101+ Astonishing Facts About Languages That You Need To Know

Supriya Jain
Aug 31, 2023 By Supriya Jain
Originally Published on Feb 08, 2022
Edited by Rhian Morgan
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Facts about languages will tell you about different languages spoken across the world.

Do you know that Russian was the first language spoken in Space?

English features the most words compared to other languages in the world. There are more than 250,000 words used by English speakers across the world.

It is interesting to contemplate how we first developed communication and how language originated. It is interesting to discover how language was taught and learned, how the rules of spoken language came about, why there so many languages, and from where most words of different languages were derived from.

Spoken languages are a manmade concept for aiding communication between people and allowing us to connect with each other. Language evolved over the centuries as people communicated, passing on spoken languages, and teaching foreign languages, and writing systems.

Languages have become one of the key phenomena that has led to the evolution and development of human civilization, starting from the very beginning of the human species from cavemen to the current modern community that we have formed. Language helps us interact and develop as a species, and aids communication.

There are so many interesting facts about languages that the more research you put into it, the more fascinating facts you will find out.

Types Of Language

Languages can be divided into five major categories:

Historic languages: Historic languages are those which have evolved over time from what they originally were to what is spoken today.

For example, old English is a historic language from which modern English descended. 

Historic languages are so classified because these are not dead or extinct, but have just morphed into modern forms or taken the shape of modern language while maintaining their old identity.

An essential of historic languages is the presence of literature in their original form so as to qualify as a historic language.

If there is no literature to document its existence, then it would not be classified as a historic language.

Ancient languages: Any language capable of producing documentation of being alive at some point in history, but dead for more than a millennium, classifies as an ancient language.

Since the criteria for qualifying as an ancient language is so specific and finding evidence over a millennium old is almost impossible, especially finding any literature and the lack of documentation in ancient times, it is incredibly difficult to classify old languages as ancient.

Constructed languages: Languages that have been created with the purpose of promoting and aiding communication, whether it is confined to a specific region or tribe, are known as constructed language.

As with other forms, for a language to be included in the constructed language category, there should be documentation of its use and some literature, defining the parameters of the language.

A language can be considered constructed only when it is complete; for instance, there are rules, vocabulary, and letters that make a language whole.

For example, English has 26 letters in its alphabet, and there are grammatical rules that define the correct and incorrect use of the language. 

Additionally, a language should have been in use by at least two generations to be considered a constructed language.

The main objective of this criteria is to see the existence and use of the language.

Computer languages and other artificial languages are excluded from this category.

Extinct languages: Any language that used to exist, but has not been in use for a few centuries, is considered to be extinct.

Identifying these languages is very difficult as identifying them is based solely on accessibility and, since they have not been in use for several centuries, chances of finding documented proof of their existence become a challenge.

Living languages: Living languages are those languages in which the speakers are still alive.

In simpler terms, if there is any language that is becoming rare, but there are still some people alive who learned it as their first or native language, then the language is still categorized as a living language.

For example, any of the modern languages, English, Spanish, Mandarin, Finnish and any of the thousands of languages still spoken across the globe, are all living languages.

Other than these, language can also be divided into the following types:

Native/First language: This is the language that is spoken or used in our homes, the language which we grew up using and learning. A first language is perhaps the easiest to learn for anyone, no matter how difficult it may be for non-native speakers. It can be many people's only language.

Second language: A second language may be defined based on a lot of parameters. A second language can also be the language of the place you reside in (especially if you are of a different origin or have a different language spoken at home).

Similarly, if there is another language that is taught in your school well enough to make you fairly fluent in it, then it becomes your second language.

Lastly, if you learn a second language, just out of interest or for some purpose, then it becomes a second language.

Dialect: A dialect is essentially a manner of speaking that is specific to a particular region. Dialects may or may not have specific words and tones that set them apart.

Sign language: This form of language is used for communicating with those individuals who cannot speak and/or hear.

Individuals use hand signs to communicate. Some words are easily signed using hand gestures while others are spelled out.

The Importance Of Language

While a very simple question, the importance of language is not much thought of. Communication is such a basic feature of human life that we do not stop to think why language was created. Why is it such an important part of our civilization? Well, the reasons are quite obvious.

First and foremost, language is necessary for easier and better communication. It developed and evolved as a means to allow humans to talk to each other and communicate about different things. It is a means to express yourself.

Language allows us to understand things and ask questions. It is only due to language that we are able to question anything and are able to understand why things are the way they are.

When someone explains something new to us, it is easier to understand what it is.

Language allows us to express our thoughts, ideas, and opinions. If there was no language, it would be a lot harder to express our thoughts and ideas to others.

Language is the gateway to communicating our thought processes to other members of our species.

It is necessary to conduct business. Today our world is global, and it is safe to say that a lot of the credit for making this possible goes to language. Without it, there would have been no communication to aid in the growth of business opportunities.

If there was no language, individuals and businesses could not have been able to come together and discuss new things and strategies to implement, and it would be be near to impossible to form an economy.

Language helps us understand how each individual is developing throughout life. Language serves as an easy way to gauge how every child is developing. For instance, if a child is struggling with developmental milestones, language can be an indicator.

Features Of Languages

Since language is such an integral part of our species, and is such a sophisticated and systematic manner of communicating, it possesses certain features upon which the various languages that we use are based. No matter what language you speak, it will have the following features:

Duality: Duality simply denotes the fact that human languages are composed of two groups.

The first group is letters or alphabet while the other is known as phonemes, which are basically used for speech and may not have a meaning on their own.

However, when these two groups are combined and used together, it sets the human language apart from that of other species.

Arbitrariness: The arbitrariness of languages stems from the fact that there is no correlation or logical sense to explain why things are called or termed or sound the way they do in every language.

There is no logical formula to explain why a table is called a table in English or something else in any other language.

Language has evolved over the years, and was not designed by a group of people sitting together and jotting down words and rules. Thus, there is no singular reason why language is the way it is.

Creativity: Human languages are creative in the sense that a string of letters can mean multiple things.

While in some languages, tone is the differentiator of meaning, in others context is.

For example, in south-east Asian languages like Mandarin Chinese, for example, a word or sentence can have different meanings depending upon the tone of the speaker.

In English, a lot of words mean different things when used in different contexts.

For example, leaves means holidays or vacation days. It also refers to more than one leaf on a plant, and it also means going out of a place that you were in.

Learnability: This feature comes under the bigger umbrella of duality. Learnability, as the name suggests, simply means that humans can learn several languages.

While our mother tongue comes to us naturally, other languages can be learned by us. For example, a person living in the U.S.A would naturally know English but can easily learn the Finnish language or Spanish language, if required.

Displacement: Displacement simply refers to the idea that humans do not need to be in a certain place or situation or be able to see something in order to talk about it.

The fact that you can sit in the company of your friend, playing chess or talking politics is what displacement is all about.

There is no need for humans to be in direct contact with something to be able to talk about it.

Transference: Transference refers to the fact that human languages can be transferred from one generation to another and from one person to another.

This is quite closely interconnected with the learnability feature of language. But what can be used as an example to set them apart is inter-country adoption.

We know that a lot of Western countries allow people to adopt from foreign countries, especially Third World nations. In these cases, a child may be African, for example, but being raised in an American household with English-speaking parents, and taught in schools where the English language is taught, would make English come more naturally.

Hearing the national language of the adoptive country would mean native speakers of other languages may soon forget their native language, especially if taught language skills.

Chinese is the most-spoken language in the world, and Mandarin Chinese is the hardest to learn.

Amazing Facts About Languages

There are so many amazing facts about languages that this article is unable to cover them all. But here are some interesting facts we have found for you:

  • There are more than 7,100 languages spoken in the world today.
  • Mandarin Chinese is the most difficult language to learn in the world.
  • English speakers can identify a considerable number of Spanish and French words.
  • There is a language in Southern Cameroon known as the Busuu language which is spoken by no more than three people.
  • There is no national language in India. However, the constitution mentions Hindi written in the Devnagri script to be the official language of the union. There are 22 important languages in India. These have also been printed on every currency note in India.
  • Rotokas is a Papuan language that features only 11 letters.
  • The Pope tweets in nine languages but his Spanish account has the highest number of followers.
  • Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, because it incorporates many dialects, including Mandarin, so many more people speak Chinese, if you combine these dialects. English is the second most-widely spoken language. However, exact figures are difficult to come by and some reports state that English language is the most spoken language.
  • Tamil is the oldest spoken language in the world.
  • There are more than 300 languages spoken in the U.S.
  • While there are more than 7,000 languages in the world, only 23 are spoken by more than half of the world’s population.
  • Paris is the world's largest French-speaking city, with he most native French speakers.
  • South Africa has 11 official languages, with Zulu being the most spoken language.
  • Italian is a minority language in Brazil.
  • The Holy Bible is available in 2,454 different languages.
  • French is the main foreign language taught in the UK.
  • The four most popular spoken languages are Chinese, English, Hindustani, and Spanish.
  • The Bible is the most translated book in the world, having been translated into more than 2,500 languages.
  • English has a lot of root words derived from Sanskrit. The English language has most words derived from other languages.
  • The language taught the most most in the world is English.
  • When languages have the same roots, it becomes easier for people to learn different languages. Most languages of the Western world have been derived heavily from Greek and Latin languages.
  • This can be seen from the fact that European languages, such as French, Italian, Dutch, and many more 'Romance Languages', become easier for natives of one of these languages to learn.
  • English has the largest vocabulary.
  • The Cambodian language Khmer is known for having the largest number of characters for a single alphabet. The shortest alphabet is composed of 12 characters.
  • South Africa has 11 official languages and as such holds the record for having the most number of official languages.
  • More than half of the world is bilingual, which should come as no surprise seeing how global the world is now, with people from different parts of the world often constantly communicating with each other.
  • Papua New Guinea has more than 800 languages that are used by its citizens. However, 40 of these Papuan languages are going extinct.
  • There are roughly about 220 million French speakers in the world.
  • There are more than 470 million Spanish speakers in the world.
  • There are 24 official languages spoken in Europe.
  • The Greek alphabet is the term that has been included in the English language to denote the different letters.
  • Some French words have been derived from English.
  • The African Country of Nigeria has more English speakers than the UK.
  • The English dictionary has had the ghost word 'dord' for more than seven years.
  • There are about 200 fictional languages, such as Klingon.
  • Italian is the official language of Italy.
  • About 45% of English words are derived from the French language.
  • The world’s oldest documented languages include Sanskrit, Hebrew, Basque and Sumerian.
  • In Spanish-speaking countries and in the U.S., Spanish is the most-taught language. U.S. schools teach writing, reading, and speaking Spanish, to all students.
  • Kinshasa, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, closely following Paris, which is the largest.
  • Some languages consist entirely of whistles.
  • Welsh is one of the most popular languages to learn on the app Duolingo, which has more than 40 million users worldwide, and is the fastest-growing language in the UK.
  • This is despite the fact that less than 20% of Welsh people can speak Welsh.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Supriya Jain

Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

Supriya Jain picture

Supriya JainBachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

As a skilled member of the Kidadl team, Shruti brings extensive experience and expertise in professional content writing. With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from Punjab University and an MBA in Business Administration from IMT Nagpur, Shruti has worked in diverse roles such as sales intern, content writer, executive trainee, and business development consultant. Her exceptional writing skills cover a wide range of areas, including SOP, SEO, B2B/B2C, and academic content.

Read full bio >
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab

Bachelor of Commerce

Niyati Parab picture

Niyati ParabBachelor of Commerce

With a background in digital marketing, Niyati brings her expertise to ensure accuracy and authenticity in every piece of content. She has previously written articles for MuseumFacts, a history web magazine, while also handling its digital marketing. In addition to her marketing skills, Niyati is fluent in six languages and has a Commerce degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University. She has also been recognized for her public speaking abilities, holding the position of Vice President of Education at the Toastmasters Club of Pune, where she won several awards and represented the club in writing and speech contests at the area level.

Read full bio >