Lovely language facts

June 21, 2017
Lovely language facts

Did you know that languages have existed since about 100,000BC? Or that cryptophasias is the private language developed between twins? How about that there is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet published in Klingon?

Love of languages is the reason that many professional translators choose the career that they do. Indeed, when Tomedes surveyed its readers on the reasons for their career choice, “love of language” was the most common response, with a full 50% of respondents citing this as the reason that they work in professional translation

Therefore, we thought it about time to celebrate some lovely language facts, in honour of the richly unique complexity with which languages provide us. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most interesting language facts that our translation company has come across in all our years of providing professional translation services. 

For a full list of interesting language facts, you can visit our dedicated Language Facts page

English language facts

The English language has some fascinating linguistic facts associated with it. Here are a few of our favourites:

• “Go!” is the shortest grammatically correct sentence in English

• Approximately one new word is added to the English language every two hours and around 4,000 new words are added to the English dictionary every year 

• Only one English word has five consecutive vowels: ‘queueing’

• The longest word in English is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (it's a type of lung disease)

• ‘Angry’ and ‘hungry’ are the only two current English words that end in 'gry'

• ‘Bookkeeper’ and ‘bookkeeping’ are the only unhyphenated English words with three consecutive double letters

Language facts from around the world

According to Ethnologue, there are 6,909 living languages in the world at present. Those tongues provide us with an unimaginable wealth of linguistic facts. We’ve selected a handful below for your consideration. 

• South Africa holds a Guinness World record for having the most official languages in the world with 11. 

• More than 50% of all languages have no written form.

• Europe is home to around 225 indigenous languages, which account for just 3% of the world's total.

• At least 50% of the world's population is bilingual.

• There is a language in Mexico called Ayapaneco that is in danger of dying out because its last two remaining speakers refused to talk to one another. Thankfully they are now on speaking terms and have even opened a school to try and teach the language to others. 

• Silbo is a variation of Spanish used to communicate over long distances in the mountains, it consists entirely of whistles.

• There is a language in Botswana that consists mainly of five types of clicks.

• Although English is most commonly spoken there, the US does not have an official national language.

• The Khumer language from Cambodia has the longest alphabet, with 74 letters.

Animal language facts

Humans aren’t the only species to have interesting languages. For example, did you know the following about our fellow creatures? 

• Whales and dolphins have regional accents, just as humans do 

• Baby chickens can cheep before they hatch: about 24 hours before hatching they cheep in response to the mother hen's clucks 

• Cats only ‘meow’ when communicating with humans - they purr and hiss to communicate with other cats 

• Koko the gorilla, born in 1971 at San Francisco Zoo, learned to sign over 1,000 words and was able to competently communicate with her trainers 

• Elephants have voices that are different for each individual, in just the same way that humans do 

Final thoughts

One final, incredibly sad language fact is that half of the languages spoken in the world today are predicted to disappear during this century. Promoting the value and importance of languages around the world has never been more important. Thank you for playing your part by providing translation services to help keep language alive! 

If you enjoyed the above, feel free to visit our Language Facts page for more linguistic highlights. Or why not add your own interesting language facts in the comments section below? We look forward to hearing from you.

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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