Here’s a quick list of tidbits and resources about the English language (and language in general) which I’ve picked up throughout my time as a speech & language trainer in Europe and Asia. I hope you find them as interesting as I do!
1. The majority of the world’s languages are believed to stem from a common root: Indo-European. For a gorgeous illustration of the Indo-European Family Tree, click here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v449/n7163/fig_tab/449665a_F1.html
2. Two languages that are not related to Indo-European, but are related to one another are Hungarian and Finnish. Granted, the two languages went their separate ways around 6,000 years ago, but they are still considered to be siblings in the Finno-Ugrian family.
3. The word “set” has the most definitions out of any word in the English language.
4. Countries where English (or other Germanic languages) is spoken account for more than 40 percent of the world GDP, while comprising only about 8 percent of the world's population (as of 2006). http://www.discovery.org/a/3639
5. A Singaporean client taught me that in Chinese, the word crisis is a combination of two characters which, on their own, mean risk and opportunity. Now isn’t that an interesting outlook?
6. My Danish husband’s favorite English word to say is humongous. The hardest word is refrigerator, and the funniest is hippopotamus. I always love to see how other people view our language! The hardest word for me to say in Danish is gulerødsrugbrød (carrot rye bread).
7. UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, states that out of the world’s 6,000 languages, 2,500 are in danger of becoming extinct or have recently disappeared. How very tragic! http://tinyurl.com/bkn7uh
8. Every human being is born with the capacity to make every sound of every language in the world perfectly. With time, we filter out the sounds we don’t need for our primary language and focus on the ones we do.
9. It should come as no surprise that English has the largest number of non-native speakers. There are actually more non-native speakers of English than native speakers in our world today. This leads to some interesting arguments about how “Standard English” should really be defined.
10. The longest word in the English language is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters). Sing that, Mary Poppins!
Do you have more interesting language points to add? List them in the comments!