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Amazing Language Facts

There are thought to be around 6,500 languages in the world today (that was a free bonus fact), though around 2000 of these languages have less than 1000 speakers. Of the 7.5 billion people on Earth, just over a billion of us speak Mandarin or Cantonese, the languages of Earth’s most populous country, China. But these are just the warm up facts, allow us to really ‘impress’ you with some of the lesser known language facts!

  • The language with the largest alphabet award goes to…
    • Khmer is the worlds largest alphabet with 74 letters – of which some currently have no use! The Cambodian language consists of 33 consonants, 23 vowels and 12 independent vowels and is by far and away the largest alphabet – but Chinese uses a different method called an ideographic writing system of which there are thousands of symbols for the different words, symbols and concepts. Semantics and technicalities, but rules are rules!

 

  • There are over 200 artificial languages… 
    • Perhaps the most famous of these are Elven, from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (he’s created 13 overall), or Klingon of Star Trek fame. These languages are often unfinished, but they generally tend to have rules like real languages.

 

  • The best second-language English speakers?
    • That accolade goes to the Swedish! The English Proficiency Test released statistics on English exam results and Sweden came top, with the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland taking 2nd, 3rd and 4th spot respectively.

 

  • The hardest languages for English speakers to learn are…
    • The Foreign Service Institute, responsible for the US’ training of foreign affairs training has organised a difficulty rating for new languages to English speakers, going from one to five with there estimated time needed to learn.
    • Category 1 languages — Afrikaans, Danish, Spanish, etc — will take between 575 and 600 hours of study to master. These languages bear the most similarities to English.
    • Category 2 languages — when it was published German was the only language included — will take around 750 hours to master.
    • Category 3 languages — Indonesian, Swahili and Malaysian — take roughly 900 hours to master. These languages feature some linguistic and cultural differences to English.
    • Category 4 languages — Bengali, Czech, Hebrew, La, Russian, Urdu and Xhosa —these languages take 1,100 hours to master and feature significant differences to the linguistics of English.
    • Category 5 languages — Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean — are “exceptionally difficult” for English speakers to learn and take the title of trickiest tongues.

 

  • The country with the most official national languages is…
    • Zimbabwe, with 16 languages: Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Khoisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and sign language. The country with the most languages altogether is of course Papa New Guinea, with over 850.
  • The first printed book was…
    • The German Gutenberg Bible was the first book to be printed. In fact, the Bible is the most translated book in the world too, with 531 translations as of 2014, followed by Pinocchio at 260 translations.


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