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A worldwide look at languages

Blog
Translation
4mins read

Now, more than ever we find ourselves connecting with people from other countries - who speak different languages. Thanks to globalisation and the ever-growing number of business opportunities that are available worldwide, our languages, cultures and societies are becoming more and more integrated. 

So, how many languages are there in the world?

It’s currently estimated that there are around 6,500 languages* spoken across the globe – with around 2,300 of these spoken in Asia, and 2,000 originating in Africa. Perhaps most surprisingly given its size, Papua New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse country in the world – with an astounding 840 living languages spoken amongst its population of just 7m. This diversity is attributed to the nature of the land – communities are separated by mountains, jungles, rivers and swamps which isolates them, but in turn preserves their languages. 

Second place goes to neighbouring Indonesia, whose population of over 273 million people speak up to 740 different languages – around 270 of which are considered Papuan. The majority of these languages are indigenous and are native to tribes.

What’s the most spoken language worldwide?

The most widely spoken language in the world (including non-native speakers) is English.  collective 1.27 billion people speak the English language across the world. Countries that list English as an official language have a huge geographical range – from Antigua and Barbuda to Guyana, New Zealand and Fiji. Most English-speaking countries are former territories of the British Empire, so it is likely that colonisation is the reason for the wide spread of the language. English is also the most commonly spoken second language, followed by Hindi and French.

The language with the most native speakers is Mandarin Chinese, with over 921m of China’s 1.4bn population speaking Mandarin as their first language. Other dialects spoken in China include Cantonese, Xiang and Min - amongst many others. 

What is the least spoken language?

There are many languages that are almost extinct, the majority of which originate from tribal heritage. One such language is Dumi – an indigenous language spoken in the Himalayan region of Nepal. It is endangered with only eight speakers remaining - none of which use it as their first language. There are many languages with just one registered speaker. This UNESCO interactive map shows all the world’s languages that are in danger of extinction – of which there are 2124. 

What are the hardest languages to learn?

Mandarin Chinese is considered to be the hardest language to learn – funny, given that it’s the most spoken native language in the world. For non-native speakers who are used to Latin based languages, the thousands of special characters in Mandarin can be very difficult to memorise and understand. The language also has four different tones – so the same word can have different meanings when pronounced differently. Similarly, the second hardest language to learn is considered to be Arabic, which has many different dialects that can translate into completely different meanings. 


We’ve been translating languages across the globe since 2016 and what we’ve always maintained is the value of using native speakers who understand the context as well as the content. This approach helps to ensure that every business we partner with, is speaking to their potential customers in the right tone and with cultural understanding, no matter what country or language their words are being delivered in. 

 

 (*All figures are researched and accurate at time of writing)

 

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