Mother Tongue Survey Of India: What Is It and Why Is It Significant?

The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that the Mother Tongue Survey of India (MTSI) has been completed. Read on to know what the Mother Tongue Survey of India is and its significance.
Mother Tongue Survey of India (MTSI)
Mother Tongue Survey of India (MTSI)

India is no question the most diverse country in the world. It’s probably the only country where four neighbouring states can have vastly different cultures and languages. With over a billion people calling it home and being the seventh largest country in the world, India is both ethnically rich and geographically diverse.

There are numerous languages spoken in India. Some are widely used, while others are limited to tribes of a few hundred people. Due to this, it becomes crucial to record the linguistic diversity of India. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) undertakes this task and carries out the Mother Tongue Survey of India every two census decades.

The most recent one has been completed, and its reports will be revealed with the upcoming population census. But what exactly is the Mother Tongue Survey of India (MTSI), and what is its significance? Read on to find out.

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What is the Mother Tongue Survey of India?

The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was released recently. The MHA has completed the Mother Tongue Survey of India along with field videography of 576 Mother Tongues. The survey’s results will be revealed as part of the upcoming population census.

As per the report, the MTSI is a project that "surveys the mother tongues, which are returned consistently across two and more Census decades." MTSI also documents the linguistic features of the selected mother tongues.

Another recent development in the MTSI is that a web archive will be set up at the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to preserve and analyse the original flavour of each indigenous Mother Tongue. NIC and the National Film Development Corporation (NDFC) will be assisting in documenting and preserving the linguistic data of surveyed Mother Tongues in audio-video files.

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How Many Mother Tongues Are in India?

As per the 2011 language census, the estimated number of languages or dialects spoken as Mother Tongues is 19569. The census defined Mother Tongue as "the language spoken in childhood by the person’s mother to the person. If the mother died in infancy, the language mainly spoken in the person’s home in childhood will be the mother tongue."

Other findings of the census included the most spoken languages and the fastest-growing languages. Hindi leads in both.

Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India, with 43.6 per cent of the populace declaring it their Mother Tongue.

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What is the significance of the MTSI findings?

The results of the Mother Tongue Survey of India will play a big role in reforming the Indian education system. The central government has been pushing to make the Mother Tongue the medium of instruction in schools, at least for primary schooling. The proposal is based on research that shows that learning in the Mother Tongue results in a better understanding of concepts.

When will the next population census take place?

The Population Census of India is the largest administrative and statistical exercise in the country. It takes place once every decade and was last conducted in 2011. The census was supposed to be conducted in 2021 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government is currently laying the groundwork to conduct the census in 2023. It will be the most comprehensive census since independence, as well as the most technologically advanced. It will also incorporate geospatial technology.


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How many mother tongues are in India?

India has over 19500 mother tongues but 21 officially recognized languages account as the mother tongue for 96.71 % of the population.

Is mother tongue taught in schools?

Many regional schools still have the mother tongue as the medium of instruction till the primary level. The government is pushing for more schools to incorporate the strategy.

Is Hindi the mother tongue of India?

Hindi is the mother tongue of majority of Indian population but it’s not the official or the national language. Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu are also widely spoken in the country.
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