Miscellaneous language facts

Did you know…
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  • It’s estimated that up to 7,000 different languages are spoken around the world by 7 billion people divided into 189 independent states.
  • 90% of these languages are used by less than 100,000 people.
  • The world’s most widely spoken languages by number of native speakers and as a second language, according to figures from UNESCO (The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), are: Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French.
  •  The United Nations uses six official languages to conduct business: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Arabic.
  • The European Union has 24 official and working languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.
  • With a permanent staff of 1,750 linguists and 600 support staff, the European Commission has one of the largest translation services in the world, bolstered by a further 600 full-time and 3,000 freelance interpreters.
  • 2,200 of the world’s languages can be found in Asia, while Europe has a mere 260. There are 1,250 to 2,100 and by some counts over 3,000 languages spoken natively in Africa.
  • Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country with a total of 750 languages in some 30 different language families, spoken by a population of roughly 4 million. Most of these languages are very small and endangered at great risk of not being passed on the next generation.
  • South Africa has 11 official languages – the most for a single country. The US has no official language.
  • About 18% of Australians speak a language other than English. Australian Indigenous languages are spoken by about 0.3% of the total population. The most common languages other than English are: Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic, Mandarin and Vietnamese.
  • The first language you learn, your mother tongue, usually comes with little conscious effort. If you’re lucky, you might even acquire more than one language in the so-called ‘critical period’ of language learning, believed to end sometime between ages 4-12.
  • At least half of the world’s population are bilingual or plurilingual, i.e. they speak two or more languages.
  • The full Bible is available in 531 languages and 2,883 languages have at least some portion of the Bible. The pope tweets in 9 languages, including Latin. You can also use an ATM in Latin in Vatican City.


bible translation