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Hindi second-most popular non-English language among US physicians: Study

Hindi is spoken by 13.8% of multilingual American physicians, with 36.2% speaking Spanish.

world Updated: Oct 22, 2017 23:44 IST
Yashwant Raj
Of an estimated 950,000 physicians in the US, 100,000 are of Indian origin.
Of an estimated 950,000 physicians in the US, 100,000 are of Indian origin.(Representative photo/Shutterstock)

Hindi is the second most widely spoken non-English language among American physicians after Spanish, a study has found. It is spoken by 13.8% of multilingual American physicians, with 36.2% speaking Spanish.

The study released last week was conducted by Doximity, a 2011 company that calls itself America’s largest medical social network. It drew upon the profiles of 60,000 licensed physicians from among its members for the study.

The other languages that made the top-five were French with 8.8%, Persian/Farsi with 7.6% and Chinese with 5.2%.

Dr Bharat Barai, an Indiana state oncologist, who was among the leading Indian American organisers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Madison Square Garden event in 2015, was not surprised by the finding. Most doctors who came here from India, he said, “had learnt Hindi as second language and continue to use it”.

Of an estimated 950,000 physicians in the US, 100,000 are of Indian origin, said Dr Navin Shah, a Maryland state urologist who co-founded the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. He said 70,000 of them were those that were trained in India and emigrated to the US, like himself and Barai.

That’s consistent with the finding of the study, which said, “Nearly half (44.7%) of all physicians who speak a second language graduated from a medical school located outside of the United States, and most of these doctors immigrated to the United States to practice medicine”.

The Indian-origin physicians among came from three regional clusters — Gujarat-Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh-Punjab and Andhra-Tamil Nadu, Shah said.

Hindi also came up as the second most widely spoken non-English language among bilingual patients in the Doximity study with 5.8%, after Spanish — the second most popular language in the US— at 61.5%, and followed by Chinese at 5.3%, French 3.3% and Filipino 3.3%.

But Shah said the number of Hindi-speaking Indian-origin physicians is declining rapidly as the next generation is assimilated more integrally. “In 20 years, I believe only one in five of us will be speaking Hindi,” he said.

And he can see that change happening in his own family. One of his sons is a doctor, and like all his other children, speaks to Shah in English, even when Shah is addressing him in Hindi or Gujarati.