Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Language Stats of the Day

“There are more than 7,100 individual languages spoken somewhere in the world.  But more than 40% of the world’s people speak one of the eight most common languages as their native tongue, and more than 75% speak one of the top 85 languages.  Some 3,700 languages have fewer than 10,000 native speakers, and about 700 languages have fewer than 100.

“Using classifications developed by linguists, about 2,400 languages spoken today are said to be at least threatened or unsustainably losing speakers.  In some cases, people of the childbearing generation still use the language but do not transmit it to their children.  In others, only those is the grandparents generation or older use a language, though they may have little occasion to do so."

-- Source Excerpted From The World Almanac

There are only nine languages spoken by at least 100 million people as their primary language.  They are:

Chinese 1.2 billion
Spanish 400 million
English 335 million
Hindi 260 million
Arabic 242 million
Portuguese 203 million
Bengali 189 million
Russian 166 million
Japanese 128 million

Italian ranked 21st and French 14th.

Did you know there’s something called the American Manual Alphabet, which augments the vocabulary of American Sign Language?

According to www.infoplease.com, “Along with sign language and lip reading, mainly deaf people also communicate with the manual alphabet, which uses finger positions that correspond to the letters of the alphabet to spell out words and names.”

2016 actually marks the 200th anniversary of the time French Sign Language was brought from France to the US by Thomas Gallaudet, founder of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT.  He developed American Sign Language (ASL), a language of gestures and hand symbols that express words, concepts, and sentences.  Sign language for the deaf was initially systematized by Abbot Charles-Michel I’Epee, in 18th century France.

In addition to speaking, hearing, and seeing a language, there’s also Braille, a touch-based language created in 1824 by Louis Braille, who had lost his eyesight due to a childhood accident.  He developed his code for the French at age 15.

There is a decline in the use of braille amongst the blind or low-vision population.  In Britain, only 20,000 people out of two million blind and low-vision people use Braille.  In the US, as of 1999, only 10% of legally blind children used braille as their primary reading medium.  People rely on alternative tech-based means to consume content, such as audiobooks.

Other “languages” used for communication include codes like Morse Code, secret codes, computer programming codes, and humorous systems of communication such as Pig Latin or fictitious languages such as Klingon (from Star Trek).

Some languages get mixed together.  Spanglish blends English and Spanish.  Yiddish is a combination of Hebrew and German.  Ebonics is a form of African American English.  Even the same language – English – sounds different when spoken in England, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Canada or Boston.  It’s amazing any of us understand each other.

My guess is that language is used now more than ever.  We are constantly consuming content – online, in person, and through other media or means.  We are writing emails, talking face-to-face, watching TV and movies, reading books, and doing something that involves talking, listening, or reading.  I wonder how this impacts us.

With less quiet time than ever, what influence does constant chatter have on us?  Do we value words less than ever before because all we do is move them around in our heads, from what we consume to what we spew?  Or, do we appreciate words more than ever, forced to shape life’s events through our ability to talk, listen, read, watch and write words?

I never get sick of words, especially the written kind, but I hate seeing words get abused by bad writers, lousy editors, and uneducated people.  I despise how words are manipulated to feed an advertiser’s desire or a politician’s scheming.  Words – and language – in order to mean something, must be utilized in ways that help the world.

Maybe the right words just haven’t been created yet, ones that help people embrace things like peace, love, and democracy. Right now we seem to only know of words like terrorism and Jihad and war.  We need to rewrite out world.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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