Linguistic/National Question

In what countries is the language spoken in the capital different from the language spoken by the majority of people in the rest of the country? As you can see, there is more than one country where this is the case.

Some cases from the past include

Austria-Hungary, where the capital Vienna spoke High German but most of the people spoke Czech, Slovak, Venetian, Slovenian, or Serbo-Croatian.

In Ireland, before English became popular in the early 1800’s, most people around the capital spoke English, while the majority of the population spoke Irish.

I found nine countries, two in Europe, two in Southeast Asia, two in South Asia, one in Oceania, one in the Caribbean, and one in Africa.

Hop to it!

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0 thoughts on “Linguistic/National Question”

    1. Bhutan, I don’t know, but I agree with India. Here is what I would say about India:

      India – Capital New Dehli speaks Hindi, but most Indians do not speak Hindi as a 1st language.

      1. Not true. Hindi is the ONLY spoken language you’ll encounter in all regions surrounding New Delhi – the big “HINDI BELT” states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and the smaller “HINDI BELT” states – Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

        Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan primarily use their own dialects of Hindi which are a bit different from mainstream Hindi which is nowadays more prevalent and the regional dialects are slowly dying out.

        Hindi is the mother tongue of at least 50% of Indians – . Additionally, the populace of Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat and Maharashtra are usually extremely fluent in Hindi despite it being a 2nd language. You won’t encounter anyone in those states who cannot converse in Hindi.

        Hindi is widely understood as far as Afghanistan where a lot of Afghans, particularly in Kabul and border regions of Pakistan, happen to be fluent in Urdu. I’ve met my fair share of Afghans and almost all of them seem to be fluent in Urdu/Hindi.

        Hindi is the language used in Bollywood trashy music/movies, Indian television and almost all mainstream media. The influence of Hindi is pervasive and educated Indians often intersperse Hindi words even when speaking in English. This new phenomenon is called “Hinglish” – the portmanteau bastardization of words based on both English and Hindi is what you’ll hear on the streets.

        Hindi and “Hinglish” are widely understood in Pakistan where they speak Urdu which is mutually intelligible with Hindi. This is the reason Indian television shows and movies are very popular across the border. Nowadays, there’s a reversing of the trend. Many Pakistani television soap operas are a hit with North Indian viewers.

        Most Indians especially native Hindi-speakers cannot speak English fluently in a continuous stretch. Even when they start a sentence in English, they have to automatically revert to Hindi to feel at ease. I found Scandinavians or the Dutch to be the best non-native speakers of English and Indians only wish they were fluent in English, but they really aren’t. Speaking only in English fatigues them.

        The situation is COMPLETELY OPPOSITE down south. Across the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (and also Goa), they’ll sooner lynch you for the crime of jabbering in Hindi than for murdering someone. These states are what I would call HINDI-HATING states. You’re really better off knowing only English. Even when Southerners self-learn to speak Hindi fluently, they will refuse to speak a word in reality because the hostility against Hindi speakers runs so deep. Basically, the Southern states see Hindi language as an intrusion and an outside agency, an imposition of North Indian culture on the whole country.

        Although the southern states are more fluent in English compared to the Northerners, the level of fluency isn’t that good compared to Scandinavia or Netherlands.

        Fluency in Hindi isn’t that good in the marginalized, poverty-ridden, often neglected eastern region of India – the states of Bengal, Orissa and the North-East of India are like the District 12 of the Hunger Game series. These people are very poor but not generally hostile to Hindi-speakers. Bengali is the most common lingua franca in these parts. However, English would get you as far with almost everyone.

        India as a nation is really linguistically polarized like Belgium or Switzerland.

  1. Pakistan – National language is Urdu, but most of the population speaks Punjabi ; Urdu is an import from India after 1947 ;

    In India, Hindi is a very sizeable plurality, 40%,

    1. Right, here are my comments about Pakistan:

      Pakistan – Urdu and English spoken in capital, but most Pakistanis do not speak these as first languages. Most speak Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto and other languages.

      Pakistan languages

      Hindi is spoken as a first language by the majority of the population?! No way. 40% is not a majority. The majority of Indians don’t speak Hindi at all.

  2. Dear Robert
    Here are my guesses. For Europe, Luxembourg and Belarus. In Luxembourg, French in the capital and Luxemburgish in the rest. In Belarus, Russian in the capital and White Russian in the rest.

    For Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Indonesian in the capital, and various other Malay languages in the rest. English in Manilla, and Malay languages elsewhere in the country.

    In Haiti, French in the capital and Creole in the rest.

    I have my doubts about all of the above, but this is the best that I can do.

    1. Right, here is what I have to say about Indonesia, the Philippines and Belarus:

      Philippines – In Manila, most speak Tagalog natively, but in the rest of the country, most speak other Philippine languages, especially Cebuano, as a native language. Only 28% of the Filipino population speaks Tagalog.

      Tagalog in Philippines

      Indonesia – Bahasa Indonesia, the official language, is spoken in Jakarta, but it is only spoken by 17% of the population of the country. Further, the language of the street in Jakarta is Betawi, which has only 5 million speakers.

      ethnic groups in Indonesia

      Belarus – In Minsk, most people speak Russian natively, but in the rest of Belarus, most people have Belarussian as their native language.

      Not sure about Haiti and Luxembourg, but you missed the most famous European one of them of all.

  3. In the capital of India, most people speak Hindi. However, the majority of the remainder of the country speak the language of their “princely state.” The list follows:

    Table: Ordered by number of native speakers
    Rank Language 2001 census[5]
    (total population 1,028,610,328 ) 1991 census[6]
    (total population 838,583,988) Encarta 2007 estimate[7]
    (worldwide speakers)
    Speakers Percentage Speakers Percentage Speakers
    1 Hindi[8] 422,048,642 41.03% 329,518,087 39.29% 366 M
    2 Bengali 83,369,769 8.11% 69,595,738 8.30% 207 M
    3 Telugu 74,002,856 7.19% 66,017,615 7.87% 69.7 M
    4 Marathi 71,936,894 6.99% 62,481,681 7.45% 68.0 M
    5 Tamil 60,793,814 5.91% 53,006,368 6.32% 66.0 M
    6 Urdu 51,536,111 5.01% 43,406,932 5.18% 60.3 M
    7 Gujarati 46,091,617 4.48% 40,673,814 4.85% 46.1 M
    8 Kannada 37,924,011 3.69% 32,753,676 3.91% 35.3 M
    9 Malayalam 33,066,392 3.21% 30,377,176 3.62% 35.7 M
    10 Odia 33,017,446 3.21% 28,061,313 3.35% 32.3 M
    11 Punjabi 29,102,477 2.83% 23,378,744 2.79% 57.1 M
    12 Assamese 13,168,484 1.28% 13,079,696 1.56% 15.4 M
    13 Maithili 12,179,122 1.18% 7,766,921 0.926% 24.2 M
    14 Bhili/Bhilodi 9,582,957 0.93%
    15 Santali 6,469,600 0.63% 5,216,325 0.622%
    16 Kashmiri 5,527,698 0.54%
    17 Nepali 2,871,749 0.28% 2,076,645 0.248% 16.1 M
    18 Gondi 2,713,790 0.26%
    19 Sindhi 2,535,485 0.25% 2,122,848 0.253% 19.7 M
    20 Konkani 2,489,015 0.24% 1,760,607 0.210%
    21 Dogri 2,282,589 0.22%
    22 Khandeshi 2,075,258 0.21%
    23 Kurukh 1,751,489 0.17%
    24 Tulu 1,722,768 0.17%
    25 Meitei/Manipuri 1,466,705* 0.14% 1,270,216 0.151%
    26 Bodo 1,350,478 0.13% 1,221,881 0.146%
    27 Khasi 1,128,575 0.11%
    28 Mundari 1,061,352 0.103%
    29 Ho 1,042,724 0.101%

  4. My earlier reply was off the top off my head, but after some googling, I see that Dzonkha, the national language of Bhutan, is the native language of 170,000 speakers out of Bhutan’s total population of 742,000, which makes it a small minority language as far as native speakers are concerned. But it is the official language, and ‘enforced’ on the entire population. It’s native speakers are mostly in the capital Thimphu and other western districts.

  5. Sub-sahara Africa should be a good source of examples. The borders famously were not drawn to conform to linguistic frontiers. So within a typical sub-Saharan African state you will have several different language groups, plus in the capital they will probably speak more the language of whichever European country ran the place before 1960.

    Then you have South Africa, which has eleven official languages and two capital cities.

    Within Europe, Belgium is majority Flemish speaking but Brussels is French speaking.

    In the Americas, Guatamala and Bolivia might have majorities that speak an Indian language (Mayan in the case of Guatamala, Bolivia I’m ignorant of what the local Indian language is), not Spanish. But they would speak Spanish in the capital or capitals as in the cae of Bolivia.

    Canada merits a mention, since Ottawa sits on a linguistic frontier, and the national capital region as a whole (including Hull and Gatineau) is probably half French speaking.

    1. Another example is India. There was no such thing as India until the British created it. Northern and Southern India are linguistically very different. The British essentially annexed the Dravidian south for the Aryan north and gave control and power over the South to the North .

    2. Yes Belgium is the famous one that James missed.

      Belgium – The capital Brussels speaks French, but 60% of the population speaks Flemish and the rest speaks Walloon.

      Bolivia speaks several Quechua languages.

      For Sub-Saharan Africa, check out this one:

      Democratic Republic of Congo – Lingala is spoken in the capital. The official language is French. But the principal language of the east is a type of Swahili and in the east, little French is spoken.

      1. I feel stupid for missing Belgium. I actually know all about the linguistic situation in that country. Brussels is one of the 3 regions of Belgium. It is officially bilingual, but most of its inhabitants speak French. In 1830, when Belgium became an independent kingdom, 80% of the population of Brussels still spoke Dutch. Brussels is surrounded by Flemish territory. It is an enclave really. The reality of Brussels as a mainly French-speaking city located inside Flanders makes the separation of Flanders very awkward. It is as if Madrid were located in Catalunia. That would complicate the separation of Catalunia, to say the least.

        Regards. James

        1. It’s all right, James, do not be so hard on yourself.

          They speak French in Brussels, or Walloon? Probably French, right? Much of the rest of the country which supposedly speaks French actually speaks Walloon, which is a completely different language.

  6. “In what countries is the language spoken in the capital different from the language spoken by the majority of people in the rest of the country?”

    If majority mean “over 50 %”, then:
    – There was no linguistic majority in Austria-Hungary. German had plurality of 24 %.
    – I’m not sure but I think that most Belarusians use Russian, just like most Ukrainians (again, I’m not sure)
    – I don’t think there are more than 50 % of immigrant-background-people (who might not know Luxembourgish), so Luxembourg doesn’t qualify
    – Does Andorra qualify? Catalan is spoken by 39 % people. Perhaps, the non-speakers are concentrated in the capital, while in the smaller municipalities, Catalan may be the majority language.

    1. Should be “In what countries is the language spoken in the capital different from the language(s) spoken by the majority of people in the rest of the country?

      So then Austria Hungary qualifies.

      The vast majority of Belarussians speak Belarussian as their native language.

      Belarus languages

  7. Here are a couple of more:

    Papua New Guinea – In Port Moresby, most speak Tok Pisin, but in the countryside, over 850 different langauges are spoken.

    Aruba – In Orangestad, most speak English and Dutch, while in the rest of the country, most speak Spanish and Papiamentu.

    You know anything about Aruba, James?

    1. The only Dutch part of the Caribbean that I know anything about is Suriname, which is an independent country now. A lot of people born in Suriname or with parents born in that country now live in the Netherlands.

      If people in Wallonia speak Walloon, then there has to be diglossia, as in the German part of Switzerland. According to the Dutch Wikipedia, Waals is spoken by 600,000 people in Wallonia, which is about 1/6 of the population. Dialects aren’t really thriving anywhere in Europe because of mass education and mass communication.

      Regards. James

  8. I believe that in Iran they speak persian/farsi around the capital, but only a slight majority of the population speaks it as a first language. If there demographics are right, then it may fall into this category in a few decades.

    Kazakhstan and Krygystan come to mind as possibilities. Before the Kazakstani capital was moved, I believe it was in a russian speaking area in northern Kazakhstan. I think the new captial has signifigant russian peaking activity too. Afghanistan seems to be another possibility.

    Here’s a future possibility: the United States of America. A few large american metropolises already have majorities where english is not the first language. New York City and Los Angeles are obvious examples. I don;t think that it is out of the realm of possibility that Washington DC could be that way some day too.

    Morocco would be an interesting one to consider also. Latvia and Estonia as well.

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