11 Surprising Facts About Language

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(Newswire.net — August 17, 2018) — If you’re curious about how to learn Spanish or any other language, then it helps to have an understanding about language in general. Beyond linguistics, grammar, and speech, languages themselves have other unique characteristics. There’s more to fluency than foreign language learning programs. By understanding the range language has, you can develop a better appreciation of the subject overall and prepare your mind for your language program.

There are 7097 Languages that Exist Today

How can there be so many different languages? It’s best to think of language as a tree. There is the main trunk or the base of the language, and it breaks into smaller and smaller branches. These branches are language families and dialects. While 7097 is undoubtedly a lot of languages, this doesn’t mean that many of these languages are widely spoken. Many of these languages only have 10,000 speakers. This means that many are at risk of dying out.

2400 Languages Are Endangered

Thousands of languages are endangered. This happens because of a dwindling population of native speakers for those niche languages. People in these areas gravitate towards popular languages as a means of accessing better jobs prospects, more trade, and greater living. The result is that there is less emphasis placed on learning their native languages. At this rate, roughly 40% of the world languages will disappear within 100 years.

A Language Dies Out Every 2 Weeks

While many languages exist in the world, roughly one goes extinct every two weeks. This is because a handful of people only speak the language. As more and more niche cultures experience the cultural mainstream, their identity gets absorbed into it. Disease and war can also cause a language to die out. Children of native speakers who become bilingual often lose fluency in their native language. Their children will typically learn the language of the culture they grow up in as well. This also leads to a language becoming extinct.

573 Languages Are Extinct

When you think of extinct languages, you might think of dead languages like Latin, Ancient Greek, or Old English. However, there is a difference between an extinct language and a dead language. Dead languages are languages that are still in use despite not having any native speakers. Whereas, extinct languages are languages without a community of native speakers. There are currently over 573 extinct languages.  

Half the World’s Population Use Only 23 Languages

While there may be over 7000 languages currently in use around the world, half of the world’s population only uses 23 languages. In descending order based on the population of native speakers, the top ten of these most spoken languages are Chinese, Spanish, English, Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, and Lahnda.

The Bible Is the Most Translated Book in the World

The most translated book in the world shouldn’t come in as a surprise. The Holy Bible in its entirety has been translated into 650 different languages. However, if you’re counting partial translations, the New Testament has been translated into 1521 different languages as well.  Alice in Wonderland, Tintin, and Harry Potter are also widely translated around the world. The second most translated book on the list is the Little Prince, with over 300 translations. Previously the title had been held by Pinocchio with 260 translations in existence.

Languages with the Biggest and Smallest Alphabets

The language with the largest alphabet is Khmer. Over 8 million people, mainly Cambodians, speak this language worldwide; it has 74 letters.

The smallest alphabet belongs to the language Rotokas with a population of 4300 speakers in Papua New Guinea. This language only has 12 letters in their alphabet.  

Papua New Guinea Has the Most Languages

With a population of under 8 million people, Papua New Guinea has the most diverse collection of language in the world with 856 different languages used throughout the country. For comparison, the US has just over 300 languages used across the nation with a population that is 40 times greater.

Learning a Second Language Can Improve Mental Health

Learning more than one language can improve brain health by increasing brain use. Learning a language requires using your brain to concentrate and focus. And brain use helps brain health. Whether it’s through puzzles or games that require you to think, these activities keep your brain active and fight off degenerative brain conditions. It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s attempted to learn a second language or who already has learned one that there is a great deal of mental effort required to maintain fluency.

The US Has No Official Language

Despite what some may think, English is not the official language of the US. The US has no official language. This doesn’t mean that attempts haven’t been made to make English the official language. However, they have been stopped because it is seen as a clash with the constitution, specifically, the freedom of speech.

The US has a history of cultural diversity dating all the way back to the colonies. And while English was the major language used at the time, there was still a rich history and collection of people from different parts of Europe who had settled there with their own established languages. Pushing English might have jeopardized the colonialists’ willingness to work together.

Welsh Is Used in Argentina

In the mid-1800s, Welsh settlers came to Patagonia, Argentina. They brought with them their language that they still use throughout the area today. Unlike other traditional settlers who traveled in search of fame and fortune or to escape from religious persecution, Welsh immigrants came to Patagonia to keep their culture and language alive. In exchange for the land to create a settlement there to preserve the culture of their people, they agreed to submit to Argentinian rule. Today it holds the highest population of Welsh speakers outside of Wales.  

Language Is Diverse

There are plenty more interesting facts about languages. And understanding the unique history and characteristics of language can help build an appreciation for the vast collection of culture and ideas expressed by them throughout the world. While it’s great to search for a quick way to learn Spanish, it’s also important to know other unique facts about language as well. It’s more than simply trivia, it’s a snapshot of one of the most defining characteristics of what it means to be human.