If India has higher soft power than China, then why are foreigners more interested in learning Chinese rather than the Indian language?




John Garrison

As a foreigner who learned Chinese I can tell you the exact reason.

I was very interested in learning Hindi, in fact I purchased a book and asked a buddy to tutor me in it. But then I realized something kind of depressing.



According to this English proficiency index, India has among the best English speakers in Asia. This is pretty true as I know plenty of foreigners who have travelled to India(both on business and vacation) and gotten by just fine only knowing English.


What’s more each region in India has a different language, I didn’t have time to learn 10 languages. In absolute terms I could reach more people with Mandarin Chinese than with any single Indian language. In fact I would need to learn Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, and Punjabi to reach the same number of people as Mandarin Chinese. Let’s see…learn 4 languages, or learn 1….hmmm….


It seems the Indians also asked themselves this question because English and Hindi are both given status in the government, and English(according to the BBC article below) is the sole lingua franca of India. I already know English, so I’m not going to learn a whole new language just to speak English all the time.


Business in India is conducted in English most of the time, so what good would Hindi do for me? In a work group I might have a Tamil speaker, a Marathi speaker, a Hindi speaker, and a Punjabi speaker. Rather than having everyone learn 4 languages, we would all communicate in English. Therefore I don’t need to learn an Indian language.


In China it doesn’t work that way. Business is conducted largely in Chinese, in fact the only time English is involved is when you are dealing with a foreign company. If you have a room full of Chinese people, they will speak Chinese. In India though you could see a room full of Indian people speaking English to each other.


I want to learn an Indian language, but they aren’t exactly easy languages, and I find it hard to motivate myself to do it when it isn’t necessary.





Roy Fox

One word: usefulness.

The majority of foreign citizens aren’t going to speak to rural Indians living in India’s interior. They’ll more likely speak to India’s urban population…

…with whom English is certainly more useful than any Indian language.




Chinese is, however, very useful if you want to go to China, because not as many people speak English at all.


Put simply, too many people speak English in India too well for Hindi or Bengali or Kannada to be useful to a foreign individual. So the foreign individual chooses not to learn Hindi or Bengali or Kannada, because it isn’t worth it- English will do. Heck, for certain Indians raised in English (moi, for instance), English is the preferred language. Why go to any lengths to learn a very difficult language you will likely not use in India if you’re a foreign citizen?








Stressed by a Mountain of Books

Isn’t it obvious that in current circumstances they will be more inclined to learn Chinese? Well to name few prominent ones:

1.China is the largest economy(in terms of ppp) with a pretty high growth rate

2.Ease of doing business is better in China

3.More professionalism

4.Only single language required

5.To work in India you don’t need any Indian language, English will do


1. 中国是全球最大的经济体(按购买力平价计算),经济增长率很高

2. 在中国经商更容易

3. 更具有专业精神

4. 一门语言通行全国

5. 在印度工作,你都用不上印度语言,用英语就可以了




JC Hóu

India has higher soft power than China,

Not necessarily. It really depends on your target audience.

For East Asians, the influence of India’s soft power is not comparable to China’s. The reverse is true for South Asians. For non-Asian people, what you probably would get is similar amounts of people who want to learn Chinese, and those who want to learn the Indian languages, which brings us to my next argument:




There are too many “Indian languages”, and none of them are exactly dominant even within India’s borders (Hindi is bordering being dominant in some degree with over 400 million native speakers, but still only spoken by less than 60% of the entire Indian population) which make none of them comparatively influential as Mandarin Chinese, or even Cantonese (120 million native speakers).



Finally, there is the language with even more “soft power”: English. And unfortunately for advocates for the use of Indian languages, there are simply “too many” Indians that can and are willing to speak English, although this can be a major advantage in various other fields (such as IT outsourcing).


Think about it:

If you are given the choice to learn 1 or 2 languages to cover 98% of a population of 1.4 billion people, or to learn at least 6 or more languages to cover ~85% of a similarly big population, what would be your decision?

What if you also happen to speak another language (possibly your mother tongue - English), that is also spoken by at least 12% (highly likely to be middle class or higher class people) of the latter?


如果让你选择,学习1 - 2种语言就能和14亿人口中的98%沟通,或者至少学习6种或更多的语言,来和14亿人口中的85%沟通,你会如何做决定?





Aisha K

I'm a proud Indian and I feel I must answer this question.

First of all, it isn't 'the Indian language’. There is no such language called 'Indian' so I think foreigners have to correct themselves there because it really ticks off Indians.



Next, India has nearly 22 official languages. Each state has a different official language so it obviously doesn't make sense that a foreigner learn all these 22 languages to survive in India.


India has a total of 121 languages, spoken in 19,500 dialects according to census.

India is a country of huge diversity. Most widely spoken languages in India are English and Hindi. If you know these two languages, you definitely can survive in India.



Besides, Indians speak the best English in Asia and that's probably why foreigners don't find the need to learn Indian languages.

I hope this answer helps.







Well, it is obvious that India is not too keen about promoting its own language in the world, whereas the Chinese don't seem to be afflicted with such apathy. Consider, also, that Chinese is far more difficult than Hindi or any Indian language. Indian languages do not have a particular cultural or economic salience in modern India that would draw business-oriented foreign language learners to them.

Most Indians themselves would actively discourage you from learning Hindi, particularly those who are in business and tech.






Tian ia

There's no evidence to support the conclusion: “India has higher soft power”, this is people's delusion.

I don’t know how did you define “SOFT Power”, but I think the economic activities is the biggest movitation to learn a language. Economic statistics will give you some ideas, because money talks.This is the world GDP ranking, china is 5 times more than India with almost same size of population.



Beside the GDP, china is also the largest importing and exporting country in the world, which tell the truth is: if you wanna make better bussiness, just learn chinese language, in comparison to india, india did a little in exporting and imporing part.Which tells you the reality, at least in the bussiness sector, chinese language values more.


接下来, let’s see the tourism part.



 According to wikipedia, china’s tourist arrival ranks 4th in the world, with 58 millions arrival, meanwhile India is not even in the world top 10, only 8 million tourists arrivals.


let’s see the numbers of international student.



None of above statistics proves “india has more soft power compare to china”. China and india are not even close in “soft powers”. Language is a tool of communication to help the understanding of each other, without motivative activities such as trading,studying and tourism, there’s no need to learn another language.


Don’t even mention that there are more than 5 or 6 major languages in india, but china only use madarin as official language.

So, the truth is, becuase china has much stronger soft power, then much more people choose to learn chinese instead of indian language.



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