English As Second Language In India

More Indians speak English than any other language, with the sole exception of Hindi. What’s more, English speakers in India outnumber those in all of western Europe, not counting the United Kingdom. And Indian English-speakers are more than twice the UK’s population.


These facts emerge from recently released census 2001 data on bilingualism and trilingualism in India. Indians’ linguistic prowess stood revealed with as many as 255 million speaking at least two languages and 87.5 million speaking three or more. In other words, about a quarter of the population speaks more than one language.


English was the primary language for barely 2.3 lakh Indians at the time of the census, more than 86 million listed it as their second language and another 39 million as their third language. This puts the number of English speakers in India at the time to more than 125 million.


The only language that had more speakers was Hindi with 551.4 million. This includes 422 million, who list it as the primary language, 98.2 million for whom it was a second language and 31.2 million who listed it as their third.


The rise of English puts Bengali, once India’s second largest language in terms of primary speakers, in distant third place. Those who spoke Bengali as their first, second or third language add up to 91.1 million, far behind English.


Telugu with 85 million speakers in all and Marathi with 84.2 million retain their position behind Bengali as does Tamil with 66.7 million and Urdu with 59 million.


Gujarati now falls behind Kannada though it has a sizeable number of primary speakers — 6.1 million — compared to Kannada’s 37.9 million.


Karnataka’s linguistic diversity means that many list other languages as their first and Kannada as a second language. This adds 11.5 million to the ranks of Kannada speakers and another 1.4 million use it as a third language. In total, Kannada had 50.8 million speakers in 2001 compared to Gujarati’s 50.3 million.


Oriya overtakes Malayalam thanks to the 3.3 million people who listed it as their second language and 3.2 lakh who said it was their third language.


The total number of Oriya speakers was 36.6 million against 33.8 million who spoke Malayalam. Punjabi, with 31.4 million speakers, and Assamese with 18.9 million are among India’s most spoken languages.
Unfortunately, the census asked people to list a maximum of three languages, so it is not known how many speak more languages.


The data covers only those over five because the census assumed that younger children would only know their mother tongue.


As expected, urban Indians are more likely to be multi-lingual but as many as 136.7 million rural Indians speak at least two languages.

English in India is a question of linguistic centralism while the other Indian
languages lead to linguistic regionalism.A foreign languages existing so firmly and
distinctly has posed a problem to the country .Yet the language problem became more
complicated without any practical solution .In the process of teaching-learning ,the teacher
should try to understand the student first.Then only he/she can enable the students to
understand his/her teaching .

Theory with practice on some of the teaching topics , may enable the students to understand the concept easily. The growing modernisation and internationalism in the world prevented us from doing away with the English language. Besides ,Indian languages are associated with tradition and are understood to be anti-modern. Therefore , a complete switchover to the Indian languages would lead to educational chaos and complete isolation from the developments on the international arena.

We could not risk this because of the cultural ,social ,political and economic reasons .Hence ,this situation requires an urgent solution .The only resolution that could be thought of was a need for coexistence of English with Indian languages .As a result, we had to define the role of English inIndia and
its relationship with Indian languages .

And furthermore, we had to define the role of English in India and its relationship with Indian languages.The role of English was strengthened and consolidated as English was recognized and perceived as:

  • The language of knowledge(science and technology)
  • The language of liberal, modern thinking.
  • A window on the world
  • The language of library

Thus, the three language formula came in to existence.This policy was proposed in 1956 by the central advisory board on education and was adopted at the Chief Ministers conference in1961 .The policy aimed at making English an integral part of the school education in India .This naturally restricted the learning and use of Hindi and the students started learning English as second language.