With over a billion people belonging to different ethnic groups residing in the country, it is not surprising that India is a land of several languages. The vernacular of each Indian State is unique and there also exist a number of Tribal languages. Along with these native dialects, two foreign languages, English and French, introduced in the country by colonial rulers have also come to play a significant part in the Indian communication system.
The British rulers used English for official communication and also introduced the language into the Indian educational system. Similarly, French colonies that existed in Puducherry, Karaikal and other places began incorporating French as an official language. Even now French remains the primary language used in Puducherry. Traces of foreign influence can also be seen in the Western coast of India including Goa and Kerala which were Portuguese colonies. However, Portuguese as a language has not caught up much here.
When India became independent in 1947, the desire to break free from the colonial rulers and their culture was evident. Consequently the Indian constitution declared Hindi in Devanagari script as the official Indian language. However this was opposed by South Indian states whose language drastically differs from Hindi which is more akin to the languages spoken in North India. To make amends, it was decided to have English also as the official language for the next 15 years.
Indian language History has since then been plagued with anti Hindi agitations by Southern states and this has reinforced the status of English as one of India’s official languages. Further each Indian state has its own official language to iron out conflicts and make communication easy.
In spite of being foreign to the Indian language family, English has played a vital role in helping India progress in the years after independence by making interaction with the outside world possible. English is taught in all educational institutions across India along with regional languages. As a result, all Indians can converse in at least two languages.
French is also catching up as a popular foreign language in India due to the various job openings available for translators, tutors and interpreters. Some schools in the country offer French as a second language and there are Universities offering degree programs as well. Chinese, German, Russian, Spanish and Korean are some of other foreign languages that have gained importance in recent years with rapid globalization and the growing need for language experts.
Here are a couple of books on Indian English for further reading.
Indian English (Dialects of English)
Buy Indian English: Language & Culture from Flipkart.com