Chennai - 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?

Tamil was not necessary. Post had some classes for anyone interested, but not sure how many took them. Almost everyone in India that a foreigner would communicate with on a daily basis speaks pretty good English. - Jan 2024

None. English is fine. - May 2023

Don't waste your time learning Tamil. However, very little English despite being a former British Colony. - Apr 2023

None. Some people dolearn Tamil if you wish but it really is not needed even if you want to talk to an auto driver or a grocery seller. - Apr 2023

For interacting with local help and service workers, English is not useful. If you tend to engage in social circles with higher education, less likely to need to know local language. - Aug 2021

Many people speak English but there is a large segment of the population who does not. Tamil is a difficult language to learn but I assume there are some tutors available. - Apr 2021

Most people have some English language ability. - May 2019

You are good to go with English. Probably best to learn a few words of Tamil for fun and as a courtesy. - Aug 2018

Basic pleasantries would be appreciated, but you can get around fine with English most of the time, as long as you accept that there will be occasional miscommunications. - May 2018

Most people speak English, but everyone is impressed by you being able to speak Tamil. The ability to speak English is seen as a sign of class, so often if you great someone in Tamil, they will respond in English and not appreciate the Tamil greeting. I learned to greet people in English, talk to them in English, and then say farewell in Tamil. - May 2016

Language isn't usually the barrier. You can get by totally fine with English. But there are customs for navigating the city and India at large. It will be frustrating no matter what languages you speak. - May 2016

None. - May 2015

No need. - Mar 2015

None. Knowing a few introductory phrases is nice to know for every culture, but most people know English. Your nanny or driver are wonderful translators if needed. - Oct 2014

You don't. Everyone speaks English - Oct 2014

None, a few words are appreciated but this has to be the easiest country to live in without speaking the local language. - Jun 2014

Most people speak English, and most signs are in English, so you really don't need any Tamil to get by. That said, if you can learn a few basic words and phrases you will find the locals will really warm to you. I have often been in situations where I've been glad to know some Tamil - when talking to auto drivers or to shop staff, for example. - May 2014

You can get around with English, but I frequently need to use our driver or nanny to translate in Tamil. - Aug 2013

Knowing Tamil makes life easier, but English is very widely spoken. - Jul 2012

You can easily get by without Tamil. - Aug 2011

I did not learn any of the local language. Most people speak broken english in the markets and all understand money. - Jun 2010

Not needed at all, but it helps with rickshaw drivers. - Sep 2009

Very little, but just knowing a few greetings, thank you, etc. goes a very long way in building rapport. - Mar 2009

You can use English to speak to almost anyone. This is true of much of India but especially Chennai where people learn English not Hindi as a second language. - Aug 2008

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