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Eleven Interesting Facts about World Languages

Paul has spent a lifetime traveling and learning many languages. He is now conversant in Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, and Thai.

Love Expressed in Different Languages

Translations of love in different languages

Translations of love in different languages

Interesting Facts about World Languages

I have been fascinated by world languages all my life. This has resulted in a great passion for studying and learning languages. My interest in languages began when I studied Latin and Spanish in high school. Later, I took German and French classes in college. After joining the Navy, I learned Chinese Mandarin. Additional Mandarin and the study of Chinese dialects, as well as the Thai language, kept me busy while working for the federal government. At the present, I am learning new languages using online sites such as Memrise and Duolingo.

In this article, I present eleven interesting facts about languages I have learned and other world languages.

1. 7,151 Languages Are Spoken in the World Today

Based on Ethnologue statistics, 7,151 languages are spoken in the world today. 40% of these languages are endangered, with less than 1,000 speakers. Surprisingly, only 23 languages account for more than one-half of the world's population.

Some Languages in the World

Some languages in the world today

Some languages in the world today

2. English Is the Most Spoken Language in the World Today

According to a September 2021 Berlitz article, English is the most spoken language in the world. English is closely followed by Chinese Mandarin, and then Hindi, Spanish, and French. Specific statistics of language speakers follow.

1. English: 1.132 billion speakers

  • 379 million native speakers (NS)
  • 753 million non-native speakers (NNS)

2. Mandarin: 1.117 billion speakers

  • 919 million NS
  • 199 million NNS

3. Hindi: 615 million speakers

  • 341 million NS
  • 274 million NNS

4. Spanish: 534 million speakers

  • 460 million NS
  • 74 million NNS

5. French: 280 million speakers

  • 77 million NS
  • 203 million NNS

An English Language Student

An English language student

An English language student

3. Eight Alphabet Groups Are in Use Today

According to an article in worldfactsinc., eight alphabet groups are in use today in the world. An alphabet must have consonants and vowels to make words.

These eight alphabet groups have evolved from the ancient Phoenician alphabet. Phoenician was spoken from the third to tenth century A.D. in North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean coastal regions.

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The eight alphabet groups are:

  1. Arabic
  2. Aramaic
  3. Armenian
  4. Brahmi
  5. Cyrillic
  6. Georgian
  7. Greek
  8. Latin

The modern Hebrew alphabet is Aramaic. It is used in Israel.

The Armenian alphabet is used in Armenia.

Brahmic alphabets are found in the Khmer, Myanmar (Burmese,) and Thai alphabets.

The Georgian alphabet can be found in Georgia in Asia.

Cyrillic is found in the Russian alphabet.

The Greek alphabet is used in the Greek language.

The Latin alphabet is used in English, Spanish, and most European countries.

The Phoenician Alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet

4.The Khmer Alphabet Has the Most Letters

According to Wikipedia, the Khmer or Cambodian alphabet with a total of 74 letters has the most letters of any alphabet. Unlike the English alphabet, the Khmer and also Thai alphabets are abugida. This is a writing system in which letters represent consonants with diacritical marks used for vowels.

Khmer Language Script

Khmer language script

Khmer language script

5. The Rotokas Alphabet Has the Fewest Letters

Wikipedia reveals that Rotokas is the shortest alphabet with 12 letters. It is spoken in Papua, New Guinea.

6. English Has the Most Words

If we measure the number of words found in various language dictionaries, English has more words than any other language. The Oxford English Dictionary lists 615,100 words according to worldatlas.com.

The English language evolved from German and later borrowed words from French, Greek, and Latin. English has also borrowed words from such languages as Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic.

7. Papua New Guinea is the Most Multilingual Country

According to Ethnologue's 2016 rankings of the number of languages spoken as a first language, Papua New Guinea has more than 839 living languages.

The ten most multilingual countries with the number of first languages are as follow:

  1. Papua New Guinea 839
  2. Indonesia 707
  3. Nigeria 526
  4. India 454
  5. The United States 422
  6. China 300
  7. Mexico 289
  8. Cameroon 281
  9. Australia 245
  10. Brazil 229

8. Tamil Is the Oldest Language Still in Use

According to holidify.com, Tamil is the oldest language still in use today. It is over 5,000 years old and dates back to 2500 B.C. Spoken by 78 million people, Tamil is an official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore. It is also the most spoken widely spoken language in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as well as being one of the official languages of India.

Tamil Language

The Tamil Language

The Tamil Language

9. Eight Major Varieties of English Are Spoken in the World

Grammarist.com reports that eight major varieties of English are spoken in the world today. They are as follows:

  1. British English
  2. American English
  3. Canadian English
  4. Australian English
  5. New Zealand English
  6. South African English
  7. Indian English
  8. World English

British English is the oldest variety. It has 60 million native speakers and is spoken in the United Kingdom.

American English has 225 million native speakers.

10. The Sumerian Language Is the Oldest Written Language

According to britannica.com, Sumerian is the oldest written language. The first evidence of this language was found about 3100 BCE in Southern Mesopotamia. Sumerian was prevalent during the 3rd millennium BCE. Around 2000 BCE, it was replaced by Semitic Assyro-Babylonian but continued in written usage almost to the beginning of the Christian era.

11. The Chinese Language Has 10 Major Varieties

Studycli.org reveals that the Chinese language has 10 major varieties. They include:

  1. Standard Mandarin
  2. Min Chinese
  3. Wu Chinese
  4. Cantonese (Yue)
  5. Jin Chinese
  6. Gan Chinese
  7. Hakka (Kejia) Chinese
  8. Xiang Chinese
  9. Hui Zhou Chinese
  10. Pinghua Chinese and other unclassified dialects

Linguistic Map of China

Linguistic Map of China

Linguistic Map of China

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Paul Richard Kuehn

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