Language spoken by the greatest number of non-native speakers: English
There are approximately 6,900 languages currently spoken around the world today, the majority of which have only a small number of speakers. About 4 billion of the earth’s 6.5 billion people, or over 60% of the earth’s population, speak one of the top 30 languages as their native tongue. The rest are suffering a slow death.
Here are some rather unusual statistics about the world’s languages that you may not know.
- Number of living languages: 6,912
- Number of those languages that are nearly extinct: 516
- Language with the greatest number of native speakers: Mandarin Chinese
- Language spoken by the greatest number of non-native speakers: English (250 million to 350 million non-native speakers)
- Country with the most languages spoken: Papua New Guinea has 820 living languages.
- How long have languages existed: Since about 100,000 BC
- First language ever written: Sumerian or Egyptian (about 3200 BC)
- Oldest written language still in existence: Chinese or Greek (about 1500 BC)
- Language with the most words: English, approx. 250,000 distinct words
- Language with the fewest words: Taki Taki (also called Sranan), 340 words. Taki Taki is an English-based Creole spoken by 120,000 in the South American country of Suriname.
- Language with the largest alphabet: Khmer (74 letters). This Austro-Asiatic language is the official language of Cambodia, where approx.12 million people speak it. Minority speakers live in a handful of other countries.
- Language with the shortest alphabet: Rotokas (12 letters). Approx. 4300 people speak this East Papuan language. They live primarily in the Bougainville Province of Papua New Guinea.
- The language with the fewest sounds (phonemes): Rotokas (11 phonemes)
- The language with the most sounds (phonemes): !Xóõ (112 phonemes). Approx. 4200 speak !Xóõ, the vast majority of whom live in the African country of Botswana.
- Language with the fewest consonant sounds: Rotokas (6 consonants)
- Language with the most consonant sounds: Ubyx (81 consonants). This language of the North Causasian Language family, once spoken in the Haci Osman village near Istanbul, has been extinct since 1992. Among living languages, !Xóõ has the most consonants (77).
- Language with the fewest vowel sounds: Ubyx (2 vowels). The related language Abkhaz also has 2 vowels in some dialects. There are approximately 106,000 Abkhaz speakers living primarily in Georgia.
- Language with the most vowel sounds: !Xóõ (31 vowels)
- The most widely published language: English
- Language with the fewest irregular verbs: Esperanto (none)
- Language which has won the most Oscars: Italian (12 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film)
- The most translated document: Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, written by the United Nations in 1948, has been translated into 321 languages and dialects.
- The most common consonant sounds in the world’s languages: /p/, /t/, /k/, /m/, /n/
- Longest word in the English language: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters)
Photo credit: Dr. Stuart Medley