Indian Signs in Different Languages


Sahith Aula  Forbes Magazine “The Trouble With English in India”

Mr. Aula is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Emory University.

Imagine living in a nation where you, a member of the majority, are unable to read the label of the medicine you must give your child, the menu at a local restaurant or even the warning signs of the road; a place where you are unable to comprehend the government document officiating your driver’s license, tax filing or marriage. This is the world that hundreds of millions of Indians live in simply because the elite prefer English. This discrimination has become so systemic that the elite and middle classes send their children to English private schools while the vast poor send theirs to the government schools of their mother tongue. One need not mention that universities and even government jobs require fluency in English, as mandated by the ruling elite. Therefore, a person’s socioeconomic status in Indian society is approximately in line with his or her fluency in the language. In other words: a new caste system.

I remember walking through the airport in Chennai (formerly Madras) and seeing signs in 4 languages,  3 with different alphabets and then English.  Indians usually speak their state language, some of their neighboring languages  and at least a bit of English as well as Hindi.   Speaking is the lowest level of difficulty in learning a language, reading , next and writing is the most difficult.  So it is obvious that people at least need to talk.   English is definitely the language of the educated, elite class and a throwback to the English occupation.   The same thing happens in Europe with the prolixity of countries and travel back and forth. If we in the US had neighboring states speaking other languages, we would be forced to learn at least rudimentary words.

Besides Hindi, the following languages (arranged in descending order as regards numbers of speakers) are each spoken by more than 25 million Indians –Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu,Gujarati, Kannada, Telugu, Odia and Punjabi.

This is just  just another example of mysterious, amazing India! 

About annetbell

I am a retired elementary teacher, well seasoned world traveler,new blogger, grandmother, and a new enthusiastic discoverer of the wonderfully complex country of India. Anne
This entry was posted in Amdavad, India, Travel, Uncategorized, USA and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Indian Signs in Different Languages

  1. Yes. There is a three language formula being followed in many states of India – English, Hindi and the regional language. All Central Government institutions would have all three languages displayed. That is India. In Singapore, there are 4 official languages – English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. And all announcements and insignia are in these 4 languages. Diversity is the rule in Asia. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • annetbell says:

      I am so glad to hear from you. It has been a long time. You are always a wealth of knowledge. Can you tell me why in the south of India, they refuse to speak Hindi?


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