Culture Note Unit 4: The Indian Diaspora and Hindi

India is a multiethnic and multilingual society, therefore so is the Indian diaspora in the USA. Under the umbrella of the Indian diaspora, there are in fact more first language speakers of the tongues other than Hindi. For instance, Gujarati and Punjabi speakers overwhelmingly outnumber the native speakers of Hindi in the USA, although these people are equally fluent in Hindi as well. The diasporic community also includes a substantial number of Indians who speak less cognate languages to Hindi such as Bengali, Assamese and Oriya, and speakers of Dravidian languages, which are completely mutually unintelligible with Hindi.

Living in a community, cultural ties are maintained with the motherland India with the help of Indian cultural elements such as Indian festivals, television channels from India, Bollywood cinema, etc. Regardless of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, there are some common cultural elements, which most immigrants in the diasporic community identify with. Indian festivals, Indian food, Indian attire, etc. are a few to name. Along with these cultural ties, the world of Bollywood plays an important role in creating a Pan-Indian identity in the diaspora. Bollywood is the main source of entertainment for most Indians. Since Bollywood films are mainly in Hindi, it makes Hindi an inseparable part of Indian identity in the diaspora, even for those people whose mother tongues are other than Hindi, and even sometimes when these tongues do not share a common ancestry with Hindi such as with the Dravidian languages.

The result of the ever-growing Indian diasporic community in US society is visible in academia. More and more universities in North America have started showing interest in South Asia. Many universities are now offering courses on India or South Asia in a broader sense. Language courses tend to be the first courses available in area studies programs. Hindi, being the biggest language in South Asia, becomes the first entry in the offerings of modern South Asian languages. Many universities opt to offer a combined course on Hindi-Urdu together.

The sign of the thriving Indian diaspora in the USA is visible in all walks of American life, especially in business, services, academia, politics, etc. Indians will keep on playing an important role in building modern America and Hindi will keep on playing identity maker for the Indian Diaspora regardless of an individual’s ethnic and linguistic background.

Check out this YouTube channel : The Surfing Violinist

The channel shows adventure of an American family that decided to live in India. Find out the things in the videos that you can relate to.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Hindi-Urdu by Sungok Hong, Sunil Kumar Bhatt, Rajiv Ranjan, and Lakhan Gusain is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.