British diplomats in India learn Hindi

Hindi letter
Image caption Many British diplomats in India are now learning Hindi

British diplomats in India are learning Hindi to develop a deeper understanding of the country and to identify business opportunities for British firms.

Diplomats say not knowing the language makes it difficult for them to follow developments in the country.

In the past few years many more people have begun using Hinglish, or peppering English conversations with Hindi words.

Just one of the 150 diplomats in India knows Hindi, said British High Commission spokesman Marcus Winsley.

"When Foreign Secretary William Hague took over, one of the first things he looked at was languages," Mr Winsley told the BBC.

The Foreign Office began a drive for its diplomats to learn local languages in "emerging markets where English is less prominent".

Officials say the UK wants to "increase the number of Hindi speakers among the frontline diplomats, such as staff in political and communications departments".

Learning the language will help diplomats develop "personal dynamics" with Indian businessmen and leaders who are not fluent in English, Mr Winsley said.

He is among those learning the language, but he is finding it "hard to learn".

The practice of learning Indian languages for British diplomats is not new.

British officials in India in the 17th and 18th Centuries routinely had to learn languages such as Urdu, Hindi and Persian.

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