Mumbai - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. Everyone speaks some English. Most rickshaw drivers don't, but if you use the Ola or Uber app, you don't need to speak to them. - Aug 2021

You don't really need to learn Hindi or Marathi if you know how to point to things and pay money. It is pretty self-explanatory, most of the activities you engage in are transactional. If you are trying to have an actual conversation with someone, then obviously you need to speak a bit more of the local language. Around Bandra, it isn't necessary. My work offers me free language classes, but I have been too lazy to take them. - Nov 2020

The majority of the time I’m fine in Mumbai with only English. I can occasionally have problems with taxi or rickshaw drivers, but then I’ll just point to my destination on a map or use hand gestures. It’s always worked out fine. There are lots of local classes & tutors available. I think it’s about US$10/hr. - Aug 2019

You can get by just fine with English. Most people in shops, etc. have enough English to communicate with you; random people on the street often will not. I really regret not knowing more Hindi. It would be great to have across India. I was unable to find a good teacher; there are plenty of language schools to learn English, but not Hindi! Marathi is the 'local' language of Mumbai, but Hindi is the most useful pan-India language to learn. (Although in the south, Tamil is sometimes more common than Hindi.) - Mar 2019

Can get by without. - May 2018

Educated Indians and high-end service industry workers speak English, but locals (fruit stands, taxis etc.) don't speak English. It's good to know how to say 'left, right, straight' in Hindi or Marathi. - Jun 2017

None. It helps, but most speak some English. - Aug 2015

India is technically an English-speaking country. But only technically. Many people only speak Marathi or Marathi and Hindi, including cab and tuk tuk drivers. People in larger stores or shops in areas with lots of ex-pats will be more likely to speak English. Signs and menus are widely available in English, though. If you have the opportunity, learn some Hindi, it'll make life easier. Private lessons are inexpensive and easily set-up, if you want to do it once you're here. - Nov 2014

None. It would help to know a little Hindi but you can get by very easily without any. - Mar 2014

Many Indians speak some form of 'English'. - Feb 2014

For rickshaws it's good to know some basic direction instructions but in restaurants and shops most people speak English. - Feb 2014

It helps, especially for taxis. Many Indians say they speak primarily English, even at home. However their accent is different, which frustrates people sometimes. Much depends on your attitude. You can get frustrated that they misunderstand you, or you can feel grateful that a majority of the population has a working level of English. Don't expect everyone to speak American English or you will be disappointed (as many people are). - Aug 2013

Not much. It helps to know a little bit for transport. English is widely spoken, but many foreigners have difficulty with the heavy Indian accent, especially on the phone. Speaking slowly and clearly, and asking others to do so, really helps. Also note that despite the heavy accent, most middle- and upper-class Indians have been speaking English their whole lives (having attended "English medium" schools), so it can be rather insulting to say, "Wow, your English is awesome!" India has thousands of mutually unintelligible languages; English and Hindi are the official languages, but most people speak Marathi in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra. Each state has its own languages, so don't make assumptions. - May 2013

Not much. English is widely spoken and understood in Mumbai. - Feb 2013

It would be helpful to know some Hindi. Indian English is very different from American English, and many people speak only Hindi. Talking to people on the phone can be very frustrating without Hindi. - Dec 2010

None. Have your staff translate for you. - Nov 2008

Very little if any. But it helps sometimes. - Aug 2008

Not necessary, but a little bit is helpful for the taxis. - Jul 2008

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