Facts About Language

The language of a society changes slowly but steadily with the result that an educated person will not be able to read or understand words in his language written 500 years ago.

Do you feel like you can’t talk to your parents? Maybe it’s because you belong to the Niger-Congo family. More than 1,400 languages are spoken by different members of this family from Africa.

It has been estimated that the number of actively spoken languages in the world today is about 6,000.

There is no word that rhymes with orange.

Pinocchio is Italian for “pine head.”

The most common letters in English are R S T L N E.

There is no word that rhymes with purple.

There was only one code during World War II that was never broken by the enemy and was used by the US Army. Navajo soldiers, called Codetalkers, developed a radio code based on their native language. It was the only way US soldiers on the battlefield could be sure that messages were from there own side and not from Japanese imitators.

Did you know that the word “typewriter” is the longest word in the English Language that can be spelled with the the top of the keyboard?

You speak about 4,800 words a day.


The holiday Boxing day was originally celebrated in England,for the servants to the rich people. After chrismas,the servants “boxed up” all the left-overs from the rich people and bring them home.

A palindrome is a word that is spelled the same way from both ends. For example: racecar

The 5 Ways We Learn Languages – and Which Style Is Right for You

Sometimes it seems as if there are as many language learning methods as there are language learners, or conversely that there is only “One True Way” to learn a language. The reality lies somewhere in the middle.

Let’s examine the 5 ways people generally learn languages.

The Vocabulary-Based Approach

The major players:

Rosetta Stone and similar language-learning software.

The method:

This method of learning claims to emulate the way we learned language as children – by associating words in the target language (the language you want to learn) with pictures or the objects they represent. Think, for example, of a three-year-old with a “see-and-say.”

It stresses vocabulary acquisition by presenting the user with vocabulary words and associated pictures, and encouraging repetition of that vocabulary. Grammar rules are not generally taught as such, but are picked up by osmosis.

The advantages:

Vocabulary acquisition is generally rapid, at least at first. Pictures help visual learners memorize the vocabulary. Repetition is stressed.

The disadvantages:

Vocabulary taught is oftentimes not useful for travelers. Leaves students prone to Tarzan Disease (“Me Tarzan, you…”) because of the lack of emphasis on grammar.

Double Translation

The major players:

Just about anyone who learned a language before 1900.

The method:

Step 1: Acquire a book in the target language.

Step 2: Acquire an English-target language dictionary.

Step 3: Use the dictionary to decipher the book. Write down your translation.

Step 4: Use the dictionary to translate your translation back into the target language. (Hence the term “double translation.”)

Step 5: Check the re-translated translation against the original book, rinse, repeat.

The advantages:

Useful for languages (e.g. Latin) that the student is only ever going to read, not speak. Introduces student to real texts in the target language.

The disadvantages:

Very difficult and ponderous way to learn. Doesn’t teach listening, speaking, or writing. Reliant on the accuracy of the student’s dictionary.

The Grammar-Based Approach

The major players:

Most “teach yourself” books. Older textbooks.

The method:

These books combine a small amount of vocabulary at the beginning of the lesson with a heaping dose of grammar rules, which must be memorized. The vocabulary is re-combined in several different ways to highlight the grammar points.

Subsequent lessons build on the vocabulary learned in previous lessons and introduce new grammar. Emphasis is placed on reading and writing in the target language.

The advantages:

Once the rules of grammar are learned, it becomes quite easy to integrate and correctly use new vocabulary.

The disadvantages:

Requires lots of rote memorization of grammar rules. Can be frustrating, especially at first. Student is left with very little vocabulary that he or she can begin using straight away.

The Communicative Approach

The major players:

Almost every modern language school.

The method:

Small groups of students are taught in a classroom setting. Lessons are generally divided into units which stress one receptive skill (reading or listening) and one productive skill (writing or speaking), combined with grammar and theme-based vocabulary. The emphasis is on bringing the student up to speed quickly in the language.

The advantages:

Builds general student proficiency. When well-done, students “hit the ground running” and are able to utilize language in various everyday situations.

The disadvantages:

Above a certain level, continued progress in the target language can be very slow. Classes are often tailored to the abilities of the “middle” of the class, leaving those who are progressing faster and those who need a little more time to fend for themselves.

The Immersion Method

The major players:

Backpackers everywhere who land in a new country without a phrasebook. Some primary schools.

The method:

Step 1: Go to a foreign country.

Step 2: Try to communicate with the locals. Draw pictograms. Point. Get into awkward situations. Attend the cinema and theatre. Listen to the radio. Watch television.

Step 3: (alternate method) Get a boyfriend (or girlfriend) who only speaks the target language.

The advantages:

No study required! Oftentimes you can pick up enough basic vocabulary needed to get by rather quickly. Forces you to listen to the locals and be self-reliant.

The disadvantages:

Scary! A number of awkward situations can happen. Reading ability often takes longer to develop.

How do you decide which method is right for you?

It depends on your learning style and what your aims are.

For those who are interested in achieving fluency in the target language:

Try all of the above. The grammar-based and vocabulary-based approaches, used in tandem, can provide a good basis for self-study before you land in your destination country. Upon arrival, combine language classes based on the communicative approach and the immersion method in everyday situations.

For those only interested in reading a language:

Learn the basics of the language with the grammar-based approach, and then throw yourself into double translation, if you can stand it.

For those who just need enough to get by:

Try software using the vocabulary-based approach to learn the words for things you might need (“hotel,” “toilet,” etc) before landing in your destination country, and practice the immersion method during your stay. A phrasebook can be a life-saver.

Language Learning Methods

There are a number of language learning methods one can employ to speed up the process of learning a new language. The success of a particular method is based on a number of factors, including age, personality, budget, and the amount of time one has to spare. What works for one person might not work for another, and therefore it is worth considering each of the three methods set out below to determine the method best suited to your circumstances.

The Good Old-Fashioned Image Recall Technique

This classic method of language learning forms the premise of the famous Rosetta Stone software and can be practiced alone at home, by either buying a program or simply using free resource websites. The idea is that you look at images and hear the native word for that image at the same time, thus developing a mental association between the two. If successful, when you attempt to recall the word at a later date, the image will appear in your mind and affirm the correct choice of word. While the image-recall technique has proved highly successful, recent research has shown that this language learning method works best for children, primarily because at a young age the mind is like a “sponge” soaking up images and their associated words. However, the research suggests that teenagers and adults learn far better by using their own language as a tool for learning. And also suggests that adults require a diverse approach to learning to ensure stimulate and optimize the learning process.

Group Interaction – Word Repetition

Group interaction represents the traditional classroom learning environment. The language techniques taught in the classroom will vary but largely consist of word repetition as conducted by the teacher. However, it isn’t necessarily the techniques taught in the classroom that make the difference in a person’s success in picking up a language and gaining a solid level of proficiency. The classroom environment creates competition between individual learners, and therefore, in the majority of people, increases motivation to do well. The classroom environment also presents figure of authority. Generally, people don’t like to let their teacher down and want to do the best they can in order to receive praise. Again, this is a key motivating factor in successful language learning.

Home Study Via Language Learning Software

Home study using language learning software has become the most popular way of learning a language in the modern day. There are a number of reasons for this, including study-time flexibility, a multi-faceted approach to learning and a far more affordable way to study than attending classes or hiring a tutor. The great thing about the newer language learning software platforms is that they utilize the best learning techniques and create an interactive package for the learner. For example, a teacher can be present through video to motivate and engage as they would in the classroom; audio is provided for on the go learning via digital devices, and reading literature is provided to diversify the experience away from the computer. In many cases certificates are also awarded for progressing through levels, providing the learner with a sense of achievement, which is essential for optimizing success. A key factor in choosing language learning software is most certainly the price tag. When you calculate the cost of attending classes or hiring a tutor, the fact that you can go from a very basic level of proficiency to fluent using language learning software for under $150 is quite remarkable. In light of this, more and more people are choosing home study via language learning software as their preferred method of learning.

The Key Foreign Language Teaching Methodologies and How to Choose the Best for You

The last question is probably the hardest to explain, maybe even to yourself.

Is it because that’s how you were taught? Is it because that’s how you were taught to teach? Or is it for some other reason?

Have you ever sat down and seriously thought about why you teach reading, writing, speaking, listening and culture the way you do?

If not, now is the time! And here’s why: If you know the history of howyour subject has been taught, you’ll be able to choose the best methodological approach to teach your own students.

It’ll also give you the flexibility to change approaches when any one method fails to address your students’ needs at any time—even in the middle of a lesson!

So let’s get started with the main foreign language methodologies, and then consider how to choose the best for your particular classroom.

The Foreign Language Teaching Methodologies That You Should Know


Have you ever studied Latin? Ancient Greek? Sanskrit? Linear B? If so, you probably used the grammar-translation methodology. You read grammar rules, or they were explained to you; you translated sentences and later paragraphs from and into Latin; you read Cicero or Caesar or Vergil, and you translated the texts into English—which you probably read aloud in class. You also learned more complicated grammatical constructions through these readings and translations. Alas, you never learned to speak, although, to be fair, it would be hard to practice speaking when there are no more native speakers of these languages.

For the longest time, this was also the approach used for teaching modern foreign languages. An instructor in a teacher-centered classroom would explain a grammatical rule in the native language, translation exercises would follow, perhaps preceded by some fill-in-the-blank or verb conjugation or noun declension work. Speaking, when it occurred, was in the context of completing these exercises orally and might consist of only a word or a phrase. There was no attempt at “real” communication.

How might a grammar-translation classroom be set up? You give your students a brief passage in the target language; you provide some new vocabulary and give your students time to try to translate the passage. There would be some new material included in the passage, perhaps a new case, a new verb tense or a more complex grammatical construction. You explain the material to your students as you work through the passage with them. After, you give your students a series of translation sentences or a brief paragraph in the native language, and they translate it into the target language for homework.


The direct method, also known as the natural approach, is in many ways the opposite of the grammar-translation method. In this classroom, the native language is strictly forbidden, and grammar (grammatical explanation) is de-emphasized in favor of induction, where students are supposed to figure out rules for themselves. Students are encouraged to speak at all times, making this the ultimate in student-centered classrooms.

In theory, students would learn the foreign language naturally, as they learned their native language as a child, and automatic responses to questions would become instinctive. The focus would always be on natural language, and habit formation was the key to learning. When students made mistakes, teachers would gently correct them. When they used the language correctly, they were praised. In this way, students were supposed to be able to determine a grammatical rule for themselves.

While the ideas were interesting, in practice this was a short-lived theory due to the proven lack of success of teaching L2 grammar through induction and schools not being able to provide a fully immersed environment.

What might a direct method or natural approach activity be? It could be as simple as a teacher asking questions, with the students answering, either followed by correction or praise. It could be an instructor reading a passage aloud, giving it to her students, and then having them read it aloud, so that through repetition and correction, students would understand in the same way that children learn patterns through having their parents read to them. Or it could be asking students to write a paragraph in their own words, again with correction or praise to follow.


The theory behind audio-lingualism is that language learning requires learning habits. Repetition is the mother of all learning. This methodology emphasizes drill work in order to make answers to questions instinctive and automatic. New forms are first heard by students, with written forms coming only after extensive drilling. The language used for these drills is based on what is required for practicing the specific form; it might or might not be natural.

An example of an audio-lingual activity is a substitution drill. The instructor might start with a basic sentence, such as “I see the ball,” after which she holds up a series of pictures through which students substitute “ball” with each new picture. Another possibility is a transformation drill, where the instructor says, “I read a book,” which the students change into, “I don’t read a book.”


Full Immersion is difficult to achieve in a foreign language classroom, unless you are teaching that foreign language in the country where the language is spoken, and your students are studying all topics in the target language. This would mean your students are truly immersed in the language as well as the culture for twenty-four hours a day.

For example, ESL students have an immersion experience if they are studying in an Anglophone country. In additional to studying English, they either work or study other subjects in English for a complete experience. Attempts at this methodology can be seen in foreign language immersion schools, which are becoming popular in certain school districts in the United States, and in bilingual education settings. The challenge with the former structure is that, as soon as the student leaves the school setting, he or she is once again surrounded by the native language.

An incredible way to help bring language immersion both to your classroom and to your students outside of school is with FluentU‘s online immersion program. FluentU provides a curated library of real-world video content—including movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—at levels from complete beginner to native.

Every word is carefully annotated so that learners have plenty of support (if they need it). You can even click on a word to see how it’s used in other videos across the site. Perhaps the most interesting part of FluentU is its “learn mode,” which takes videos and turns them into language learning lessons. The lessons are fully personalized, so the student’s learning history is taken into account when presenting questions. FluentU’s algorithm sets students up for success by teaching them based on what they already know.

Total Physical Response (TPR)

Total physical response, or TPR, emphasizes aural comprehension. For example, students are trained to respond to simple commands: stand up, sit down, close the door, open your book, etc. This first step can later be expanded to storytelling, where students act out actions described in an oral narrative, thus demonstrating their comprehension of the language.

The quintessential TPR activity still used in modern foreign language classrooms today is Simon Says.


The communicative approach is the most widely used and most widely accepted approach to classroom-based foreign language teaching today, and in many ways, is a culmination of those approaches and methodologies that appeared before.

It emphasizes the learner’s ability to communicate various functions, such as asking and answering questions, making requests, describing, narrating and comparing. Task assignment and problem solving—two key components of critical thinking—are the means through which the communicative approach operates.

Unlike the direct method, grammar is not taught in isolation. Learning happens in context; detailed error correction is de-emphasized in favor of the theory that students will naturally develop accurate speech through frequent use. Students develop fluency through communicating in the language rather than by analyzing it.

A communicative classroom includes activities through which students are able to work out a problem or situation through narration or negotiation, and thus establish communicative competence. Thus some activities might include composing a dialogue in which the participants negotiate when and where they are going to eat dinner, creating a story based on a series of pictures or comparing similarities and differences between two pictures.

Task-based Learning

Task-based learning, a refinement of the communicative approach, focuses on the completion of specific tasks through which language is taught and learned. Language learners use the language that they know to complete a variety of assignments, acquiring new structures, forms and vocabulary as necessary.

Little error correction is provided. In this type of learning environment, three- to four-week segments are devoted to a specific topic: ecology, security, medicine, religion, youth culture, etc. Students learn about a specific topic, step-by-step, using a variety of resources, with each unit culminating in a final project such as a written report or presentation.

Activities are similar to those found in a communicative classroom, but they are always based around a single, specific theme.

Other Methods

Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) — There are a number of commercial products (Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone, the Michael Thomas Method) and online products (Duolingo, Babbel) which are generally used by independent language learners. These fall under the CALL method, though some—with careful preparation—have been used in tandem with traditional classroom instruction.

Reading Method — Sometimes graduate students or researchers will only need to learn how to read scholarly articles in a language, so they learn through the Reading Method, where enough grammar is taught to make it through a standard article in their field. Students do not work on speaking or listening comprehension; rather, they concentrate on building up a large reservoir of specialized vocabulary.

There are also a number of lesser-used and lesser-accepted methodologies, including:

  • Suggestopedia, where the learning environment is made as relaxed as possible so students’ brain are able to soak up language.
  • Community Language Learning, where the instructor serves as a counselor rather than as an instructor.
  • Language analysis/awareness, a retrograde approach that concentrates on analyzing language data sets instead of actively using language in the classroom.

How to Choose the Best Foreign Language Teaching Methodology

Now that you know a number of methodologies and how to use them in the classroom, how do you choose the best?

While there are always those programs that insist upon a mandatory methodology, doing great disservice to students and teachers alike, you should always try to choose those methodologies and approaches that are most effective for your students. After all, our job as teachers is to help our students to learn in the best way for them—not for us, not for any researcher and not for any administrator.

Did I say methodologies and approaches? Plural? Yes! The best teachers choose the best methodology and the best approach for each lesson or activity. They aren’t wedded to any particular methodology. Rather they use principled eclecticism, freely moving between lessons, tasks, methodologies and approaches, almost seamlessly.

Have you ever had to teach a grammatical construction that only appears in written form? And then had your students practice it by writing? Then you’ve used the grammar-translation method. Have you ever talked to your students in question/answer form, hoping that they will pick up the grammar point that you are trying to teach? Then you’ve used the direct method.

Have you ever repeatedly drilled grammatical endings, or numbers, or months, perhaps before showing them to your students? Then you’ve used the audio-lingual method. Have you ever played Simon Says? Or given your students commands to open their textbook to a certain page? Then you’ve used the total physical response method. Have you ever written a thematic unit on a topic not covered by the textbook, incorporating all four skills and culminating in a final assignment? Then you’ve used task-based learning.

If you’ve already done all of these, then you’re already practicing principled eclecticism.

The point is: The best teachers make use of all possible methodologies and approaches at the appropriate time, for the appropriate activities, and for those students whose learning styles require that approach.

The ultimate goal is to choose the methods that best fit your students, not to force your students to adhere to any particular or limiting methodology. Remember: First and foremost, it’s always about our students!

And One More Thing…

To give your students an immersive, interactive learning experience, you’ll love using FluentU in your classroom. It’s designed to get students familiar with foreign vocabulary in a fun, friendly, totally approachable way. FluentU makes it possible to learn languages from music videos, commercials, news, inspiring talks, cartoons and more.

With FluentU, your students will learn the real language—the same way that natives speak it. They’ll hear their new vocabulary words in context, spoken naturally and casually. Every student is guaranteed to find videos they love to watch, and you’re guaranteed to find videos that meet your teaching needs. FluentU has a very wide variety of videos (browsable by category and level), as you can see here:

FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to instantly pause the video and see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is easily within the reach of any student, at any skill level, thanks to the interactive transcripts.

You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s unique Learn Mode, which asks questions based on what each student already knows. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

Plus, FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that your students are learning. It uses that information to give students a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples just for them.

You can organize chosen videos into “courses,” name your courses and assign them to your students for homework or in-class activities. They can each sign in using nothing but a secret password that we bestow to you, the teacher.

Then you can track their progress individually and as a group. How many videos and activities have they progressed through? What percentage of the exercise questions are they getting right? You’ll be able to see all this information and more.

The World’s Top 20 Languages—And The Words English Has Borrowed From Them

English is known as a magpie language that picks up words from almost every other language and culture it comes in contact with, from Abenakito Zulu. And although some languages have understandably widened the English vocabulary more than others, modern English dictionaries contain more of a geographical melting pot than ever before. 

Listed here—in order by number of native speakers—are the world’s top 20 languages (according to Ethnologue, a global catalog of the 7000 languages currently in use worldwide). Alongside each entry on the list are just some of the words which English has borrowed from it. 

1. CHINESE: 1197 million native speakers (MANDARIN: 848 million)

Linguistically speaking, Chinese is a “macrolanguage” that encompasses dozens of different forms and dialects that together have just short of 1.2 billion native speakers. By far the most widely spoken variety of Chinese, however, is Mandarin, with 848 million speakers alone—or roughly 70 percent of China’s entire population. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Chinese words have been recorded in English since the mid-16th century, with the earliest examples including the likes of tai chi (1736), ginseng (1634), yin and yang (1671), kumquat (1699) and feng shui (1797). One of the earliest of all is lychee (1588). 

2. SPANISH: 399 million

One quarter of the world’s 399 million Spanish speakers live in Mexico, although other important Hispanophone countries include Colombia (41 million), Argentina (38.8 million), and Venezuela (26.3 million); there are almost as many native Spanish speakers in the United States (34.2 million) as there are in Spain (38.4 million). In English, Spanish loanwords are characterized by terms from weaponry and the military (guerrillaflotillaarmadamachete), animal names (chinchillaalligatorcockroachiguana), and terms from food and drink (potatobananaanchovyvanilla).

3. ENGLISH: 335 million

According to Ethnologue, the English language’s 335 million native speakers include 225 million in the United States, 55 million in the United Kingdom, 19 million in Canada, 15 million in Australia, and just short of 4 million in New Zealand. But English is one of the world’s most widespread languages: mother-tongue speakers are recorded in 101 different countries and territories worldwide, 94 of which class it as an official language. Moreover, if the number of people who use English as a second language or lingua franca were included, the global total of English speakers would easily rise to over one billion. 

4. HINDI: 260 million

The world’s 260 million native Hindi speakers are mainly found in India and Nepal, while an estimated 120 million more people in India use Hindi as a second language. As with all Indian languages, a great many Hindi loanwords found in English were adopted during the British Raj in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but long before then the likes of rupee (1612), guru (1613), pilau (1609), pukka (1619), myna (1620) and juggernaut (1638) had already begun to appear in English texts. 

5. ARABIC: 242 million

Like Chinese, Arabic is technically another macrolanguage whose 242 million native speakers—spread across 60 different countries worldwide—use a range of different forms and varieties. The first Arabic loanwords in English date from the 14th century, although many of the earliest examples are fairly rare and obsolete words like alkanet (a type of dye, 1343) and hardun (an Egyptian agama lizard, 1398). Among the more familiar Arabic contributions to English are hashish (1598), sheikh (1577), and kebab (1698).

6. PORTUGUESE: 203 million

The population of Portugal is just under 11 million, but the global Lusophone population is boosted enormously by Brazil’s 187 million native speakers. Etymologically, Portuguese and Spanish loanwords are often tricky to differentiate because of the similarities between the two languages, but according to the OED, Portuguese is responsible for the likes of marmalade (1480), pagoda (1582), commando (1791), cuspidor(1779), and piranha (1710). 

7. BENGALI: 189 million

After Hindi, Bengali is the second most widely spoken language of Indiawith just over 82 million native speakers. But the largest native Bengali population in the world is found in Bangladesh, where 106 million people use it as their first language. The number of Bengali words adopted into English, however, is relatively small, with only 47 instances—including jute (1746), almirah (a free-standing cupboard, 1788), and jampan (a type of sedan chair, 1828)—recorded in the OED.

8. RUSSIAN: 166 million

One hundred and thirty-seven million of Russian’s 166 million native speakers live in the Russian Federation, with smaller populations in Ukraine (8.3 million), Belarus (6.6 million), Uzbekistan (4 million) and Kazakhstan (3.8 million). The earliest Russian loanwords began to appear in English in the 16th century, among them czar or tsar (1555), rouble (1557), and beluga (1591).

9. JAPANESE: 128 million

Japan’s 128 million people comprise the language’s entire native speaker population, enough to make it the ninth most widely spoken language in the world. Japanese words have been appearing in English texts since the 16th century, with some of the earliest loanwords including katana and wacadash (both types of samurai sword, 1613), miso (1615), shogun(1615), and sake (1687).

10. LAHNDA: 88.7 million

Lahnda is the collective name given to a group of related Punjabi languages and dialects spoken predominantly in Pakistan. Punjabi words adopted into English are rare, but nevertheless include bhangra (a local traditional dance form and music style, 1965), and gurdwara (a Sikh temple, 1909). 

11. JAVANESE: 84.3 million

Java is the most populous island on Earth, home to almost two-thirds of the entire population of Indonesia. More than half of its 139 million inhabitants speak the local Javanese language, enough to earn it a spot just outside of the global top 10 here. The words batik (1880), gamelan (1816) and lahar (a volcanic mudflow, 1929) are all of Javanese origin.

12. GERMAN: 78.1 million

Seventy million of the world’s 78 million native German speakers live in Germany, with the remaining 8 million found in the likes of Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg. As English itself is classed as a Germanic language, historically the two languages share a close relationship and ultimately many of the oldest English words could be argued to have German roots. More recent direct German loanwords, however, include sauerkraut (1633), pumpernickel (1738), doppelgänger(1851), and frankfurter (1894). 

13. KOREAN: 77.2 million

Korean loanwords in English are relatively rare, with none at all recorded by the OED before the 19th century. Among the most familiar are kimchi(1898) and taekwondo (1967), while rarer examples include kono (a traditional Korean board game, 1895), and kisaeng (the Korean equivalent of a Japanese geisha girl, 1895).

14. FRENCH: 75.9 million

The world’s 75 million native French speakers are divided among 51 countries and territories, including 7.3 million in Canada, 4 million in Belgium, and 6 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (home to the second largest French-speaking population in the world). Thanks largely to the Norman Conquest, roughly three out of every 10 English words are thought to have French roots, and the trend has continued ever since: English has adopted more loanwords directly from French—absintheblancmangeconciergedauphinenvoifêtegourmandhollandaiseimpasse—than from any other living language.


Telugu and Marathi are India’s third and fourth most used languages, with just over 74 and just short of 72 million native speakers, respectively. Neither is responsible for a great many English loanwords, however, and the vast majority of those that have found their way into the language tend to be fairly rare and unfamiliar, like desai (a revenue office or a petty thief, from Marathi, 1698), chawl (an Indian lodging house, from Marathi, 1891), and podu (an area of jungle cleared for farming, from Telugu 1938). By far the most well known is bandicoot, which is thought to literally mean “pig-rat” in Telugu. 

17. TURKISH: 70.9 million

Sixty-six million of the world’s 70 million Turkish speakers are in Turkey, with smaller populations found in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, and Kazakhstan. Turkish words in English date back to the 16th century, with vizier (1562), tulip (1578) and caftan (1591) being among the earliest to arrive.

18. TAMIL: 68.8 million

Tamil is India’s fifth most spoken language, as well as being one of the official languages of Sri Lanka and Singapore. Catamaran (1697), pariah(1613), poppadum (1820) and patchouli (1843) are all Tamil words, as is curry (1598). 

19. VIETNAMESE: 67.8 million

The OED records just 14 Vietnamese loanwords in English, the earliest of which is the name of the Vietnamese currency, dông (1824). Among the handful of others is pho (a traditional Vietnamese soup, 1935), ao dai (a woman’s high-necked tunic, 1961), and both hao and xu (1968), the names for one-tenth and one-hundredth of a dông, respectively. 

20. URDU: 64 million

Urdu is the sixth Indian language to make the global top 20, with its worldwide total comprised of 51 million native Indian speakers, a further 10 million in Pakistan, and smaller populations in Nepal and Mauritius. Urdu words have been adopted into English since the fifteenth century, with surprisingly early examples including mogul (1577), cummerbund (1613), and bungalow (1676). Earliest of all, however, is shrab—an old Anglo-Indian nickname for an alcoholic beverage, the first record of which in English dates from 1477.