language of one part of India and being understood by people in another corner? Not very high, isn’t it? That’s why India has two ‘official’ languages – Hindi and English. The Government of India communicates officially in these two languages. They are the most commonly spoken languages across the States. Each of the 29 States has its own official languages too, and the State Governments make official communications in that language. Most schools teach three languages – English, Hindi and the official language of the State they are located in.

Some languages have also been given the status of ‘Classical’ languages. They are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Odiya, which are ‘modern’ languages in the sense that they are still spoken by large sections of the population. But they also have a very long history, and many famous and important books have been written in them since ancient times. The sixth language to have ‘Classical’ status is Sanskrit, which is not commonly spoken in India now, but was the language which was used to speak, write and for religious purposes in ancient India.

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