India is a land of many gods and many languages as well. With the prospect of moving to the Czech Republic soon, I was having a chat recently with a Czech colleague about the challenges of moving to a country with English not being the first language. Though my colleague is well versed in English I was curious about how it would be among the general populace. He said that he dosen’t speak English on the streets and his parent’s generation were unlikely to know it at all. The only bright side to all this was the fact despite the presence of extra accents on their letters the Czech language still uses the letters we use in English.
More than half of the languages spoken by India’s 1.3 billion people may die out over the next 50 years, scholars said on Thursday, calling for a concerted effort to preserve the tongues spoken by the nation’s endangered tribal communities.
This got me thinking about how inherently multilingual Indians are compared to most other countries in the world. Again, I am not referring to the total number of languages which is still an overwhelming number in the hundreds. I am referring to how our circumstances easily let us learn multiple languages.
The other revelation when I was thinking about is that despite Hindi being the national language for most practical intents and purposes, we are an English first country.
Perhaps, this is all a legacy of colonial rule and the heavy industrialization that began during the British reign. Whatever the reason may be, we still might be the only ones who so freely mix multiple languages in the scope of a single conversation.