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How many languages are there?

It’s estimated that up to 7,000 different languages are spoken around the world. 90% of these
languages are used by less than 100,000 people. Over a million people onverse in 1!0"#00 languages and
$% languages have &ust a single speaker'
2,200 of the world’s languages an be found in Asia, while (urope has a mere #%0.

What are the world’s most spoken languages?
)he world*s most widely spoken languages by number
of native speakers and as a seond language, aording to
figures from +,(-.O /)he +nited ,ations’ (duational,
-ientifi and .ultural Organi0ation1, are2 3andarin
.hinese, (nglish, -panish, 4indi, 5rabi, 6engali, 7ussian,
8ortuguese, 9apanese, :erman and ;renh.

Are there endangered languages?
:lobalisation and ultural homogenisation mean that many of the world’s languages are in danger of
vanishing. +,(-.O has identified 2,500 languages whih it laims are at risk of e<tintion.
One =uarter of the world’s languages are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people and if these are not passed
down to the ne<t generation, they will be gone forever. -ome e<amples of endangered languages are2Irish
:aeli, 3aori, 6erber, :uernesiais, >elsh, -ots :aeli and 3an<.

Why learn languages?
5round ?!% of the world*s population don’t speak a word of (nglish and a grasp of a different
language improves your abilities to use your first language and e<plore other ultures more
5ording to researh, on average, people who use languages in their &obs earn around 8% more'
3any sientists also believe that knowledge of another language an boost your
brainpower. 5 study of monolingual and bilingual speakers suggests speaking
two languages an help slow down the brain*s deline with age. 5nd to =uote
,elson 3andela, @If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to
his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.@
)he 4ead of the (uropean .ommission Offie in >ales, 5ndy Alom, disusses the advantages of a
seond language and says @Bearning another language is a matter of
CONF!"NC", #"A$NN% AN! &A$! "FFO$'()


Module 1: World Languages and Cultures
SECT!" 1 # $ACTS A%!&T LA"'&A'ES

$(rst) se*ond and +ore(gn language
A +(rst language (also nat(,e language, mother tongue) is the language(s) a person has learned
from birth
or within the critical period, or that a person speaks the best and so is often the basis
for sociolinguistic identity. In some countries, the terms native language or mother tongue refer to
the language of ones ethnic group rather than ones first language.
"ometimes, there can be
more than one mother tongue, when the childs parents speak different languages. #hose children
are usually called -(l(ngual.
A se*ond language or L/ is any language learned after the first
language or mother tongue. "ome languages, often called
au$iliary languages, are used primarily as second languages or
lingua francas (such as %speranto).

A +ore(gn language is a language indigenous to another country.
It is also a language not spoken in the nati&e country of the
person referred to, i.e. an %nglish speaker li&ing in 'apan can
say that 'apanese is a foreign language to him or her.
A d(ale*t is 5 regional or soial variety of a language
distinguished by pronuniation, grammar, or voabulary. i.e.
)he 7iver 8late -panish /what we speak1 is not a language,
but a variety of the -panish language.

What (s a 'lo-al Language?
#here is no official definition of (glo-al0 or 0world0 language, but it essentially refers to a language
that is learned and spoken internationally, and is characteri)ed not only by the number of its
nati&e and second language speakers, but also by its geographical distribution, and its use in
international organi)ations and in diplomatic relations. A global language acts as a *l(ngua +ran*a+,
a common language that enables people from di&erse backgrounds and ethnicities to communicate
on a more or less e,uitable basis.
-istorically, the essential factor for the establishment of a global language is that it is spoken by
those who wield power. In this respect, ma.or world languages are dominated by languages of
%uropean origin. #he historical reason for this is the period of %uropean imperialism.
Why (s a 'lo-al Language "eeded?
It is often argued that the modern *global &illage+ needs a *global language+, and that
(particularly in a world of modern communications, globali)ed trade and easy international tra&el)
a single lingua franca has ne&er been more important. /ith the ad&ent since 1012 of large
international bodies such as the 3nited 4ations and its &arious offshoots 5 the 34 now has o&er 26
different agencies and programs from the /orld 7ank, /orld -ealth 8rgani)ation and 34I9%: to
more obscure arms like the 3ni&ersal ;ostal 3nion 5 as well as collecti&e organi)ations such as the
9ommonwealth and the %uropean 3nion, the pressure to establish a worldwide lingua franca has
ne&er been greater.
"ome ha&e seen a planned or constructed language as a solution to this need. In the short period
between 1<<6 and 106=, no less than 2> such *uni&ersal artificial languages+ were de&eloped.
#oday the best known is %speranto, a deliberately simplified language, with .ust 1? rules, no
definite articles, no irregular endings and no illogical spellings. A sentence like *It is often argued
that the modern world needs a common language with which to communicate+ would be rendered
in %speranto as *8ni ofte argumentas ke la moderna mondo be)onas komuna linguon por
komunikado+, not difficult to understand for anyone with e&en a smattering of @omance languages.
Aany of these uni&ersal languages (including %speranto) were specifically de&eloped with the &iew
in mind that a single world language would automatically lead to world peace and unity.

SECT!" / # LA"'&A'ES
s Engl(sh a good glo-al language?
#he richness and depth of %nglishs &ocabulary sets it apart from other
languages. #he 10<0 re&ised "Oxford English Dictionary" lists ?12,666
words in !6 &olumes, officially the worldBs largest dictionary. If
technical and scientific words were to be included, the total would
rise to well o&er a million. 7y some estimates, the %nglish le$icon is
currently increasing by o&er <,266 words a year, although other
estimates put this as high as 12,666 to !6,666. It is estimated that about !66,666 %nglish
words are in common use, as compared to 1<1,666 in Cerman, and mere 166,666 in :rench.
It is a &ery fle$ible language. 8ne e$ample of this is in respect of word order and the ability to
phrase sentences as acti&e or passi&e (e.g. kicked the ball, or the ball was kicked by me).
Another is in the ability to use the same word as both a noun and a &erb (such as drink, fight,
silence, etc).
Its grammar is generally simpler than most languages. It dispenses completely with noun
genders (hence, no dithering between le plume or la plume, or between el mano or la mano),
#he absence of coding for social differences (common in many other languages which
distinguish between formal and informal &erb forms and sometimes other more comple$ social
distinctions) may make %nglish seem more democratic and remo&e some of the potential
stress associated with language5generated social blunders.
#he e$tent and ,uality of %nglish literature throughout history marks it as a language of culture
and class
'eograph(*al d(str(-ut(on
!ie chart showing the relative numbers of native English speakers in the ma"or
English#speaking countries of the world
Appro$imately >=2 million people speak %nglish as their first language.

%nglish today is probably the third largest language by number of nati&e
speakers, after Aandarin 9hinese and "panish.
-owe&er, when
combining nati&e and non5nati&e speakers it is probably the most commonly
spoken language in the world, though possibly second to a combination of the
9hinese languages (depending on whether or not distinctions in the latter are
classified as (languages( or (dialects().

%stimates that include second language speakers &ary greatly from 1=6 million to o&er a billion
depending on how literacy or mastery is
defined and measured.
#he countries with the highest populations of
nati&e %nglish speakers are, in descending
orderD the 3nited "tates (!12 million),
3nited Eingdom (?1 million),
9anada (1<.!
Australia (12.2 million),

4igeria (1 million),
Ireland (>.< million),

"outh Africa (>.= million),
and 4ew
Fealand (>.? million) in a !66? 9ensus.

9ountries such as the ;hilippines, 'amaica and 4igeria also ha&e millions of nati&e speakers of
dialect continua ranging from an %nglish5based creole to a more standard &ersion of %nglish. 8f
those nations where %nglish is spoken as a second language, India has the most such speakers
(Indian %nglish).