10 fun facts about languages

There are an estimated 7,000 languages in the world, from Mandarin Chinese spoken by nearly a billion people natively, to over 200 artificial languages like Elvish spoken only by the (imaginary) Elves from J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic and their diehard fans.

With such scale and variety in the way we express ourselves, there are a whole host of fun facts about languages that we can dig up. Here are our top 10:

1. Only onomatopoeia

Despite how natural yours may sound, onomatopoeias are not universal. English speakers use “snip snip” to communicate cutting scissors, whereas the Japanese say “chocki chocki”. Car horns go “düt düt” in Turkey instead of “beep beep”, and Korean trains go “chik chik pok pok” not “chugga chugga choo choo” as in English. The animal kingdom also provides countless comparisons. In Afrikaans, bees say “zoem-zoem” (not “buzz”) and in Bengali cows say “hamba” (not “moo”). The humble rooster’s crow is also different between languages: English’s “cockadoodle-doo” becomes “co-co-ro-co” in Catalan, “kikeriki” in German, and “goh-geh-goh-goh” in Chinese.

2. A long story

Alongside the much-quoted antidisestablishmentarianism there are several other mouthfuls to try memorizing. Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism is a thyroid disorder, Mary Poppins’ “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” actually appears in some dictionaries, and (interestingly) “hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia” is the fear of long words. But are long words valuable? That’s a personal preference – though if you think they are not, just know that the act of describing something as being of little importance is another long word: floccinaucinihilipilification.

3. Letter count…

English speakers know their alphabet has 26 letters, but may not realize this is not standard. Rotokas, a language spoken in Papua New Guinea, has only 11 letters making it the shortest alphabet on Earth. The crown for most letters goes to Khmer, spoken in Cambodia, with 74 letters.

4. A lot of character

Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese) sports 50,000 characters, making for a lot of flashcards to remember them all, but if you’re learning Chinese, worry not. To read a newspaper you’ll “only” need to know 2,000 characters.

5. What came first?

The question of which is the oldest language can’t really be answered because spoken languages and cultures with solely oral traditions are not taken into account. The oldest languages with written records are Hebrew, Sanskrit, Sumerian, and Basque.

6. Creative linguists

Over 200 artificial languages – sometimes called constructed languages or “conlangs” – have been created since the 17th Century. Many were devised by philosophers to use amongst themselves, though modern-day artificial languages (such as Elvish, Klingon, Na’vi, and Dothraki) have been created for popular culture, commerce, and trade.

7. Rhyme time

E is both the most common letter and vowel in English and R is its most common consonant. However, more words start with the letter S. Something especially fun about English is its long list of words that don’t rhyme with any other. Think silver, bulb, angel, month, husband, wolf, purple, hungry, and wasp.

8. Synonyms galore

Some languages have cultural or culinary concepts with many dozens of synonyms (made famous by Eskimo languages Inuit and Yupik’s many words for snow). There are 27 Albanian words for “mustache,” (including “dirs ur” referring to a teenager’s new facial fuzz) and 43 words in Somali relating to camels. Over in Hawaii, there are 108 words for describing sweet potato, 47 for bananas, and 200 for rain.

9. The wonderful world of semordnilaps

A word that creates another when spelled backward – think stop > pots – is a semordnilap (taken from “palindromes” backward). Some examples of English semordnilaps include : diaper > repaid, desserts > stressed, evil > live, dog > god, drawer > reward, gateman > nametag, and smart > trams.

10. Accented sign language

Just as there is no such thing as being “accentless” in a spoken tongue, there are also accents in sign language. This is because sign language is not a direct translation or representation of spoken language, but its own language with grammar, idioms, slang, and expressions. Born Deaf signers can easily tell whether another signer is Deaf, hearing, or new to sign language. Over in the US, New Yorkers are known for being fast-signing, whereas those from Ohio are calmer. Accents can even be communicated with differing signing styles, such as draw-out signs to communicate a southern drawl.

7 language facts that will blow your mind

The future of how we’ll communicate is a source of heated debates – here’s our take if you’re curious – but whatever it is, let’s take a moment to appreciate the mind-blowing diversity and uniqueness of the nearly 7000 languages spoken by humans.

Here are seven language facts that will blow your mind:

1. Basque is a mystery language

The language spoken by around 700,000 people in the Basque Country, a small territory south of France belonging to Spain, is so unique and unrelated to any other language that experts aren’t even sure where it comes from. However, it’s thought to be so old it predates all other European languages.

2. There’s a language with only 12 letters

People on the island of Bougainville, near Papua New Guinea, speak a language with only 12 letters in it, so I imagine it isn’t a lot of fun for them to play Scrabble (or perhaps it’s just really easy).

3. Scrabble letter distribution is totally different between languages

Speaking of Scrabble, tile distribution in international versions of the board game tell us a lot about how those languages operate: for example, in Poland, the fifth most common tile is Z, while in Finnish the third most common tiles are T and N.

Meanwhile, in Slovenian and Catalan, E is the tile you’ll find the most – the same as in the original English version.

4. Most languages vs most words

Papua New Guinea is the country with the most languages, at 840. Meanwhile, the English language has the most at approximately 750,000(with new ones added each week).

5. The US has no official language

Despite English being the first language of many Americans – not to mention the language of business, media, and politics – it isn’t actually the official language of the United States. Why? Because there isn’t one: despite being the dominant language since the continent was colonized in the 1600s, it was never legally declared the national language.

6. English and French are everywhere

English is taught in every country in the world – but did you know that French is also taught in every country? Despite this, Mandarin Chinese is the world’s most spoken language. Take that, French and English!

7. There’s a word for ‘twin speak’

Sometimes twins speak their own made-up language, especially when young, and there’s an actual word for this – it’s called cryptophasia, which totally sounds like a Halloween theme park ride.

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.

HIPPOPOTOMONSTROSESQUIPPEDALIOPHOBIA is the fear of long words.

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