A handy guide on Indian scripts
11th November 2015
We’ve decided to share some useful information about Indian languages, which can be used as a guide to help with your foreign marketing. As there are 22 official languages in India there is often confusion about which languages are used in all the different regions and also where they’re used in the UK. When marketing your service or product in India you need to know exactly where the translated documents will be used to determine which language you need. Below we’ve provided you with some handy facts about some of the most common Indian languages, including where they are spoken, which direction they’re written in and a few samples of what they look like.
Hindi is the official language of India and is used by the largest number of people as their first language. It is formed of symmetrical rounded shapes with a line across the top linking them together and is written from left to right. If you need to choose one main language to have your marketing copy translated into then Hindi is your best choice. In the UK, there are around 480,000 Hindi speakers many of whom are in London.
Bengali is a language spoken in the Bengal region in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent. Also known as Bangla, Bengali is written from left to right and is in the Bengali alphabet. The letters are jagged in comparison to Hindi but they are still linked by a line running across the top. In the UK, there are around 400,000 Bengali speakers mainly in London, Coventry and Bradford.
Tamil is spoken by the Tamil people in Tamil Nadu in the southernmost part of India. It is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore. It uses rounded and straight characters and is written from left to right but unlike Hindi and Bengali Tamil does not have a line running across the top of the letters. In the UK, there are around 60,000 Tamil speakers, the majority of whom live in London.
Malayalam is closely linked to Tamil but is spoken predominantly in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It is also written from left to right and is predominantly made up of rounded characters. In the UK, there are around 21,000 Malayalam speakers, the majority of whom live in London.
Gujarati is the main language of the state of Gujarat and has 54.6 million speakers across India. It is one of the most modern scripts in India and is written from left to right. The letters are quite similar to Hindi letters but in Gujarati they’re not linked by a line across the top. In the UK, there are around 140,000 Gujarati speakers mainly in large cities such as Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham and also East London.
Urdu is the main language of Pakistan. It is closely related to Hindi but is written in the Persian script. Unlike Hindi though, Urdu is written from right to left and looks similar to the Arabic script. In the UK, there are around 400,000 Urdu speakers mainly in London and northern towns such as Leeds, Bradford and Manchester.
There are two common types of written Punjabi:
- Gurmukhi, which is associated with the Sikh religion. It is used predominately in the Punjab and is written from left to right. There is a top horizontal line on most of the characters.
- Shahmukhi which is associated with the Muslim religion. It is used in Pakistan and is written in a version of the Urdu alphabet. The script is written from right to left.
In the UK there are around 273,000 speakers, the majority of whom live in the West Midlands.
If you’d like to find out more about Indian scripts or our translation and typesetting services please call us on 08450345677 or send us an email.