abroad means meeting people from strange lands, experiencing architectural and
even possibly historical landmarks first hand, and often taking the time to
taste all of the fantastic foods that
your destination country has to offer (don't forget alcoholic drinks). By
essentially blending in with the local population, you are maximizing the
potential for cultural experiences to turn out favorably. An ideal international
cultural experience will involve some sort of interpersonal connections and
verbal communication with the natives. Hearty travelers contend the only true
way to experience cities like Paris or Rome is to get around them while speaking
only the native language. No one wants to be easily spotted as a tourist,
especially while traveling around Western Europe. The only thing worse than
sticking out as a tourist in Paris would be for locals to figure out that you
are not only a tourist, but an American tourist. A vacation can easily be ruined
when locals refuse to allow travelers into their world, and the result is most
of the vacation is spent in the hotel room or dining at tourist traps. You must have
the appropriate language skills to not only ensure a fantastic trip, but also to
help keep your guard up in order to protect your safety.
Customs, attitudes, and behaviors are embedded in a countries' languages,
dialects, and many social norms and customs can be quickly learned as long as
someone has a strong understanding of the local language. Understanding foreign languages
and specific linguistic nuances means stronger
communication between foreign nationals and foreign governments in a macro
sense. The micro view means better experiences abroad. Only by
understanding languages from their most literal translation are messages conveyed and consistently understood
by all parties. Effective communication and translation is invaluable
to foreign diplomatic relations, specifically when forming trade agreements and
treaties. Making sure all communication is the most
accurate translation available to global leaders can literally alter the course
of nations, wars, and diplomatic relations.
The Tanakah or Hebrew Bible in the Book of Genesis, references to the
Tower of Babel attempt to explain why the world is full of so many people, and
why they speak so many different languages. Theological examination of the Tower
of Babel tells a story where at the beginning of creation, mankind only spoke
one language; God's language (believed to be Hebrew). As the people of Earth
damned themselves, additional measures to damn mankind
were taken. The languages of the earth divided and further divided
so that the number of languages increased with every
generation. The intention of spreading more and more languages was to further
disconnect humanity. By confusing and isolating mankind, the earth slipped
further and further into darkness (evil).
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1563
The global language count is approximately valued around 6,500 spoken languages. What a
number and it is abundantly clear that returning Earth's people back to just one
spoken tongue would take nothing short of an honest to God miracle! Languages have gained popularity, have slowly and
purposely been eradicated over time,
and some languages have vanished completely. Dialects of
languages are where changes or adaptations to an existing language, are made by
specific persons living in specific geographical location over generations. For example,
Cuban is a dialect of Spanish complete with different pronunciation rules and
other minor differences.
Breakdown of Languages for South America
A great idea no matter where you may call home is to at least get really close
to mastered in at least one language in addition to your native one. Traveling
in Europe would call for studying French, English, or Spanish first and then
possibly German or Russian as a back-up and based on where your trek through
Europe will ultimately take you. Traveling in Canada and southward into Latin
America ordered from most important to least important language based on
speaking population, calling for mastery of either Spanish, English, then
Telugu is a language spoken mainly in Indian regions, and is the third most
spoken native languages in India. This Dravidian language is one of the five
classical languages of India, and is currently spoken by 75 million people
around the world. Though this language is mainly spoken in the Indian state of
Andhra Pradesh where itís the official language, Telugu is also spoken in certain
other regions of the country. One of the more noteworthy locations that Telugu
is spoken today is throughout the union territory known as Puducherry.
Interestingly in the USA, there is a relatively high number of Telugu speakers in the USA
with approximately 800,000 Telugu speakers. They are mainly concentrated in the Central New Jersey area as
people immigrated to that area and were later joined by their families.
Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, the
United Kingdom, and other Eastern European countries tend to have high percentages
of Telugu speakers concentrated in small, culturally specific regions. This still
makes up for a noticeable percentage of Telugu native speakers on these
Telugu has its own alphabet, which is very similar to Sanskrit and matches it
letter to letter with the addition of a few extra symbols for sounds not found
in other Dravidian languages, like "sh" or "ch".
Malay is the national language in three countries - Indonesia, Malaysia, and
Brunei - and is also an official language in Singapore. This wide distribution
between countries is the reason this language is spoken by more than 77 million
native speakers around the world; but those numbers go up to 215 million if you
count people that speak Malay as a second language, even if they do not
recognize Malay as their primary language.
Since Malay is spoken in so many different regions, it has spawned many
dialects that straddle the line between being their own languages or just an
extension of Malay. Even the main language has different names depending on the
region in which it is spoken. This might make it a bit difficult to keep track
of which dialect is spoken in each region, so thatís why Standard Malay was
established as the literary standard.
Malay used to have its own written alphabet, but later on the Latin and
Arabic alphabets were adopted officially; they are called Rumi and Jawi
respectively. Even though both are used, Rumi is the script used formally and
most commonly, and Jawi is starting to fade away despite efforts to preserve it.
Jawi Style Malay
Wu is a language that is part of the Chinese language family, and itís spoken
in the area of Suzhou, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. If you have any friends from New
York that are from China, they likely speak Wu. Wu simply means standard Chinese
as there are many different dialects of Chinese spoken throughout mainland
Wu Chinese boasts an impressive 80 million native speakers, and is contains
six different dialects: Oujiang, Taihu, Taizhou, Wuzhou, Chuqu, and Xuanzhou.
Among these dialects, the differences are so significant that it might be almost
impossible to tell that they are really the same language. For example, the Wu
variety Wenzhounese is so hard to understand both to non-Wu natives and to other
Wu speakers, that it was used as a code language during World War II to avoid
the Japanese from listening into their transmissions.
Chinese Wu has many dialects. Chief among these is Shanghainese, which makes
beginners think that Wu is Shangaihnese instead of it being a dialect of Wu. For
writing, Wu, like any other Chinese language, can be written either in
simplified Chinese or traditional Chinese scripts. Wu also happens to be the
tenth most common surname in mainland China and in the Song Dynasty classic
Hundred Family Surnames, Wu is listed sixth.
Chinese Characters Wen and Wu (left to right)
Javanese is spoken by more than 82 million people, and itís the language of the
Java Island in Indonesia. Though itís not used in the entire main archipelago,
itís spoken in the central and eastern parts of it, with a few stray speakers
spread around the western part of Java. This means that Javanese is spoken by a
30 percent of the total population of Indonesia. Javanese is also spoken in some
Southern Asian countries as well as the Netherlands, and finally Suriname, New Caledonia, and
some other countries throughout Southeast Asia.
Though Javanese is its own unique language, itís not too far removed from
languages like Malay. Many Javanese speakers also speak Indonesian for practical
purposes, like business or to talk to non-Javanese speakers.
Javanese has its own script, called Javanese script, which evolved from
Brahmi script when Buddhism and Hinduism were first introduced in Java. The
Javanese script is based on symbols that represent syllabic sounds, always
pairing a consonant with the vowel "a" to form a sound, much like in other
German is a European language, derived from the West Germanic language, which
was also the source for English and Dutch. Spoken in Germany and Austria mostly,
other countries have adopted it in certain regions. German is the third official language
in Belgium, although itís only spoken by a small part of the
population that live in the west regions touching Luxemburg. Outside of Europe,
the country with more German native speakers is the United States with five
million speakers, and next is Canada with three million speakers. There are also
a number of South American countries with large German-speaking populations, as
well as African countries that were once German colonies, like Namibia.
European Road Sign in English, German, and on the Bottom French
German is also spoken in Switzerland, Lichtenstein and South Tirol, a
territory from Italy. As a result of this wide range of speakers, German has an
estimated 95 to 100 million native speakers. Due to its importance, German is
one of the worldís major languages and the first language used in the European
German uses the Latin alphabet, though aside from the 26 standard
letters, it also adds three extra vowels and a consonant.
Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan and other nearby
regions with a total of 100 million native speakers. As an Indo-Aryan language,
itís the native language of the Punjabi people that live in the region named
after them - part of Pakistan and India. Punjabi has three dialects: standard,
Eastern, and Western dialects, with the standard Punjabi dialect being the one
used for writing. The Eastern Punjabi dialect is mostly spoken in India, while
the Western dialect is used in Pakistan, so thatís worth keeping in mind when
traveling to either territory. It's a good idea not to mix up dialects and end
up with some funny or possibly dangerous lost-in-translation moments.
In pop culture, Punjabi is often used in Bollywood songs; they are often
either written with some Punjabi words peppering the lyrics or entirely in the
language. Punjabi is also used prominently in TV shows with Punjabi characters
and even on pop songs, so itís not odd at all to hear the language in Pakistani
or Indian TV shows and movies. At the end of nearly every Bollywood film just
before the credits, the entire cast comes back out to perform one last musical
and dance routine where they all smile at each other no matter how their
character made out during the film.
So you can see the villain dancing with the heroin, antagonists and
protagonists of the film skipping whilst holding hands as if nothing had
occurred during the previous hour and half of film. Some film critics based here
in the states feel that this disconnect before the credits allows for the movie
to be seen for what it truly is: a fake and made-up dramatization. Hollywood and
Bollywood vastly differ as far as the importance of realism in large-budget
Punjabi is written with two different types of script styles: Gurmukhi
(primarily most popular in Pakistan) and Shahmukhi (most popular
Punjabi Alphabet Using Shahmukhi Script
Interestingly, Punjabi has become the third most spoken language in the
United Kingdom and Canada, and itís increasingly common in the United Arab
Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and the United States.
Japan is unique, and so is its language: Japanese. Spoken by approximately
125 million people - most of them living in Japan itself - there is also
widespread use in countries like Korea, Taiwan, parts of China, and the
Philippines, where many elders still speak it due to the occupations during
World War II.
Due to Japan's natural isolation for many centuries, the language developed
largely on its own once it started. The only major influence on it comes from
Chinese, seen mostly in the writing system called kanji. Many times, the same
kanji symbol will have two meanings: the Chinese translation and the Japanese.
However, thatís as far as the similarities go. Due to Japanís isolationist
policies, the language developed its own unique qualities. However, since the
borders opened again in the year 1853, many English words have been adopted by
the language, mostly to name objects and expressions that didnít previously
exist in the country.
Japaneseís writing has three different alphabets. In addition to kanji, you
have hiragana and katakana, two syllabic alphabets. Hiragana is used for native
Japanese words, and itís the first one that Japanese children use when they
learn how to read. You can often find little hiragana symbols next to kanji in
Japanese manga that are aimed to young people who still canít read all of the
symbols. Katakana is used for foreign or imported words, for onomatopoeia, or
when there is intent to draw attention to that word and make it stick out.
Considering how big Russia is, itís no surprise that Russian would show up on
this list. With 154 million people speaking this Slavic language, itís not only
the mother tongue of Russia, but of basically all the countries and territories
that once formed the Soviet Union, such as Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and
Kyrgyzstan. Though not the official language, itís also very widespread among
Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, as well as other countries from the
Eastern Bloc, though to a lesser extent. Russian is the language spoken in the
widest geographic territory of any of the languages on this list. It is also one
of the six official languages of the United Nations.
Russianís alphabet comes from the Cyrillic alphabet, and it has a total of 33
Cyrillic letters often resemble Latin letters, but there are notable
differences both in meaning and pronunciation. Many Russians living outside of
Russia transliterate to the Latin alphabet, since they donít have access to
keyboards or tools to write in Cyrillic, and some old sounds have been either
morphed together or dropped to help out the process.
Early Cyrillic Alphabet (Old Bulgarian Alphabet)
Bengali, just like Punjabi, is an Indo-Aryan language, and itís predominantly
spoken in Bengal, an area that encompasses Bangladesh, Indiaís West Bengal, and
certain parts of the states of Assam and Tripura. Bengali is spoken by 206
million people; and itís the official language of Bangladesh as well as one of
the twenty-three official languages of India.
However, itís not only spoken in
these countries. There are important communities that also speak Bengali in many
countries, such as Japan, Singapore, the United States, Australia, Canada,
United Kingdom, Pakistan, and other Middle East countries. It is no wonder that
this language is one of the most commonly spoken around the world.
Snap Shot of Bangladesh
Even though its country of origin, Portugal, is not a big territory, the
reason Portuguese is such a widespread language is thanks to the extent of
Portuguese colonialism. With countries like Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde,
Mozambique, and other former colonies, itís no wonder that this Romance
language, which is derived from Latin, is spoken by 216 million people all
around the world. Some speakers can be found in as far away regions as Malaysia
Emergency Assembly Area Sign (Tsunami) Japanese,
Portuguese, and English Languages
Portuguese is the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere and ranked
third in Europe, which makes it also one of the official languages of the
European Union. It was once the same language as Galician, a language spoken in
the northwestern region of Spain known as Galicia. As the two regions were
separated, the language separated as well, but itís still pretty easy for people
from both regions to understand each other without any prior knowledge of the
Portuguese is written in Latin script, like other Romance languages, with 26
letters and several diacritics (that is, accents and other symbols) to help
specify different pronunciation, mostly between vowels.
By ranking Arabic this high in the list, you have to assume that this
includes all variation of Arabic that exists, which are many, and very difficult
for non-native speakers to tell apart from each other. In this case, while the
total of Arabic speakers is reaches 290 million speakers, if you want to be more
specific, then you would have the Egyptian Arabic ranking at the top of the
Arabic dialects with 54 million native speakers. Below is a basic working Arabic
To try and normalize things,
even though there are so many spoken dialects, there exists a normalized written
Arabic, called Modern Standard Arabic, or Literary Arabic, which is used in most
written documents and formal speeches as well as in education.
Still, the differences between dialects are too blurry to differentiate, and
they are all considered a single language. This is the reason why Arabic is the
official language of so many countries, including the countries that are part of
the Arab League, like Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Other Arabic speaking people also come from other countries like
Israel, Iran, or Turkey. As interesting fact about Arabic is that it is the
eleventh most popularly spoken language in the United States.
Hindi is one of the official languages currently used in India, and itís also
the native language of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and other Indian states.
Hindi is the standardized version of the Hindustani language, and it is often
spoken hand-in-hand with Urdu, which also evolved from Hindustani.
languages, they are mutually intelligible, meaning that speakers of each
language can understand each other without studying the otherís language.
However, this only applies when spoken, since Urdu and Hindi are written with
Hindi, which is spoken in India, the Fiji Islands, and Nepal mostly, is the
native language of 311 million people around the globe, not counting minor
dialects. Since Hindi was born in northern India and close to Pakistan, it has
strong Persian and Arabian influences. However, the main root of Hindi is the
Sanskrit language. This is why Hindi, unlike Urdu, is written in Sanskrit. Hindi
is also used in Bollywood films along with Urdu, basically depending on the
setting or historical background of the films.
Oddly enough, English is not the most spoken language in the world. In fact,
itís not even the second. English ranks third with about 359 million native
speakers. Despite its third place ranking, it is however the most widely used
language in the world. This is due to socio-economic reasons, as many
influential countries now have English as their official language, such as
United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and many
Modern English and Early English Characters of Alphabet
In fact, itís the official language of a grand total of 54
countries. English, like German, is a Germanic language and it was born in
England during medieval times. Thanks to colonialism, it spread to the American
continent, the Caribbean Islands, and the African continent, from Pakistan to
Since English is spoken by so many people around the world, it has become the
unofficial business language and itís the foreign language most taught in many
countries, as well as the official language of several international
organizations such as the United Nations. English is also the official language
used for travel, both in maritime and aeronautical.
Spanish, also known as Castilian, originated in Castile, a central region of
Spain. Spanish is a Romance language like French and Italian. Itís the native
tongue of 410 million people, and the second language of another 60 million.
Spanish has many words that come from Basque, Galician, Portuguese and Arabic,
the latter due to the 800-year-long occupation of Spain by Muslims. There are
also French and Italian influences.
Do you speak Spanish?
Thanks to the expansion of the Spanish Empire, and the discovery of the South
American continent, Spanish spread like wildfire, becoming the language of the
colonies in America, Africa, Oceania and the Philippines. As with English,
Spanish is increasingly becoming an important language to learn, since
Spanish-speaking countries are becoming more economically active. Nowadays, itís
the first language of the West Hemisphere, and itís the most frequently chosen
language to learn by native English speakers.
Except for Spain itself and Equatorial Guinea, all the Spanish speaking
countries are located in South America, with Mexico at the top in number of
native speakers. Other Latin countries that have Spanish as their official
language are Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican
Republic, Ecuador, and many, many others. Except for Brazil (which speaks
Portuguese), all of South America speaks Spanish.
Surprisingly, the two largest Spanish speaking countries donít include Spain
itself, but are Mexico and the United States. Spanish is written in Latin
script, with 26 letters, plus a few extra additions like "ch" and "Ů", and uses
accents to differentiate between the tones of vowels.
Mandarin Chinese is spoken by 960 million native speakers. Thatís almost a
billion people who all speak the same language. Let your mind wrap around that
concept for a minute or two.
Mandarin Characters with Profound Meanings
Now, if you have absorbed this impressive data, take a closer look at the
how's and why's of Mandarinís massive number of speakers. What is known as
Mandarin Chinese is actually a group of dialects, mostly used in the north and
southwestern parts of China. Since these dialects have very little differences
between them, at least compared with dialects of other variants of Chinese,
Mandarin is considered a single language, though due to pronunciation or tone,
it can be sometimes difficult for someone from the north to understand someone
from the south, and the reverse. However, thatís just like a person from
Washington having trouble understanding a person with an Australian accent, even
though they both speak English.
Simple Mandarin Chinese Characters
One of the main reasons Mandarin is so used is that the capital of China has
always been in Mandarin territory, so the language has always been very
influential to the point that it was adopted as the official language of the
country above other Chinese languages. Mandarin, despite being the most spoken
language, is exclusively spoken in China as a native language, but that can be
due to the vast extension of its territory and the high population density.
organic, living things that somewhat take on a life of their own. Geopolitical
forces like expatriation or annexation of existing nations can often lead to
either the growth or decay of spoken language; based on what language the losers
Some languages like Mandarin Chinese will never have a completed number of
characters or rather, the total number is unknown and believed to be growing
Mandarin characters are constantly evolving as time and culture perpetually tailor them,
while the language drives towards more and more precise expressions. This is
similar to jargon in the English language and slang expressions (Idioms are
great examples of weird English and often give foreigners a very hard time).
This forces language to be adaptable and in touch with the very core of the human experience.
Languages need to be
reflective as well as supportive of the contemporary human communication needs
as well as desires.
The notion of Latin being a dead language is fallacious! All European
languages including English, have massive amounts of Latin influence. This is
seen in the Latin roots of many English, French, and Spanish vocabulary words.
Every language comes from one before it or maybe even from a mixture of many
older languages that took years to develop into a spoken provenance. Knowing a
new language is useful and a great learning experience that will most likely add
value to you as a person. Whether it just be for practical reasons or scholarly
ones, learning a new and useful language will surely enrich your
interpersonal experiences, and who knows it may just be what you needed for an
upcoming promotion. Ciao!
http://www.infoplease.com/ (how many languages exist)
15) to 1)
Wikipedia (number of native speakers and geographical distribution on
Data extracted from the Nationalencyklopedin, the Swedish language