Language is a remarkable feature of human culture and our primary source of communication. It’s a vessel for our emotions and the method through which we share our ideas and thoughts with others. It binds people together and allows them to understand each other’s culture. Language has evolved and today it is considered the most powerful tool we have for reaching out to others. We can use it to express our feelings, to spread our ideas, and even to establish peace.
Are you ready to participate in a brief quiz?
Let’s test your knowledge with two questions “How many countries are there in the world?” and “How many languages are spoken today?”
How would you respond to these questions? Answer honestly and then check the correct answers to the questions provided below.
It is time to check the correct answers:
- According to the numbers offered by worldometers, there are 195 countries* today in the world.
*dependencies (or dependent territories, dependent areas), Areas of Special Sovereignty (autonomous territories), and other countries recognized by the United Nations as not being self-governing are not included in the total number.
- As of 2018, Ethnologue reports that there are now only 7,099 languages worldwide. That’s three fewer languages than last year.
How close were you?
Read about Is Language a Tool to Reach Out the World?
Why does the number of spoken languages change so quickly?
The number of languages is constantly in flux because linguists are learning more and more about the world’s languages every day. And beyond that, the languages themselves are in flux. They’re living and dynamic, spoken by communities whose lives are influenced by our rapidly changing world. The interconnectedness of this globalized world is another reason behind the changing number of spoken languages.
The time we are living in today is pretty fragile: approximately a third of languages are now endangered, often with less than 1,000 speakers remaining. And it’s happening because various smaller languages are not passed down to the younger generations. Whereas dominant languages get recognition and therefore they spread and gain more speakers. Meanwhile, just 23 languages account for more than half the world’s population.
Language today: What are the most spread and spoken languages?
The top ten languages and the number of their native speakers are as follows, according to the Ethnologue statistics:
Mandarin – 845 million
Spanish – 329 million
English – 328 million
Hindi – 182 million
Bengali – 181 million
Portuguese – 178 million
Russian – 144 million
Japanese – 122 million
German – 90 million
Japanese – 85 million
Where do the languages take their origin?
Languages evolve, develop, and diversify over time. Researchers are still baffled as to how and when these numerous languages were invented. There is an ongoing debate among linguists, anthropologists, and cognitive scientists regarding the onset of languages. There are multiple theories about the origin of the languages. While there are only a few references mentioned in the Holy Bible and other religious texts, therefore the origin of languages remains a mystery.
One such reference to the origin of languages comes from the Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible. According to the story, after the Great Flood, many people united and decided that they wanted to see God. At that moment they were speaking one common language. So they agreed to build a city and tower of such height that it could reach the sky and the Lord. God didn’t like that idea so He blended their speech so they could no longer understand each other. That was the reason why the human race started to populate new territories around the world.
Interesting right? Now let’s move on to another important aspect.
Why are the languages dying?
Various factors contribute to language endangerment and death. Most common of them are globalization, cultural changes, migration, linguistic isolation, and lack of documentation.
Another key factor is the lack of education. When people cease a certain language to be taught to the younger generation, its rate of survival becomes very bleak. It can then be predicted with near certainty that it will not survive the death of the present native speakers. Based on current circumstances, linguists are now able to estimate that at least 3,000 languages will be lost within the next century. That’s almost half of today’s known languages!
Language Today and Me
Today the question of knowing several languages has lost its topicality simply because it turned into a must-have. An average person in our society today speaks about 3 languages.
Many factors influence the presence and endangerment of several languages:
A person needs to learn the language today to get in touch on an international level. Speaking a common language will help him/her to communicate with people all around the globe.
This is the reason that has driven some languages to obtain the status of international language. Students from different countries are supposed to speak at least one common language to understand each other in class.
The Internet and Press
The Internet plays a crucial role in the promotion of a certain language. Since the Internet became easy to access, people got a chance to get connected and communicate better. Again we have come to the point that knowing languages is all about communication. When you open a web page, you see that you are offered a multiple choice of languages for you to be comfortable and confident in understanding.
Travel and Business
Traveling all around the globe will automatically bring you to the necessity of knowing the language. The more languages you speak, the easier it will get for you to enjoy your vacation. What else? Languages help you understand the culture, the mentality, the history of the country you visit. Remember the saying – The more languages you know, the more you are human. or lit. “As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being”.
Linguistic skills will also assist you in any business venture you choose to follow. There are various technical languages that people learn to excel in their respective businesses. If you visit some offices, companies, governmental organizations, or even technical or engineering companies, you will see the importance of knowing languages. If you are good a English speaker, writer, or reader then you will have a better chance of getting hired in most countries.
Any big company will hire their professional staff after getting to know whether the people they are hiring are good at speaking a foreign language or not. Companies who want to function at an international level only consider a well-educated staff.
Hope we were able to show you the general picture of what language is, how different languages originate, and what is the overall picture of languages spoken today in the world. Moreover, we hope that we were able to demonstrate what languages mean today and how important it is to learn at least one or two foreign languages. Linguists, communities, and organizations are trying to document, and preserve the endangered languages, but the death of languages remains an important issue as the number of languages decreases in the world.
How successful you are at learning to speak a language depends not only on your strategy but also on the amount of enjoyment and engagement you feel while dealing with your language resources.
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