Have you ever wondered how many languages are spoken in the world? Which is the most difficult one and the easiest to learn?
We investigated these and other interesting facts about languages to share them with you. Here is what we found:
The number of languages spoken in the world
According to Ethnologue, the world’s largest inventory of languages, there are more than 7,000 living languages in the world, of which 3,500 have a very small number of speakers, about 500 are now becoming extinct and 160 have fewer than 10 speakers. It is to be pointed out that such estimates depend on the distinction made between languages and dialects, which is often arbitrary. The largest number of languages are spoken in Africa and Asia.
The Country with the largest number of languages
Surprisingly, the country where the largest number of languages are spoken is Papua New Guinea. It is estimated that the languages spoken in this small independent State in Oceania, with a population of just over 6 million, are as many as 820!
The reason for such a whopping number seems to lie in the very topography of the country: because of its deeply-carved valleys and wild forests, many tribes remained isolated and so maintained their language despite European colonization.
The most spoken language in the world
Mandarin Chinese, with over 1 billion speakers, is still the most spoken language in the world. However, Mandarin Chinese is the official language in just three countries, China, Taiwan and Singapore. This language derives from a number of dialects spoken in the North, Centre and South-West of China. However, its international influence is only second to that of the English language, which is currently the official language in more than 30 countries.
The least spoken language in the world
This record is equally shared by three languages, Taushiro (Peru), Tanema (Solomon Islands), and Kaixana (Brazil). You’ve never heard of them? Well, that’s normal!
Amazingly, these languages have only one speaker and are now on the edge of extinction both because they are no longer being used and because the tribes which speak them are becoming extinct too.
The most difficult language to learn
The most difficult language in the world is Basque, at lease according to a study done by the British Foreign Office in 2009. This language does not belong to the Indo-European family of languages and cannot be related to any known family of languages. It is widely spoken in the Navarra region, by the Basque country community as well as in the French Pyrenean region, on the border with Spain. The difficulty of learning Basque lies with its structure and the numerous modifications of its basic words owing to a large number of prefixes, suffixes and infixes which are unique and distinct, that is to say they have a meaning of their own.
And the easiest
Pirahã, the language spoken by the Amazonian tribe, Pirahã, is considered to be the easiest language to learn for everyone. How useful this language may be, however, remains doubtful, for at the moment it is only spoken by 150 people who live in eight different villages.
This language has just ten phonemes, no grammar, no past tense and no lexicon to indicate numbers or colours.
The language with the most words
English, of course. With over 250,000 words, Shakespeare’s language is every student’s nightmare!
And the language with the fewest words
Sranan Tongo is a Creole language consisting of only 340 words which is spoken by about 500,000 native speakers in Suriname, a South American Republic and a former colony of the Netherlands. Outside the country, Sranan Tongo is also known as Taki Taki (from the English phrase, talk talk),
Sranan Tongo plays a special role in the diverse linguistic landscape of the country for, despite not being the official language, it is currently the most widely spoken one. Such importance is due to the fact that it is widely understood by the different ethnic groups present in the country, i.e. Creoles, Indians, Javanese, Chinese and American Indians.
The longest word in the world
No, not supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The longest word in the world is Acetylseryltyrosylserylisoleucylthreon…… impossible to write it whole!
Why? Because it has as many as 189,819 letters!
It is the English word for a giant protein, often abbreviated to “Titin”, most probably to avoid spending 8 hours pronouncing it!
Have we aroused your curiosity? Would you like to become the 151st speaker of Pirahã in the world?
Or would you rather reconcile with Shakespeare first?
Just contact us! Reistlingue can teach you all the languages of the world!