Although English is widely understood in Kashmir, but not so much in Ladakh , it never hurts to know a little of the local language. Indians speak a vast number of regional languages including - in the state of Jammu and Kashmir - Kashmiri, Ladakhi and Urdu. Hindi is the official 'national' language and is widely spoken in many parts of the state.
Kashmir is a non-Hindi region, yet there are number of
people who can speak Hindi clearly and intelligibly here. A sizable
section of the educated urban and semi-urban population in the valley is
well-acquainted with the standard literary form of the language. This is
accounted for by the fact that for centuries there has been a deep
socio-cultural contact between what constitute the Hindi region and the
vale of Kashmir, despite the geographical barriers separating the two.
Apart from its importance as a great tourist attraction, Kashmir has been a world famous seat of Sanskritic learning. There has, therefore, been a constant influx of people to this land for not only its scenic beauty but also for cultural and intellectual exchange.
Ladakhi differs substantially from Tibetan although they
belong to the same family of languages and Ladakhi is written in the
Tibetan script. Dialects in nearby villages are very distinct and preserve
their individuality to this day - a typical result of a society where few
people travelled and there was little exchange of information. In more
widely separated towns, such as
Kargil, the speech is so different that the
inhabitants of one can hardly speak the dialect of the other.
There is one ladakhi word one should learn even before one arrives since one will use it many, many times each day. That is "Jullay" - the all-purpose greeting that covers 'hello, goodbye, how are you', and simply 'greetings'. The Ladakhi's are friendly, outgoing, spontaneous people and they call out "Jullay" to everyone they meet --local or foreigner. In a region where passing travellers have traditionally been the most important source of news from the outside world everyone is eager to be friendly to visitors, friend or stranger.