How Many Languages Does Bangalore Speak?

Sitting on a table with 40 other women on one gossip filled lunch session, I realized that not one of us was speaking in pure English. Since I work in a translation company, this made me very inquisitive and I tuned in my ears to the various conversations around me. Did I hear Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi and Kannada? Was it possible that the people on my table are linguists or polyglots? These questions come to most minds when they sit and observe a room full of people in the cosmopolis called “Bangalore”.

Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India opened its doors and became the dream destination of working professionals across the country. The industrial boom followed by the IT boom turned the city into a mecca of job opportunities. People who came in search of the “Gold Rush” not only realized their dreams but also enjoyed the weather, the culture, the development and the quality of life and decided to settle in this city, which stands within the four pillars erected by Kempegowda. As people from different parts of India found their way into Bangalore, they infused the city with their language, food, culture, traditions and festivals. Within no time, Bangalore has become the “City with diversity”. It is no more rare to sit at a Stammtisch and find people from all corners of India and of late, the world sitting next to you, conversing in various languages. You are no longer surprised when you hear different languages while sitting in a BMTC bus travelling to the airport. The manager  at a high-end Japanese restaurant may actually be from your home-town of Kolkata who might just add in a “dessert on the house” because he heard you speak Bengali. Your next-door neighbours will most definitely be like the characters from “Two-States”, speaking two very different languages.Your domestic help maybe from across the country from a small town in Bihar and your broken Hindi with hand gestures will most definitely bring smiles to both your faces and yummy food to the table.

You might ask me if Kannada is still the most spoken language in Bangalore. The answer to that is definitely yes. Kannadigas are extremely proud of their rich culture and heritage and their language is equally important. You will hear the language being spoken all across the city and there are certain words like “majamadi”, “howda?”, “seri”, “illi-alli”, “naanu-neenu” being used by non-Kannada speaking people also.

However, does this diversity in languages play an important role in shaping the development, growth and future of this city? I definitely believe so. As the city went into the local polls last year, the political parties released their manifesto in five languages – Kannada, English, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. All political parties believed that different linguistic groups would play a major role in the election process.

Data: Census 2011

During the festive season of Dusherra, one can see the true nature of how various languages and cultures have influenced Bangalore. The Gujarati speaking community is busy organizing grand, large-scale Dandia functions in Palace Grounds, whereas the Bengali Association is busy finding the most unique Durga idol, the Kannadigas and Tamilians travel the length and breadth of Bangalore to visit relatives and appreciate their “Golu” or “Bombe Habba”.

The above two scenarios are socio-political which are restricted to Indian languages and this gets us thinking about the influence of foreign languages in this city. Bangalore has always been a student’s city, and academics and learning have played a prominent role here. There are numerous foreign language institutes that cater to the hunger of learning and knowledge of foreign languages has opened new avenues. MNCs like Bosch and Société Générale have opened regional offices in Bangalore due to the availability of highly skilled resources with foreign language skills. Many consulates have their offices in this city and given all these growth areas one will also see a group of young Bangaloreans in cafes talking in German, French, Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin.

The “Make in India” movement has also seen how Bangalore has quickly adapted to this need and provided solutions to its citizens in different Indian languages. The fact that Bangalore speaks so many languages – both Indian and foreign, has lead to an increased demand for content in Indian languages. Be it ecommerce in Tamil and Telugu, mobile OS in 14 major Indian languages or even development of platforms and portals which allow users to type content in Indian languages – all these high-tech developments have in some way or the other leveraged on the multi-lingual, skilled resources available in Bangalore. The fact that this city houses so many Indians, speaking different languages has made it a recruiters’ paradise. Translation and Localization companies who aim to cater to the Indian language speaking audiences have found a gold mine of resources in Bangalore.

We can definitely state that the migration of people, speaking different languages, from all across India started with the supply of jobs and now with so many initiatives by corporates and the government we can see that there is also a great demand of skilled resources with language competencies. Be it translation or creation of content for websites, localization of ecommerce portals or publication of e-books in various languages, all these services have high conversion potential in Bangalore because the city speaks so many languages. The city has retained its Kannadiga heritage but also embraced other cultures and languages and given them all a unique identity in Bangalore.

—   Madhu Sundaramurthy,
Mayflower Language Services.

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