Do You Speak Indian? A Crash Course on Three Words: Indian, Hindi and Hindu

I am regularly asked well-intended but somewhat ridiculous questions when I talk about my stay in India. The chief offenders are: “Do you speak Indian?”, “Did you make Hindi friends while in abroad?” and “Could you teach me something in Hindu?”.

If one were to draw a parallel, those questions would be analogous to asking someone who’s visiting Toronto whether he speaks Canadian, if he’s made English friends, and if he could teach you something in Christian.

I thought I’d spare everybody some embarrassment by clarifying the difference  between the terms Hindi, Hindu and Indian.

Indian:  An Indian is a person who comes from India.  There are 22 recognized languages at the regional level in India, none of which is called Indian.  For those who are still desperate  to learn how to say hi in “Indian”, there’s Indo-Canadian humorist Russell Peters to save the day with this brilliant capsule:

Hindi:  Hindi is the first official language of the national government in India, the second one being English.  Ascertaining the exact number of Hindi speakers is difficult because of the important regional variations that exist on the language, but different bodies estimate the number of Hindi speakers in India to lie anywhere between 258 and 550 millions.

Hindu: A Hindu is a person who practices Hinduism, a religion that is practiced not only in India, but also in Nepal, and to a lesser extent in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Outmigration from India also means that a large Hindu contingent now lives in many countries outside South Asia.  That a person is a Hindu says nothing about their nationality or their mother tongue.

OK?  Ok tata.

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