Working in the world of language translation services, we often accumulate fascinating bits of knowledge about what’s going on in the world of language. And every once in a while we like to take a moment to collate a few of these to share with the world. So here’s a few interesting things you might not know about language.
What’s the most closely related language to English?
Many people reckon the language most closely related to English is German. Those who know a little bit more about language could be tempted to choose Dutch. And while those languages are both closely related to English – they’re not the closest.
In fact, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of the most similar language to English in the world, which is Frisian; a minority language spoken in the far North of the Netherlands. The language is very similar to Dutch but very slightly closer to English.
How many languages are there on the planet?
Of course – it’d be impossible to definitively count and chart the total number of languages in the world. If it was even possible – we’d have to first agree on where to draw the line on what constitutes a language.
But the up to date estimates suggest that the world could be home to anything up to 6,500 individual languages, of which about 2,400 are currently endangered.
What about constructed language?
Not all of the languages spoken on the earth are naturally evolving. In fact, some languages out there are entirely constructed and have a surprising number of worldwide speakers. Constructed language, or ‘conlangs’ have perhaps been made most famous by television and cinema, with Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones all creating prominent conlangs.
The most widely spoken conlang in the world doesn’t come from a TV show at all. Esperanto, with up to 2 million individual speakers, was created to be as easy to learn as possible. As a constructed language, it was intended to be a neutral medium between naturally evolving languages.
How many Chinese characters are there?
Modern estimates put the total number of unique characters in the Chinese script at around 50,000. In the same way as English however, which has an estimated 150,000 individual words – the average speaker wouldn’t be expected to know each individual one.
Linguists estimate that you’d need to know an average 2,200 individual characters to be able to read a Chinese newspaper.
What’s the most widely spoken language?
Many people think that English is the most widely spoken language in the world. That isn’t strictly true – both Chinese and Spanish have higher numbers of speakers than English. In fact, where English comes into its own is in the number of second language speakers it has.
English’s value as a global lingua franca comes down to its ability to be used as a medium between two or more entirely unrelated languages. Neither Spanish nor Chinese can quite exceed our success in that regard.
That being said, the proportion of English speakers in the world is still only 20 per cent. That means if your company restricts itself only to marketing in English – you’re missing out on a whopping 80 per cent of the world’s customer base.
If you’re marketing abroad, you’re going to want to sell to people in their own language – whether they speak English or not. For that, you’ll need the help of professional language translation services.