422 Million Hindi Mother Tongue speakers in 2001, how many English
The magazine India Today published a survey in 1997 which claimed a
third of Indians spoke English, which some now take to suggest that
India has 350 million English speakers ('English
Pushing'). I find this hard to believe. But, maybe Newspaper readership
can give us a ball park figure on the real number of speakers, well
readers really, of Hindi and English.
The National Readership Survey in 2006 estimated there were 204 million
readers of daily newspapers in India, and that 40 percent (81.6 million)
were readers of Hindi papers and 10 percent (20.4 million) were readers
of English papers. (Ram,
2007) The top selling Hindi newspapers were the Dainik Jagran (with
21.2 million readers) and Dainik Bhaskar (with 21 million readers).
In comparison the biggest readership for an English paper was the Times
of India with 7.4 million ('NRS
2006 - Key Findings'). This shows that one out of every five Hindi
speakers now reads a Hindi newspaper.
The latest IRS (Indian Readership Survey, a different organisation
from the NRS) figures for the first quarter of 2008 show that Hindi
Newspaper readership has now reached around 185 million copies a day
and English readership is around 34 million a day ('IRS
2008 R1: Dainik Jagran continues the lead'). I can't find figures
on total readership for this quarter at the moment, but presume that
Hindi and English again make up only half of readership, the other 50%
being in the other Indian languages.
I would suggest that newspaper readership is a rough indicator of functional 'knowing' of a language. English readership is now at about 10% of the level of Hindi readership; so that probably reflects the number of English speakers in India. I would make that then a rough figure of around 40 million people who speak English in India, compared with the at least 400 million who are mother tongue Hindi speakers. The things that make this fuzzy are that maybe readership would actually be higher amongst more educated English speakers, and lower amongst the less educated Hindi speakers. That might tend to mean that ten percent was still the upper limit for speakers of English in India, and that maybe the number of people who know Hindi in India, as opposed to mother tongue speakers, must be well over 500 million by now.
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Texts and Translations © Peter G. Friedlander unless otherwise indicated.