Language is a funny thing; it has the power to make us sad or happy, it allows us to share our experiences with others or can limit sharing when we don’t understand another’s native tongue. It can be full of ambiguities or crystal clear, and it can change over time or remain unaltered for generations.
Language is fascinating, fun, and fickle!
If you aren’t convinced language can be all these things – read on to discover our fascinating language facts from around the world…
1. There are 7139 Spoken Languages Around the World
There are more than 7000 languages spoken around the world today but more than half of these are considered to be dialects.
However, of the 7139 languages, 200 are spoken by almost 90% of the population as their native, or first, language.
Many of these languages are only spoken, they don’t have a written form, and while some of them are spoken by billions of people on a daily basis as either their first or second language, there are some languages which are only known to a handful of people.
2. Top Ten Languages
With it being possible to communicate in over 7000 languages on a daily basis it might surprise you to know that half the population of the world speak one of only 23 languages.
The top ten most spoken languages are:
3. Languages Disappear
It might be hard to fathom, but around 40% of languages are considered to be ‘endangered’.
A language is classified ‘endangered’ when the speakers begin to teach (and speak) a more dominant language to their children or the language is eroded over time due to close proximity with other, more dominant, dialects.
For instance, in the MENA region, languages such as Siwi, a Berber language spoken in the Siwa oasis in Egypt are considered to be in danger due to the loss of many “Berber linguistic features”, the possible result of long-standing contact with Arabic.
Some ‘lost’ languages were never recorded so we have no way of investigating these, measuring their value or assessing their linguistic, artistic and cultural relevance. They are lost forever in the mist of history.
4. Translated Tales
Translation has been a valuable tool since the earliest humans began to travel and trade. We have needed to understand different languages in order to share information, explore new ideas and concepts, and influence or inspire people who don’t speak our native language.
Sharing tales, stories, legends and myths has long been a passion of humans (no matter which language they speak) so it should be of no surprise that some books have been translated into hundreds of different languages.
Besides religious books, such as, the Bible and the Quran, the following are thought to be the most translated books:
• The Adventures of Pinocchio – Carlo Collodi
• The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
• Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
• Andersen’s Fairy Tales – Hans Christian Andersen
• Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
• Don Quixote – Miguel Cervantes
• The Adventures of Tintin – Hergé
• The Adventures of Asterix – René Goscinny, Albert Uderzo, and Jean-Yves Ferri
• The Harry Potter series – J.K Rowling
Some of these books have been translated into over 300 different languages and prove to be as popular in other languages as they are in their native language.
5. Invented Languages
Invented, or ‘constructed languages’ are languages which are “intended to be spoken by people, to people (as distinct from, say, programming languages), and which have been deliberately constructed rather than having evolved”.
Languages created for novels such as, Quenya the language spoken by the Elves in J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and for movies with the invention of the Klingon language created for Star Trek, are considered to be constructed languages.
To date, there are thought to be more than 300 fully composed and researched languages that are totally invented.
Some of these languages, such as Esperanto, have been created in an attempt to form an ‘international language’ that could be universally understood (as a second language) with the aim of improving human relations and fostering world peace.
Language really is remarkable. It can inform us of our cultural history, enlighten us regarding places and people, and entertain us with its novelty and uniqueness.
We love languages!
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