Fun facts about languages


Number of living languages6912

Number of those languages that are nearly extinct516

Language with the greatest number of native speakersMandarin Chinese

Language spoken by the greatest number of non-native speakersEnglish (250 million to 350 million non-native speakers)

Country with the most languages spokenPapua New Guinea has 820 living languages.

How long have languages existedSince about 100,000 BC

First language ever written
Sumerian or Egyptian (about 3200 BC)

Oldest written language still in existenceChinese or Greek (about 1500 BC)

Language with the most wordsEnglish, approx. 250,000 distinct words

Language with the fewest wordsTaki 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 alphabetKhmer (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 soundsRotokas (6 consonants)

Language with the most consonant soundsUbyx (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 soundsUbyx (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 languageEnglish

Language with the fewest irregular verbsEsperanto (none)

Language which has won the most OscarsItalian (12 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film)

The most translated documentUniversal 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 languagepneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters)

This comes from the site VistaWide, which not only has the most fascinating facts and figures about languages, but also really good tips on learning languages.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

One thought

  1. Fascinating stuff, I am nvolved with the Bible Society in England & Wales which with the umbrella organisation linking Bible Societies throughout the world is supporting translation projects in many countries.

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