Spoken language is an essential part of communication. Without a properly defined language, it would be impossible to function as humans in a society.

However languages across the globe, can vary greatly. Certain countries even see a large variance of spoken language within their own borders. India is one of those countries.

The 12 most common languages spoken in IndiaIndia’s population is currently more than 1 billion people, made up of a vast array of nationalities, cultures and religions. The country holds the record for the highest number of spoken languages in the world.

Recent statistics suggest that there are more than 121 languages spoken in India, 22 of which are official languages. It is also reported that there could more than 19500 dialects of these languages, which people speak as their mother tongue.

The 12 most common languages spoken in India

1. Hindi 

Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language that is spoken in most parts of India. It is written in the Devanagari script and is considered one of the two official languages in the country, after English. 

Although there is an influence of Dravidian, English, Arabic, and Persian languages in Hindi, it was primarily derived from Sanskrit. 

The 13 most common languages spoken in India
Traditional Hindi Snake Charmer

How many people speak Hindi in India?

As of today, around 520 million people in India speak Hindi. According to a 2011 census, the number of people speaking Hindi as their mother tongue increased considerably between 2001 and the date of survey.  41.03% in 2001 to 43.6% in 2011 to be exact.

Hindi is also the world’s fourth most spoken language after English, Spanish, and Mandarin. 

Now if you are wondering which parts of India speak Hindi, it includes states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Haryana.

2. Indian English 

Surprisingly, English is considered an official language in India. It is not the second-most spoken language in the country, but is considered is second official language.

What languages are spoken in India
© René Castillejos (@rene_castillejos)

How many people speak English in India?

There are an estimated 259,678 people in India, who use English as their first language. While this only accounts for 0.02% of the total population, most people in the country understand well enough to hold a conversation.

This also makes India one of the countries with the highest number of English speakers in the world!

This brings the number of English speakers up to around 80 million, when considering those who use it as a second language.

English is a very popular language in Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

3. Bengali

The second most widely spoken language in India is Bengali.

Also known as “Bangla”, it is an Indo-Aryan language similar to Hindi but native to the Bengali region of South Asia. 

Bengali is greatly influenced by Persian and Arabic languages. However pronunciation and expression defers between states in India.

The 13 most common languages spoken in India
Traditional Bengali bride body art

How many people speak Bengali in India?

Today there are about 97 million Bengali speakers in India, which is 8% of the total population in the country. Another interesting fact is that the Indian National Anthem is written in Bengali.

The parts of India where the Bengali language is widely used are the states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Andaman and the Nicobar Islands in northeastern India. 

Bengali is also an extremely popular language for Indian expats living in Western countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, the UK and the Middle East. 

4. Marathi

Marathi is the third most popular common language in India. It is another Indo-Aryan language, spoken by people living in Maharashtra and Goa. 

© Jack (@jacopo_della_valle)

How many people speak Marathi in India?

There are about 83 million Marathi speakers in India – around 6.8% of the total population. Interestingly, Maratha has three genders in its grammatical rules, instead of just male and female. 

There are more than 40 versions of Marathi, with the most popular being the Standard Marathi and the Varhadi Marathi dialect.

5. Telugu

Telugu is another very popular language spoken in India. It is a Dravidian language that has been granted “official language status”, in more than one state, similar to Hindi and Benagli.

© Giovanna Photography (@giovannaphotography)

How many people speak Telegu in India?

As of now, there are about 82 million Telugu speakers in India. It is reported that Telugu is the fastest growing Indian language in the USA due to the large expat population of Telegu people.

In India the Telugu language is predominantly spoken in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, but can also be heard in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Andaman, and the Nicobar Islands.

6. Tamil 

Tamil is a widely spoken language, not only in India but around the world. The language is used in Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, South Africa, the USA, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. The Dravidian language is one of the last surviving classical languages in the world.

How many people speak Tamil in India?

There are about 69 million Tamil speakers in India, and it is the official language spoken by the majority of those living in Tamil Nadu. 

Other parts of India that speak Tamil are Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Andaman and the Nicobar Islands. 

7. Gujarati 

The sixth most popular language spoken in India is Gujarati. An Indo-Aryan language primarily used by the people of the Gujarati state.

The 13 most common languages spoken in India
Traditional Gujarati Cusine

How many people speak Gujarati in India?

There are approximately 55 million Marathi speakers in India, which is around 4.5% of the total population.

Similar to Telegu, Gujarati is one of the fastest-growing Indian languages in the USA and Canada. Again, this is purely down to the large expat population.

Other countries with a large number of people who speak Gujarati are; South Africa, Australia, Pakistan, Singapore, Kenya, Uganda, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Bahrain. 

8. Urdu

With an estimated 230 million speakers worldwide, Urdu is another popular global language.

Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language, largely similar to Hindi. Sharing the same grammatical rules and vocabulary, the two languages are often intertwined into a unique dialect.

That being said, Urdu is largely influenced by Persian which means it is as different as it is similar.

© Jack (@jacopo_della_valle)

How many people speak Urdu in India?

There are around 50 million Urdu speakers in India. It is a frequently used language in the Bollywood film industry, and local newspapers. 

Urdu is spoken in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kolkata, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Telangana. 

9. Kannada

Primarily used by those living in the Karnataka state, Kannada is the seventh most popular language spoken in India.

Similar to Tamil, it is a Dravidian language and is considered to be the oldest language in use in India. Estimates suggest there are more than 20 dialects of Kannada. 

Badami Karnataka

How many people speak Kannada in India?

Today there are about 43 million native Kannada speakers in the country, while its estimated that there are only around 13 million people who use it as a second or third language. 

Aside from Karnataka, the Kannada language can also be heard in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Kerala.

In addition to that, Kannada is also used in various Western countries. 

10. Odia

Odia is the official language of the Odisha state.

Previously known as Odiya, the language is considered a classical language thanks to its long literary history and for not having borrowed too extensively from other languages.

© Jack (@jacopo_della_valle)

How many people speak Odia in India?

As of now, there are about 37 million Odia speakers in India, which is 3.1% of the total population in the India. 

The language is also spoke in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Chennai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune.

In addition to that, Odia is spoken in the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Fiji, and Burma.

11. Malayalam

Malayalam is mostly used by the Malayali people living in the Lakshadweep and Puducherry territories in India.

How many people speak Malayalam in India?

There are about 34 million Malayalam speakers in India. Some of which are also found in the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states.

12. Punjabi 

Punjabi is the eleventh most popular language in India, and is widely spoken by people residing in the Punjabi state.

Surprisingly, Punjabi is the third most popular language spoken in the United Kingdom!

Beautiful Punjabi Woman | © (@wojtekstark)

How many people speak Punjabi in India?

Today there are about 30 million Punjabi speakers in India – around 2.5% of the country’s total population.

Aside from India and the UK, Punjabi is also spoken in the USA, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, France and Italy.