Interesting Facts about Languages

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Contrary to popular belief, English is not only the usual “European” language. It originates from England, but it has spread a lot to New Zealand and Australia in the past years. That’s why they have adopted English as their official language.

There are over 7,000 spoken languages in the world. Although they aren’t commonly known, there are many amazing and unbelievable facts about languages that can blow your mind. Sadly, not everyone is familiar with these facts and some don’t even know there are that many different languages. Let’s go through some interesting facts about languages.

1. The Bible is the Most Translated Document in the World

Although it’s impossible to know for sure, we can make an educated guess. The Bible has been translated into more than 2,500 languages (2,883 precisely), with another 1,534 languages in progress. (The full text of the Bible is only about 800,000 words long.) That far exceeds any other book or document on record. [1]

2. US Citizens Speak More than 350 Languages

According to the US Census Bureau, more than 350 languages are spoken in American homes. That’s more than any other country in the world! But what languages are the most popular? English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Korean are the most common languages spoken. [2]

3. The Oldest Written Language is Sumerian, which Dates Back to 3100 BC

In the late 3rd millennium BCE (around 3100 BC), a new language emerged in Mesopotamia. The Sumerians had their own written language, and it was completely unrelated to other known languages. [3]

In fact, it is still unknown where the Sumerians came from or where they went. Even though their language is still used in modern-day Iraq, there are no native speakers of the Sumerian language today.

Sumerian was used as a spoken language until 2000 BCE, until Akkadian replaced it. [4]

4. A Spoken Language Can Become Extinct or Dead

While most people assume human languages live on as long as people are speaking them, that’s not necessarily the case.

Throughout history, we can find several examples of extinct and dead languages. There’s a difference; an extinct language is not used anywhere, not even as a study subject. A dead language, like Latin, is still studied and used in certain contexts but has no native speakers. It’s estimated that one language dies every two week, even in the present day.

There are already around 230 languages that have become extinct. As of now, there are about 573 known extinct languages. [18]

5. Half the Population Worldwide Speaks Only 23 Languages

Half of the world’s population speaks at least one of these languages as their first language or mother tongue: Chinese (Mandarin), Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, Punjabi/Lahnda, German, Javanese, Wu (a dialect of Chinese), Malay/Indonesian, Telugu, Vietnamese, Korean, French, Marathi (another Indian language), Tamil (yet another Indian language), Urdu (also Pakistan’s official language), Turkish and Italian. The majority of people in the world are fluent in at least one of these languages and considers it their language of choice. [5]

6. Bilingualism Accounts for Nearly Half of the World’s Population

That’s right: around 43% of people can call themselves bilingual. The most commonly spoken language in the world is English with 1.3 billion native speakers, followed by Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. [6] [19]

7. No Single Language is considered the Official Language of the United States

The United States, despite its status as a nation composed largely of immigrants from English-speaking countries, does not have an official language. There has been a push for the establishment of English as the official language since at least 1880, when the National Language Act was introduced to Congress.

In fact, only 31 states have declared English as their official language; the rest have no official language designation. [7]

8. French is known to be the Love Language

There are various factors that contributed to French being considered the language of love. The way it sounds is one of the most common reasons, but the language also has a history that’s connected with romance and love.

According to Google Translate, around 34 in 1000 translated French phrases were related to love or romantic in some way. Some may also feel that the pronunciation of even common French words is melodic and sweet, making it seem romantic even when it’s not.

Moreover, French is a very descriptive language. Even though it doesn’t have as many descriptive expressions as English, French has several nuances for characterizing emotions and sensations. [8]

9. South Korea and North Korea Have Different Languages

It’s not just that South Korea and North Korea have different languages; they have totally different writing systems. Both are called Hangul, though North Korea also calls it Chosŏn’gŭl.

Korean is regarded as a language isolate, but the Korean or Hangul in both provinces are quite different. This is mainly due to the many dialect differences that developed as the two states have developed and progressed separately for over 70 years.

North Korea has been mostly isolated from the rest of the world, with very strict policies and rules under its government. It also has an inclination to develop a speech for the working class.

In 1996, the Munhwa dialect was set as the standard language for North Korea. For South Korea, the Gyeonggi dialect is the most common in the whole of the Gyeonggi province, including Seoul.  In North Korea’s northwest, the most common language is the Pyongan dialect. [9]

10. Almost All the Languages in the World Have Been Influenced By another Language

This might not sound surprising since we live in an increasingly globalized society where people often speak more than one language. But it’s actually pretty astounding when you think about it. Almost all of the 6,500+ languages in the world have been influenced by another language at some point.

This process is known as “language borrowing,” and it happens because there are very few cultures in the world that aren’t in contact with other cultures on some level. As a result, people from one culture often pick up words and phrases from another culture—and sometimes even full alphabet systems! [10]

11. South Africa Has the Most Official Languages

South Africa has 11 official languages because of its complicated history and its efforts to bring together all of its residents through language. The languages include Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. [11]

12. English is the Most Dominant Language in the World

It is spoken by approximately 380 million native speakers and an additional 300 million second-language speakers. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and many other former British colonies have English as their official language.

Even in countries where it’s not an official language, English strongly influences everyday life (think of pop music, TV shows, and Hollywood movies). English is also the dominant language online – more than half of all Web content is in English. [22]

13. Papua New Guinea Speak the Most Languages

Papua New Guinea is known to be the country with the greatest number of languages, with a total of 850. Why so many in Papua New Guinea? It’s because there are a lot of people who live in isolated villages and speak their own dialects. They can’t understand each other because they never interact. [12]

However, 40 of these languages are about to become extinct.

14. The Cambodian Language Has the Longest Alphabet with 74 Letters

The Khmer language of Cambodia has the largest alphabet in the world: 74 letters, consisting of 33 consonants, 23 vowels, and 12 independent vowels. [13]

15. Europe’s First Printed Book was in German 

German was the first language to be printed with movable type (a printing method that allows individual pieces of type to be used for printing rather than requiring casting for each page). The person who printed in German was Johannes Gutenberg, who began his career as a goldsmith. His printing press was made from a winepress and was invented around 1436. During this time period, Johannes Gutenberg was in Strasbourg and had already spent time working on his printing press for several years.

He first printed the Bible in Latin in 1455 and then began printing Bibles in German later that year. Although he is often credited with inventing the printing press, it has been debated whether or not he invented it himself or whether he borrowed from others’ ideas. [14]

16. 80% of Information Stored in Computers is in English

The majority of programmers and computer professionals speak English as well as their native tongue. This is why so when it comes to electronically stored information; they are more likely to use English. As a result, English is a universal language for internet users. [15]

17. Japanese is the Fastest Spoken Language in the World

Japanese is the fastest spoken language in the world, with an average of 7.84 syllables per second. This makes it faster than Italian, which clocks in at 7.82 syllables per second, and French, which has 7.18 syllables per second. [16]

It even beats out languages like German and Cantonese, both of which have a reputation for being very fast-paced languages.

18. The Most Evolving Language in the World 

Languages are constantly evolving. A language that was spoken in its purest form a hundred years ago would sound like one from a completely different country today. The English language is one example of this phenomenon. It has been influenced by other languages such as Latin, French, and Germanic languages (through Germanic invasions). This makes it very difficult for non-native English speakers to learn English as a second language due to its complexity and variety of grammatical structures. [21]

19. Asia Has the Most Languages

Asia is a large continent, home to over 4 billion people, and it’s no surprise that it has the most languages of any continent—nearly 2,300! This number includes endangered languages as well as those with a healthy number of speakers. [20]

20. The German Language has Three Genders

German has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. What’s more, different nouns have different genders even if they’re already words in English! For example, “die hand,” which means “hand,” is feminine, while “der finger,” which means “finger,” is masculine. This can make it difficult to learn the German language as an English-speaking adult because there are no visible markers of gender at all! [17]

Conclusion

From this list of facts, we can say that languages are very dynamic entities. All languages are changing and adapting to fulfill our universal need for communication and to reach problem-solving tasks. That is why linguists have to be able to understand all these changes, so they can also adapt to them. Languages also help showcase the culture, traditions, and norms of a community in one way or another.

References

  1. Which is the world’s most translated book? (n.d.). Tomedes. https://www.tomedes.com/translator-hub/which-worlds-most-translated-book.php
  2. Census Bureau Reports at Least 350 Languages Spoken in U.S. Homes. (n.d.). U.S. Census Bureau. https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USCENSUS/bulletins/122dd88
  3. Gelb, I. (2019). Sumerian language | History, Characteristics, & Facts. In Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sumerian-language
  4. National Council of Educational Research and training. (n.d.). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://ncert.nic.in/textbook/pdf/kehs102.pdf
  5. The Top 23 Languages In The World. (n.d.). Jarvisen. https://www.jarvisen.com/blogs/jarvisens-blog/the-top-23-languages-in-the-world
  6. #. (2019, September 20). Hyperpolyglots: How Many Languages Can You Learn? Day Translations Blog. https://www.daytranslations.com/blog/how-many-languages-can-you-learn/
  7. A Growing Divide Over Official-English Laws. (n.d.). Pew.org. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/08/08/the-growing-divide-over-official-english-laws
  8. Rogador, C. (2021, May 20). Why Is French The Language Of Love? Journey to France. https://journeytofrance.com/why-is-french-the-language-of-love/
  9. Do North and South Koreans Speak the Same Language? (n.d.). Prolingo.com. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://prolingo.com/blog/is-the-same-language-spoken-in-north-and-south-korea
  10. Kemmer, S. (2017). Words in English: Loanwords. Rice.edu. https://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words/loanwords.html
  11. gateway, S. A. (2021, August 26). The 11 languages of South Africa. South Africa Gateway. https://southafrica-info.com/arts-culture/11-languages-south-africa
  12. Papua New Guinea’s incredible linguistic diversity. (n.d.). The Economist. https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2017/07/20/papua-new-guineas-incredible-linguistic-diversity
  13. Languages Ranked By The Size Of Their Alphabets. (n.d.). Wordfinderx.com. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://wordfinderx.com/blog/languages-ranked-by-letters-in-alphabet
  14. Europe’s First Printed Book. (n.d.). Www.europeana.eu. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://www.europeana.eu/en/blog/europes-first-printed-book
  15. 18 Facts About Why English Is The Language Of The Internet. (2020, October 2). TALK English Schools – Blog. https://blog.talk.edu/learn-english/english-language-of-the-internet/
  16. List of The 7 Fastest Spoken Languages in The World. |. (n.d.). Thelanguagenerds.com. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://thelanguagenerds.com/2019/list-of-the-fastest-spoken-languages-in-the-world
  17. German Noun Gender: How to Stop Memorizing. (n.d.). German with Laura. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from https://germanwithlaura.com/noun-gender
  18. Sichel, B. (2019, November 12). Extinct Languages: When and Why They Die Off | ILS. ILS Translations. https://www.ilstranslations.com/blog/understanding-extinct-languages-when-and-why-they-die-off/
  19. What Is the Most Spoken Language in the World in 2021. (2021, April 23). Encore!!! https://gurmentor.com/what-is-the-most-spoken-language-in-the-world/
  20. Maglente, S., & Roth, M. S. (2022, May 1). 15 Common Languages That Are Spoken in Asia. Good Housekeeping. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/g35928495/asian-pacific-islander-languages/
  21. Resources for English Language Learners and Teachers | Pearson English. (2017, April 18). How the English language has changed over the decades. Resources for English Language Learners and Teachers | Pearson English. https://www.english.com/blog/english-language-has-changed/
  22. Zazulak, S. (2015, August 21). English: the language of the internet. Resources for English Language Learners and Teachers | Pearson English. https://www.english.com/blog/english-language-internet/

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