Gujarati: The language spoken by more than 55 million people

A Gujarati language lesson being conducted by Mrs Ila Shah for Secondary 3 students last Saturday. The Singapore Gujarati School holds lessons at Haig Girls' School every Saturday morning.
A Gujarati language lesson being conducted by Mrs Ila Shah for Secondary 3 students last Saturday. The Singapore Gujarati School holds lessons at Haig Girls' School every Saturday morning.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

ORIGINS OF THE LANGUAGE

Gujarati is at least 700 years old and is spoken by more than 55 million people worldwide.

Today, its heart is in the western Indian state of Gujarat, which borders the region where national language Hindi is spoken natively. The two languages belong to the same language family and are somewhat mutually intelligible.

The Gujarati written script is unique to the language, though it resembles written Hindi without a horizontal line on top of its characters.

As a coastal state, Gujarat flourished through trade and its people settled across the world with significant communities in places such as Britain, Kenya and Madagascar.

Well-known Gujaratis include Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and founder of the Tata group Jamsetji Tata.

ESTIMATED NUMBER OF GUJARATI SPEAKERS HERE

Singapore's Gujarati community was already significant in size in the late 1800s, and the 2010 census of population recorded a number of 4,124.

However, the president of the Singapore Gujarati Society, Mr Tushar Doshi, estimated the current figure to be about 7,500, with most of them speaking Gujarati.

The community historically settled in the country's east, where - according to Mr Doshi - about 70 per cent of the island's Gujaratis still live.

WHERE TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE

The Singapore Gujarati School conducts lessons in Haig Girls' School every Saturday from 8.30am to 12.30pm. Annual fees are $330 per student.

Private tutors for the language are also available.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'The language spoken by more than 55 million people'. Print Edition | Subscribe