23 official languages, 4000 dialects and recognized regional languages: a true discovery of Babel. However, two languages dominate: Hindi and ... English. 41% of the population speaks Hindi whereas 10% speak English. The elite of society, the upper middle class young students practice fluently. But for many Indians not speaking Hindi, it serves as a common language. Privileged in urban areas, English is spoken almost everywhere on the territory, apart from a few isolated areas.
After independence in 1947, the use of English in official texts was to end in 1965, for the benefit of Hindi alone. But in 1963 the parliament enacted a law maintaining the use of English in official contexts, this to facilitate the understanding of the texts for the Dravidian speakers.
You will be surprised to meet two educated Indians originally from Delhi, the other from Kolkota speak exclusively in English. We speak Hindi in Delhi, Bengali in Kolkota.
Indian language families
All languages are grouped into two large families, as dissimilar as French and Finnish:
Indo-Aryan languages: 74% of the population (northern India)
Dravidian languages: 24% of the population (South India)
Austrian (Indigenous tribes) and Tibeto-Burmese (Ladakh-Zanskar) languages: 2% of the population
The Sanskrit being ancestor of Hindi, the language par excellence of religious texts, remains the prerogative of some scholars. From its alphabet, the characters of the Hindi are derived directly.
For the western tourist, the practice of English in large urban centers is a real boon. In railway stations, for example, signposts written in Hindi or in the Dravidian language are complemented by Roman characters.
On the condition of speaking and understanding honorably the language of Shakespeare, communicating in India does not present much difficulties.