Not everyone can be an exceptionally talented polyglot, the kind to whom learning a new language comes seemingly overnight. But we can all take the time to learn a couple language facts, that may even come in use later in life.
Speaking to a tourist, a foreign dignitary, etc, in their mother tongue makes a lasting impression, even if it’s only a handful of words. (Hiring an interpreter to translate for you, shows that you really went of your way to communicate effectively with them!) But the next best thing is just to know a language facts. If you can’t manage to get a sentence together in Mandarin when speaking to a Chinese person, at least impress them with your knowledge that the language did not use punctuation until the 19th century.
That’s one. Here are eighteen more foreign language facts that you can use at a parties – though we can’t promise it will necessarily make you look cool.
Oldest Languages facts:
The oldest languages that are still spoken today are Sanskrit, Hebrew and Basque.
Sanskrit is one of India’s 22 official languages and the official language of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, although the language only has 14,000 native speakers. The earliest attested Sanskrit texts are the texts of Rigveda, a collection of ancient Indian hymns, which dates from the mid-to-late second millennium BC.
The earliest traces of written Hebrew date back to the 10th century BC when the language was widely spoken in the ancient Kingdoms of Israel of Judah. Throughout history, use of Hebrew has faded and been revived, and today it is spoken more than 5 million people, mainly in Israel.
The Basque language is spoken by approximately 700,000 people in the Basque territories of northern Spain and south-western France. Almost nothing is known of its origins, although it is most likely to have been spoken before the Indo-European Languages developed in Western Europe.
Endangered Languages facts:
Of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken in the world, 90 per cent are spoken by less than 100,000 people, while 25 per cent are spoken by less than 1000 people.
More than half of these languages have no written form.
Overall, 96 per cent of world’s languages are spoken by just one per cent of world’s population.
Languages in Africa:
Africa is the world’s most linguistically rich continent, with more than 2000 different languages spoken there.
Papua New Guinea is the country with the most spoken languages – an incredible 820. All the more incredible when you consider that the country only has 5.5 million citizens. Papua New Guinea only has three official languages, though.
Country with the most official languages is South Africa with 11 – Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. Up until 1994, it only had two – English and Afrikaans.
Somalia is the only country in Africa where the entire population speaks the same language – Somali.
The language with the smallest vocabulary is Sranan Tongo, which only has 340 words. It is also known as Taki Taki and is spoken by approximately 300,000 people in Suriname.
The language with the largest vocabulary is, according to Stephen Fry and other sources, English. The Oxford English Dictionary, with descriptions for approximately 750,000 words is the most comprehensive single-language dictionary by a distance. However, pinpointing how expansive a language’s wordbank might be is practically impossible, nor hugely practical.
Khmer, the official language of Cambodia with approximately 12 million speakers, has the longest alphabet, with 74 different letters.
Rotokas, on the other hand, a language spoken in Bougainville, an island to the east of New Guinea, has the shortest alphabet with only 12 letters.
Fun language facts:
The United States, Australia, Chile and Mexico have no de jure official language on a national level, although they all have a language spoken by the overwhelming number of the population.
The foreign language that has bagged the most number of Oscars for Best Foreign Film is Italian, with 12.
According to the BBC, people use more than one language at work can earn up to 8 per cent more. So buckle down, and get learning!
Today Translations is a London based translation company who can help you communicate worldwide in over 200 languages. If you can’t remember any of the above language facts, or you’re looking to have a longer conversation while doing business or travelling abroad, our interpreting services are there to help. Contact us at [email protected] or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.