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Website for India's English Teaching Industry

India :: World's Second Largest English Speaking Country

Hard to believe? Yes, but that is certainly a fact.

Wikipedia Ranking : World Number 1 is India

  • Check this English Speaking population on Wikipedia
  • Wikipedia's India estimate of 350 million includes two categories - "English Speakers" and "English Users".
  • The distinction between the Speakers and Users is that Users only know how to read English words while Speakers know how to read English, understand spoken English as well as form their own sentences to converse in English.
  • The distinction becomes clear when you consider the China numbers. China has over 200~350 million users that can read English words but, as anyone can see on the streets of China, only handful of million who are English speakers.

Over 100 Million English Speakers in India

  • The total population of India is over 1.1 billion. By age demographics, 54% of India's population is under the age of 25 - thats a whopping 550 million young people.
  • In India, population's % of English speakers varies with age - English speaker % is higher among younger Indians than the older Indians. In most middle class families, the parents may not be English speakers but the children are English speakers.
  • While the Indian census has not actually counted the numbers, English speakers in India is estimated to be in the range 9% of her total population (100 million) to 33% of her population (350 million speakers). The most conservative estimate is 9% or well over 100 million speakers.
  • Today, it can be reasonably be estimated that India has over 350 million English users and about 100 million English speakers.
  • India is certainly the world's second largest English speaking country after the USA (300 million - near 100% of US population).

English Usage in India

  • India, often called the land of diversity, is similar to the entire European continent. Each state of India, almost the size of an European country, has its own culture and its own language. Each Indian language is distinctly different from another. Most Indian languages have their own script - the scripts are distinctly different as well. As a matter of fact, out of total of 25 scripts invented on this planet by the mankind, 10 are from India. For an Indian person traveling to another state in India, it is like going to a foreign country - the local language is not yours.
  • De facto, English is the "common" language among most educated Indians today. When two Indians from different states meet, they invariably communicate with each other in English.
  • English is the language of all businesses, government and education.
  • The entire University education in India is in English - very similar to what you find in the USA.
  • Every computer user in India uses Microsoft Windows - English-edition. Microsoft has provided support for Indian languages only from Windows Vista released in 2006 and not even 1% of all computer users in India use Indian languages for computers. All emailing within India is in English.

English in Media

  • In every major city of India, the cable TV has at least 25 English channels. There are many Indian English channels and others are the American/Western channels.
  • The Times of India, an English language daily newspaper in India, is officially the world's largest selling English language daily newspaper.
  • Besides the outsourcing to India of their business processes, now some Bollywood (India's Hollywood in Mumbai) enterprises are doing outsourced work for their Hollywood counterparts.

Role of English in India's Social Fabric

  • Not every person in India can speak English. In urban areas, a higher percentage of people speak English while in the rural agrarian areas very few people speak English.
  • 54% of India's population is less than 25 years of age - thats a whopping 550 million young Indians. Among young Indians, the % of English literacy is much higher. English skills are a must to get an entry into corporate India.
  • In India, English skills are part of the social hierarchy. Practically every person in the higher and upper middle class section of the Indian society is fluent in English. In fact, English fluency is kind of a pre-requisite for the upward mobility in the class ladder. A upwardly mobile successful Indian entreprenuer with inadequate English skills is not considered blue-blooded enough and is persona non-grata at the turf clubs or country clubs of India. A classic example is the detente between the power-flexing non-english speaking Indian politicians and the English-speaking movers & shakers from Indian bureaucracy and the indusrial clans.

English prowess of Indians

  • Unlike the other non-native English speakers in Asian countries, many Indians in India have excellent English skills. Thanks to early start of English education for generations, many Indians have near native verbal and written English skills.
  • Over 75,000 Indian students go to US Universities every year. The USA bound Indian University students do not have much difficulty in TOEFL or after they join a USA University.
  • The predominant role of English language in Indian society is making new generation of Indians to have near-native English skills - while the young ones are still in the elementary schools. A cursory visit to any of India's KG or nursery schools in the metro cities illustrates this fact.