Sorry My Dear Times of India, the logic doesn’t add up

This refers to an article in the Times of India dated 31 October 2019 entitled “Hindi with 8.74 lakh speakers is most popular Indian language in US” (Kably, L, 2019). The news report takes data from American Community Survey Data 2018. This data provided by US Census Bureau explores as to how many people in USA speak a language other than English at home as first language. The data itself is a pointer to demographic changes which have taken place in USA due to immigration. For example, some of the major languages which are spoken in USA as first language at home besides English are Spanish, Chinese and Arabic.

Since the report by The Times of India focuses on Indian languages, it analyses the absolute and percentage changes in the speaker of Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Bengali and Gujrati languages. According to the report the number of Hindi speaking population in USA rose by 43.5% over a ten-year period. The percentage increase for Telugu was impressive 79.5%. However, in terms of absolute number of people speaking Hindi was the highest among Indian languages spoken in USA. The report further tells us that Gujrati speaking population has declined in terms of absolute numbers.

The said report provides further insight about the Bengali and Tamil speaking population. It says that “The Bengali-speaking US-based population at 3.75 lakh has shown rise by nearly 68% over the same eight-year period. This is followed by those who speak Tamil, showing a rise by 67.5% to stand at 3.08 lakhs as of July 1, 2018. However, it should be noted that individuals from countries other than India also speak Bengali (predominantly Bangladesh). Tamil is spoken in countries such as Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia. Immigration experts say the spike in Bengali speaking population may also be representative of a larger inflow to the US from Bangladesh”.

However, the report does not give any breakup of either Punjabi or Urdu. There are Indian origin people in USA who speak Punjabi or Urdu at home as their first language. The reasoning given by The Time of India is based on false logic. It mentions that “As a dominant percentage of Urdu and Punjabi speaking populace in the US is anecdotally said to hail primarily from Pakistan, TOI has ignored these statistics in its analysis”. I don’t know if this is discrimination against Punjabi and Urdu speakers or plain incompetence by the TOI reporter.

If the news can cover information about Bengali and Tamil languages with clarifications about non-Indians also speaking these languages, a similar clarification could have been given about the other two languages. Instead TOI just decided to ignore both Punjabi and Urdu based on so called anecdotal evidence.

Last time I checked, both Punjabi and Urdu are in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution contains a list of 22 scheduled languages. Punjabi is officially first language of the state of Punjab and Second official language of Delhi and Haryana. It is the 11th most spoken in India with 33.1 million people mentioning it as their mother tongue. Similarly, Urdu is first language of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Besides Urdu is second official language in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi and Bihar. Urdu is the 7th most spoken language in India with 50.7 million reporting it as their mother tongue.

Ignoring these two languages by giving logic that more Pakistanis than Indians speak these two languages in USA doesn’t make them Pakistani languages and hence not being covered in the news doesn’t make any sense at all. By the same logic Bengali should not have been part of this news also.

We identify languages with geography and ethnic groups for reference purpose only. A language does not belong to any country or geography. All the languages belong to humanity. Urdu is my mother tongue but Hindi and Punjabi are also my languages as much as Urdu. Sorry My Dear Times of India, The Logic Doesn’t Add Up.


For reader’s benefit, here is a list of 22 Languages in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution along with the number of speakers in millions arranged in descending order.

Sr. No. Language Speakers in Millions
1 Hindi 528
2 Bengali 97.2
3 Marathi 83
4 Telugu 81
5 Tamil 69
6 Gujrati 55.5
7 Urdu 50.7
8 Kannada 43.7
9 Odia 37.5
10 Malayalam 34.8
11 Punjabi 33.1
12 Assamese 15.3
13 Maithili 13.6
14 Santali (also called Santhali) 7.3
15 Kashmiri 6.8
16 Nepali 2.9
17 Sindhi 2.7
18 Dogri 2.6
19 Konkani 2.25
20 Manipuri 1.8
21 Bodo 1.48
22 Sanskrit 0.02

Compiled from: Statement 1- Abstract of Speakers’ Strength of Languages and Mother Tongues – 2011

References and for more information, please see:

Statement 1 – Abstract of Speakers Strength of Languages and Mother Tongues – 2011. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

Kably, L. (2019, October 31) Hindi with 8.74 lakh speakers is most popular Indian language in US. Available at: Accessed on 31 October 2019.

Gulf News (2018, July 1). Census: More than 19,500 languages spoken in India as mother tongues. Available at: Accessed on 3 November 2019.



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