by Raoul Hanchate
An aspect of our lives that is necessary and exciting is language. Languages are also organized into families. As such, some are related to each other, for example English and French. Here are some fun facts about our languages today.
According to Ethnologue, there are currently 7,097 languages spoken all over the world. The most spoken language is Mandarin Chinese, with over 1.1 billion speakers. It has over 50,000 individual characters, however you can read a newspaper if you know about 2,000.
While English has 26 letters, the Cambodian language of Khmer has the largest alphabet with 74 unique letters. Rotokas has the smallest alphabet with just 12 letters. The English language has the largest vocabulary with an estimated 250,000 words [source].
Fewer than 25% of the languages that we speak today have a written form [source].
Asia has the highest number of languages with 2,300. Africa also has almost as many: 2,143. There are 1,306 in the Pacific, 1,060 in the Americas, including 232 in the USA, and Europe has 288 different languages [source].
In South Africa, there is an astonishing 11 different official national languages [source]. An interesting characteristic of languages is that they constantly influence each other. As a result, about 45% of English has lexical terms borrowed from the French language [source].
We have seen characters in movies, books, TV shows and animations speaking in unique languages. These are created to add legitimacy to the on-screen civilizations. As a matter of fact, there are more than 200 different artificial languages that have been developed for entertainment purposes [source]. This adds adventure, realism and originality to books and movies. The practice of creating unique languages is not new. Ancient civilizations also created languages for the purpose of having debates of a philosophical nature.
There is an international body that was created for the purpose of language preservation. It is known as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). One of their primary mandates is to explore, preserve and nurture languages. This body performs assessments and analyses for the purpose of linguistic statistics.
According to this body, the most commonly spoken languages in the world include Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, English and Spanish. These languages have achieved this level of popularity thanks to the large numbers of people who speak them. In addition to that, they are not as complex to learn for foreigners.
On the other hand, the most challenging languages to learn include Korean, Cantonese, Japanese and surprisingly, Mandarin Chinese! Quite interestingly, the United Nations (UN) utilizes a collection of 6 different languages so as to conduct interactions and negotiations [source]. They are Arabic, English, Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese.
It is not all rosy among languages. 25% of languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers [source]. If they are not passed on to the next generations, they will become extinct.
Language is one of the most unique and distinct characteristics of human beings. It provides a way to pass on culture, educate and create social bonds. Above are some of the many interesting facts about languages today. You can discover more about linguistics by visiting Gritty Spanish.
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