- Language

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Tamil is the official language in Chennai, and also the first language of most locals. Almost all people speak Tamil, a classical language. Picking up some knowledge of the local language is useful to get by in Chennai as in every city in the world. However, knowledge of English is sufficient for the average visitor to the city. English education is widespread in Chennai . All educated people in Chennai can speak English while few understand simple English and can speak a few words. All important signboards are in English. All transactions with commercial establishments are in English.

Unlike other major cities in India, Hindi is not widely understood. While there has been a significant increase in Hindi speakers in recent years, most locals will find it difficult to understand when you try to speak to them in Hindi.

Due to the proximity of the city to the State of Andhra Pradesh (where the official language is Telugu) and the presence of a sizeable quasi Telugu speaking population in the city, there is heavy borrowing of Telugu words into the vocabulary of 'Chennai Tamil'.'Chennai Tamil' is popularly known as Madras Bashai. Another characteristic of Chennai Tamil is that the words are spoken fast, possibly in line with the fast-paced life in Chennai when compared with the rest of the state. Nevertheless, all educated people are taught standard Tamil in school, and standard Tamil is still used in more formal settings as well as in the news.

Another language which is very common and popular among the inhabitants of the city is Madras Bashai, an idiomatic slang of Tamil. It is mainly used by auto rickshaw drivers and fishermen from the northern parts of the city and developed during the past three centuries, originating when the city was set up by the British East India Company in 1640. The word 'Bashai' comes from Sanskrit language which stands for 'language'. The language is a mix of Tamil, Telugu, English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi-Urdu and many more languages. Its strong influences are from Telugu, English and Urdu and on the other hand lesser influences from Hindi and Kannada. Some of the other sources of Madras Bashai words include languages such as Dutch, Portuguese and French.

In the conventional and traditional areas of the city, people still use Tamil language whereas in modern and developed parts of Chennai, people belong to different places and as a result they speak various languages including Malayalam, Bengali, Oriya, Punjabi, etc. Minority of the Chennaites use Telugu language. Thus, one can say that Chennai is a place which has seen many changes in various fields, including language. Earlier, there was only the mother tongue in which people used to communicate but, now after being a well-developed city, there are various languages which are spoken and understood by the people.


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