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30 fun language facts

1st February 2018

Emily Robertshaw



1. There are around 7,000 languages and dialects in the world

2. Chinese is the most spoken language in the world with 1.2 billion speakers – 1 billion of whom speak Mandarin

3. There are over 200 fake languages, which have been created for various films such as the 12 invented for Lord of the Rings of Klingon for Star Trek.

4. In German, Rice Krispies go ‘Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!

5. The most widely translated books after the Bible are The Little Prince and Pinocchio.

6. Khmer (spoken in Cambodia) has the largest alphabet with 74 letters in it.

7. The word ‘buffalo’ can refer to the animal, a city in New York and mean ‘to bully’. Therefore, the following sentence is grammatically correct: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

8. The first printed book was the Gutenberg Bible, written in German.

9. The most linguistically diverse country in the world is Papua New Guinea, where around 840 languages are spoken.

10. Around 50% of English words come from French.

11. Greek and Traditional Chinese are the oldest written languages still in use today.

12. People using sign language also have accents.

13. Only 5% of all Portuguese speakers live in Portugal – the majority live in Brazil.

14. If you need to get cash out in the Vatican, you can use the cash machine in Latin.

15. German is the most spoken mother tongue in Europe.

16. Twitter’s top 3 languages are English, Spanish and Japanese.

17. In Spain, there’s a language made up entirely of whistling called Silbo Gomero.

18. There are now more Spanish speakers in the US than there are people in Spain.

19. Over half the population is bilingual.

20. There are 13 ways to spell the “o” sound in French.

21. Rotokas (spoken in Papua New Guinea) has the shortest alphabet (12 letters).

22. There are 46 different alphabets used in the world.

23. 80% of African languages have no written form.

24. The Pope tweets in 9 languages.

25. Welsh is also spoken in the Patagonia region of Argentina.

26. Did you know that in Chinese dogs go ‘wang wang’, in Spanish they go ‘guau guau’ and in Swedish they go ‘voff voff’.

27. There are 50,000 characters in the Chinese language, but you only need to know 2,000 of them to read a newspaper.

28. It is a requirement for astronauts to have a working knowledge of Russian.

29. In Somali, there are 43 words relating to camels.

30. In Sinhalese, the word ayubowan means good morning, good afternoon, good evening, goodnight and goodbye.

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