How local people in Kerala are learning Hindi due to inward migration!!

I am not sure how true this story is but it does make for interesting reading even if some of it is true.

Usually, we find that migrants to a region learn the local language. Though, in Kerala the opposite seems to be happening:

A working knowledge of Hindi has become an essential ingredient in the Malayali’s survival kit in his homeland, thanks to a cosmopolitan population and a growing number of migrant workers

Kochi’s cosmopolitanism is throwing up a new challenge to its citizens–the need to learn Hindi or better their Hindi speaking skills. In addition to the floating population of North Indians, there is a burgeoning number of migrant labourers from the Hindi heartland and the North East. Gardeners, house helps, drivers, waiters, mechanics, salon staff, shop assistants and watchmen are invariably non Malayalis and the need to speak Hindi has never been greater for local denizens.

Earlier it was in the Naval establishments in the city where Hindi was spoken regularly, but now it is heard commonly in public spaces. Hindi signage appearing on buses and stores is another example of how the use of the language has spread. Angrezi davakhana, (English medicines); atta chakki (flour mill) have come to be used in common parlance.

For someone like Prithi Sinha, a North Indian who works in the city, however, this is working in the reverse. “I have been trying to learn Malayalam and now, I don’t really think it is necessary. Everyone is beginning to speak Hindi,” she says.

🙂 It seems what we are seeing is opposite of the trends in other Southern states.


The Patna-Bihar Express, a chain of small hotels that caters to the Hindiwallas, who work in the city, is an example of how the city’s demographic has changed. “I used to get special mithai made from a halwai in Bihar, now that is available here, made by a migrant sweet maker,” Preethi says.

Not that Hindi was alien to the Malayali, in fact, he speaks the language much better than his Southern neighbours, but of late a working knowledge of Hindi has become an essential ingredient in the Malayali’s survival kit in his homeland.

 Police and traders have begun to take Hindi lessons to communicate better with the nearly 25 lakh migrant workers spread across the State. Homemakers too have taken to learning the language to make communication easier with the help or the gardener. Retail traders and grocery shop owners in small towns and villages have started to display their price list in Hindi.

It is usual to hear the owner of a small hotel in Tripunithura shout out instructions or customer orders to his staff, most of them from Bengal and Orissa, in Hindi. “I know that I’m not really speaking Hindi. But what I have found is that you need to only augment your Malayalam with a few Hindi-sounding words and they seem to understand you. That way things go on much smoothly than struggling to communicate through gestures and sounds,” says Raman (name changed).

“What I have realised is that Malayalam is not an easy language to learn for some one from the North. I have eight men from Bihar and in all these years they have not been able to speak or understand Malayalam properly. My main job is to act as an interpreter for the tailor, the cutter and the customer. Some of the customers speak a smattering of Hindi all mixed up with Malayalam and English which makes matters worse leading to some really funny situations and weird results. The other staff is slowly getting a hang of Hindi. Surprisingly, my gardener who comes from Bengal, speaks flawless Malayalam with words that we have long stopped using,” says Mini Jayan of Kiara.

Loved the hotel chain name – Patna Bihar Express.

This cultural movement and mixing is all so interesting. Though, it is hardly new to those living in Kerala. The region has seen all these migration movements for centuries now. Would like to learn more about this topic though..


One Response to “How local people in Kerala are learning Hindi due to inward migration!!”

  1. Gayatri Bhumralkar Says:

    Maharashtra, specially Mumbai has seen this trend long ago, to the extent that people get offended if you start speaking Marathi in your own state. Hindi has found it’s way to every corner of the country just because native Hindi speaking people are by and large reluctant to learn local language and expect others to learn Hindi. The good part is almost all Indians can speak one common Indian language now. The bad part is other languages are reduced to subordinate level in public space.

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