insights

15 language facts that you've never thought of before

Want to learn something new about the world's languages? Check out these surprising language facts that you've never heard of before!


Why do we need so many different languages? Why can’t everyone just learn English or German? Well, the truth is that each language has something special to offer. They all help us to understand our world in different ways, and they all play an important role in human culture.

In this blog post, we'll show you 15 facts about languages from around the world. Some of them will make you laugh, some will surprise you, and some will even make you think twice about the language you're speaking. So, without further ado, let's get started!

Fact 1: There are over 7,000 languages in the world

Did you know that there are over 7,000 languages in the world? That’s right – there are more than seven thousand different ways to communicate with others! Each language is spoken by a different group of people, and each one has its own unique set of words and expressions.

Some of the most popular languages in the world include English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Arabic and Russian. But many other languages are spoken by smaller groups of people, such as Swahili, Lithuanian and Navajo.

Fact 2: The majority of languages are spoken in Asia

It’s no surprise that the majority of languages are spoken in Asia, as it is the most populous continent in the world. Over 60% of the world’s population lives in Asia, and this is reflected in the fact that most of the world’s languages are spoken there.

artistic image of asian templateImage: Asian template

The most populous country in the world, China, is home to many different languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese and Tujia. India is another country with a large number of languages, such as Hindi, Bengali and Tamil.

Fact 3: Some languages only have a few speakers

Some languages are spoken by only a few people, and these languages are called endangered languages. There are many reasons why a language might become endangered, but the most common reason is that its speakers start to use another language instead.

For example, the indigenous language of the Wampanoag people – an American Indian tribe from Massachusetts – is now only spoken by a handful of Elders. This is because the younger generations of Wampanoag people have all switched to speaking English.

Luckily there are options though to prevent the loss of language, such as teaching a lost language at schools or using artificial intelligence to preserve a language.

Fact 4: The longest word in any language has 189,819 letters

Did you know that the longest word in any language has over 189,000 letters? While this surely is impractical in daily use, the word refers to the full chemical name of the protein titin.

artistic image of polypeptidesImage: Artistic image of polypeptides

If you always wanted to know the longest word in your language, we highly recommend you take a look at this Wikipedia article. There are many interesting results to be found!

Fact 5: There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet

artistic image of hawaii

Image: Drawing of Hawaii

The Hawaiian alphabet is one of the simplest alphabets in the world, as it only consists of thirteen letters. The reason for this is that the Hawaiian language doesn’t have very many different sounds, so there was no need to invent more letters.

The current official Hawaiian alphabet consists of 13 letters: five vowels (A, E, I, O, and U) and eight consonants (H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and ʻ).

Fact 6: A language can die in just one generation

As we mentioned before, languages can become endangered when their speakers start to use another language instead. This process can happen very quickly, sometimes even in just one generation.

For example, the Yaghan language from Tierra del Fuego is estimated to have had only two fluent speakers left by the year 2000. Both of them were over 90 years old, and neither of them had any children who were fluent in the language.

This means that, when both of them died, the Yaghan language died with them.

artistic image of a graveyardImage: Artistic interpretation of a graveyard for languages

Fact 7: French is the official language of 29 countries

French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and it is the official language of 29 different countries. These countries are located all over the world, including Europe, Africa, North America and Oceania.

Not only is French an official language in many different countries, but it is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

artistic image of parisImage: Drawing of Paris

If you’re interested in learning French or another language, we have some great resources to get you started.

Fact 8: Dutch is very similar to German and English

Dutch is a Germanic language, which means that it is related to languages such as English, German and Danish. This means that Dutch speakers will often be able to understand words in these other languages, even if they have never learned them before.

For example, the Dutch word “koffie” is very similar to the English word “coffee” and the German word “Kaffee”.

If you know any German or English, you might already be able to understand some Dutch!

Fact 9: Finnish has no grammatical gender

Finnish is a unique language in many ways, and one of those ways is that it doesn’t have grammatical gender. This means that Finnish words don’t have a masculine or feminine form, unlike many other languages such as French, Spanish or German.

drawing of finlandImage: Drawing of a Finnish landscape

For example, the Finnish word for “cat” is “kissa”, regardless of whether the cat is male or female.

This might take some getting used to if you’re learning Finnish, but it can also make things a lot simpler in some ways.

Fact 10: German has three genders for nouns

While Finnish does away with grammatical gender altogether, German takes things in the opposite direction by having three genders for nouns: masculine, feminine and neuter.

This can be a bit confusing for people learning German, as the gender of a noun often doesn’t seem to make much sense. For example, the word “girl” (Mädchen) is neuter, while the word “boy” (Junge) is masculine.

The best way to learn the gender of a noun is to memorize it along with the word itself. With time and practice, it will become second nature!

Fact 11: Russian has 6 different cases for nouns

Russian is another language with a lot of grammatical features that can be confusing for foreign learners. One of those features is the use of cases, which are used to show the function of a noun in a sentence.

There are six different cases in Russian: nominative, accusative, prepositional, genitive, dative and instrumental.

This means that there are six different ways to say each noun, depending on how it is being used in the sentence. For example, the word “книга” (book) can be written as “книгу”, “книгой” or “книги”, among others.

Learning all of the different cases can be a challenge for Russian learners, but it’s definitely worth the effort!

Fact 12: Icelandic has remained largely unchanged since the 13th century

Icelandic is a fascinating language, and one of the things that makes it so special is the fact that it has remained largely unchanged since the 13th century.

This means that Icelandic speakers today can still read and understand texts that were written hundreds of years ago. Iceland has also been very successful in preserving its language and culture, despite being a small country with a population of only around 340,000 people.

Fact 13: The word "ma" is pronounced differently depending on the context

In Mandarin Chinese, the word “ma” can be pronounced in four different ways, each with a different meaning.

The four different pronunciations are:

  • mā (mother)
  • má (hemp)
  • mǎ (horse)
  • ma (scold)

This might seem confusing at first, but it’s a very efficient way of using the language. By using different tones, Mandarin speakers can communicate a lot of information with just a few syllables.

If you’re interested in learning Mandarin, it’s worth noting that tones are an important part of the language.

Fact 14: Languages are not always written left-to-right

When you think of written language, you probably think of the text that goes from left to right, like English. However, this is not the case for all languages.

Some languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew, are written right-to-left. This can be a bit confusing for people who are used to left-to-right languages, but it’s really not that difficult to get used to.

In fact, many people who learn these languages find that they start thinking in right-to-left patterns after a while.

Fact 15: Some languages use non-Latin alphabets

The Latin alphabet is the most common alphabet in the world, but it’s not the only one. Many languages use non-Latin alphabets, such as Cyrillic (used in Russian) and Arabic (used in Arabic).

If you’re interested in learning a language that uses a different alphabet, it’s definitely doable! It might take a bit of extra effort to learn the new alphabet, but it’s definitely worth it.

That was our list of 15 language facts that you probably never knew!

We hope you found them interesting and that they’ve given you a better understanding of the amazing world of language. At Dilingual we believe that languages are a fascinating subject, and we’re always happy to chat about them!

If you’d like to learn more about language learning, be sure to check out our blog. We post new articles every week, so there’s always something new to read. And if you’re interested in translating your website we can translate your website to over 30 different languages. Click here to learn more!

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