Attitude Survey

Annika Hohenthal, Department of English, University of Turku, Finland

Domain Analysis

The survey included statements related to domains such as family, friendship, neighborhood, transactions, education, government and employment. The informants' duty was to fill in the language he/she most often uses for each occasion (grading the frequency of use from one to four, four indicating the highest frequency). The aim was to analyze the use of English in India in different domains.

The domains used in the study could be divided into formal and informal domains: education, employment and government are formal; family, friendship, neighborhood and transactions more informal domains.

The Family Domain

Although some informants seem to be quite polyglots, even in the family domain (such as Ker1, who reported the use of English and mother tongue just as common, Tamil1, Mah1, and few others), all in all, mother tongue was, as could be expected, the most common language used at home (for 87% of the informants). English was the second most common reported language (English 3%, En/L1 10%). It was, perhaps surprisingly, most popular (17%) when "discussing a personal matter/problem", although even then L1 was far more popular, with 79%. Discussions with family members at dinner are usually carried out in the mother tongue (90%).

Among West Bengalis, L1 was reserved, almost exclusively, for the family domain. Tamils, on the other hand, mentioned English most often (even though as a secondary option after the L1) ­ thus, here, too, we can see the preference of the people of Tamil Nadu to English, rather than Hindi. Hindi is mentioned only once in groups other than for which it is a mother tongue, when "commenting on a TV program which is in your mother tongue/Hindi". Probably then, too, the reason was that one of the options given for the medium of the TV program was Hindi; perhaps it feels natural to comment on a TV program in the same language as it is in. It was interesting to note, however, that the use of Hindi did not increase (in general) even though it was the medium of a TV program: mother tongue was also then the most popular option. Hindi was mentioned as an option in very few papers.

Hindi does not seem to be very popular among Tamils. The reason to this is fairly obvious, since Hindi has traditionally not been very popular in the south; Hindi is not one of the languages spoken in the area. Tamils, in general, support the use of English. Their reasons for favouring English have been explained earlier on in the study.

Bengalis are not too keen supporters of Hindi, either. They are very proud of their own language; many think that it would have the same right as Hindi has to be the official language of the country (it is surprising, however, that Hindi is reported as the second most common language used at home by a West Bengali (perhaps, for instance, one of the family members of the informant speaks Hindi as his/her mother tongue)). The Bengalis were supporting English for the same reason during the Anglicist-Orientalist controversy in the beginning of the 19th century.

Friendship Domain

In this domain, the responses are divided more evenly between different languages than in the family domain, and many, too, reported use of several different languages in the same situation. English was clearly quite popular (41% of all the situations). If you include the answers in which English was mentioned together with Hindi or L1, the percentage will be even higher (65%). As a comparison, L1 was used 27% of the time, and Hindi 5 % of the time. Hindi does not seem to work as a lingua franca, or a link language equivalent of English, in India.

Over half of all personal letters are written in English (62%). People are also introduced to each other most often in English (L1 29%, Hindi:6%). People who have not met before, too, prefer English as the common language of conversation (40%; L1 33%, Hindi 6%).

Personal problems are not talked about in English (21%), but usually in L1 (31%). On the other hand, many informants report several different languages; combinations such as L1/E (17%) and L1/E/H (14%) are quite common. Maybe this is due to the fact that many have friends and acquaintances with a different language from them (considering how many different languages there are in India). General topics are usually conversed in English (33%), after which come L1 (27%) and E/L1 (17%). Hindi is not popular here, either. 11.1.3 9.1.3 Neighbourhood In 67% of the cases, English is reported as the most commonly used language when conversing with neighbours. Hindi and E/H (both 13%) come next, followed by L1 and regional language (both 3%).

In case the mother tongues of the neighbours differ, English serves as the link language most of the time (67%). Hindi and H/E are reported second most common languages (13% both). If, however, the mother tongues of the neighbours are same, only one informant claims to resort to English, others report that they would use it together with Hindi (3%) or L1 (7%).


9.L1 and Hindi are most commonly used languages of transaction in this study. This is not unexpected, for many common Indian people do not speak English much at all (in India English is, as mentioned earlier, the language of the élite and the educated).

The informants reported that they most often use L1 when in shops, at the railway station etc. (29%). Hindi comes next (25%), after which English (18%). In the market place L1 is more clearly the most commonly used language (with 50%; Hindi 18%). L1/H/E and regional language both 7%. If combinations such as L1/H/E, L1/E and E/H are counted together, English is used at the market place 20% of the time.


In education, English is the most common medium (87% of all the situations). At school, friends who spoke the same language usually talked in L1 (45%), although English comes next (25%), and Hindi third (14%). English was considered the best medium of communication in the instances in which the languages of the parties in question differed (75%; Hindi 14%).


English dominates in the domain of government, both when it comes to writing letters (93% are written in English) and also as a general language of the domain (70%; Hindi 7%). But, when meeting government officials, there is more division: English is still the most common language (37%), but L1 is also used quite often (23%), as well as Hindi (10%) and a regional language (10%).


As well as job interviews are without exception carried out in English (100%), so are also business letters written in English. If one's and one's boss's languages differ, the common language will most often (97%) be English. E/H comes second (3%). When it comes to talking to one's colleagues who come from different parts of India, 67% of the time one would resort to English (Hindi 17%, E/H 17%, H/L1/E 3%).

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