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Speaking English in Chennai

Discussion in 'South India' started by Golu, Apr 17, 2015.

  1. Golu

    Golu New Member

    I have a trip booked for Chennai in May for a week, I have everything planned and booked from travel, hotel to the weeks itinerary. The one thing I am now worried about is the language spoken there. I don't speak Tamil and I have heard that no one speaks or really understands Hindi there, which is a big problem. Now I need to know is English widely spoken there or not?

  2. DhongiBaba

    DhongiBaba Active Member

    Language is going to be a bit of a problem in Tamil Naidu. I have experienced that even those people who I know can understand and speak Hindi choose to act as if they cannot understand a word. I fail to understand why they do that but it happens. English is not very widely spoken either so be prepared to learn a few Tamil words if you are going to be dealing with general public there.

  3. Admin

    Admin Administrator Staff Member

    Dont worry about the language. I have been to countries where they dont speak a single word of English and they obviously have no clue what Hindi is and I still get by farely easily. In Chennai there will be plenty of people who speak English. I have been there a few times and never had a problem.

    @DhongiBaba You are probably on about the North Indian-South Indian thing but to be honest I have never seen that on ground. I got treated with respect everywhere I went.
  4. Prits

    Prits Member

    After Tamil English is the next spoken language, and you trying to communicate with people would depend on the area you are in. The majority of the taxi drivers and rickshaw walas wont understand English, although some shops and most restaurants would have English speaking people. I would suggest you learn a few phrases in Tamil, like 'where is...', 'how much is this?' etc.
  5. amitsharma1424

    amitsharma1424 New Member

    Language is little problem there but surely they are help full people and help you out ..
  6. Gori Bride

    Gori Bride Member

    Taxi drivers that I met did not speak a word of English so had to get help from shops every time I had to interact with drivers. People are generally friendly.
  7. Golu

    Golu New Member

    Been to Chennai and have come back, at some places there was an issue with the language and at some places there wasn't. English was spoken in the large populated areas where there were a lot of office workers or places near the malls. Going to a small local shop and asking something is of no use.
  8. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, @Golu! Thank you for sharing you experience with us again.

    Anyway, Tamil is the widely spoken language in Tamil Nadu. Almost all the residents of Tamil Nadu speak Tamil. A small percent of the population speaks Telugu, maybe about 10%. Then with much smaller percentages come the other languages like Kannada, Urdu and Malayalam. Kannada is mostly spoken in the Northern Eastern part of the region. Malayalam is mostly spoken in the Western part of the region.

    With English though, majority of the residents of Tamil Nadu do speak it. Even if some of them don't, they have a basic understanding of the English language still. In fact, comparing the number of Hindi speakers in Tamil Nadu to the English speakers, the latter has a larger percentage. You're better off communicating with the locals using English than Hindi.

    About 25% of the population understands and speaks English fluently. On the other hand, about 25% have some basic understanding of the English language. In most government institutions, English is the predominant language used. Educational institutions also use English as their second medium of language.

    In the case of someone who speaks Hindi but not much English or Tamil, it's best to bring a Tamil phrasebook with you. Aside from that, you need to research about the culture, tradition and history of Tamil Nadu a bit. Just remember that Tamil Nadu is of a different region from where you came from. Their food or culture might be entirely different from what you were used to. However, don't worry, as the people there are very friendly despite the language barrier.

    Isolated cases of tourists that have experienced not so nice treatments from locals might have happened. But this happens in every country, state or city you visit. And you really cannot generalise the whole region of Tamil Nadu for that. So even if you meet one snobby local, there are a dozen more with a friendly attitude you're yet to meet.

    Since we're the tourist, I'd say that we have to adapt to the city or country we're visiting in. They don't really have the need to learn any other language than their local one, especially if they're not transferring to a newer city. So maybe that's why they had held on to Tamil for the longest time. And that's fine, as it's also a part of holding on to their heritage.

    I hope this can help other members or guests who have the same query.:)
  9. rz3300

    rz3300 Member

    Well I cannot speak to this specific area, but when we were over there we found it very easy to speak English and communicate well with most people. I tried my best to speak the language, and the locals certainly appreciated that, and therefore they were polite and welcoming in nearly every circumstance. You can really tell they appreciate the effort, and I always try to image the reverse scenario where I am not the tourist. Thanks for sharing.